Chicken Salad

This is not a recipe post. I haven't eaten chicken in more than two decades. It's a tribute to my quest to make sure my girls get their daily greens.

Philosophically, I have battled with the concept of quality vs. quantity of life in my chicken-keeping, and for years, I was committed to having a flock that free-ranged. I believed that it was more important for them to be able to have grass all day, even if it meant I had to be home at sunset every night, or risk losing them to a predator. Seasoned chicken keepers are nodding along the way those did when I originally proposed this.

Over the years, I have shared way too many chickens with foxes and hawks, and the slaughter method foxes use to limit their exposure--come kill as many as possible at once and come back for the bodies--felt like more than just circle of life loss.

Last year, we set to work creating the most elaborate chicken habitat, with a castle of a coop and a grassy run that afforded them plenty of space, surrounding a vegetable garden where I will eventually implement 'chunnels' and chicken pasture rotation. The girls made short work of the grass inside their run and thwarted my efforts at seeding and rotation.

My newest plan has been to construct a renewable salad bar inside their run.

It started with creating a raised bed and shoveling in some scoops of our good compost. I used some leftover Belgian block pavers, some hardware cloth, and a few garden stakes (see photo below)

I had spent an hour or so researching good cover crops, and had read about everything from wild radish to hairy vetch, (and man, if you want to watch your husband's eyes glaze over during morning coffee, bring up your research on cover crops) but ultimately I had to go with what we had available locally, a hardy winter wheat.

Then, once the girls had gone into bed, I scattered a nice layer of seed over the soil, covered that with potting mix and hay, and then tacked down the hardware cloth over top. The idea is that as the cover crop grows up, not unlike a 70s chia pet, the birds will have access to fresh greens, but the hardware cloth will prevent them from scratching the roots out.

I promise to post new photos when the greens start to sprout, and I have been researching flowers like snapdragons to incorporate to add some color to our chicken run.

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