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My small farm or chicken in the city

Keeping chickens in one’s own garden – a new trend? – Photo: Moers

Most Germans only remember free-range chickens from their holiday on the eco-farm or from a visit to a petting zoo. This could soon change, because poultry is becoming more and more popular as a pet – even in the city. If one takes a look at the current gardening book publications this at least seems to be the trend.

Up until the 1970s, vegetable gardens were no rarity in the rural areas of Germany. Fruit and vegetables were grown there and small animals such as chicken or rabbits were kept. However as the standard of living increased these gardens disappeared more and more. Vegetables, fruit and eggs were offered in supermarkets at low prices and were easily available at all times in a wide variety so that hardly anyone wanted to spend their time working in the garden anymore. Today, this seems to be changing: More and more contemporaries have noticed over the past years that it can be fun to grow part of one’s own provisions oneself. For them it is a special achievement and taste experience to eat their own harvested food fresh from the garden. Furthermore, it is also very interesting for children to find out where strawberries, zucchini and co. actually come from or observe the growth of the plants. Now that many garden owners have started to enjoy growing fruit and vegetables again, keeping pets in the garden or at their allotment has also become an interesting proposition.

At least in the gardening book market, chicken have already become an integral part of the garden today. Anyone, who plans to purchase a flock of chickens can find comprehensive information in an unlimited amount of advisory literature: From the feeding and health of the animals, to breeding and slaughtering, through to the legal requirements. There are additionally tips on the selection of the right breed and construction manuals for stalls and free-range areas. The Ulmer publication company has eight publications alone on the topic in its current autumn 2017 catalogue.

“Free-range chickens and a nice garden are combinable,” stated Joseph Barber, author of the best-seller “The Chicken: A Natural History”. 85,000 copies of the original American issue have already been sold – and in the spring the book is also to appear in German at the main publishers. Jessi Bloom, the award-winning garden designer, also brought out a book entitled “Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard”. The certified garden architect and arborist is the owner of “N.W. Bloom – EcoLogical Landscapes” that is based in Mill Creek, Washington and she is considered to be the trailblazer for sustainable garden planning. She describes in detail in her book how one can design a beautiful and at the same time chicken-friendly garden.

How far this new trend has already established itself and how many garden owners will really start keeping chickens in the coming years remains to be seen. Perhaps the theme is more a media hype and merely indicates the yearnings of the people – comparable with the countless country magazines that are so successful in Germany … “Escape with them in a dream world about the countryside that no longer exists and where one is informed precisely how to cook jam, felt wool or grow old types of fruit… Perhaps the books about keeping chickens in one’s own garden are read for the same reason?

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