I don’t have a massive garden and what I do have is separated into three sections. There is a reason to this, and that is my chickens a ducks. I’m really lucky that when four years ago I moved into this house the neighbours loved the idea of me getting a few chickens and then when I decided to add a few ducks to the flock they were even more excited than me by the additions.
In order to protect my home grown veggies though I have to be careful about where they can get to otherwise between them they would eat it all in a matter of hours!
My Ducks at Home
So, in order to keep an area just for me and my veggies I have made two runs. At the end of the garden is the duck run. They have 3 hard plastic ponds to swim and play in, straw bales to rummage and sleep in, trees to shade under and a nice big house to sleep in at night. I have 8 ducks (6 ducks and 2 drakes) in total of mixed breeds. The base is the old concrete patio and this is because they are mucky little terrors. At night the run has to be brushed down and the water drained out. Keeping them in the main garden was making it a mud bath, which made them, me and the chickens all rather miserable.
They are a very social bunch, especially my two drakes Bumble & Bee who will follow you around the garden and in the morning “help” you to refill the ponds and feeders for them.
My Back Garden Chickens
The chickens are really quite spoilt in what they get. I started with three ex-barn hens who I rescued the spring after I moved in here who over the last year sadly passed away. I now also have just 2 girls, but plan to add to the flock again this spring.
They all get to live in the main run in the garden. There are a few veg beds with root vegetables growing down there with them and a lawn, but these are netted off and most of the time the chickens don’t manage to get in and gobble them up!
Eggs, eggs, eggs
The eggs I get from my girls are just amazing, and not even organic standards compare to the taste of an egg freshly laid that morning and poached on home made bread. The duck eggs are lovely and rich and great for baking and omelettes in particular.
In the summer months you get a glut of eggs so towards the end I freeze up and pickle some of that glut to last through the winter months when their laying drops down.
Making Use of Kitchen Scraps
In the UK it is technically illegal to feed your chickens or ducks scraps from the kitchens (see DirectGov). However, one of the main reasons I wanted to get my chickens and ducks was to reduce my vegetable waste so how do I get around this?
Defra states on its website “Following the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in 2001, the Government introduced a ban on the feeding to animals of catering waste that contains or has been in contact with animal by-products (ABPs).”
My reading of the rules is that it is (or at least should be!) more designed to the commercial keeper and that my topped carrots and other peelings boiled up straight away for my flock is acceptable. If I have some tomatoes that are past their best I would either make them into a tomato sauce for me or chop them for the flock to make use and avoid any waste.
Food waste in the UK is a huge problem, and overly burdensome legislation on the back garden keeper is surely contrary to Government policy on waste reduction. They want people to use 4 different bins to separate our recycling, and in some areas will prosecute you for failing to do this, and yet feeding that lettuce leaf off your plate to your chickens can again result in a prosecution.
So, my approach is to be sensible. My girls and boys love their veg and I love not seeing my bin full of perfectly good food that they will love to eat.