Should chickens be kept out of vegatable gardens?


9 Years
Mar 3, 2010
Boerne, TX
I read in Storey's Guide to Chickens that chickens must be kept out of vegetable gardens unless you want to risk getting e coli. It says for foods that are root crops or touch the ground, they should not be in the garden for 120 days prior to eating anything from that garden, and for foods like tomatoes and cukes that grow above the ground, you still need to keep the chickens out for 90 days before harvest (so basically from the time you plant). I know they can cause crop damage so for leafy crops like lettuce and things I wouldn't want them in the garden anyway - but I thought it was ok in the other gardens and hoped to let them have access to those to eat bugs and weeds sprouting up. But now I am wondering if that was a mistaken idea unless I want to risk infecting my family with e coli.

I appreaciate any input on this - do you let your chickens into your gardens once the plants are established?


11 Years
May 14, 2008
NE Wisconsin
I let my ducks into the garden last year. I had no idea about the e coli thing, but I'm not worried about it. People have been letting weeder geese run around in their gardens for centuries to let them eat all the weeds, so what's the big difference?


In the Brooder
10 Years
Sep 3, 2009
Burford, Ontario
I've never heard or read that... hmm.. never thought about it much either.
We had planted pumpkins, cucumbers, and beans last year and the chickens are free range and went into the garden daily on nice days, weekly during rainy season. They made it part of their daily walk about most days, roam the garden for some bugs, then go on pecking everywhere else.
I scrubbed all my veggies as I brought them in, including the farmers broccoli in the fields my chickens roamed as well.
I never had anyone sick from the foods we grew, but think if your chickens were using the garden as a frequent toilet that you might want to consider keeping them out. Our chickens only roamed the garden for about 10mins a day and when we went out to pick.
I use their waste from winter to put over the gardens to keep the soil nutrientful when spring hits..., the flowers looove it, only did a veggy garden once and am nervous to spread their poop over it yet... anyone else use chicken poo for manure on veggies?


Flock Mistress
12 Years
Jun 29, 2007
Kansas~50+ yrs of chickens
You won't have to worry about e coli if you let them in the garden since they'll eat everything and there won't be anything left for you to harvest.
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11 Years
Jul 5, 2009
Middle Tennessee
I grew up on a farm in rural Tennessee. We lived on the side of a hill on which were, in this order, the chicken coop/run, the outhouse (for a family of five) and the garden. BTW, we all drank water from a cistern which caught the roof runoff. I won't claim that no one ever got sick, but none of it was ever attributed to the chickens living higher than the garden or the outhouse being higher than the garden. Course we did have to get typhoid shots every year or so, and we did eventually get indoor plumbing and water pumped in from a spring. Now, having studied some microbiology, I wonder how we ever survived! Yes, I let my chickens free range all over. We live in the country, and chicken poop is probably no worse than all the other animal poop we get around here. Possums, raccoons, wild birds, and deer all poop somewhere and I can't build a plastic bubble over the garden. I think we all have to weigh the pros and cons and choose what to worry about.
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A.T. Hagan

Don't Panic
12 Years
Aug 13, 2007
North/Central Florida
I use chicken manure in my garden all the time.

But one does have to be sensible about it. Fresh manure around salad greens is not a good thing.

For those of us who keep birds and who are exposed to them frequently chances are we won't have a problem anyway. We are frequently exposed to manure. It's the folks who are not exposed to fresh manure often that are most at risk. This is not to say we can't run into problems ourselves, but only that our immune systems are often challenged by the organisms in the manure so are more likely to be resistant.

The way I use manure in my garden is to apply it before planting. A month or more for stuff that has a short growing season, especially if it is to be eaten raw. If it has a long growing season I may till it in just before I plant. I used brooder bedding last year in my sweet potato patch. Tilled it in then planted the next day. Grew a wonderful crop of taters. The potatoes have a long-growing season though and they are not eaten raw.



10 Years
Aug 17, 2009
Monroe, North Carolina
Here's the possumqueen showing some ignorance . . . .maybe . . . .

I always thought ecoli was a problem of 1) closely confined animals 2) people handling food items or veggies without properly washing their hands or 3) improperly processed compost.

Does anyone know how they got ecoli on that organic spinach that made the news a while back? Bet they didn't have chickens running around those fields, but they got the ecoli anyway!

I feel like if our birds are healthy and we take proper precautions then the veggies will be all right.

AT Hagan, I think you've got it about right.
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