Friday, January 8, 2010

Poultry plus Gardens equals Success

The Shenandoah Valley Poultry and Garden Club is connecting poultry and gardening. What a great combination! These ducks are enthusiastic gardening assistants. They eat slugs and snails as well as the more desirable worms.

The group is getting started with its first meeting January 12th, 2010 at 7pm in the Extension Conference room in the Rockbridge County Administrative Building located at 150 South Main Street, Lexington, Virginia, 24450.

Pat Foreman, who wrote City Chicks,, is inviting a gathering of folks who are interested in chickens and local foods. This club is for chicken owners (and wannabes) who keep poultry for pets, eggs, meat, show and garden helpers. It is also for gardeners who are growing food (or want to grow food) for themselves, and perhaps others to generate income, for barter and/or to participate in local farmers’ markets. We collaborate with the 4-H poultry club with lectures, workshops, field trips and participating in poultry shows.

This Meetup group combines poultry and gardening by exploring how chicken “skill sets” can be employed in a “Chicken Have-More Plan.” Instead of using oil-based chemical fertilizer, chickens can give you (locally produced) organic fertilizer with their manure. They help create compost from kitchen and yard waste. Chickens also serve as mobile, stealth, (non-toxic), pest control, weed control and slug control in your yard and garden.

The group focuses on how chickens are bio-recyclers and can be employed as clucking civic workers in solid waste management systems. Chickens help keep tons of biomass (kitchen, leaf and yard waste) out of landfills. Turning this biomass into compost, instead of dumping into landfills to produce greenhouse gas methane, makes it into a valuable product. Chickens combined with composting give a low- to no-cost strategy in solid waste management systems. Environmental chickens can save thousands, even millions of precious taxpayer dollars.

I'd add ducks, geese, turkeys and guineafowl to that list. These turkeys work in the tobacco fields at Claude Moore Colonial Farm in Virginia, picking worms and other insects from the plants. "I have seen a hen jump five feet straight into the air to pluck a worm off the top of a tobacco plant," JD Engle, facilities manager there told me.

Geese have long been used to 'grass' cotton fields, because they are such discriminating eaters that they will pluck only the grassy weeds, not the cotton plants. Jeannette Ferguson has written an entire book on Gardening With Guineas, They are especially known for their tick removal, controlling this noxious and disease-carrying pest.

The local foods movement is, uh, mushrooming and chickens are its mascot. People have an inalienable right to feed themselves, including keeping a family flock of chickens. The urban homestead and urban agriculture are coming back in vogue as America rebuilds itself into a can-do, self-sufficient nation that feeds itself nutritional, wholesome food produced locally and sustainably.

Local folks are encouraged to come join the group. Find out how to raise a small flock of chickens and produce good-for-you-food from your backyard. They offer support and assistance to other groups wanting to get started with the “Chicken Have-More Plan.” Receive meeting and announcements through Meetup group

"We eggstaticly” and “eggcitedly" meet the second Tuesday of each month at 7pm in the Extension Conference room on the second floor on at the at Rockbridge County Administrative Building located at 150 South Main Street, Lexington, Virginia, 24450. For more information call or email Pat Foreman, 540-261-8775,, or Jessica Hastings, 4-H Program Associate, (540) 463-4734,

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