My lawn vs the chickens


In the Brooder
10 Years
Jul 13, 2009
Milwaukie, OR
So, we have spent the summer figuring out where we want our chickens to hang out. We started out with them having access to the whole yard, but have since chosen to section off part of the yard for many reasons. This has left them (5 girls) with about a 20x20 patch of lawn and then about a 30x20 area that we have put wood chips down in (to lessen the mud when the rains hit). By doing this we have now ended up essentially killing the lawn area...didn't realize how effective they are at eating grass!

My question is this, in the spring when we can replant does anyone have any suggestions on what might be a good ground cover/green source for them? We live in the NW (outside of Portland, OR) and the area is partial sun). Am I fooling myself that this is possible? I would like to have something for them to nibble on (although I don't mind provided greens/kitchen scraps), but regular lawn isn't going to cut it in this area and we don't have plans to open the whole yard up to them again.

Any thoughts? Thanks so much!
Well, a lot of us have to smile when we see the subject line here. One bad thing my DW has done is to toss a handful of scratch on our lawn. The hens would dig to China if they thought they could get 1 more kernel of wheat doing it.

"A grass sod can handle about four tons of chicken manure per year. That's the output of 80 chickens. So, unless you want to kill off the grass and pollute the area with runoff, you can't have more than 80 outdoor chickens per acre. . . A more sustainable number is 50 hens per acre. Fifty hens per acre is about 800 square feet per hen." That's Robert Plamondon, author of Success With Baby Chicks.

Your 5 hens are making use of about one-half the area that Plamondon recommends as "sustainable" for 1 chicken! Actually, your wood chip covered area would have to be included because, I'm sure, the chickens spend a good deal of time scratching around in there.

I don't free-range my chickens all day, every day. My lawn is essentially holding up well. And, the hens don't have any 800 square feet per bird! My suggestion is to provide them with a smaller enclosed outdoor area (mine is part of the coop and has a shavings-covered wood floor). Then, allow them out onto your lawn for only a few hours each day.

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After reseeding, will you be able to keep the chickens away from it until it gets established? Otherwise, it may be a lost cause. Maybe a tough weed like quackgrass or dandelion?
Thank you to all! I kind of figured that we have a loosing battle on our hands with having lawn in this area, but a girl can dream right?

Since I don't have an enclosure (just their coop, no run) for them I am just going to have to make due for now, but I like the idea of only letting them free range for part of the day. I will have to keep these ideas in mind when we get to designing this part of the yard later. We have some ideas, but like everything in our home, it's a work in progress!

Thanks again!
We keep our chickens in a converted dog house which works out really well. It has a dog run around it. They stay in there all day until about 6-630 pm when we let them out. That way they have maybe a hour to walk around. They go back in as soon as it gets a little dark. We sit outside and try to keep them off the patio (poop), hearding them with a swimming noodle when they get close. I hope none of our neighbors see this. They would think we are nuts!
I guess I'm the only ones whose chickens actually turn the grass greener.

Yay for burmuda grass - nothing can kill it!
My chickens don't seem to like to eat it much.

Unfortunately I don't think it grows well as far north as OR, so I guess it won't help the OP.
If you do a chicken tractor and move it every day the grass seems to bounce back quickly, but leave it for more than 2 days and it might be a lost cause.

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