Are you raising chickens and trying to grow a garden? Don’t get hung up on trying to keep your garden and chickens separate. Instead, try to think about how you can make them work together. Chickens can be extremely beneficial for your garden. In fact, before chicken coops were a thing, many homesteading families relied on their chickens to help in the garden.
Benefits of Chickens in the Garden
- Chicken Manure. Did you know that many farmers spend a lot of money each year to put chicken poop on their fields? Chicken litter, or chicken manure, is a wonderful fertilizer that is packed with nutrients that plants need. Chicken manure is nearly perfect in terms of the nutrients that it contains. Chicken poop has nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that plants need to grow and thrive. When your chickens are in the garden, they’re fertilizing for you!
- Pest and Weed Control. Nearly 60% of a chicken’s diet is from insects when they are allowed to free-range. I don’t know about you, but sometimes keeping insects off of my garden plants is a struggle. I’ll gladly take all of the help that I can get. Chickens love to eat the bugs that you don’t want to deal with in your garden, like the soft-bodied caterpillars that will eat your plants and the squash beetles that will destroy your zucchini crop. Chickens are also helpful when it comes to keeping weeds under control. Chickens love to eat small shoots and new, small grass. Once your vegetable plants have gotten large enough, your chickens won’t mess with them. Instead, they’ll pick around them looking for the small weeds that you’d otherwise pull up by hand. *A word of caution- Avoid letting your chickens in the garden while vegetable plants are small or if you have seeds in the ground. Chickens will eat your small seedlings and dig up any seeds you’ve planted.*
- Free Tilling. Chickens love to scratch around the dirt in search of insects, seeds and other bits of food. They use their toenails to dig around in the soil, moving around looking for food. Chickens will flock to your garden in search of insects. They’ll dig around in your garden, working the surface of the soil as they scratch for insects.
- Free compost and mulch spreading. Have you ever put a pile of hay, grass or anything else in your chicken coop? Chickens love piles of materials that they can dig through looking for insects and food. If you want to have help spreading mulch or compost in your garden, simply pile it up and let your chickens have at it. They’ll spread the mulch or compost out until you can’t tell there was ever a pile. Once they’ve picked it clean, they’ll move on.
Sometimes we get so tied up on keeping our animals and gardens separated on the farm that we forget that these animals and our garden can work together. This garden season, try to work your chickens into your garden. You’ll get some help with pest control, fertilizing and keeping it in good shape and your chickens will get time out of the coop and some healthier meals. It’s a win-win for both of you!