Spring garden plans around chickens

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by RoyalHillsLLC, Feb 5, 2008.

  1. RoyalHillsLLC

    RoyalHillsLLC Songster

    Mar 5, 2007
    NW Louisiana-Vivian
    I am trying to make my plans for the spring garden season. I have 16 birds (15 chickens and 1 Muscovy). Last year I was successful in raising a large garden while freeranging most of the time. I think I let my plants get some size to them before turning out the birds, but can't remember specifically. Any suggestions based on actual experience with a large vegetable garden (1/4 acre or more)?
    My thinking is to stop freeranging for a couple weeks after I plant my corn, fearing they will pull up the plants when they first sprout. Seems like last year I was fine after they got some size to them (2-3 weeks). This will also give me time to put out fire ant bait around the yard without concerns about them picking up too much of it. I know a couple good rains and the bait will be gone.
    They didn't mess with my tomatoes except when they the fruit was red and had a lot of bugs on it (even then they weren't doing much harm). My red potatoes were never bothered, and since I plant them deep I am not too concerned about them being scratched up. I grew a lot of good squash and they never pecked them either.
    I have some blackberry vines getting old enough to start making this year. Do chickens like berries? Will I have to fence them off?
  2. 54smokepole

    54smokepole In the Brooder

    Jan 25, 2008
    North Dakota
    I'd fence your garden and especially your berries. My chickens destroyed my garden last year. The only thing they didn't bother was the potatoes, corn, and squash/pumkins/zuchini, and beets. Lettuce, spinich, peas, beans, carrot tops were all consumed faster than they could grow.

    They ate all of our strawberries before I realized it. I noticed that we had strawberries forming and told my wife she should be able to pick some in a week. When she went to pick strawberries, there wasn't one left. We live on the open prairie without a mature windbreak around, so songbirds are very rare. It was the chickens. I then kept them in the run while the raspberries ripened so we would have some fruit.
  3. RoyalHillsLLC

    RoyalHillsLLC Songster

    Mar 5, 2007
    NW Louisiana-Vivian
    You got me to thinking...... Most of what I like to grow is the same things you mentioned they don't bother. Fencing has gotten so pricey I might could fence off a small area for veggies and berries that chickies like and grow my large patches of corn and potatoes and squash outside the fence.
    reckon I can plant corn with them freeranging?
  4. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    I fence off the chickens from all my garden areas as they scratch up roots and eat all the leaves to the bean or pea plants. (double fence these in as I grow them on a fence.) You're lucky... as mine have more space to roam than they ever go to, and they prefer to eat my plants. :eek:

    I let them pick though left over vines... at the end of last season, but they consequently dug up and destroyed a section of strawberry plants. As soon as the corn is above their heads, they seem to leave that one alone, but for zucchinis and tomatoes, they gobble up the fruit.

    That's just my experience though, and others will vary.

    My chickens aboslutely love black berries, but since it is an invasive pesky weed here, that can grow up to 10 feet per vine in a moist spring week... there's never a shortage of purple piles of poo.... and if we take the time, a hundred or so lbs of berries in the freezer from the ones we can reach.
  5. bayouchica

    bayouchica Songster

    Jan 23, 2007
    N.E. Louisiana
    Hi RoyalHills,
    I can't remember if you have standard or bantams?
    I've tired to grow corn here but between the chickens & the coons, I was lucky to get a cob at all.
    From my experience is with the corn is let it grow at bit before they range again.But if you have bantams they might not do as much damage as my standards did.Maybe you can grow the corn furthest away from the coop?
    I surprised they didn't eat your squash.My birds love squash, but I usually plant alot cause it grows so well here.
    Yes chickens love blackberries, we have some wild plants around & they really enjoy them.
    Have you been having anymore trouble with predators ?
    Oh yeah, BYC has a gardening sister site, http://www.theeasygarden.com/forum/
    if you're interested. [​IMG]
  6. wegotchickens

    wegotchickens DownSouth D'Uccles & Silkies

    Jul 5, 2007
    Sevier County, TN
    Mine left beans & squash and such alone, but I know they LOVE berries, so I will fence my strawberry / asparagus bed until I get my fill of both!
    They loved eating carrot tops, but I didn't mind sharing those since they didn't damage the carrots. They did leave the tomatoes alone. They left the corn alone once it grew over their heads.

    I will keep the peeps away from my garden beds until the plants are well-established. After that, they did fine last year.

    I had 2 different beds with beans last year. The one the chickens could range in had almost NO bean beetles. The bean vines that the chickens couldn't get to were COVERED with beetles! So the peeps will definitely free range in the garden again late spring through autumn. In fact, I'm planning to space things differently so that nothing is completely inaccessible t them unless I've fenced them out!

    All the neighbors had trouble with both Japanese beetles & June bugs last year. But not us [​IMG] And our ants weren't as bad because the peeps scarfed up the winged ones when they were getting ready to swarm.
  7. RoyalHillsLLC

    RoyalHillsLLC Songster

    Mar 5, 2007
    NW Louisiana-Vivian
    The predators have been less of a problem this winter. I stopped freeranging for a couple months and instituted some control measures, with moderate sucess. I have been back freeranging in the afternoons since my new crop of birds are a few months old. I am hoping I caught enough to make a difference, at least in the short term.
    So far my philosophy on the garden has been to plant enough for the deer, rabbits, and chickens, and have enough for me when they are done. I am hoping this year is just as successful. I bought a variety of breeds to replace all the bantams we lost last year. Most of them are smaller ones, though.
  8. RoyalHillsLLC

    RoyalHillsLLC Songster

    Mar 5, 2007
    NW Louisiana-Vivian
    yes, "wegotchickens", I had a similar experience with bug control. Last year was my best year ever with no bug problems at all in the garden. I am in the chemical business, and did not need anything after my initial fire ant bait treatment in early March. in previous years I had to spray permethrin several times to keep bugs in check.
    My chickens have been great at pest control.
  9. chickbea

    chickbea Songster

    Jan 18, 2007
    You can NOT plant corn while the chickens are roaming. They will decimate the seedling rows quicker than crows can.
    Chickens love all sorts of brambleberries - raspberries, blackberries, etc. I have so many berry bushes that I don't worry about the few low-hanging ones that the chickens get; there are plenty left for me.
    I find it very cute to watch the chicckens juming up and trying to get the berries!
  10. bjcoop

    bjcoop Songster

    Mar 22, 2007
    Western New York
    I am fencing this year... [​IMG] and fixing their little chicken wagons! They ate my pumpkins--seeds and all...loved the green beans...played "jump up" to eat my nice red tomatoes. Only things they didn't get were my zucchini, watermelon, and corn and sunflowers. Probably because they couldn't find them as they were too busy eating everything else! BTW: they LOVE blackberries!
    16 spoilt chickens, 1 rescue-chicken hound dd [​IMG] dh

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