A Gardener’s Guide To Keeping Chickens The Right Way

I have learned a thing or two during my time keeping chickens and have accumulated some know-how that I just know someone out there will find useful too! It’s easy enough to have a standard coop and run, and chickens will do just fine with that. I have discovered some ways to maximize the benefit of keeping chickens, especially if you’re a gardener, but also to encourage more people to consider becoming gardeners too!

Some of The Basic Needs of Chickens

The Chicken Run

A good chicken run will have both shady and sunny spots, some gravel or sandy areas for pecking at pebbles, and some soft soil for dust bathing to keep the mites out of their feathers. Chickens love anything green and will completely clear a large area of grass if allowed to freely forage every day. For this reason, a chicken run designed with two separate free-ranging areas that can be alternated between seasons provides added benefit to both the chickens and the garden- and to you as well!

Chicken Keeping For Gardeners | Home LoveTry designing a vegetable garden bed next to a chicken run and switch which occupants reside in either one over each consecutive season. A coop built near access to both, perhaps one that doubles as a garden tool shed, is a brilliant system that I have been designing plans to build when we move to our foreverstead. Many of the principles in this design I already use in my current small backyard system, but I have optimised them for when we get to start anew with more space and wisdom. I will share more about that below.

  • sunny and shady spots
  • gravel or sand to nibble at for digestion
  • soil or ash for bathing feathers and preventing mites and lice
  • green space for foraging

The Chicken Coop

Chickens need a place to roost, a place to lay eggs, and a place for food and water in their coop. A good coop will have a window for natural light to get in, and some ventilation to keep the air inside from stagnating. In colder climates, a coop designed with some thermal mass to capture sun heat will take the edge off of those extreme winter nights when the temperatures dip well below freezing.


I do not supplement my chickens with artificial heat or light as I feel that they are naturally adapted to withstand rigid temperatures and winter seasons, provided they have access to sufficient shelter and protein. I have seen many chickens lost to moisture in the coop originating from condensation or from fire due to heat lamps.

I prefer to use the deep litter method in the chicken coop to increase the potential for winter heat and provide the chickens with some room to dig while they’re cooped up. I’ll mention more of that in the next section.

  • nests (at least one per 4 chickens)
  • roosts (2 inches wide so they can keep their toes near their bodies when it’s cold)
  • food and water

Food for Chickens

Most chicken keepers feed their chooks a 17% layer feed as their primary food. Of course, in the summer, they eat bugs, plants, and sometimes even small animals like mice and frogs. In the winter, they need to be given extra protein to keep their metabolism up and their body temperatures warmer. My chooks get a handful of cracked corn before bedtime when the weather is cold, to increase their body temperature over night.


Because of the lack of foraging opportunities in the winter, many people will grow indoor crops to bring to their chickens. While I have done this on occasion, it is a lot of work. I do however, compost directly in the coop as part of the deep litter bed system. The girls will eat what kitchen scraps they desire as it arrives and then leave the rest to wilt and dry up on the coop floor. As the floor accumulates a layer of composting ‘greens’, I add a layer of ‘browns’ by spreading out more straw over the coop floor. When the chooks get their nightly cracked corn, I toss it to the floor and they dig and turn the bedding while foraging for their treats. The coop doesn’t get cleaned all winter (except for scraping clean the roosts, replacing nesting straw, and managing the food and water supply). By spring, the dense layers of bedding with the straw, compost, and chicken poops get shovelled out into the season’s garden bed and mixed into the soil as amendments.

  • Standard feed (17% layer feed is the norm)
  • forage- compost, plants and grasses, bugs, etc
  • protein for cold weather- cracked corn is our preferred treat

For fun, here’s some poorly executed mock-ups I did of my chicken and garden keeping design that you may be interested to take a look at. I didn’t add this to the drawings, but a tin roof and rain barrel for catchment would add another component of ease to this multifaceted system. During each season of the year, the spaces serve a different function. Rotation of those functions create a system that reduces your workload, increases production, and makes your chickens happier. All you have to do is keep the chicken door closed on the garden side each season. You can use the shaded area on the garden side as storage for your wheel barrow, rototiller, lawn mower, or anything else needing protection from the elements.



Chicken Keeping For Gardeners | Home Love
During the summer, toss all your garden scraps and kitchen scraps to the chickens.
Chicken Keeping For Gardeners | Home Love
The chickens will be happy to help clean up the garden and clear it of any overwintering pests or eggs that may lurk. Let them help clean up before transferring them back to their run to finish preparations before winter. An optional measure you can take is to plant a chicken-friendly winter crop in the garden after harvesting is done. Keep the chickens out so the crop can establish until winter sets in. Here’s a helpful article on chicken-friendly cover crops from GardeningKnowHow.Com
Chicken Keeping For Gardeners | Home Love
I love the deep litter method because it allows for easy management of compostables over the winter and helps keep the chickens happy without hurting the budget. My current coop is an earthen floor and I find that the chooks really enjoy being able to continue digging through the dirt well into the snowy months before the layers of bedding begin to start piling up. On the side destined to be next year’s garden, you can store all you equipment beneath the shelter roof, where it’ll be ready to use as soon as spring rolls around.
Chicken Keeping For Gardeners | Home Love
In early spring, only allow the chickens to roam on the side destined to become the season’s garden. Allow time for the cover crop to sprout and re-establish if possible before moving them to their new run. During this time, the chickens will continue to maintain your garden plot, keeping it free from pests and weeds until planting time.
Chicken Keeping For Gardeners | Home Love
And finally, the second summer. The second gardening season. The process begins anew and your chickens spend a season in their new run while you grow your garden in a healthy nutrient-rich plot. It really is all like clockwork! CLUCKWORK!

Chicken Health Care

I have never had to take any extreme measures to care for my chooks. We have had a couple of them die unexpectedly but they were isolated events that I suspect were natural causes. This is not to say that you shouldn’t be prepared for the unexpected or that chickens never get sick or injured. There are several groups on Facebook for Chicken people to share photos and videos concerning chicken ailments where tons of good advice is freely offered. Whether you suspect your chicken has wryneck or bumble-foot, fleas or mites, or an internal injury or psychological illness; the folks in those groups can advise exactly the treatment best suited for your chickens needs from vitamins to Gatorade to diatomaceous earth and everything in between. I recommend joining them if you are new to keeping chickens.

Like I stated in the beginning, basic chicken keeping is super simple and worthwhile. But Chicken keeping as a gardener can be incredibly beneficial and fulfilling if a few basic principles and plans are utilized. I hope you find some useful information and inspiration here. I can’t wait until we finally find our foreverstead and I can document the process of executing these plans myself!

Happy Homesteading Xx



Finding and Using Morels

Morels may not look entirely alluring but this member of the Morchella genus is easy to harvest and sure to surprise you with how delicious it is to eat.

Finding Morels


Morels are an early spring fungus that grow quickly- seemingly overnight- in orchards, oak and pine forests, along water banks and in recently burned fields and forest lands. The best time to venture out to forage Morels is after a good soaking spring rain followed by a few warm sunny days. If you’re not prepared, you can easily miss your chance to harvest morels as they grow quickly and only last a few days before passing their prime picking conditions and returning to the soil.

Identifying Morels


There are several varieties of morels and all can be eaten. At about 2 to 4 inches in height and with their unique pitted and rigid caps, it is easy to spot a morel. There are imposters though and any forager has probably heard the term false morel. A true morel is entirely hollow throughout the spongey-looking cap and uniformly shaped like a Christmas tree.

Preserving Morels


Morels will keep for a few days in a sealed container in the fridge, but you can also cut them in half and freeze or dry them for later use. Just be sure to wash them and trim the stems before preserving them.
To dry, place morels on a drying tray as you would any drying vegetable or herb, and store in an airtight container.
To freeze, slice them in half and then place on a lightly greased baking sheet in the freezer. Once frozen, move them to a freezer bag or sealable container. Freezing the mushrooms will cause the cell structure to collapse so as to cause the moisture to be drawn from them if they are allowed to thaw. When using from the freezer, do not thaw them; just add directly to your favorite recipes. Preserved morels are perfect for soups and stews.

Now that you’ve confidently harvested your bounty of these delicious mushrooms, read on for a couple great ideas to use them in your next meal plan!

Bacon Grilled Morels

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A simple yet delicious way to cook your wild morel mushrooms.


  • 20 Morels
  • 6-8 slices of Bacon
  • A pinch of Allspice
  • 2 Eggs
  • Bread Crumbs
  • Salt to Taste


  1. Fry bacon until transparent and then set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, clean the morels and remove the stems. Leave the caps whole.
  3. Combine in a bowl 2 beaten eggs, allspice, and salt.
  4. Dip the caps in the egg mixture and then roll in bread crumbs.
  5. Skewer alternating bacon and morels and grill, turning occasionally, until the bacon is browned.
  6. Enjoy!

Simple Broiled Morels

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

The easiest way to enjoy the delicious addition of morels to any dish


  • Morels
  • Butter
  • Flour


  1. Wash Morels and then cut the caps in half.
  2. Dip the morels in melted butter, then into the flour to coat.
  3. Broil Morels for 2 minutes on each side
  4. That’s it! Serve them as an hors d’oeuvre or as a garnish to ant dish!

Harvesting Morels is a great way to get the family out to explore the awakening forest floor and take in that fresh spring air. A good excuse to take the kids out for a hike! Plan a morel foraging adventure with your loved ones!

While morels are fairly easy to identify, it is always best to use a field guide and ensure you can confidently verify the mushrooms you harvest as being edible before consuming. Good Luck!

Happy Homesteading Xx