Chickens, landscaping....and why does there have to be so much poop?!

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by mrsbos, Nov 15, 2010.

  1. mrsbos

    mrsbos Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 11, 2010
    Greenacres, WA
    My house is on a 1/2 acre lot with a large backyard. I used to have a clean, lush, lawn, tidy bark beds, and a clean patio. I've had chickens for 3 months now (got them at 2 days old). Three of the sweetest, most beautiful little EE pullets. My bark beds? Well, the bark is not in the beds anymore, but thrown all into the lawn from their scratching for bugs. I used to go out there daily to rake the bark back where it belongs, but that got tiring, especially now that it's cold/snowy/rainy/windy outside. My patio used to get hosed off twice a day. The girls like to hang out there by the back sliding door, and look into the kitchen to see if I'm preparing any treats for them. I can't be hosing off the patio when it's 20 degrees outside unless I want an ice skating rink. My lawn? I can't believe that 3 little chickens can produce so many "treasures". I have an Eglu Go (the small one) that gets moved around the lawn every week (every 3 days in the warm season). The grass under the run is matted down with chicken poo---and they're only locked up at night---allowed to free-range the entire yard all day!

    Don't get me wrong. I love my girls and wouldn't trade them in for anything, but having them these last 3 months has been an eye opener on backyard chicken keeping. I had a couple of people warn me that the poop would be an issue, but I didn't believe it would be this bad. Like pretty much every other chicken owner however, if I had the coop space I probably couldn't resist getting more. But if 3 chickens can produce the mess that my 3 can, I just can't imagine what it would be like to have 6, 10, or more chickens! I'd be buried![​IMG]

    I'm not really looking for solutions here, I could pen the girls up which would keep them off the patio, out of the bark beds, keep all the poop in one area, etc., but I love them having the free range of the yard. I guess I'm here just venting on how much messier the situation is than I had imagined when I first got the chicks. I don't know if other first time chicken owners have had the same realization.

    This winter will be interesting. A winter wonderland of snow outside, dotted with endless chicken droppings. Probably not postcard material [​IMG]
     
  2. OregonChickenGal

    OregonChickenGal Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jul 26, 2010
    Central Oregon
    That's why I don't let mine free range anymore. They make a big mess.
     
  3. greenSearcher

    greenSearcher Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 22, 2010
    Texoma
    It is a choice of fences or bare gardens when one has chickens. We live on acreage, with only 2 acres cleared, so I live with my chickens on about 56000 sq ft. I am about to move the babies from the garage, and have 3 coops w/ runs each enclosed in a 900 sq ft yard for about half the day. The remainder of the day they can forage, but that requires me to fence my herb garden and the penstimeons I have behind the house. I learned the hard way that they love anything that is red, for all decorative plants it is easier to say what they haven't eaten; evening primrose and licorice root, calla Lily, Sweet potato vines, black berries and passion vine. Every thing else has been sampled and 80% eaten. I don't have a lawn, we simply mow the natural prairie grasses and they turn brown with the frost and brown in the peak of summer, so the continuous fertilization is not noticeable unless one steps in it. I will enclose my back porch with shade cloth and add a screen door. DH gets tired of hosing the porch 3-4 times a day in the summer. Hopefully a lattice barrier will keep them off the front porch. The vegetable garden, has a 6' fence w/ gate around it, a 4 ft fence of poultry wire(plastic) surrounds the herb garden. I keep their wings short so they really believe they can't fly over the 4 ft fence. Depending on the intensity of the grasshoppers next summer, it may be that all my plantings will be under agribon. I didn't put it up quick enough this summer and I lost 90% of everything, but now most of the perennials are coming back. Hopefully 39 chickens will do better at controlling the hoppers, the 12 were simply overwhelmed. Grasshoppers hung on the house, the coop. fences and covered the plants. for almost 10 weeks, the hoppers worked on destroying the landscape. They even defoliated the Mesquite trees.

    I find the chicks annoying when it comes to yard damage, but I also think I can provide then better shade, and dirt boxes of sandy soft dirt for bathing, my gardens will be in better shape. I really love the chickens, I keeps me motivated when the pain gets bad, and the chickens are really no more work that house cats.
     
  4. maizey

    maizey Chillin' With My Peeps

    get a dog.. they eat the chicken poop [​IMG]

    mine only free range part time. they seem to scratch the poop into the run and it kinda just disappears...at least now while they are small. I asked for a pooper scooper for Christmas to try to keep as much of it out of the yard as possilble, the poop doesn't bother me but my dog eating it is seriously freaking me out and the less laying around, the better.
     
  5. dawg53

    dawg53 Humble

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    Nov 27, 2008
    Jacksonville, Florida
    I have a large backyard; I USED to have a nice, pretty backyard. Most of the grass is gone, small potholes everywhere, poop and feathers (molt) all over the place, it almost looks like the surface of the moon! The best thing I did was buy a lawn sweeper. I hook it up to my lawn tractor and it picks up just about everything, including feathers and poop along with pine needles, sticks, gumballs and other debris....I love it! No more raking and no more sore lower back. I thought about getting a load of dirt and filling in the potholes...that would be a waste of time and money...the backyard is theirs and with the eggs that they give us, I can live with it.
     
  6. TeamChaos

    TeamChaos Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 8, 2009
    Maizey- *LOL* that's what I was going to say- i've got one poop-eatin' machine that sweeps my lawn for me and it's got four legs and runs on renewable resources! [​IMG]
    Yes, the chickens have definitely added their own flair to the yard- although in addition to all of the destruction mine have wrought, they've done a great job turning straw and old hay into mulch!
     
  7. pawprint2104

    pawprint2104 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oct 21, 2010
    SF Bay Area
    OMG, I feel like I'm staring at my own reflection! [​IMG] My chicks are 6 months old, steadily producing eggs (which is the only reason they're not in the pot right now), while feasting on everything in my yard. [​IMG] [​IMG] Who would have thought 3 tiny chickens could do sooooo much damage!

    Yeah, if only I'd known...I probably wouldn't have listened, anyway.

    In the next few weeks the girls will be moving into their restricted living quarters (coop & fencing), so that I can regain my landscaping. No more free ranging through my herbs and roses. [​IMG]
     
  8. abhaya

    abhaya Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 5, 2010
    cookeville, tn
    I live in the country so they free range the only problem I have is they like to dirt bath under my front porch and of course go there in the rain so they poo. I close it off to them occasionally and treat it with fast acting lime like I use on the garden forthe smell. And mine got all my tomatoes before I did lol. next year a fence for the garden.
     
  9. Olive Hill

    Olive Hill Overrun With Chickens

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    Apr 19, 2009
    Oh they LOVE bark. It's so easy to scratch up and fling around and there are always bugs underneath! [​IMG]

    Next year I'm going to experiment in a small area with medium sized rocks for mulch and see how that goes. I think they may be too large for the chickens to scratch out. Now, if only the turkeys don't do the scratching for them and the geese refrain from picking the rocks up and carrying them off... [​IMG]
     
  10. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Overrun With Chickens

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    May 8, 2007
    Wisconsin
    I think you might have better results with your Eglu if you were moving it daily, not weekly. Eglus are pretty small. Even with a larger chicken tractor stocked at 8 square feet per chicken, it needs to be moved daily here, to not be a problem for the lawn. Can you just tilt your Eglu up and swivel it slightly every day? Maybe try that for a week and see how it goes. Otherwise, one of those little rake and pan sets sold for cleaning up dog poop can work well for cleaning up after chickens. I'd also water that area after cleaning it.

    Chickens are foragers. During the growing season, have you thought about planting a foraging area for them? Plant leafy greens and anything else they would like to eat in their little area. Planting lots of chard saved my hosta. There have been lots of threads with suggestions of things to plant for chickens on the forum. Give them a sandy area they can scratch around for grain that you toss in. Make a dust bath for them. Give them a little leaf pile. Put a board or stone in it that you can turn over for bugs some days. It may not keep them from wandering in the rest of the yard to do their chicken behaviors, but it should reduce it some. If you do all of this in a chicken run, it will keep them in their play yard and out of yours.

    During the growing season, my chickens free range all the time. They don't cause much of a problem here, because I have more acreage for them and they spend most of their scratching time in the leaf litter along the fence lines, for bugs. I actually like it when they cultivate for me in the flower beds. I have less weeding to do around the perennials. Since they're established and have deeper roots, I think perennials hold up better than annuals, too.

    I think my flower beds may be set up differently from yours. We are on a hill side and I built a short retaining wall to create my main bed. It has a bit of a lip on it. The litter/mulch in the bed is also fairly fine and broken down. I think this may make it easier to scratch around more gently in, so they don't have to do as much wild flinging. I have leaf litter bits and tiny bark in my flower beds, that's also been broken down over time. I don't use the large bark or have the mulch mounded up high in the beds. My rose bed has a brick edging and I have thymes growing along the edge, that spill over onto the side walk. When the chickens scratch in there, they're only in the middle and back, not in the thyme at the front edge. Maybe you can think of some ideas to modify your flower beds to work better with the chickens. Stone mulch might make them less attractive, too. Or maybe sticks or stakes driven in, to block them from scratching.

    My chickens like to hang out on one of our patios, too. It's my own fault for feeding them their daily snack there. They like to nap under the chairs, when they aren't napping under some bush or the raised bed planter that's on legs. They do like to look in the doors and windows for us. Sometimes they come peck on the doors for me to come outside. In the winter frozen hoses are a problem here, too, but by then the chickens are spending their time in their covered run. There is just too much snow to walk in and nothing to forage for, anyway.
     

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