Baby Chicks as a Part of an IPM Program? - Well Maybe

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Foristers, Sep 26, 2016.

  1. Foristers

    Foristers Chillin' With My Peeps

    This is for those of you who not only raise chickens but also keep a vegetable garden.
    I intend to simply share what I have learned over my time of keeping both.

    Most bloggers, internet resources and magazines always seem to say that I should go to great measures to keep my chickens out of my garden. Ok. I get it. I have experienced what chickens will do to a garden.
    However, raising a whole new batch of baby Buff Orpintons introduced for me a new set of guidelines that I found most useful.

    Baby chicks love insects. Duh! Because they are high in protein. I fed them bugs but I also fed them grass and garden vegetable scraps just like I did the grown birds. Well the baby Buff Orpingtons wanted nothing to do with the grass and vegetable scraps but the bugs they devoured. Again protein.

    Well this got me thinking. At the same time that I began this realization (around late July) I was also experiencing bug infestations in my vegetable garden. I had Squash bugs on my squash, cucumber beetles on my cucumbers, stink bugs, cutworms, tomato horn-worms, and ants in my garden. I even found black widow spiders in my garden.
    So what did I do? I released (9) two-week old Buff Orpington chicks into my garden to see what they could do.

    The result was positive. Bugs were eaten, poop was left (fertilizer). No vegetables were damaged. I have maintained this practice up until about 8-10 weeks. At that age the chicks are becoming pullets and cockerels - whatever - they still go after bugs but they also scratch the ground. In fact that will scratch enough to expose roots and even create small holes in the ground. This has not affected my vegetables at all. In fact it seems to act to aerate the ground and of course then they poop which gets fertilizer close to the ground.
    I have heard warning that chicken poop will "burn" plants from high nitrogen - no such experience here. In fact the end result of having young chicks pillage my garden has been very positive.

    So in a way I have made my Buff Orpington chicks a part of my own IPM program for my home garden and it has worked well for me.

    Buff Orpingtons are a dual purpose breed and like most people interested in a dual-purpose breed I do intent to reduce my flock by several members each year to feed my family. Well I also intend to find a "broody hen" to raise up my next generation of BO chicks during the hot months each year. This is the same time during which garden pests are a problem.

    This means that I could, very seriously, make baby chicks my insecticide of choice every year for my home garden. I am just curious if anyone else has tried this and what your success (or failure) stories are.

    ThankS!
     
  2. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    This is interesting! I guess at that point they're really too small to do much damage, or reach things like tomatoes.

    *wheels churning for next season*
     
  3. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Chicken Obsessed

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    This is interesting. I find that my birds do far too much damage in my garden to allow them freedom there. More info please: Do you only allow them in the garden under your supervision? Do you have some sort of tractor for them? Or other enclosure to ensure their safety? How much time do they spend in your garden on a daily basis? How big is your garden? Do you do a permanent mulch system, till and hoe, aiming to keep bare soil? Raised beds? Garden fenced? What about crops like lettuce and such that are eaten without cooking? Any concern about cross contamination there?

    I do intend to allow my birds to access my orchard, but have yet to figure out how to be sure my fruits are not molested and are saved for my use, while at the same time pruning trees to stay short enough to be tended without ladders. Was thinking that I would manage this with a tractor system so the tractor can be moved between trees to allow birds to manage insects. Back to Eden approach in orchard and garden is also being converted to same.

    My flock won't touch squash bugs or potato bugs. Have not seen what they will do with cucumber beetles.
     
  4. Little Fuzzy

    Little Fuzzy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I would love to start a raised garden for some organics but am afraid of what my nine chickens will do. Still working on the problem.
     
  5. Foristers

    Foristers Chillin' With My Peeps

    Yes. Grown birds are likely to eat vegetation also. This applies for the chicks only between 1 week - about 9-10 weeks. Mine are at 9 weeks as of today and I had them in the garden Saturday and still positive results. I expect that one day I will have them out there and and they might start eating my veggies and at that point I would cease this practice. Then I will have a better idea at what age to cut this off.
    So let me try to answer some of your questions. I let my chicks i the garden usually when I am working outside, but without power tools (like a lawn mower, etc). Usually I am right there in the vegetable garden pulling weeds or picking veggies but sometimes I am elsewhere in the yard pruning trees, bushes, talking to neighbors, etc. There is no fence and no other means to protect the chicks so I do have to be vigilant. We actually lost 3 chicks in August when my wife tried this but got hot and went inside to cool off for about 30 minutes or so.
    But usually when I do I do not have a problem. The chicks are actually well hidden under the foliage of the plants which by mid-July are at a minimum waist high.
    So the chicks last Saturday spent about 2 hours in the garden while I was out and about. This is about average when I do let them out. In July I let them in the garden for about 1 hour for about 2-3 days a week. Now that it is September it is only about once a week but for a longer period. I notice that they spend the first hour to two hours chasing bugs and frolicking about and then I guess at some point they must get their fill and they scratch a depression in the ground and just lay down in the shade. That is when I know that they are tired and ready to "go home". This past Saturday was the first time that they actually went back to the coop by themselves. That made it much easier to put them away.
    My garden area is only about 400-500 square feet. It is not a raised bed garden but on ground level. No garden fence. I had lettuce growing in late July and they did not bother it. I am telling the truth that they have shown very little interest in any vegetation aside from grass (both Fescue and Bermuda). In fact I now have fall seedlings coming up all over my garden (broccoli, cauliflower, more lettuce, etc) and they did just fine.

    A note about squash bugs and other stink bugs. My chicks seem to be all about the hunt. They love to chase insects and snap and eat them. I have also noticed that mine do not like the taste of squash bugs or other stink bugs but they do hunt them and peck them - which is often enough to at least kill the bug. In reality - that is all I care about. In fact - when the hens get older I would recommend against them eating stink bugs (if they would eat them) because they could possibly flavor the eggs bad.
     
  6. Foristers

    Foristers Chillin' With My Peeps

    Grown chickens would probably do damage. [​IMG]
    But perhaps something like this would help.
     
  7. Foristers

    Foristers Chillin' With My Peeps

    Exactly! But even what they can reach, they seem disinterested in. But the bugs they love!
     
  8. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Chicken Obsessed

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    This is one of my all time favorite chicken movies:

     
  9. Little Fuzzy

    Little Fuzzy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nice idea thanks a lot.
     

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