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Veggie Garden and free ranging

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by stuhayes2010, Oct 27, 2011.

  1. stuhayes2010

    stuhayes2010 In the Brooder

    Apr 20, 2010
    Yes, winter hasn't started yet, but I am already planning my garden for spring. Would like opinions letting my free range chickens into the garden for pest control. I know not to let them in with tiny, new plants. Just wondering what anyone's experience with using chickens as pest control in the veggie garden is.

  2. Sleepy71

    Sleepy71 In the Brooder

    Oct 25, 2011
    Jacksonville, FL
    As much as they scratch around, I don't think ANY plant is safe, regardless of the size of it. I built my coop around a pine stump, and my 3 hens are constantly scratching away at its base, looking for food. Yours will probably destroy your garden.
  3. pinkwindsong

    pinkwindsong Songster

    Mar 18, 2011
    Laurens SC
    i guess I was lucky.. I had my chickens in my garden from start to finish.. they were more excited about he toads and bugs then the veggies.. I think maybe I lost a few tomatoes that had gone ripe but other than that I had no problem with them out there. Im even into my 2nd round of winter squash right now.. some fruits started and lots of blooms and again not a single loss of plant.. and they have free access to it everyday. in fact during summer the big squash plants became a heat break for them.. in the heat of the day they would go and get under the big plants and rest.. I had more problems with the plants getting so big then a rain would come and push the plant over.. had a couple breakages that way..

    I have a very mixed flock.. I don't know if you have several of one breed if it would have been different but I had a win win this summer with garden and chickens.

    oh on thing I did do.... Im big on goodies and of course they got a lot of goodies from the garden but.. I never gave them goodies in their original garden form... I always sliced, diced or chopped the vegies before I gave them it.. even the zucc's i never just gave them a zucc. I always changed its looks in some way. maybe that was the difference.. they didn't put the two together that "hey that's the same thing we got for goodies" never crossed their little minds..
  4. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Crowing Premium Member

    I turn my chickens loose in the garden when it is finished in September. By October, they have mowed off every last green plant and have tilled up the soil like they were backhoes. Gardens and hungry chickens do not co-exist without good fencing. That's my experience.

    I believe you could fence off a 50'x100' run area of lush grasses and plants, and if you turned out 24 chickens, they'd turn it into a moon scape within weeks. Just sayin'.
  5. Royd

    Royd Songster

    May 31, 2009
    Middleburg, Fl.
    As for pest and weed control, there is no chemical which works better. They have the ability to scour the ground. The downside to that is unless you can keep them out of the garden, during the growing season, you will just be wasting your labor.

    I would say, if you had the property and the money, the ideal situation would be to have two fully fenced gardens, which you could alternate, season to season or year to year.
  6. mstricer

    mstricer Crowing

    Feb 12, 2009
    With me no problem with them eating the plants. But every ripe tomato the would peck holes in then go to the next one.
    No matter how I blocked the little holes under the fence they would find another way in.
  7. GaleFamily

    GaleFamily In the Brooder

    Jun 7, 2011
    Corvallis, OR
    Great topic! Mine were young, growing, and free in our garden this summer. They left all squash, pumpkin, and zucchini alone (strong vines?) but gleefully ate all leafy things like chard, kale, spinach, lettuce. Gleefully and wicked efficiently, 2 lovely rows of rainbow chard had been flourishing undisturbed until my 6 ladies took it down to the ground in a day! We reasoned the chickies were young & needed healthy food so we did not mind this year, but will aim to give them the "winter squash beds" next year & plant our leafy things elsewhere! They shared snap peas & blueberries ok (they got the low ones & we got the high ones), and didn't disturb potatoes. We had a sucky tomato season in the NW with tons of plants covered in green tomatoes so I don't know how they would share ripe ones.

    On a related note, what about Cover Crops? We spread Crimson Clover seeds on the garden beds & I'm curious if chickies will munch & also let some be for the soil. Other winter garden suggestions?

    Good luck to all of us with the joy of lovely gardens and lovely chickens!

  8. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Free Ranging Premium Member

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    I would also think about things like salmonella in your food if they're rooting around during the growing season. After all, not only will there be intake on the chickens' part, but output, too. Isn't that the reason to not spread manure from your coops on your garden during the growing season? Well, that and the fresh manure can burn your plants, but I'd be more concerned with them pooping on my food.
  9. tuckertori

    tuckertori In the Brooder

    Apr 22, 2011
    I put up about 2 1/2-3 foot metal fencing around my veggies when they were starting out. The kind that comes in 3-4 sections that unfold. I then attached bird netting so they couldn't walk through the openings. As the plant got big enough, I took the fencing down. I also made cages to put around a few plants that needed protection longer. I just made tubes out of chicken wire and burried it about 2 inches into the ground. For the most part, it was a success. I think my success was due to not having too many chickens for my yard size.

    I do have ornamental moss that bugs hide in. The moss has NO chance with my girly girls and I gave up on it.
  10. lynn1961

    lynn1961 Songster

    Feb 14, 2011
    south central Oklahoma
    During the summer time when the garden is in full swing I let the chickens in it late in the afternoon/early evening. They do not do a lot of damage in a couple of hours, but if given a full days range in the garden they can destroy a lot of veggies. But their bug control is wonderful.
    During mid September in my area the garden is pretty well done, so cover crops get planted in between the rows and watered in. (Used deer food plot winter blend seeds) Two weeks later planted a second food plot behind the chicken coop, kept them off and out of both areas for about 3 weeks, then rotate them between the two areas for late fall/winter grazing. This has greatly decreased their winter time feed bill. They now stand at the fence waiting every morning to be let out on the food plot.
    The garden has been revived from the rain and cooler weather, but they are not eating the tomatoes and other veggies that have been growing, but have been like pirahanas on the food plot greens.
    The winter food plot seeds cost about $15.00 for each area, and very little work getting them seeded in.

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