Chickens in the Garden Questions.

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by I'm Rik, Dec 30, 2008.

  1. I'm Rik

    I'm Rik Hatching

    Dec 28, 2008
    Merced, CA
    I’m sure these questions have been addressed somewhere in here, but I’m tired of searching.

    #1: Is it safe for the chickens to be pooping all over the garden, considering E coli, viruses and other pathogens?

    #2: Any suggestions for how to keep them away from young plants. We’ve only had to deal with bantams and established plants. We just considered some leaf and veggie loss as egg tax. They were always more interested in any bugs they could find, than a tomato. This spring (w/ the leg horn) is going to be different. She digs holes big enough to lose a bantam in.

    My Ideas thus far are: 8” to 10” of mulch should keep them away from the roots.

    Another is, rather than caging all the plants in chicken wire, caging the birds in wire balls like hamsters (that’s a joke).

    I also wonder if keeping the coop fully stocked with greens and fruit, will satisfy their apatite for the goodies in the garden? They seem to self regulate their diet when they free range. Then again, they also seem to discover what they have an appetite for, by tasting it first. Like sharks; deciding the really don’t want anymore of it, after the damage is done.

    [Ok, now I’m going to have dreams of chickens with shark fins, rolling around our garden, inside chicken wire balls. Good night.]

  2. rainbowgardens

    rainbowgardens Songster

    Nov 19, 2008
    Central Virginia
    I'll tell you my experience this past year with chickens in the garden. I built a cage, (chicken tractor,) to fit over my garden bed when it was not in use. They stayed in that most of the time. In the late summer I would let them out. Most of the crops were finishing up so they it didn't matter. They loved the tomatoes and beans that were still there, but didn't touch the peppers and squash. I had to cover my fall crops because they would have devoured them. They love brocolli, cabbage and carrots!
    They were very distructive when it came to my mulch of straw I put over the empty beds. They scratched it all out onto the paths. I finally had to let them out into the yard were they proceeded to remove the mulch from around the perrennials. I don't mind too much, I'll just replace them with shrubs. I'm sure My population of crickets has been greatly reduced in my yard because of them. The chicken poo in the garden isn't a concern. and there shouldn't be any diseases or pathogens to be concerned about. Home raised chickens are not usually bothered by any that can be transmitted to humans.
    Check out Mother Earth News magazine. They should have some articles on protecting young plants. I just used floating row cover and that netting fabric people use at weddings.
  3. big greg barker

    big greg barker Songster

    Oct 26, 2008
    central maine
    Hi Rik,
    This spring I am going to build a bottomless tractor using chicken wire. It will be 8 feet long, 2 feet tall, and 18 inches wide. I will put a couple lawn mower wheels on one end. It will have an enclosed end for a nest box. The rows in my garden are spaced at about 2 and a half feet. This rig will be moved up and down through various rows to keep the bugs eaten and weeds out of the aisles. It will be big enough for 3 chickens to stay in for the day, and then they can join the rest of the flock at night. My cousin uses something similar, but bigger on her lawns. She lets them sit in one place long enough to fertilize the lawn, but not destroy it.
    I think that using this will allow the birds to scratch their manure into the ground as they look for bugs and nature will take its course.
    I wouldn't worry too much about E-coli, etc. You have to keep in mind that even though you see it on the news alot, there are billions of people every day that eat millions of tons of food that doesn't poison them. That kind of news doesn't sell advertising. Only the one in a billion does. Sorry about the lecture. I have been using manures fron various animals for fertilizer all my life and have never used commercial chemical fertilizers. My gardens haven't always been stellar, but I have never been afraid to just go out with a salt shaker and eat dinner right off the plant.
    Hope this idea helps you out..........
  4. RockyToggRanch

    RockyToggRanch Songster

    May 22, 2008
    Upstate NY
    I also used floating row covers until my plants were big enough to hold their own. I also chased the chickens out of the garden with the hose [​IMG]
  5. Chickenaddict

    Chickenaddict Songster

    May 19, 2008
    East Bethel MN
    I would steer clear of mulch, the chickens will kick it out. Last year in our gardens we had all kinds of things growing and the chickens never bothered them. The only thing i had trouble with was them digging up sunflower seeds i had planted around the deck. The manure is good for the garden as long as you till it in a bit. I use old chicken bedding full of poo in the compost which i use in the gardens in the spring and fall. ALtho they particularly loved the little yellow pear tomaotes i grew they would never take any off the vine, they patiently waited for me to pick them off and give to them. I have bantams not standards and mostly cochins.
  6. motherbear

    motherbear In the Brooder

    Dec 12, 2008
    CA Gold Country
    We only had a few veggies this year, and it was our first year with chickens. They LOVED the yellow squash (humans never got ANY) but completely ignored the zucchini. Mine also left the tomatoes alone unless they fell to the ground. Thanks for the ideas about covering the yummy stuff - can't wait to have a (well fertilized) garden this spring!!!
  7. waynesgarden

    waynesgarden Feathers of Steel

    Mar 30, 2008
    Oxford County
    When I had my market gardens, I used to have geese spending most of the growing season inside the fenced strawberry field. They provided a huge amount of welcome labor as weeders, eating the native grasses in the berry beds. They ignored the berry plants themselves (though they had to be removed before the berries ripened.) So I am not opposed to a bird's place in the garden.


    Every year I try letting the chickens into the garden at different times of the growing season and every time I say it will be the last time. The amount of bugs they eat isn't worth the lost veggies (they love broccoli and cucumbers) or the trampled seedlings or the mulch they scratch off the raised beds into the paths or the dustbath holes they dig in the growing beds. My main insect problems last year were slugs and the birds didn't show much interest in them, even when I served them up on a silver platter to them in their coop.

    Since veggies are growing in the beds from the minute the snow melts (garlic, for example) to after the beds have been blanketed with snow in the fall (kale and brussel sprouts,) I decided there is never a good time to let the chickens range through the garden.

    Building fences within the fenced in garden doesn't seem worthwhile to me given the little benefit the birds provide in insect control.

    They get plenty to forage on during their free-range hours around the yard outside the garden and are welcome to range there. (If I could just keep them out of the annual flower beds. They love to eat the impatian flowers.)

  8. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Regarding bacteriological safety... I would not dump a buncha uncomposted manure on plants I was going to eat, but assuming you will have just a few chickens and a large garden (for one thing, otherwise you are going to have *no* garden pretty soon <g>) I don't see it as being much different than having wild birds and beasts pooping all through your garden, which they most certainly do [​IMG]

    You'll need to fence off young plants.

    I would not suggest putting 8-10" of anything but hay or straw down... anything else is likely to adversely affect the plants if used at that depth. And while I have not tried it, I fear that 8-10" of hay or straw (only use old hay, btw, unless you want it seeding into the bed) is going to just ENTICE the chickens to scratch in it, rather than preventing them.

    I don't let the chickens in my garden when it is active... but it seems like most of the people on this board who do, and are satisfied with the arrangement, have to actively fence off vulnerable plants and just put up with a certain amount of havoc and destruction at times [​IMG]

    Good luck,

  9. Reinbeau

    Reinbeau The Teapot Underground

    I've got a huge veggie garden out there - and the girls are going to be very disappointed next spring when they meet the fence that's going up around it. I'll let them in if I want them in, but I'm not going to give them free range of the garden especially early on, they'd have a field day with the seedlings! Good fences make good chickens (sorry, Mr. Frost!).

    As for the manure question, I'm very happy to have my chickens producing all sorts of high quality fertilizer; properly composted it makes a great addition to the garden.
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2008
  10. momofdrew

    momofdrew Songster

    I have 4 silkies... Last summer they ate their weight in bugs.... it is the first time I did not have problems with different beetles [asparagas- cucumber - japanese- squash] my first year having chickens and they paid for themsleves just by eating those bugs they got their share of produce but this year I plan on using row covers and netting to protect the tender plants also will be growing a lot of plants vertically that will keep the fruit above their heads... their favorite bathing hole was under the asparagas which they fertilized, tilled and weeded for me the whole birds are welcome in my of the main reasons [besides eggs] I got chickens was insect control...if you have trouble with slugs put DE around your plants and it will kill the slugs...

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