Free-Range Chicken Gardens by Jessi Bloom

Jessi Bloom‘s new book Free-Range Chicken Gardens seems sure to be a new bestseller, because while the backyard-chicken trend has taken off, nobody has really stepped up to offer guidance on some of the issues common to owners of free-ranging hens, until now. In just four years of keeping my own tiny flock, I’ve had run-ins with predators, plants scratched into oblivion and all of my blueberry bushes stripped bare. Gardening with chickens can be a challenge!

Yet Bloom points out that backyard chickens offer so many benefits. Free-range chicken eggs are much more nutritious than most store-bought eggs. In addition, chickens can help out in the garden by weeding, keeping pests in check, “mowing” the lawn (it’s true!), eating excess greens and food waste, and providing a steady source of organic fertilizer for the garden. Plus, chickens are just plain fun to watch.

Bloom tackles the layout of a chicken-friendly garden from the ground up, including an overview of options for coops, runs and chicken tractors. She also covers ideas for where to site the coop given considerations of sun or shade, proximity to the home or neighbors, etc. Even if you already have chickens and a coop, you’ll find some new ideas for screening the noise, odor or sight of a coop so that it fits gracefully into your surroundings.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper gardening book without a discussion of plants. Bloom has an obvious love of gardening, and it shows in her creative plant selections. She shares lists of plants for screening (particularly for the benefit of nearby neighbors), flowering plants too tough for the chickens to bother, and plants with fragrances to mask any potential odors. She also suggests plants that can provide hiding spaces for the birds to minimize the chance of predator attack. Trees, shrubs, and thickets all provide important shelter from hawks and others.

But by far my favorite part of the book is her perspective that gardening with chickens can and should be fun. While I began reading hoping for suggestions of plants too tough for the chickens to eat, Bloom surprised me with suggestions of things to plant that the chickens will eat and enjoy. Even a small garden, she feels, has ample room to plant for both birds and humans. Plus, she suggests projects and elements to add like mirrors, water features, dust bath areas and bug logs that provide entertainment and keep the ladies engaged.

I found this a useful and inspiring book for chicken-owners, both novice and experienced. The photos are so good, you’ll want to leave it out for friends to flip through, and her encouraging attitude towards gardening with chickens got me all fired up to try some of these new solutions to gardening with my own ladies.

Want to win a copy of your very own? Timber Press has been kind enough to offer up a book to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment, and I’ll draw a winner at random on Tuesday the 6th! (US only.) Congrats to our winner, Wendy! Wendy, I’ve emailed you for your details. Thanks to Timber Press and all who entered.


75 responses to “Free-Range Chicken Gardens by Jessi Bloom”

  1. I’d love to have chickens in my garden so hopefully I’ll win 🙂
    Greetings from the little garden of horrors

  2. We are going to get our first laying chickens this spring. It has been fun choosing the chickens I want. I’m looking forward to reading this book to learn how I can garden with chickens roaming about.

  3. Ohhh, first to leave a comment…..well, I’d LOVE this book. We are in the process of converting our front and side yards into a garden/urban homestead and chickens are definitely on the wish list. I like the idea of planning for a chicken friendly space.

  4. What a wonderful book! For the last couple years I’ve been tossing around the idea of keeping chickens and when I do I want to make sure I do it right. Congrats to Jessi Bloom on this future best seller!

  5. We’ve been thinking about our own chickens. Maybe this book would push us over the edge. Thanks for the opportunity to win.

  6. After taking a local gardening class about the benefits of having chickens with gardens I am eager to learn more. I am hoping to start with a few hens this year! I would love this book.

  7. Our family farm has chickens in a coop with fenced in outdoor area but how great would it be to let them roam free and help with the garden :)) My sister-in-law started using a chicken tractor last summer – pretty cool!!

  8. I’ve had backyard chickens going on 4 years now and have just about given up on trying to keep anything in my garden beds tidy, or whole. I do believe I NEED this book. Thanks for offering it.

  9. Looks interesting. I am doing my research to be a great chicken owner when my coop is finished. Hoping this book will give me some insite as to how to make their environment more appealing to myself and my chickens.

  10. Chickens are incredible to have and watch….looks like a good read, too…hope I get a copy…

  11. I am planning on moving soon where we will have several acres. I really want to have my own chickens. Problem is I have always lived where I couldn’t have them. So I am pretty clueless on where to begin but excited! I even have names picked out.

  12. I have 6 chickens and enjoy them so much. I do need ideas of things to grow that they would like and things they will leave alone!! Would love to have this book!

  13. Oh this would be a perfect book for us haha! Hope I win!!


  14. My husband and I built the cutest chicken coop last spring. We have 8 girls and we love them! The eggs are amazing! I love to watch our chickens do their thing!

  15. I have a flock of 20 or more that have the run of our 5 acres. Yes, I have lost more plants than I care to think about from their scratching for bugs in my gardens. I really need help to co-exist with my veggie, flower and berry gardens and my chickens. Thanks so much for the chance to win such a great book.

  16. We’re getting chickens this spring. My husband is about to start building a coop for them. We’re also gardeners, so this book would be a great help to us!

  17. My friend who knows me so well sent me this link and said this is so you. She is right I love my 6 girls they will be a year this April raised them since they year 1 day old. Would love to get this book for some great ideas. Thank-you so much! :0

  18. I would love to have chickens – and would love to have the book even if the chicken dreams don’t come true!

  19. I would love to have a chicken garden! I’d love to have chickens. A few neighboring municipalities have changed their laws to allow raising chickens. Hopefully that is just the begining!

  20. Oh, this is very relevant to my interests! I have a backyard garden, and harbor hopes to get some hens one of these years. I have always wondered how I would be able to have them both in the same space.

  21. I was just talking about how I would really love some backyard chickens! I’m looking at small coops & chicken tractors to see if there’s something that would work for my yard – I’d love a couple hens!

  22. Just today, I was pondering how to have chickens in a small, urban backyard garden with a dog… and I’m delighted to have stumbled across this book. It would be extra special to win it since my twin daughters, which are very fond of searching my magazines for pictures of chickens, celebrate their 3rd b-day on the 6th!

  23. We have 4 ladies and a garden, but I am always looking for new ideas. Add me into the drawing – thanks!

  24. Much of the success of garden chickens rests upon an effective chicken coop and judicious protection of plants vulnerable to chickens. Looking forward to reading this book. Thanks for the preview/review!

  25. This sounds like permaculture at it’s finest. I may not let my gals roam _too_ much since we have coyotes here, but I’d love to take their own area and make into a chicken garden 🙂 Already had places for a sitting area in their space (it’s rather huge) but I’m getting more ideas just reading your review!

  26. I love my chickens, but my yard looks like hell after they mowed it down. Can’t wait to read suggestions!

  27. We’ve been through 2 summers with our girls, they love it when we “release the cluck-en” from the chicken yard into our fenced back yard. They’re so entertaining to watch.

  28. My four hens have the run of my yard and I’m afraid I’ve let them “transform” more of it than I’d really like. I could definitely use some ideas for our co-existence.

  29. I have enjoyed raising chickens since august and they are the most fun and intriguing creatures the eggs are a blessing and I am interested to learn more. Your bood sounds delightful!

  30. I have 2 free range chickens in our fenced backyard here in San Antonio. We got them as chicks. They spend nights in a chicken coop built by my husband. We get blue eggs from one and brown eggs from the other. They are delicious, with an almost orange yolk. My daughters like to pick them up and enjoy watching them. Our cat spends time out in the backyard as well, and they seem to coexist quite well. The eggs are very popular with our friends, who are always happy to get any surplus we have.

  31. I have a few girls and they are gems! The only problem is that being a gardener, they seem to follow me around the yard and pick out their own “Weeds!” I wish I knew what to plant just for them and maybe some tricks about how to keep them out of the areas that they should avoid. :0)

  32. Looking forward to reading this book! I’ve let the girls have their freedom all winter, but now it’s almost time to kick them out or my little pea shoots will be shot.

  33. Our chickens are always ripping up the garden. So far our best effort has been planting a day lily ‘fence’ around the more delicate plants, but this has only partially worked with our determined girls. Winning this book would certainly help us out!

  34. We have ducks in our garden for great slug control, and this spring will add a few chickens after we build a new chicken coop. I heard Jessi speak at the NW Flower & Garden Show, so I would love to have this book as a reference.

  35. We’ve just bought rural property and are thinking of adding chickens. We need all of the advice we can get.

  36. My chickens are free range (except at night of course) and I’d love to learn some better ways to keep them from unplanting what I plant.

  37. I am hoping chickens are in my near future and it looks like this book has all the solutions for a gardener…

  38. Oh, I would love to win this book before we start designing the backyard of our new house! It’s currently just stumps and buttercups, but I envision a lively kitchen garden with chickens running around!

  39. My chickens tear up stuff something awful when I let them out or into the garden.I’d love to learn how to keep them happy and keep my gardens intact at the same time.

  40. My dear Gen, this may be just the ticket to convince my resistant wife of the joy and fulfillment found in raising one’s own chickens! Count me officially in the running. ;^)

  41. I’m VERY anxious to read this book as I’m an avid gardener AND raise chickens that free-range a few hours each day. I’d love to help raise funds for a local organization by having a “Coop and Garden Tour”.

  42. We have four hens who roam freely around our backyard all day long – we lock them up in the coop at night – and they wreak havoc on my garden. Would LOVE this book for ideas on how to protect my beds – because I love my girls AND my plants ; )

  43. This is our first year with chickens. Our four year old son was found to have allergies to dogs & cats, so my desire to raise a flock was finally permitted by my wife. I have also jumped into doing a complete landscaping remodel on our property. I would love a book like this to use as a reference guide on customizing our landscaping to best suit our needs, as well as our birds.

    We have a mixed flock with amerucuanas, black australorps, Barnevelders & Welsummers. Looking forward to the daily challenges/rewards of raising urban birds. Love your blog!

  44. This looks fantastic! I’d love a copy to go with my Silver-Laced Wyandottes, arriving at the end of the month.

  45. I’ve had a flock of 13 chickens for almost a year now….and with the mild winter we’ve had in the Northeast, the girls have laid eggs regularly since November! I get at least 8 eggs a day! I feed the hens all my kitchen scraps, especially bread, rice, and pasta; which they love! It’s hilarious to see them running around with rotini in their beaks! I worked out an arrangement with a local cafe to get their kitchen scraps, which they would have just composted anyway. If I could provide enough eggs for their use, we would swap ‘goods’, but they need more than I can provide. In the meantime, I’m keeping all my family, friends, and clients happy with “Barneyville Eggs”! Would love to win this book!

  46. Chickens certainly are the topic of the year. My hen house isn’t pretty – but it is functional and my chickens are healthy. This is a great book. I already have it (even if my coop is plain) and I recommend it.

  47. I’m getting my first chicks ever on 4/20 and I can’t wait! I could really use this book!

  48. It’s been several years since I raised chickens, but after reading about the book, it makes me want to revisit chicken raising. The book would be such a help if I won it!