You know how chickens slow the growth of grass and eliminate weeds?
You know how they rid of your backyard of many pests suck as ticks?
You know how they take those hilarious dust baths?
All those behaviors will lead to garden decimation; however, this doesn’t mean you can’t have both chickens and a garden.
I’ve found keeping items fenced away is the only thing that works for us. Unfortunately after having a year to work at it, my chickens defeated one of my fences from last year.
I repaired it, planted my garden, and came out to find 3 chickens scratching it to pieces. So I repaired it, replanted my garden, and never caught another chicken in there but saw the ruined plants and a tale-tell mound of chicken poo as a calling card.
What finally worked was raising the height to consistently over 6 feet and adding logs around the bottom to be sure they weren’t squeezing under. So save yourself some time and make your fence tall and eliminate any gaps or loose fencing at the bottom. If you can, make it so they can’t even scratch around the bottom.
If and when they foil your plans, remember all the good things about chickens and trade their eggs for the veggies they won’t let you grow.
Garden progress photos from April and early May
I planted herb seeds in these pots that are on some spools outside. The chickens have not been curious enough to jump up and destroy the pots yet. I'm still waiting.
Our fridge has never been cleaner since getting chickens. When I get tired of leftovers or something starts to turn, out to the chickens it goes! They particularly love spaghetti and cake.
Capucine and Clemence run up the deck stairs to be the first to get a treat.
Their energy and curiosity added to their brashness means you’ll never know what you might see them do, but whatever it is will probably make you laugh.
Florence and Jolene have such crazy hairdos they run around with limited vision which produces some amusing behavior.
3. Bird songs
They do more than cockle doodle doo.
4. Chicken butt
Chickens are funny and they will make you laugh when you catch them during a rather good dirt bath or hunting a bumbling cicada. You’ll find yourself making entirely too many chicken butt jokes.
Guess what. Capucine forages and shows off her fluffy bottom.
5. Weed control
I realized the other day that I haven’t seen a dandelion or clover flower in years. Weed control explains why we don’t have to cut the backyard very much anymore.
We actually have more grass now that the weeds aren't crowding it out.
6. Outdoor fun
They encourage you to go outside, enjoy the sunshine and fresh air.
Even Lillie enjoys taking a seat and watching the ladies.
7. Garden assistance
When I was almost read to plant my gardens this year, I opened up the beds to let the chickens in. They scratched up the weeds and tilled the soil effectively. Let the plots clear, light, and ready to plant. They even left a little fertilizer.
I filled these and several other pots with dirt I reclaimed from a bed I let the chickens take over last year.
My chickens visit everyone who enters the yard. They follow you around. They’ll come to the door. They are very curious and interested in what’s going on, and yet they are independent.
The ladies enjoying a communal dirt bath.
9. Pest control
We had a tick problem until we had chicks. If only they ate mosquitoes and gnats!
Manon's beak was meant for bug eating.
The ones at the grocery store don’t begin to compare.
A few a week in the winter and several a day in the summer
Chickens love dirt baths. Unfortunately, mine love my garden beds for their baths.
Having 9 free range backyard hens presents rewards such as learning how to go through 4 dozen eggs in a week, successfully reducing the tick population down to nil, and enjoying their lovely clucking songs as they graze on the lawn.
It also presents less favorable challenges: having an Easter hunt every day as they refuse to use the laying boxes you supply, avoiding poop strategically placed to make you slip down the deck stairs, and planting a garden they don’t destroy in seconds.
As I’ve battled with my chickens to get to stop laying where I don’t want and to keep them out of my garden, at times I have felt like Wile E. Coyote using faulty ACME products to catch the roadrunner.
If nothing else, chickens are determined, and when they are free range like mine, they have all of daylight to undermine my efforts. Despite that, I was just not ready to give up my garden for this year, and after some trial and error, I’m hopeful that I have found the solution to gardening with backyard chickens.
Rule One: Accept that the chickens consider it their yard, While you’re gone at work all day, they don’t have any other jobs but to explore their yard and hunt for good eats. They will spend every waking moment trying to figure out how to get in where you don’t want them, so if you suspect there are any flaws in your plan, one of their not so little bird brains will find it and exploit it.
Rule Two: Put up fencing. Make sure it is smaller than their heads. If it is not, they will stick their heads through it and eat what they can reach. They will immediately be interested in anything you plant especially if it has the white vermiculite balls. They love those things. They might ignore the marigolds themselves, but the flowers will be destroyed as they scratch to reach the vermiculite. A photo tutorial of the fencing I put up is further down. Continue Reading »
Small because of the 9 small dinosaurs chickens roam my backyard and scratch and peck everything to the ground.
Small because despite my hard work and big plans the last few years, I never reap large harvests. It’s always too wet or too dry or too hot or too many evil wild rabbits, leaving me without enough tomatoes to can or cukes to pickle.
And small because I thought I’d have a small human growing inside me by this point and I didn’t know what my activity level would be, so just in case I was thinking small.