Will chickens destroy my vegetable garden?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by molly_mpls, May 21, 2008.

  1. molly_mpls

    molly_mpls New Egg

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    May 21, 2008
    Minneapolis, MN
    Hello all,

    We're considering keeping 4 hens in our urban lot here in Minneapolis. We'd have a reasonable sized coop and enclosed run, but we'd also like to let them roam around the rest of our (fenced-in) yard as well.

    So my question is -- will they damage the plants/fruits in our vegetable garden? Or do they leave the plants alone, pecking and scratching only at the dirt?

    Thanks!
    molly
     
  2. snowydiamonds

    snowydiamonds Chillin' With My Peeps

    My RIR hens are monster machines when it comes to eating:lol: But my geese would really and happily eat an entire garden (and have done so for their previous owner!):eek:
     
  3. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Will chickens destroy my vegetable garden?

    Short answer: yes.

    Longer answer: oh, you betcha.

    Less smart-alecky version: well, yes, they will, both by eating the plants they like (peck peck peck) and by scratching holes in the dirt all over the place and trashing plants' roots. By all means keep them out when the plants are small. OTOH when plants are big, you could *try* letting 'em at the garden and see if the damage is acceptible. But do not be holding your breath [​IMG]

    If you would only sometimes let them loose in the yard, and would supervise them there, you could create a removeable fence out of plastic netting, maybe 3-4' high and attached to 2" stakes or rebar, that you could unroll to protect the garden when they're out.

    Good luck,

    Pat​
     
  4. They scratch any green plant they find, to them a garden is just good scratching, Put a fence around it even a 3 foot fence, it will probably send them off to another area, I have tomatoes planted at the end of our run, but I have a 3 foot chicken wire fence around them, when the chickens get to the fence they just turn and look someplace else thats green. [​IMG] marrie
     
  5. molly_mpls

    molly_mpls New Egg

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    May 21, 2008
    Minneapolis, MN
    Wow, thank you for all of the quick replies!

    We kept hearing that "chickens are great for gardens!" But suspected it meant that they're great *next to* the garden, conveniently located within easy distance for dispersing chicken poop fertilizer, etc. Unfortunately, fencing in the vegetable garden is not an option, as it's essentially our entire yard, save for a small shade garden and patio. And losing all or part of the vegetable garden would kind of defeat the purpose of this exploration into self-sufficiency. Hmm.... back to the drawing board, I guess!

    Thank you again,
    molly
     
  6. fivebigreds

    fivebigreds Chillin' With My Peeps

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    If they don't eat it they will dig it up , if they don't dig it up they will bend it over and lay down on it. [​IMG]
     
  7. chickenannie

    chickenannie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    When I shut down my gardening in late fall, we then allow the chickens to range in there all winter -- they do an awesome job of composting and spreading around all the leftover straw mulch and rotten vegetables, etc. When we want to plant in spring, we just close the gate.

    Guineas and Turkeys do NOT eat vegetables or scratch the plants up -- they are great for running around in your summer garden. My guineas politely walk up and down my garden rows LOOKING for bugs and Japanese beetles. It's their mission in life to keep bugs out of my plans and not bother the veggies!
     
  8. Sunny Side Up

    Sunny Side Up Count your many blessings...

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    You could fence off the garden areas you need to protect, like the veg & fruit plants.

    Or make an ark/tractor to contain the chickens in the area of the yard you want. But it seems they already have fenced runs, you want them to have some free-range time.

    You may just have to give them supervised recess times, and personally shoo them away from the plants you need to protect.

    They can do a lot of damage in a very short time to tender veg & fruit plants, either by pecking at the fruit & leaves or inadvertently digging them up with their huge dinosaur feet.

    But once plants like trees, bushes, & perennials have grown to a good size & are well-established, the chickens don't bother them too much. Sometimes I'll place blocks or pavers around the roots while they're beginning to grow, and periodically check to see that new chicken craters haven't been dug around them.
     
  9. dangerouschicken

    dangerouschicken Will Barter For Coffee

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    Mine are right next to the garden, but in an enclosed run. This allows them plenty of treats because we can toss them right in. They LOVE mushy tomatoes, melons, bolted lettuce, all the thinnings, some weeds (grass/dandelions), and worms/insects that we are picking off or digging up. Lots of other garden bits, too. As long as your garden is organic, they work really well together. The coop and run are cleaned out into the compost bin, allowed to break down about 6 months, then used with the soil. Nice relationship! But I would NEVER allow them into the garden. They would eat the whole thing!

    Remember, never let your chickens eat potatoes, potato leaves, or rhubarb. They are poisonous.
     
  10. dangerouschicken

    dangerouschicken Will Barter For Coffee

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    Chicken Annie, did you say turkeys will not eat the garden? So I can let them free range? Mine are about 3 weeks old now, and when they are feathered, I would love to be able to do that! And do they eat ticks like guineas?
     

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