A lot of people who keep backyard chickens also garden because it seems like a good combination. Chickens can be really helpful for gardens, but they can also be very harmful. If you’re curious about chickens and gardening, keep reading!
How Chickens Help Your Garden
Chickens can help out in the garden because they are natural tillers. Turn them loose in your garden, and they immediately go to town, scratching and rearranging your dirt. They can prep it in the fall, help spread out your compost or mulch, and have fun in the process.
Their bedding is a great source of nitrogen for your compost pile and they are fantastic grub eaters. If you’ve never seen a chicken go town on a hornworm, for instance, you’re missing out. It’s pretty hysterical to watch chickens get to work on bugs and grubs.
How Chickens Hurt Your Garden
On the flip side, though, chickens can also really hurt your gardening efforts as well. If they get in the garden too early in the in the spring, they will scratch up your seeds and destroy your seedlings. They’re also notorious for eating your fruits and vegetables right off the vine. It’s very frustrating to plant a row of seeds, only to have the chickens eat them right out of the dirt.
How to Keep Chickens out of Your Garden
It can be a little tricky to keep chickens out of your garden, but it can be done. Here are four different ways to keep the chickens from destroying your garden.
- A fence around the garden is a great way to keep chickens out. Beware that chickens have these little things called wings, though. While they aren’t great flyers, they can get over fences. If you’re planning a fence around your garden with the goal to keep chickens out, make sure that fence is at least 6 feet tall. I can tell you from experience, a 4-foot-tall fence will not keep out determined chickens. It will keep out some, but not all of them.
- If fencing is not possible, you can put chicken wire or simple wire baskets around certain plants. I use this method a lot for flowers I want to keep my chickens out of. It’s not ideal, but it does save the flowers.
- Another way to keep chickens out of your garden is to use hoops or row covers over crops. Row covers have the added benefit of extending your growing season and protecting against certain bugs too. I like to make an easy raised bed cover on garden beds, particularly where I grow cabbage and broccoli. The covers keep the cabbage worms and chickens out of my brassicas. If you’re curious, I have an easy tutorial for how to cover a raised bed on my blog.
- The last way I recommend for keeping chickens out of the garden is to use portable chicken netting. These electrified nets are easy to set up and move and can help keep chickens contained to one specific area. They aren’t cheap, but they are effective and good alternative to building permanent fencing.
I like to let my chickens in the garden, but I generally wait until the plants are full grown before doing so. I definitely let them have at it in the fall, but in the spring, I have to use all my tricks to keep them out.
If you garden with chickens, I’m curious how you keep them out! Do you have any methods I didn’t mention?