The Cottage Smallholder

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Soft fruit, chickens and rose petals


Photo: Picking blackberries

Photo: Picking blackberries

“Wow £4.19 for 15 strawberry seeds. Is it really worth buying these?” Danny shook the seed packet pensively.
“We couldn’t buy 15 plants for £4.19. Even at the church fete. I want to grow enough for wine and jam this year.”

“Won’t we get enough from the 12 plants that arrived yesterday?”

I am deeply into getting a good harvest of strawberries next year. Today I am planting out my new strawberry plants in the overhauled soft fruit bed that sits beside the chicken run. I know that the chickens will stand patiently beside the wire hoping for fruit morsels to be tossed into their world. Chickens love soft fruit. They don’t understand that in the winter the harvest is sparse. Although we are still harvesting the occasional Autumn raspberry and it’s nearly the end of November.

Am I driving them crazy with my cultivation of soft fruit? At the other end of their run behind the herb bath is a wonderful blackberry bush. When I harvest these plump beauties the chickens stand on the roof of the Ken Docherty Day Centre observing me closely. The blackberries are so bountiful that there are plenty to share. I try to make sure that everyone has some fruit as Carol and the Italian cockerels tend to grab everything first.

But making sure there are fair shares takes some skill and quite a lot of blackberries. I run up and down the outside of the run with my blackberry basket tossing handfuls into different parts of the run. The cockerels and Carol pound back and forth in a wild shrieking feathered frenzy.But they can’t be in all places at all times so eventually the gentler birds get their fill.

The roof of the day centre is sloping so a blackberry tossed onto this generally rolls off and drops into the run. Jumping on and off the roof is good SAS training for fitter chickens. Only Carol has twigged that if she stays on the roof she can grab a berry as it rolls down. There’s six chicken years of experience for you.

They do have exclusive rights to the blackberry bush that scrambles over the other end of their run. This is mainly because I can reach the fruit but I don’t tell them that. There is an old climbing rose that shades them on sunny summer days and gives them exquisite tasty treats on and off all summer. It’s hard to believe but chickens adore eating rose petals.

Our strawberry harvest was sparse this summer and this was largely down to me not looking after them properly. I had no idea how greedy they are. There weren’t even enough to share with the chickens. Hopefully next summer I can run up and down their run with baskets of strawberries if all goes well.

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  1. My Chickens are eating rose pedals as they fall of the plant, is it ok for them to eat them !

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi JR

      Rose petals are edible and harmless. My chickens love them too.

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Cathy

    I’m looking forward to planting the seed in my electric propogator. The starts are in the ground and already making fresh shoots!

    I have not tasted a rose petal yet. Apparently strawberries are related to roses.

    Hi Celia

    Thanks so much for the tip about Gariguette – I must check out that nursery.

    Hi Liz

    That made me smile. Thanks for dropping by.

  3. When I was a child, we had a smallholding. My mother reliably informs me that it really is possible to have too many strawberries – about 6 bowls a day is definately too many!

  4. magic cochin

    Our hens love strawberries and blackberries – not sure if they’ve tried rose petals?

    We throw the slug damaged strawberries over the high garden wall to the hens on the other side – I like to picture them like Freddie Flintoff in the outfield waiting to take a catch!

    My favourite strawberry is of course Cambridge Favourite, but I have to admit the flavour of Gariguette – an early French variety, is amazing! Both available from Ken Muir – an excellent nursery for all sorts of fruit palnts/bushes/trees.


  5. I like picturing your chickens eating rose petals. I like to eat them, too. They’re very sweet.

    I’ve never planted strawberries from seed before. Around here (Oregon is famous for strawberries), we buy bundles of starts that — I think — come from the runners of other plants. A superb strawberry harvest would be wonderful!

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Joanna

    There are still roses flowering in the chicken run! Next year I’m going to experiment with rose petals – thanks for the inspiration.

    Hi Jackie

    We dehydrated kilos of out own tomatoes this year but we use it mainly to dehydrate two for one offers/cut price offers and seasonal veg like Fenland celery. I also dehydrate bags of spinach – as they seem to go over so quickly. I’ve also ground a lot of dehydrated fruit and veg to make flavoured powders.It has saved us £££s already!

    It’s worth looking at this site – she has some great ideas.

  7. jackie Gibbins

    Hi Fiona!

    Just catching up with your post from yesterday. I’ve been sitting on the fence and thinking about whether or not to get a dehydrator since you first mentioned one ages ago, but I haven’t taken the plunge because I don’t grow any fruit and veg myself. I do cook from scratch though.

    Would you still find your dehydrator worth having just to use it on produce you buy?


  8. Rose petals, that reminds me of our stay in Cyprus in March when we were given a liqueur of rose petals and I think brandy but I can’t be sure, but it was heavenly. Apparently it took a whole table full of rose petals though

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