Thinking about chickens...some questions before I take the plunge


10 Years
Mar 17, 2009
Northwest Indiana
Hi everyone! I have a small suburban farmette with 5 acres, 2 horses and a big garden, and I'm considering adding a small coop with a few egg layers. I've been doing some research and I'm looking for advice on the following:

1. Coop design...I'm thinking about building a coop and enclosed yard adjacent to my garden, and letting the birds 'free range' during the day in the large fenced-in garden for at least part of the year, which would offer some protection from preditors. (I have already enclosed the garden with 2x4 welded wire, and electric fence around the keep the critters from eating the veggies.) Will the chickens eat my veggie plants, or will I need to limit their access to the 'after harvest' season?

2. Laying long will a hen be a productive layer? And what do you do when they quit laying? Sunday dinner? Not sure how well I could deal with the 'culling' process. Is this a part of life with chickens? (I am a 4-H mom, but my experience is limited to horses. We don't eat them.)

I'm sure I will have more questions, but here's where I'm starting. thanks!

B. Saffles Farms

Mr. Yappy Chickenizer
11 Years
Nov 23, 2008
Madisonville, TN
from TN


11 Years
Oct 10, 2008
Macclesfield NC
My chickens ate most of my garden last year so we are fencing it off this year. However it just depends on what you grow, they loved the watermelons and cucumbers more then anything else. We put our new coop as far away fron the garden as possible, I was hoping they would pick and eat alot before they could make it to the garden.


11 Years
Mar 25, 2008
Clarksville, North Florida
Welcome to BYC!!! I, just like you have 5 acres, horses, a garden and chickens!!!! I would limit the chicken grazing in the garden to after harvest--they will eat down all remaining plants and fertilize and scratch which will be beneficial to the garden. If they have acess to it all year they are likely to eat your seedlings and whatever else they like. If I had mine to do over again I would have probably put my coop closer to the garden so I could've let them directly into it when I wanted to, also so I wouldn't have to haul the composted chicken poop so far--just a few feet to the garden. Here's a link to a really neat idea...


Premium Feather Member
10 Years
Feb 5, 2009
South Georgia
They will eat your garden, particularly the new seedlings. But they are great for cleaning up pests after harvest, and making compost (from coop litter) for next year. Don't plan on letting them in there when the garden is just getting going! Some people tractor them in the paths between rows, or on unused raised beds. I pile litter in a compost pile and till it in during the winter, and turn them loose after harvest. This is a more common method, I think. So they will need a run that is not your garden, I'm afraid.

2 years of laying is a good average, but an individual chicken is rarely average, like people. Some will lay pretty well for several more years -- not as many eggs, but still. Individual decision, and different for each hen.

I will probably let the chickens in the garden after the tomato season is well underway. I figure they will mostly eat lower fruits, which are often not good anyway, and knock off some bad bugs as well.


Crossing the Road
13 Years
Feb 2, 2009
Southeast Louisiana
Pay attention to DDawn. She knows what she is talking about. There are very few things in a vegetable garden they won't eat.

Chickens normally lay best for two years, then the production drops off as they get older but the eggs normally get bigger. The molt usually is when this changes. And chickens can easily live 10 years. If you cannot stand to cull them yourselves, you can probably list them on Craigslist and someone will come get them and eat them. Another option is to feed them as pets for several years with little return.

I see by your posts you are probably new here, so welcome. Get ready to meet a lot of very nice people. Just a suggestion. If you put your location on your profile where we can see it when you post, it makes it easier to answer some questions. It took me a while to catch on to that.

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