Chickens in the garden -good idea?

Discussion in 'Gardening' started by fraserfarmette, Jan 4, 2015.

  1. fraserfarmette

    fraserfarmette New Egg

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    Jul 19, 2014
    Victoria BC
    Hi guys!
    As you can see, I don't have my chickens yet (note the profile pic is me, not my hens! lol). Patiently waiting on their March 9th incubation date.
    I have made them a nice little chicken tractor that fits over my raised beds (for some variety in their day and diet). But I am wondering how much damage chickens do to gardens. Is a mature garden safe from them? Or are chickens around your veggies never a good idea? I would prefer to know ahead of time before I 'try it out' and find they have eaten my entire season of kale (etc).
    Of particular interest are the beds that will overwinter. They will include broccoli, kale, onions, garlic, spinach, carrots, lettuce, leeks and parsnips. I could try to get all of those in similar beds so that the chickens can just not visit those beds, but it is going to take many days of planning and figuring out crop rotations from the past two seasons and companion planting preferences. Eeek!
    Thanks
     
  2. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

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    Your chickens will shred anything in your garden that they don't eat. They will tear plants out by the roots to get to any worms that might be lurking under them. They will gladly fertilize your garden for you. If you use mulch in your garden, they'll fling it far and wide. If you have favorite flowers, that is EXACTLY where the dust bath needs to be... for the ENTIRE flock. And they'll make multiple daily pilgrimages to that spot. If you're going to keep them in a tractor, your best bet is to put the tractor over a bed that you want to have them till up. Then, you can move them to the next spot, and plant the old spot. How many chickens, how big a tractor, and will that be your only housing for them? Will you have a permanent coop? Any possibility that you might want/need more chickens in the future? What will you do with these gals when they stop laying in a few years? My flock are great gardeners. While I love my beautiful irises, I find that I can overlook that huge crater in the middle of my best flower bed, because I'm enjoying watching the flock's antics.
     
  3. azelgin

    azelgin Chillin' With My Peeps

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    From my past experiences, if its green, non-toxic (sometimes even toxic), your chickens, if left there long enough, will eat all of it.
    I used to let mine free range the lawns and orchard. They did a great job of eating any low hanging leaves on the peach trees. They also ate every bit of growing green vegetation under the trees, as well as the nearby lawns and flower beds.
    The chickens are now fenced off from anything I don't want eaten and I have flowers and lawn again.
     
  4. fraserfarmette

    fraserfarmette New Egg

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    Jul 19, 2014
    Victoria BC
    To answer your questions, I will have 5 or 6 chickens. The tractor is 4'x6' and will only be used for the purpose of putting the chickens exactly where I want them in the yard, while protecting them from hawks and flying away. I live in a residential neighborhood. I have a converted playhouse that they will use as their coop, and we are building their 'fortress' beside that-a 4'x12' run with 1/2 hardware cloth and 2x4s. This will have their food, water, dust bath, grit etc in it and they will be totally safe in there. However, this will also have a door that I can open to let them into a much larger run that is approx. 10'x40' and chicken-proof, but not predator proof. I am not sure what we will do with them when they stop laying. We are going to play it by ear. We may not be able to part with them after they have become our beloved pets. Do you have any good suggestions? I think those were all of your questions.
    12 weeks until our chicks arrive!
     
  5. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

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    It's a good idea to have a plan in place for the chickens who stop laying. Also, a plan in place for any OOPS roosters. That way, you'll be mentally prepared to deal with it when the time comes. Sounds like you're going to be well set up. I wish you the best with your little flock.
     
  6. Laurel Chick

    Laurel Chick New Egg

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    Jan 5, 2015
    We have really horrible rocky soil, so all our gardens are raised beds, 12-18 inches high and made from landscape timbers. The chickens will get in and pulverize everything,which is good when you want it tilled, weeded, and cleared of insect pests! They especially go for greens, but possibly the worst thing is that they love to get into freshly tilled dirt, so if you have planted something that they don't eat (garlic sets for example) they will still annihilate it because of the soft dirt. So, we put up a simple barrier of chicken wire around any beds we don't want them in. They certainly could get in if they wanted, but they don't bother and go someplace else. This also helps keep the kitties out too!

    When we are done with a bed, we take the fence down and let 'em rip... they can clear a buggy, bolted lettuce bed in a couple of hours.

    One of the beds has perennial herbs in it, such as oregano, etc. They don't seem to bother with that much so that is the only area I don't have to fence. They also seem to leave the asparagus alone as well. They don't bother well established flowers as long as they aren't tempted by the dirt.

    Even though the chickens aren't actually in most of the beds, they still manage to keep insect pests down. We have hardly any grasshoppers on our property any more. They can't reach the tomato hornworms, but we pick them off and throw them to the hens and it is pretty funny to watch. One hen grabs the worm and starts running and everyone chases her. The worms are too big to just gulp down so they play a pretty good game of "keep away" before they manage to get it eaten!

    Laurel
     
  7. Free Feather

    Free Feather Chillin' With My Peeps

    They will definitely kill everything if your tractor is only 6 by 4. No tractor setup will give them enough room and variety to not destroy your plants. In order to keep them in the garden, they need at least a few hundred square feet each with very dense and varied vegetation. Otherwise, both you and the chickens will be miserable.
     

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