Chickens in a Food Forest (Photo: Cat Dorey)

Chickens are a wonderful addition to an edible garden as they provide a lot more than just eggs and company! They will also eat your kitchen scraps, help control weeds and insect pests, and provide manure for your garden.

They are wonderful little garden workers. They can clear a patch of grass and weeds and turn over the soil ready for your next veggie patch in very little time. If you have an established food forest they can forage in, they will clean up fallen fruit and eat insect pests, while also adding fertiliser.

There are many great online resources to teach you about keeping chickens, so here are just a few things to think about before you get them.

You will need space for a well-ventilated, weatherproof coop with enough space for roosting and nest boxes. It must be very secure so predators and egg thieves (like snakes, goannas, and foxes) can’t get in. It also needs to be easy to keep clean.

Chickens need shade and a good source of clean water. They need a dust bath to help deter mites, and a source of grit for grinding food in their gizzards (part of a chicken’s stomach). You will need fences to keep them out of your veggie patches, otherwise they will eat all your seedlings and dig up your seeds!

Make sure you do your research and choose the right breed. Some breeds are hardy with fewer disease issues, some are better egg layers, and some are better with kids. Consider whether you want to get them as chicks or fully grown, as chicks need more care.

Chickens are a commitment, like any pet. You will need time to feed them, to check regularly for any signs of injury and illness and be prepared for vet bills, and be able to find someone to care for them properly if you go away. 

If you are interested in learning more about keeping backyard chickens you can watch this video recorded by Margaret during our 2020 Virtual Sydney Edible Garden Trail.