Chickens in the garden over winter? Will it kill my soil?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by rcstanley, Feb 13, 2014.

  1. rcstanley

    rcstanley Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 2, 2013
    Utah County, Utah
    Question: If I overwinter my chickens in their coop in my garden will the soil still be usable?

    The back story: I'm thinking of getting some chickens this spring. I have a location that would be great for a coop in the summer, but is further from the house, so not so great in the winter when it is cold and snowy. My small garden (12' x 20') is right next to my house, so I came up with this great of idea of moving the coop up by the house in the fall. The backyard is south-facing, so the house would protect the coop from the winter storms that mostly come out of the north. It should be warmer for them too. I'm just not sure if having 3-4 birds in the same place for that long will ruin the soil. They would mostly be in their run (4'x8'). I also plan to put down wood shavings in the run.

    I would move the coop again at the beginning of April and want to plant at Memorial Day. Is that enough time for the soil to be recover?

    (I can't actually leave the coop closer to my house due to zoning laws specifying 30' between human dwellings and chicken coops. The coop will be far enough from my neighbor's houses, so they shouldn't care. I'm just trying to find a balance between obeying the law and not having to freeze in the winter.)
  2. yogifink

    yogifink Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 16, 2013
    Pinebluff, nc
    My Coop
    They will tear stuff up and your garden will be a mess in the spring. Other than that, you'll be fine.
  3. rcstanley

    rcstanley Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 2, 2013
    Utah County, Utah
    There won't be anything in my garden then, the frost will have got it. But I will keep your warning in mind :)
  4. Mountain Man 60

    Mountain Man 60 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 19, 2013
    Duncannon, PA
    This is a great idea. They will not do harm. They will provide weeding, future weed seed removal, fertilization and cultivating. Make sure to take them out 60 days prior to planting. Let the rain beat down the droppings then deep till the soil. The only thing to worry about is the high strength of the fertilizer. It can be too strong for seeds if not beaten down by rain and tilled into the soil.
  5. dheltzel

    dheltzel Overrun With Chickens

    Nov 30, 2013
    Pottstown, PA
    I think you will find this works very well, and I have a BS in Horticulture and grew up around farms, so I know a thing or 2 about gardens. One of the problems with gardens in the same spot (not rotated with other crops as farmers try to do) is that various pests will overwinter in the garden area. Insect eggs, grubs, pupae of various sorts. Giving chickens a chance to pick and scratch over your garden can cut down on what pests make it through the winter.

    Old time farmers (and sustainable agriculture today) used to "hog off" their fields and orchards. After harvest, the put up a temporary fence and put the hogs in there to root around and eat whatever was left. It was a proven practice that benefited the entire system. I say go ahead with your plans!

    For entertainment, on winter days when it's not too muddy, go turn over a few spadefuls of the garden soil and let the chickens dig through that. They will find those dormant grubs and turn them from potential pests into nice eggs, and they will have so much fun doing it.
    1 person likes this.
  6. Alaskan

    Alaskan The Frosted Flake

    My chickens are in my greenhouse all winter, and then I plant in that poop full soil in the spring.

    I do shovel out any giant thick poop mats, and then water very deeply (as in a total flood) twice, then I plant.

    Since I plant transplants, they do go into the ground in a handful of un-pooped soil. If I pop them in with only a tiny bit of un-pooped soil, they sometimes get a little burned, but not bad, and they recover quickly.

    By the time I direct seed in the greenhouse soil, just perhaps a week later, the seeds do fine.

    I also have my chickens work my garden, and as dheltzel said, they do a WONDERFUL job of picking out all of the grubs, slugs, and weeds.

    They till everything up and fluff up the soil, I LOVE it! All I have to do before I plant is kick out the chickens and smooth the soil down with the back of my rake.
    2 people like this.
  7. rcstanley

    rcstanley Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 2, 2013
    Utah County, Utah
    Thanks for all the responses. I just wasn't sure how long chickens could be in one spot because I had heard land under coops could become bad due to all the salts in the chicken poo.

    I'll move them 60 days before I plant. I'll probably plant things like tomatoes that I buy as plants on the section of the garden where they've been just in case. Well, maybe a few seeds just to see how they do.
  8. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    I'll bet you'll have the best garden year ever. I wish I could do something similar, but my garden area becomes a swamp in the winter. I'd have to make my flock those swamp boats to get around [​IMG]
  9. AngryRooster

    AngryRooster Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 29, 2012

    The poop will act as a fertilizer for your plants, but make sure not to leave too much poop in your garden.
  10. Alaskan

    Alaskan The Frosted Flake

    There is a heck of a lot of poop in the greenhouse soil, and I plant in that soil every spring.

    I flood it twice first, that soaking and leaching helps so that the plants do fine.

    My grandmother would have me put majorly nasty (enough ammonia to make my eyes hurt) chicken coop bedding in between her garden rows, on the paths. Her garden did beautifully.

    You just have to manage it properly. So, too much poop is not a problem, unless you make a mountain of poop directly on top of your plant. :lol:

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