How to Manage Chickens in the Garden

Prevent chickens from destroying your garden with these easy tips.


| November 2015



chickens in the garden

While hens can be great yard friends and perform very useful insect-clearing duties, they will also run wild through precious herbaceous borders and vegetable beds.

Image courtesy Quarry Books

Keeping chickens isn’t rocket science, but doing it properly does involve decent levels of understanding, commitment, and attention to detail. Getting the basics right is essential, and The Chicken Keeper’s Problem Solver (Quarry Books, 2015) by Chris Graham contains 100 common problems faced by chicken keepers, spelling out in clear and simple terms the underlying causes and offering practical solutions.

Buy this book from the Capper’s Farmer store: The Chicken Keeper’s Problem Solver.

Cause

Chickens, if not prevented from doing so, will happily scratch and peck their way through herbaceous borders and vegetable patches, and they’ll do it surprisingly quickly, too!

Solution

Most breeds of chicken can be very destructive if allowed to roam freely through a yard, and they will have no respect for specimen shrubs, rare plants, or a neatly tended cabbage patch. They will simply eat whatever they like, given the opportunity. If you want to protect special plants and vegetables from free-ranging chickens, your only options are to control the activity of the birds, or to protect individual plants and borders. Creating a “no-bird” zone is the most effective, assuming you can keep your feathered friends out. Don’t forget that a determined chicken with rich pickings on its mind can flutter high enough to get over most low fences and hedges, so any partitioning will need to be fairly serious (at least 6.ft/2m high). Clipping the birds’ wings may be the easiest solution, as long as you’re not intending to exhibit them. Alternatively, you can make or buy fruit cages to fit over fruit bushes and vegetable plots; this will be relatively easy to do if you grow in raised beds. However, don’t forget the benefits of allowing your hens to pick over your vegetable beds at the end of the season. They’ll relish the chance to get at the resident insect life, and will effectively clear weeds and fertilize as they go. Some keepers even contain their birds for a day or two on each bed, to ensure a thorough going-over.

Scratching Behavior

If you are worried about the hen damage to precious flower beds, then take some care with breed choice to limit the potential for damage. As a general rule, the feather-legged breeds tend to scratch less than those with clean legs; bantams, too, tend to be less destructive than large fowl.





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