Garden Photo of the Day

Gardening in the Mojave Desert

Which came first, the chicken or the garden?

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.

chicken penBecause 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.

star jasmineOne 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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View Comments


  1. Patchworkgardener 05/20/2020

    UNIQUE! AMAZING! INGENIOUS! What a great way to solve a problem. I love the vines chosen. I looked up the original tombstone rose. Amazing! Between the jasmine and honeysuckle, it must smell wonderful. I just love it all. You must really love those chickens....hope they know how lucky they are. Bet you make good lemonade too😁. Thanks for sharing

  2. PattyLouise 05/20/2020

    Such a lovely garden & a lovely story! An excellent way to solve a problem. The flowers make you happy & they make the chickens happy!

  3. gardenfox 05/20/2020

    I'm charmed by your story, all the beauty of gardens and ingenious problem-solving for your chickens.

  4. User avater
    meander_michaele 05/20/2020

    Your silkies are beyond adorable...who wouldn't want to move heaven and earth to make life good for them. They sure lucked out when they "picked" you as their owner.

  5. cheryl_c 05/20/2020

    From yesterday's gardener from zone 3 to today's gardener in the Mojave - and you both make those incredibly difficult areas look easy-peesy! I love your switch to Tombstone rose, and your addition of vines to create some less noisy shade for your dear silkies!

  6. btucker9675 05/20/2020

    Wondrous! Your adorable little chickens are certainly fortunate to have such a lovely home.

  7. wittyone 05/20/2020

    Thems some climbers fer sure!

    Lucky chickens!

  8. User avater
    treasuresmom 05/20/2020

    Love that rose.

  9. Sunshine111 05/20/2020

    So wonderful!!!

  10. schatzi 05/20/2020

    creative and beautiful problem solving! A 14 foot diameter trunk rose just blows my mind!

  11. User avater
    simplesue 05/20/2020

    Oh Wow! I love this post! That's the coolest chicken coop-house I've ever seen and in such a challenging environment!
    The gorgeous roses and vines and those chickens...I've never seen such a creature before! Living in zone 6b for most of my life I find it so interesting to see the world through other gardeners and what they create in their zones. Thanks for sharing your world!

  12. User avater
    carolcowee 05/20/2020

    I grew that rose, Fortuniana, huge, grew along and over our house but burned to the ground, along with 170 other roses and our home in the Carr Wildfire in Redding, CA. I have visited the Rose in Tombstone. As such a vigorous rose it is often used as root stock for rose growers.. It is a once bloomer but lovely green the rest of the time. Quail lived in ours.

  13. user-5117752 05/22/2020

    Can I just say ditto to what everybody else said. You are amazing!!! Love to get a peak at your cottage, too. What ever made you move to a place like this and what are winters like? And what is your story? OK, I'm very nosy! Sorry and thank you for sharing!

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