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Garden Helpers

July 13th, 2013

I’ve mentioned before that we got our pigs partly to do some garden work.  They’re workhorses when it comes to moving soil and clearing sod.  On Thursday I put them in the chicken run to break up the compost.  Ever since we moved here I’ve been adding weeds and grass clippings to the chicken run.  I also add any bedding from the chicken or duck house.  The chickens have a blast scratching through it and eventually it all composts down into a beautiful soil amendment.
pigs in the chicken yard 1
I was contemplating how to dig it all out earlier in the week, then I remember we had our piggies.  Into the chicken run they went and they happily softened up all the wonderful compost for me.  Now I just need to bring in my shovel and wheelbarrow.  I’ll most likely compost this a little further since it will have a small amount of fresh chicken manure in it.
pigs in the chicken yard 2
I was wondering how the pigs would do with the chickens, I’ve heard that some pigs eat chickens.  Most of the chickens were allowed to roam free, then the pigs were let in.  Our guineas and one chicken wouldn’t leave, so I watched closely to see what would happen.  The pigs completely ignored them and went happily about rooting.
pigs in the chicken yard 3
Next year I’m hoping to add a special chicken composting area.  It will be a small coop connected to a big composting area.  All the yard/garden waste will be added to the composting area and the resident composter chickens will turn the pile for me. I love using animals to my benefit, not only does it make them happy and healthy, it saves me having to do a lot of extra work! I’m also thinking in the future of training a dog to pull a garden cart for me, how convenient would that be?

Do you have any animals that work for you?

9 Comments to “Garden Helpers”
  1. kristin @ going country on July 12, 2013 at 5:24 am

    Our dogs would never pull a garden cart, but they quite happily kill anything unwanted that ventures onto the property.They’re very useful.

    Reply to kristin @ going country's comment

  2. Joan on July 12, 2013 at 6:42 am

    Susie, I’ve often contemplated creating extra runs off of the chicken shed – instead of one on just one side have two to four runs with the shed in the middle . The chickens could then be turned out in just one area and the others could become garden space for the year, or grow crops for the chickens to harvest (they absolutely loved it the year that I let the pigweed go wild and they could walk around under 3′ tall plants, eating the seeds from them). Currently we move the chickens out of the shed for the summer, and use the run for plants where the edible parts won’t touch the ground (and chicken poo!) like tomatoes and pole beans. Or sometimes we’ll just segment the run and use half for chickens and half for planting. Either way, it’s excellent soil, and having extra runs coming off of it would simplify things considerably and also give the chickens fresh places to dig around in.

    In answer to your question, right now the chickens are in the garden in the chicken tractor and electric fence, serving the same purpose as your pigs (though probably not as effectively!) – digging up areas that we haven’t yet planted this year. It keeps the garden free of weeds, and cuts down considerably on the cost of feed.

    Reply to Joan's comment

  3. MountainMisty on July 14, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Wow, I didn’t realize that pigs stick their noses in the ground so deep! I will definitely consider getting a couple of pigs to help with the soil.

    I have a million questions about pigs…maybe you guys could do a whole podcast on piggies? Here are some of my questions you can save for later. I’ve heard that pigs are difficult to move when you need to relocate them, what system do you use, hogs panels etc? What breed of pigs do you like? Do you know anything about miniature pigs, pros and cons? Do pigs need shade or sun? Do they like already moist soil or can they help with dry, high-desert soil? When do you buy a pig? How long do you “fatten” it up? When do you slaughter a pig for your winter meat? Do you have to supplement with feed, what type do you use? Can pigs be mean and charge? Do they need a mud area? What is the best book?

    Have a great Sunday! Looking forward to your podcast tomorrow.

    Reply to MountainMisty's comment

    • Susy on July 14, 2013 at 9:05 pm

      GREAT idea, though we’re newbie pig owners, we could definitely do a podcast to help people feel confident enough to take the plunge.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  4. Marcia on July 14, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    Our black Lab Zed ( may she run in peace in dog paradise) used to pull a garden cart filled with potatoes at harvest time. She even used to hold her head up higher when she did, like she was proud to be earning her keep working alongside her humans in the garden.

    Reply to Marcia's comment

    • Susy on July 14, 2013 at 9:59 pm

      LOVE it. I really think that animals are happy to help when they can.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  5. Sierra N Hampl on July 17, 2013 at 8:13 am

    I love that we can dump our weeds, etc. into the chicken run. It makes me happy to watch them go through it all and toss weeds around to find what they really like.

    Reply to Sierra N Hampl's comment

  6. Rion on July 21, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    I do not mean to be negative, but I heard that compost is toxic to animals. How are you assuring the health of your animals?

    Reply to Rion's comment

    • Susy on July 26, 2013 at 7:37 am

      Compost isn’t toxic to animals, if it was toxic we wouldn’t be putting it on our gardens. Compost is broken down organic matter.

      Reply to Susy's comment

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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