Every spring and fall our lawn comes to life, and so too do the weeds. My front lawn is a breeding ground for dandelions and I furiously pluck the heads off each new bud before they have a chance to go to seed. A few years back I even hired a service to come and spray my lawn to eradicate the weeds. It was satisfying to see the last of the dandelions shrivel up and die. My quest was complete.
When we got backyard chickens I no longer felt good about spraying the whole lawn to control the weeds, so I cancelled the service. I then began selectively spraying the dandelions with eco-friendly sprays and plucking their heads off before they could go to seed. This was more labour intensive, but with my chickens in mind, I was happy to do it. Maybe I could strike a balance after all.
‘Weeds’ have a purpose after all.
I was recently in my yard spraying and popping heads off dandelions, when a mason bee landed on a ‘weed’ I was just about to pull. I stopped to watch it in action, furiously working to cover itself in pollen – it was fascinating. Then off to the next dandelion it went, and to the next and then the next. I looked around my yard and suddenly noticed that in addition to the dandelions, a lot of the ‘weeds’ on my lawn produce tiny little white and purple flowers, bees buzzing all around them collecting pollen and nectar. At that moment, I had a revelation: these weeds actually have a purpose! I just couldn’t bring myself to pop off one more head, or spray one more leaf.
Now we are on the verge of becoming beekeepers, so naturally I want to make sure our yard is inviting and free of chemical interference. With all the information out there about declining honeybee populations, disease and crop spraying, it is only right to try to give them the best opportunity to survive as possible.
It has been a long process, accepting the weeds. Accepting that they do have a place, even if it is on my front lawn.
While we are still in the planning stages, something we have been giving a lot of thought to, has been where to position the beehive on our property. We live on .22 of an acre and our bylaw only permits hives to be located to the rear of the house, and of course, a specific distance from property lines – so we are limited in terms of options. We are however, fortunate to have our property back onto a mountain, so we do not have neighbours to the rear of our home and positioning a hive in our back yard is a viable option.
One consideration though, is we have a small flock of backyard chickens that we allow to free range. Of course we don’t want the hens getting curious and wandering too close to the hive, but somehow we must find a way for them to coexist without incident.
I have included some photos of our backyard, and I am considering leveling out a space on the back slope that is currently covered in green vine, which would keep the hive off the main yard area, and somewhat away from the coop/hens. I wonder though, regardless of where we position the hive, if we should surround the hive with some form of fence to prevent the chickens from getting too close.
Do you or anyone you know, have a similar situation/setup? I would love some feedback or ideas on how best to manage bees and chickens living in such close proximity.
View of our back yard.
View of our back yard.
I couldn’t help myself. I don’t even own bees yet and I just had to get the latest edition of Bee Culture Magazine. I’m not known to have a lot of patience, so waiting to go to our first ever meeting (9 more days, but who is counting?) with the local beekeepers association is difficult. In the meantime I of course want to fill my time learning as much as I can, and this magazine fit the bill perfectly.
Bee Culture Magazine.
It seems most new beekeepers have Mentors, and the more I read, the more I understand it is absolutely necessary to have someone who knows what they are doing, help you with everything from setting up, to diagnosing problems. I’m sure we’ll find a mentor in our area and I look forward to working with them to get our hive up and running.
Ultimately I want to do right by these little guys!
I have just found out it is NOT too late to start beekeeping this year. This is great news, as I had thought all bees are now out doing their busy work, and to get some would be disrupting the natural flow of things. Not so apparently, thanks to Swarms – a term I am just now beginning to understand.