Chickens seem to be wildly popular lately. In my neighborhood, I enjoy the loud clucks of laying chickens from a neighbor’s house down the street as I drink my coffee in the morning. For this country mouse that now finds herself in the city, the cackling is a welcome sound to my ears.

Besides the obvious eggs, poultry meat and the companionship chickens can offer, they can really benefit the garden. In fact, they have a very symbiotic relationship because the garden can also complement chickens in many ways.

In the book “City Chicks,” author Patricia Foreman has a whole chapter on keeping “garden chickens.” These are free range chickens that are meant to benefit the garden through pest and weed control, garden clean up, compost aeration, making fertilizer and building up the soil. That’s a lot of benefits to having chickens in the garden.

Start with pest and weed control. Chickens are omnivores and therefore enjoy a wide variety of foods. Not only do they eat the chicken feed given to them daily, but they also love to eat weeds, including the favorites, chickweed and henbit. Chickens will also eat clover, dandelion and wild strawberry, which incidentally is half of my yard. Keeping these weeds at bay in the yard will in turn keep them from going to seed and spreading into the garden

Chickens also control the pest population where they live. Some favorites are fleas, ticks, caterpillars and grubs. Foreman recalls a story about a blueberry farmer who uses chickens to control the…