Today we’re visiting the garden of Cheyenne Bonnell, who is using plants to keep chickens happy.
When I moved into my newly built cottage in 2016, I wanted to make sure that I could accommodate my love of both chickens and gardens. And if you ask which came first, the chickens or the garden, I’d emphatically say the chickens. In fact, the chickens necessitated the garden.
Because I live in a rural area in Southern California, the Mojave Desert precisely, my chicken pen had to be 100% varmint proof. And it is. But it was not sun-proof, and the chickens needed protection from the desert sun and heat.
So on went the tarps, effective but very noisy in the windy desert.
The solution was plants. The Mojave is not a hospitable place for all plants, but I discovered that the “Tombstone Rose” not only thrives in Arizona, but in my garden as well. (Editor’s note: The Tombstone Rose is a specimen of Rosa banksiae, Zones 7–10, planted in 1884 in Tombstone, Arizona, that now covers 5,000 square feet and has a trunk 14 feet in diameter.) It came to the rescue.
In three years this energetic climber had formed a thatch of leaves and flowers that provided all the summer shade my silkie chickens needed.
One successful planting leads to another. I added star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides, Zones 8–10) to block out the early morning summer sun.
I added Hall’s honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’, Zones 4–9) just for the fragrance. (Editor’s note: In the wetter climates of the eastern United States, this species is a highly invasive weed—but it can’t survive without irrigation in the desert, so Cheyenne can safely plant it.)
The plants love the mister hose that I strung across the top the the pen. And the chickens love the cool shade on hot afternoons. And I love the chickens and their secret garden.
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