The Chicken Garden Project – Phase One – Getting Started

Like many gardener’s we have a new garden project going almost every year. This is how I manage to accomplish new garden projects with my current homestead work load. My working formula is that I work on this project an hour or two each morning and then I accomplish a little bit everyday!

Cement blocks withgreenhouse hoops and garden USE

Soil, straw and bark chips make up the base of my boarder garden. 

This year’s project is what I am calling the chicken garden. I plan to add some color and form on the North-end entry gate to our chicken coop and runs.  I also want to add some pizzazz and visual interest. I plan to only plant easy-care perennials so I don’t have more than the basic seasonal work to maintain them. These perennials have proven themselves to be low water and easy-care plant here already.

Two step stones in bark chips chicken garden

Just a simple stone and chip pathway lead to the chicken run.

In this case, I am going to transplant some of my standard “nothing will kill them” hardy plants from other parts of our property. I’ll be using the tried and true plants that I know can stand up to whatever weather Mother Nature Give’s us;  from drought to flooding. These are the perennials that have proven their merit over and over during the past 15 years we have lived and gardened here on our SW Michigan homestead.Rhodies close puzzld cute

The eventual recipient of the chicken garden.

Small House Homesteads Top Ten Hardy and Easy-Care Perennials:

  1. Day lilies
  2. Iris
  3. Catmint
  4. Black eyed Susan’s
  5. Brown eyed Susan’s
  6. Shasta Daisy’s
  7. Butterfly Bush
  8. Comfrey
  9. Sedum (spreading and low growing)
  10. Autumn Sedum Joy


The herb comfrey in full bloom.

My overall goal is to brighten the place up a bit when we walk out to the coop a half-dozen times a day. I also want to play down the ugly, gray cement blocks that hold down the greenhouse hoops. The blocks are super practical and make the low-cost side of this design work just fine, but I would like to pretty them up a bit.

Metal stake in cement block

I hope to soften down the hard lines of these gray cement blocks with green plants.

I started by amending the soil with good composted dirt from our compost bins and then added spent straw and topped with bark chips from the recent roadside clean up crew. Then I added six flat stepping-stones to a simple bark chip pathway that I put down to deal with the spring mud. The step-tones were once used in another garden location at once point. These stones resided for a few years in the bed behind our three-season porch but the shrubs there grew big enough to fill that open space and I was not longer using those step stones to get into and out of that bed.

Boarder at coop before just chips USE

Bark chips help to keep the weeds down as well as the moisture in the soil.

Before I could plant any flowers on our homestead I have learned I must seriously amend the soil and kill the grass that was growing there. Because our soil is super lean, sandy oak savanna soil that is also devoid of most necessary nutrients, so my garden prep process typically takes me a year or two to amend the soil before planting.  This small garden border is no different.

2016 pine pile USE

This great mound of bark chips will soon disappear.

My formula is quite simple; I add soil from the compost bins mixed with old soil from within the fire pit. Then I added some bark chips and mulch left for us by the local tree trimmers.  This tree trimming mulch includes pine needles and other greenery that will also help to amend our soil and add nitrogen to make a nutrition base for the flowers I plan to add in a year or two.

Chickens shack, hoops and garen USE

Another view of the “back forty.”The chicken run, the pool shack and of course, our girls!

While the amendments were doing their thing, I consulted a great book called Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard. By Jessi Bloom. This book is full of practical and beautiful solution for any gardener who wants to invite a flock into their backyard. It’s a great resource and give good tips and used many lovely color photographs for ideas and interest.

Chicken Garden foront cover book

If you are considering landscaping in or around your coop or run here are a few relevant posts you might also enjoy.


Small House Homesteader, Donna


One thought on “The Chicken Garden Project – Phase One – Getting Started

  1. I’ve been enjoying reading about your journey and especially your gardens and raising chickens. We recently bought a wooded property in Cedar Springs…N of Grand Rapids. I am just starting to get a handle on the perennial gardens which need some renovation. I will use the black plastic technique, you mentioned, to kill weeds and then add some organic matter. Your stories about chicken keeping have me wondering if I am up to that, although they would love our property. How do you take care of them when you are away? We inherited a barn cat with the property and she is a great hunter keeping the rodents down. My husband is ready for a new dog since our Chocolate Lab passed a few years ago. Best to you on the homestead. 🙂 Ann

    Good morning Ann!

    I know Cedar Springs, that is not that far from me in Allegan. Yes, finding the way to have time away from the homestead can be difficult. We have done this in various ways; for years my husband and I went seperately, one staying home to take care of animals. In recent years we have paid an animal setter. There are dog setters that we hire, who stay in our home and then also train them to take care of the chickens. I will warn you that they charge up to $65.00 a day so this can sometimes be prohibitive. Sometimes you can find a reliable, and mature young person in your community who can do this for you as well. In the past we have hired/trained responsible 16 year olds who can drive to come for a few days with thir parents being available at home in case of emergencies. Some homesteaders/farmers have “interns” people who live in their property for lower rent in exchange for time working the land. I know of some farmers who encourage their adult children to live on their property so they can watch things/feed animals while they occasionally travel. So there are some options to consider. Before we had chickens we always took our dog (s) with us when we camped or visited family. If you want a active/high-energy field trial bred Lab (Like our Sassy) I can give you the name of our breeder. His dogs are well bred and well cared for. Thanks for reading my blog. My blog is on a hiatis as I have filled my space and I need to make a decision if I plan to spend a significant monthly fee to continue it. I want to because I miss it, but I have not yet decided… Best to e-mail me in the future at


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