Yes, you heard that right! Plant a garden FOR your chickens!
Myself and many others have fought the good fight to keep chickens OUT of our summer gardens since the beginning of time. Crafty and able to squeeze through most affordable types of livestock fencing, chickens can destroy a garden. It’s not their fault, they are opportunistic free rangers, eating whatever they can find.
Here are a few tips to distract your flock this year, saving your garden!
Plan for Extras in Your Garden
As the old saying goes, “Sow four beans as you make your row, one to rot, and one to grow, one for the pigeon, and one for the crow.”
Nothing is more disappointing than going to pick a giant, red tomato off the vine, and putting your hand on it only to feel the mushy back side of it has been pecked off!
To keep chickens out of your garden, plain and simple, you need a good fence. Goat fencing is slightly more affordable than chicken wire, and taller. If the holes are small enough, this should keep the chickens out. I do not like keeping my chickens cooped up, even though they have a fenced in yard. Letting them out to free range helps save on feed costs tremendously and they enjoy being out. That’s why I have a fence around my little garden.
Plant some extras in your own garden for your flock!
A few extra tomato plants, extra bean sprouts, a few more heads of cabbage and lettuce than you had planned, etc. It feels good to share! -as long as it is on our terms!
Plant a “Scratch Patch”
Let your chickens have a little gardening fun this year too! Plant a “scratch patch,” or two or three!
Clear off a section of ground. Be sure to till the earth, they will love the easy access to grubs! Throw out about half the seeds, and bury the other half. Some seeds might get eaten, but the others will grow into a little mini chicken garden.
Some favorite chicken veggies are:
Grasses and Oats
Plant a Melon Patch
Chickens LOVE melons!
Watermelons and cantaloupes are actually pretty easy to grow. All you need is a well drained, preferably slightly sloped area of ground. Start the seeds as seedlings, and plant them in the ground when the chance of frost passes. They will grow along the ground as a vine, ripening all summer. They will not all ripen at the same time, so you and your flock will be able to enjoy these juicy fruits for an extended time!
The good news is, the chickens won’t be able to damage the melons much as they grow! You will just need to cut one in half for them when they are ripe. Just plant some extras because melons are also a favorite of deer!
Make a Corn Field
Corn is another relatively easy thing to grow for your chickens! If you have the space, clear out an area for a few rows of corn. If you can plant the seeds deep enough to keep the birds and chickens from eating the seeds when they are in the ground, the corn will grow quickly! Fresh corn right off the cob is a wonderful treat for your chickens! You can also let some ears dry on the stalk. Remove the dried kernels in autumn and you will have your very own, homegrown whole corn hen snacks!
Plant a Sunflower Patch
Who doesn’t love big, beautiful sunflowers? Plant yourself a sunflower patch this year to enjoy. When the flowers die, let them dry out for a few weeks and remove the seeds at the center of the flower for a cost effective alternative to store bought sunflower seeds!
Hopefully with these little tips, you and your flock can make the most out of this planting season!