Learn how animals can be helpful partners in a homesteading garden to grow a huge flavorful harvest of fruits, vegetables and herbs. Having animals such as ducks, chickens and rabbits in your garden can be extremely useful as well as entertaining. Think of them not as pets but little garden employees! Animals can earn their keep, making gardening more efficient and fun.
Not only do chickens and ducks lay eggs but they can also along with rabbits fertilize your garden. All three species will eat from the compost heap and then return it in the form of manure. This is a quicker way of composting waste than waiting for it to happen naturally. Ducks also create a mild liquid fertilizer in the ponds they swim in. Between these two things you should have enough fertilizer for your entire garden. Old straw and cedar bedding also makes terrific mulch.
The cost of having a little army of animal works is pretty minimal. A little time, thought and money and you’re good to go. Most people spend around 15 minutes daily feeding and collecting eggs. The duck pond or pool will need cleaning out every few weeks and grooming the run, replacing bedding and scrubbing the chicken coop should be done a few times a year.
Before you buy any animals or materials it is vital that you check what you can and cannot raise in your garden. Codes vary widely from place to place as to types of animal and numbers etc. It would also be a good idea to buy a handbook on the care of the animals you are going to have.
Once you have the all clear to buy your animals you should only use a reliable breeder or source. This will ensure that you only obtain healthy animals that are suited to your purpose. Rabbit wise you could use a pet store or find ‘free to good home’ adverts but only if you are planning to use them just for fertilizer. If you wish to breed you will need to go to a breeder and ensure you get a good breeding pair. Chicken wise you should only need three hens, roosters are noisy are do not produce eggs, so really are not needed.
Equipment for your chickens that you will need includes an incandescent bulb to keep your chicks warm, feeders and water trays and food storage bins. They will also need a coop which can be built by yourself quite cheaply. Ensure they also have a roost with a dark place to lay their eggs and shelter from bad weather. All this should have a fenced perimeter with overhead protection. This will keep them safe from predators.
Ducks are more weather tolerant but will still need shelter and privacy for laying eggs. They also enjoy swimming so a pool of some sort is vital. Ensure that your ducks are also safe from predators.
Rabbits will need hutches, cages and runs. If you plan on breeding they will also need a nesting box. One rabbit per cage is ideal and again ensure they are safe from predators.
All your animals should have room to roam within their coops and cages but also be allowed to roam in your garden with your supervision. If left alone they can do damage to certain plants so you want to build above ground roaming tunnels (click here to read tutorial of that project)
Get this right and you will have an endless supply of fertilizer and eggs and the added bonus of interaction with all your rabbits, ducks and chickens. You really will have an active and productive garden.
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