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Leaving Chickens on the garden all winter?

Discussion in 'Gardening' started by Frundette, Nov 22, 2013.

  1. Frundette

    Frundette Songster

    Mar 9, 2012
    Last winter, I moved our chicken tractor all over the yard to give the chickens fresh ground often. But this year, I'm parking them on top of my raised beds to see if they can help the improve the soil. So far, they've been there about two weeks and have done a good job tilling up the dirt.

    I was wondering if there was some "ideal" length of time to leave the chickens in one spot for maximum soil benefit? Also, when spring rolls around, how long should the garden be chicken-free before planting?

    Thanks for your help! :)

  2. Chicken Happy

    Chicken Happy Chirping

    Oct 6, 2012
    North Idaho
    Wish I could help...my garden is buried in snow and ice for 6 months.
  3. TXchickmum

    TXchickmum Songster

    Apr 21, 2012
    North Texas
    [​IMG] -early summer
    [​IMG] -a few days ago...
    (Our herbs are still going strong, but the chickens don't bother them)

    Our garden is currently serving as a dustbathing area. After the summer crops were harvested, we let the chickens in the garden. They worked the soil over for a good bit and cleared the grubs. -finally, they began dusting there. -will let them have access until spring when we'll add some compost and be ready to plant.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2013
  4. flgardengirl

    flgardengirl Songster

    Dec 2, 2009
    Sunny side up :)
    Haha they look like they are having a grand time in there. I let mine in the garden every fall and throw a few wheelbarrows of rabbit compost in there. The chickens scratch it all into the soil for me. It's great! They are good helpers!

    I would probably get them out about 3 mos before you wanted to plant so you don't burn up your plant roots Then I would mix up the soil really good.
    You could always compost some of their other droppings for awhile to add to your soil before you plant. Rabbit manure you can add without composting but most other types do need some time to cool off.
  5. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    Nov 7, 2012
    The standard rule of thumb which is probably on the conservative side is 3 months. That's 1/2 of my growing season! So, I'm modifying it a bit. After all, how often does a bird fly over your garden? Granted, that's not as much concentrated poo as what chickens are capable of applying, but...

    I may live to regret it, but I'm letting my 5 girls work over 1/2 of my garden throughout the winter. I'll take them off that area when the frost is out of the ground. (around mid-April) The 1/2 that they are not ranging, I'll plan on putting my greens and root crops. Will plant potatoes, corn, and squash in the chicken enriched area. We'll see if it's too much fresh nitrogen! I'm hoping to be more disciplined in the spring... doing 4' wide beds and 4' wide paths with the intent of green manuring the paths and running my 3 x 6 tractor through them, also over the beds as crops mature. It'll be a learning curve as I learn to balance my permanent mulch heavy planting mentality with the chicken enrichment plan. I want the best of both worlds.

    BTW: Nice looking garden TX chicken Mum.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2013
  6. marktoo

    marktoo Songster

    Here's a pretty good article on the subject http://www.motherearthnews.com/home...izer-zm0z13amzkon.aspx?PageId=3#axzz2liQlQENQ

    The Small Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery also has some good info.

    We're new to keeping chickens. We had our 4 pullets on a 200 square foot plot for about 12 weeks, removing them about 4 weeks prior to planting our fall garden. Cutting it a little close I suppose as far as the risk of problems from pathogens but the Mother Earth article says the risk is slight & further reduced by the manure drying, freezing, exposure to sunlight. The manure was plenty dry when I raked it in & planted. No ill effects from pathogens or the manure being too hot for the plants. Guess about all we can do is, learn what we can, decide what risks we're willing to take & experiment to see what works for us. I wouldn't plant a spring garden so quickly after pulling off the birds since we seldom get a hard freeze but the California sun is pretty brutal.
    1 person likes this.

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