Gardening with Chickens

  1. Nutcase
    Gardening with Chickens
    Utilising Your Flock -Tips & Ideas

    Do you enjoy gardening? If so, you may be wondering how your chickens can help you out here. Sometimes it can be a bit confusing: is it practical to maintain a compost pile while keeping chickens? Fortunately there are a number of ways you can go about your gardening.

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    Not everyone can let their flock free-range in their yard, but keeping chickens in a run does have its benefits. Chickens lay eggs but there's more they can do for you! This is what I do:

    Chicken Run:
    All edible food scraps
    Mulch/grass clippings
    Broken branches

    Compost Bin:
    Used hay
    Manure (from both rabbits and chickens)

    Whatever the chickens don’t eat in their run decomposes over time. Every few days I scoop up any manure and add it to the compost. In the end, I have two renewable sources of fertile soil. You may think that giving all the scraps to the chickens is a waste of nutrients, but at the end you’ve got plenty of poo [​IMG] so it’s really a win-win situation. The chickens can’t wreck the garden but I get the manure.

    Fun Tip:
    Whenever I want some new soil for planting, I toss a chicken into the compost bin and within 15 minutes the soil is beautifully mixed and tilled, ready for potting. I love my chickens!

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    Using Chicken Manure in Your Garden
    Chicken manure can be a great fertiliser for your plants if you use it properly. You can’t just dump it around your plants. It is so strong that it will burn them if they are too young or small. That’s why I add it to my compost and over time, as more material is piled on top, its qualities give the compost a huge boost. My bin has openings at the bottom of all four sides, so the best soil which is at the very bottom, is easy to shovel out.

    Rabbit Manure
    Rabbit poo is my favourite kind of manure! It’s small, dries quickly and it’s odourless. I usually add this straight into the soil around my plants. I grow tomatoes, beans and capsicums and they thrive on rabbit poo. Other times I add several handfuls of poo to a container half-full of water and leave it for around 48 hours, stirring every once in a while. At the end I give the brown nutritious liquid to my plants and tip the leftover poo into the compost.

    Growing a Garden Patch in Your Chook Yard
    Right now I'm in the process of growing out grass for a section in my chickens' run. They love to forage (of course) but they've eaten every blade of grass in the run. I chose a section of the run which I can block off while I prepare the mini chicken garden. I uprooted quite a bit of grass and put it in a container of water. As it grows, the roots are linking together to form what resembles a piece of turf. By the time I plant it, it will be easy to lift out and plant in one piece in the soil. I've had success in the past with this method and although it is slow and gradual, at the end the grass is a lot stronger than it otherwise would have been. Choosing this particular part of the run was a good idea because I can fence off the area as needed. It's also the place where the rabbit manure is washed out which is a bonus.

    I know there are many more gardeners on BYC, so if you're one of them feel free to offer suggestions for this article. If you have any questions, ask in the comments!

    - Nutcase

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  1. ChickieAnnD
    For those that want to compost their leaves run them over with a lawnmower first to shred them up then put them in the compost bin. I think that it would be safe for chickens but it's best to check up on the tree variety before tossing them in for the birds.
  2. Honomi
    I've enjoyed reading your article, growing patch grass is a brilliant idea. Also loved watching your chicken photos. I have simmiler chckens like yours. if you are interested in please see my girls http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/903544/happy-one-year-home Sometimes neighbour's cat's leaving their mess in the garden patch but I've noticed putting chicken's manure where they made mess, cat's won't come back and do it again. Amazing way to put cats off!
  3. CassieW
    My great uncles farm implemented method field rotation clearing with cattle, goats, pigs, ducks & chickens. Began after harvest clean field, build winter fat reserves and served as composting or prior winter crop planting fields. Included planting winter greens or winter cover crops adding erosion control, stock fodder or green fertilizer. I remember as kid herding different locations clean fields after harvest or graze winter cover-crop; clover, buckwheat, oats, winter wheat & winter rye or gather winter greens; cabbage, collards, kale or winter roots. Winter school holidays meant running fields ahead weather predictions ice storms or dangerous freezes supplementing livestock fresh fodder & shelter before dark. As winter graze meant foul weather fortifying barn, coop and supplies. Once re-sheltered tied guide ropes to house & diesel generator shed: if white-out or night check require on threats lost power or roof collapse.
  4. Sylvester017
    jeffs 1979 - I've never had luck using tree leaves. The darn things don't break up in the compost and neither does straw so I use these very sparingly in the main compost bin. I use a small compost bin for composting as I don't have enough yard for gardening, chicken housing, free-range foraging, AND compost piles. The egg shells we dry out in the oven and then finely powder crush to mix into the following year's garden bed along with vermiculite, compost, manure, and organic fertilizer. At the end of summer gardening we let the chickens loose into the raised garden bed to hunt for bugs, weeds, pieces of egg shell, and to dust-bathe until Spring season comes around again and we close them off from the garden area again.
  5. Ibicella
    I've worked with chickens on a farm as a kid that were used for precisely this purpose. There were lots of animals, but the chickens without a doubt were the lifeblood of the whole place. They took care of all of the the compost piles and all of the vegetable beds, and kept all the garden pests in check along with the ducks and geese. Once we had to clear space for more pasture, so we just put up temporary fencing around the perimeter and sent the pigs and goats out to get rid of the big stuff like trees and shrubs. Then we finished off with the chickens. Voilá! All we had to do then was plant and care for the sprouts after that. :)
  6. RezChamp
    I've only had to chase chickens out of the garden. At both sets of my grandparents' farms.
    We did use the manure in some spots in the gardens though.
    I've found for above ground stuff it works OK the first year even but never for potatoes.
    Tomatoes seem to really like it. And some squashes. Didn't pay too much attn to it though, just did what I saw done.
    Lots of info on this site.
    Thanks.
    PS. I still chase chickens out of the garden. They can sure raise particular cain if left with free reign eh.
  7. boskelli1571
    Good article. All my raised beds are 'chicken proofed', when I'm ready to turn a bed under, I just open it up and let the girls in! They do a much better job than I turning over the soil, removing bugs etc. Chicken power!
  8. Flight Of Fancy
    awesome article,ill be sure to use it
  9. chicken farmer
  10. ringzemall
    I have a pen that I built that is multi-purpose. It was supposed to attach to the side of the coop as a run, but I've never used it that way. It also fits over my raised bed garden so I can put chickens in it to till the garden after the season is over. I throw compost in it as well, and let them go to it. During the season when the raised bed is growing veggies, I use the run as a pen in the front yard and move it to a new patch of grass a few times a day. The chickens fertilize the grass and eat the weeds for me. It's also used as a grow-out pen for meat birds (its current use) so I can move them around the back yard until they are old enough to mix with the adults. It's light enough to move easily, but strong enough to keep large dogs out.
  11. Dizzydog
    Chicken are fantastic for cleaning up the garden in the winter. If you can give them the run of your vegetable garden all winter they will dig up the dead stalks and leaves, tromp them down and turn them into well fertilized compost. They check every clod and leaf for insects and root them out. By spring the garden will be ready to turn over and plant. A word of caution however. They can be murder on perennial flowers, rhubarb, strawberries, and other over-wintered crops. They will dig up the roots and kill the plants. I cover each rhubarb plants with wire, planks or flower pots to protect the roots. I fence off carrots, garlic, and strawberries with temporary fencing.
  12. Mountain Man 60
    At the end of the season I open the entire garden up to the chickens and they finish off any vegetation, eat all of the seeds and bugs preparing for the next season. I close them back into their quarter of the garden in the spring two months before planting and do what you have described above.
  13. Mountain Man 60
  14. MyPetNugget
    Fantastic article!! @jeffs1979 I like to do that all the time and it works very well. ;)
  15. jeffs1979
    I'm thinking about putting all my dried leaves into my chicken run so they can help break them down. Has anyone tried this??
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  17. Nutcase
    I just dampen it regularly and it breaks down quite quickly. There are other ways to speed up the composting process but that's all I do and it works fine.
  18. LadyCluck77
    Great article, thank you! I was wondering, if you use pine shavings and sweet PDZ stall dry for bedding, can that also go into the compost/ garden? Is there any way to make the mix break down faster?

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