VERTICAL GARDEN AROUND THE COOP: We chose to construct a chicken coop and run around the vertical food garden because we want to maximize the permaculture principles we already have in place. Permaculture is all about creating working systems that benefit multiple dynamics on the homestead. Chickens and gardens are a perfect match for permaculture design because chickens can do work in exchange for eggs, reduce feeding costs because they eat lots of bugs & weeds, weed control because they scratch up the weeds and prevent them from going to seed, happier chickens yield healthier eggs, and the garden benefits from the fertilizer they produce.
BENEFITS OF RAISING CHICKENS:
• Eggs! Access to the sun, insects, and fresh air produces high quality eggs.
• Chicken droppings are a natural and high-quality fertilizer.
• Chicken droppings are rich in nitrogen and build up the soil.
• Chickens get rid of grubs, bugs, red ants, flies, and other garden pests.
• Chickens are excellent foragers, and eat a lot of weeds.
• Reduces food waste and greenhouse gas emissions.
The projected size for the Vertical Food Garden is 16 x 20, and the total size including the coop is 25 x 20. This allows for a 4-foot-wide chicken run along the sides of the garden. We will employ a wide variety of vertical gardening trellis designs, including Habitat Tripods, which provide food and shelter for small birds, a-frame trellis, cattle panel trellis arches, straight trellis, and tomato and bush bean cages. We will also utilize the garden fencing to grow a variety of vegetables, fruits, and flowering vines that will serve as chicken and pollinator food.
We chose the Aivituvin 76” long x 63” wide x 60” high Chicken Coop, and the 96” long x 48” wide x 48” high Chicken Run with Cover because the company has over 20 years’ experience designing, creating, and producing chicken coops. The factory is based in the U.S., is family owned and operated, uses the highest quality materials, and provides a 100% guarantee that their products are of superior quality and finish.
CHICKEN FLOCK: EASTER EGGER: a variety of chicken that carries the blue egg laying gene. This breed is descended from the ancient Araucana breed that first evolved in Chile to lay blue eggs. The Easter Egger is usually a cross between an Araucana and any other chicken breed. The pigment oocyanin that covers the shell gives blue eggs their characteristic color, and research has shown that this unique color is actually a genetic anomaly.
The Easter Egger lays eggs that range in color from light blue, seafoam green, dark green, and pink. Each hen only lays one color egg, and lays up to 250 eggs per year. Their temperament is friendly, and they are both cold hardy and heat tolerant.
CHICKEN FLOCK: BUFF ORPINGTON: a variety of chicken that descends from the gold-spangled Hamburg, Dorking, and Buff Cochin.
The Buff Orpington lays eggs that are large and brown, and can produce over 200 eggs per year. Their temperament is friendly, and they are both cold hardy and heat tolerant. The rooster is fiercely protective of his young, and will sit on the nest periodically to give the hen a break.
CHICKEN FLOCK: RHODE ISLAND RED: a variety of chicken that resulted from the cross-breeding of the Malay, Java, Chinese Cochin, Light Brahma, Plymouth Rock, and Brown Leghorn.
The Rhode Island Red lays eggs that are medium to large and light brown. Each hen lays up to 300 eggs per year. The hen has a friendly and docile temperament, but the rooster can be aggressive. Rhode Island Reds are both cold hardy and heat tolerant.
CHICKEN FLOCK: SPECKLED SUSSEX: a variety of chicken that originated in England, and has a feather pattern of rich and dark mahogany.
The Speckled Sussex lays eggs that are large and brown. Each hen lays up to 250 eggs per year. Their temperament is friendly, calm, and docile, and they are both cold hardy and heat tolerant.
HERBAL CHICKEN GARDEN: There are lots of culinary herbs that have wonderful health benefits for chickens, and can enhance both their diet and environment. We chose a 4 × 4 x 2 raised bed for each end of the chicken run.
Some of the more common ways to include herbs in the chicken-keeping regimen include adding fresh or dried herbs to the nesting boxes, adding dried herbs to the daily chicken feed, and feeding fresh herbs, which chickens love and consider a treat!
Herbs we chose for the chicken garden include bee balm, calendula, lavender, lemon balm, marigolds, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, pineapple sage, and thyme.
BEE BALM: (Monarda didyma): Fresh or dried bee balm petals added to the chickens’ diet aid in respiratory and digestive tract health. Some petals scattered in the nesting boxes can be calming to laying hens and also act as an antiseptic and antibacterial agent, making for a healthier environment for laying hens or hens hatching chicks.
Bee Balm has antiseptic, antibacterial, and calming medicinal properties, and is an excellent respiratory health aid.
CALENDULA: (Calendula officinalis): a favorite among gardeners to tuck in between veggies to help repel insects. In the coop & nest box, calendula helps repel insects. The flowers are edible for chickens, and eating calendula petals will give a lovely orange color to their yolks, beaks, and feet.
Calendula is high in oleanolic acid, an anti-inflammatory, and it also has anti-bacterial, antioxidant, and wound healing properties. Calendula can be used to make a salve to use on cuts and scrapes. Its anti-inflammatory properties make the salve a good choice for treating a prolapsed vent, or helping an egg-bound hen.
LAVENDER: (Lavandula angustifolia): Adding some lavender leaves or flowers to nesting boxes helps keep insects of all kinds away, and will also help the coop stay smelling fresh.
Lavender is a natural stress reliever which can be beneficial to laying and sitting hens. Lavender also increases blood circulation so it’s especially beneficial to chickens sitting on eggs who don’t get up and move around as much as they should. As the hens sit, they will pick at the lavender and eat some, thereby getting the full benefits. Hang bundles of lavender in the coop to create a peaceful environment. Stressed hens don’t lay eggs well, and they need to feel safe in their nest boxes. Lavender is also beneficial to the circulatory system, so tossing some in the girl’s dust bathing area is like giving them a little spa retreat.
LEMON BALM: (Melissa officinalis): a stress relieving and calming herb that has antibacterial properties, is highly aromatic, and is a great all-natural rodent repellent.
Place fresh Lemon Balm in the nesting boxes to help keep chickens calm throughout the stressful period of laying, and keep the coop smelling lemony fresh. Lemon balm extract added to their water improves their overall health and gives them an antioxidant boost.
MARIGOLD: LEMON STAR: (Tagetes tenuifolia): planted around the perimeter of the garden, marigolds will help repel insects and keep bugs out of the chicken coop. Adding some fresh marigolds to the chickens’ nesting boxes can help keep them insect-free. If the chickens eat the marigold petals, their egg yolks, beaks, and feet will become a gorgeous, vibrant orange color.
Marigold is also an antioxidant, helps detoxify the body when ingested, and is an excellent egg-laying stimulant.
MARJORAM: (Origanum majorana): as a feed supplement, marjoram is a laying stimulant. Mix the dried and crushed herb into a large bowl and add to the feed.
Marjoram is also an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, decongestant, and detoxifier that improves blood circulation, and protects against Staphylococcus, E. coli, shigella, proteus, and Pseudomonas.
MINT: (Mentha piperita): helps repel mice and bugs, and also has a calming effect on laying hens. When ingested, mint naturally lowers body temperatures, which can be helpful in keeping the flock cool in the summer. Float some fresh mint leaves in their water or freeze some mint leaves into ice cubes for them to peck at on hot summer days.
The calming and de-stressing effect of mint makes it a great choice to add to nest boxes or dust bathing areas. Hang bunches of fresh mint around the run to discourage flies, and plant it around the outside of the run to discourage rodents. Mint is an antioxidant and digestive aid that aids in respiratory health, increases egg production, and helps chickens produce larger eggs with thicker egg shells.
There are dozens of varieties of mint, including peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, orange mint, and cat mint.
OREGANO: (Origanum vulgare): Planting oregano in the garden and pinching back the leaves regularly to feed to chickens can help them naturally combat E. coli, coccidiosis, salmonella, infectious bronchitis, blackhead, and avian flu by strengthening their immune and respiratory systems.
Dried oregano can also be added to their daily feed. Well known for its antibacterial & anti-parasitic properties, oregano is also chock full of vitamins, calcium, & antioxidants. Chop fresh oregano leaves and mix into the chicken feed, or hang bunches in the run for them to pick at.
PARSLEY: (Petroselinum crispum): So much more than just a plate garnish, parsley is extremely high in nutrients. It is the perfect addition to the chicken’s diet as it is rich in vitamins, promotes circulatory system development, provides a mega vitamin boost, aids in blood vessel development, and is a strong egg laying stimulant.
Add fresh and chopped parsley to the egg-layer feed, leave a pot in the run for them to peck at the leaves, or scatter it around the coop.
ROSEMARY: (Salvia rosmarinus): is a welcome addition to the chicken coop, not only because of its fresh woody fragrance, but for its pain-relieving properties, and its promotion of respiratory health.
Rosemary is also a great natural insecticide that will help repel any pesky insects that hang around the coop. Plant rosemary in or near the chicken run to ward off pests, and allow the chickens to peck at the leaves. Place freshly cut rosemary leaves in their nesting boxes, and scatter it around the coop.
PINEAPPLE SAGE: (Salvia elegans): Fed free-choice or dried in their feed, pineapple sage will help promote chicken’s general health, act as an antioxidant and antiseptic, aid the nervous system, and help combat salmonella.
Pineapple sage is highly aromatic and acts as an anti-parasitic. Plant pineapple sage in the chicken garden and offer the cuttings to them whenever the plants need to be cut back.
THYME: (Thymus vulgaris): is an insect repellent and therefore a great addition to the chickens’ nesting boxes. Hang thyme bundles around the run, or sprinkle in the nest boxes to keep pests at bay. Lemon thyme has the added benefit of a citrusy smell that insects really dislike. Use thyme to make a natural fly spray for the coop by steeping a handful in white vinegar for several weeks, and then straining the liquid into a spray bottle and spraying liberally around the coop and feed areas.
Thyme also aids in respiratory health, has antibiotic, antibacterial, antioxidant, and antiparasitic properties, and acts as an egg laying stimulant.