For the majority of us that regularly tend to our vegetable patch or spend our spare minutes in the garden there comes a time when we decide we want to share it with something else. It seems that no sooner have we perfected the lawn and trimmed planted the borders that we feel the need to introduce predators to our plants.

Keeping livestock is on the increase as shopping bills rise those of us with larger gardens are taking steps to produce our own. This extends beyond the herbs, the parsnips and the broad beans and opens up a whole new territory of food for the plate.

Having previously owned a small holding my husband and I breathed a sigh of relief when we waved goodbye to our chickens, ducks and geese. Spending eight months surrounded by landscaped gardens we loved curling up on a night without worrying about putting the countless birds to bed. However now we’ve moved into a more permanent spot the desire to foray into this area has been overwhelming and yesterday on the way home from a meeting I picked up our Christmas dinner.

Gobble Gobble, I’m in Trouble

Passing our livestock supplier, I saw he had baby turkeys for sale and couldn’t resist popping in for a catch up before leaving with two bronze specimens in a box. Luckily our garden has fenced areas that house old coops from the previous owners so we were set up and ready to go. (It didn’t make me any more popular when I arrived home with them though!)

The fencing is very important as we discovered to our peril, as from our previous paddock chickens would easily escape (despite clipping wings regularly) and make short work of our peas whilst creating dust baths in my flower borders. Chickens and ducks make an incredible mess and can ruin a perfectly good garden so a designated are is essential if you still want to enjoy the outdoors yourself.

It also helps to deter cats and foxes as these will try to eat the birds –even in daylight. With the summer months upon s, the birds can be at risk from as early as 5am, and the destruction they leave behind is heart-breaking.

Despite letting them out and putting them to bed, looking after livestock is quite rewarding especially if they produce eggs, nothing feels better than gathering your own breakfast on a Sunday and once you’ve caught the bug you may just want a pig or a goat too!

Bursting the Bubble

However, remember the responsibility before you commit as from experience it is akin to buying a puppy or adding an extra member of the family, as we’ve been known to cut lunches and dinners short just so we can race home to make sure they’re all locked up safely for the night. Holidays are also a problem unless you have a fabulous friend or family member as they can’t be left to fend for themselves as you sun yourself on a tropical beach.

Of course we’re hoping the turkeys grow into plump birds ready for our Christmas table, yet we’re already encountering problems as the children have named them. It reminds me of my own childhood where in a city centre garden my parents kept chickens and goats and one Christmas we were too poor to buy the usual fare.

With heavy hearts they took an axe to Jemima and Jenny, and served them at the table almost choking on the meat. My five year old self then asked, “Where have Jemima and Jenny gone?” To which my mother replied sweetly, “They’re in heaven darling, God decided he wanted chickens”.

Which was a fair explanation until I replied, “If God wanted them in heaven why did he leave their heads in the dustbin?”

Needless to say the chicken was cleared, the dogs belly was full and we feasted on cheese and crackers instead!

First appeared on Gardentoolbox written by Martina Mercer