Weeds are a nuisance in any garden. They multiply very quickly, invade the entire garden, and steal nutrients that should go towards the plants you actually want. The good news is that there is a very effective natural deterrent to weeds: chickens.
Chickens clear weeds in your yard while foraging for food. They dig through the ground and pull up weeds to find insects and worms, so they’re very effective at weed control. Some chickens even like eating certain weeds. However, they may also pull out your plants if you don’t keep an eye on them.
In the rest of this article, I’ll explain how chickens clear weeds and how to manage your chickens and garden to keep both healthy. If you want to know more about these topics, keep reading!
How Chickens Help Clear Weeds in Your Yard
Many garden owners have taken to keeping chickens in their yard, letting them run free for part of the day to help keep the garden’s natural balance. Having chickens around takes care of pests and weeds while also improving soil quality.
There are two main ways chickens clear weeds from your yard and keep them from growing.
- Chickens pull up weeds while foraging for food.
- Chicken manure prevents weeds from growing.
Let’s look at these in further detail.
Chickens Pull Up Weeds While Foraging for Food
The quickest form of weed control involving chickens is to simply let them run through the yard wherever you have weeds. Chickens eat insects, worms, and other small pests in the ground, so they dig through the mud to find food. In the process of digging, they often pull weeds by the roots and leave them lying on the side.
Many chickens will not only pull up the weeds, but they might also eat them. This doesn’t work with every weed, though.
You should probably keep an eye on the chickens while they’re running around the garden, though. Chickens will eat a bit of everything in sight. They don’t discriminate between wanted plants and unwanted weeds. So if you don’t want your beloved plants destroyed, it’s best to either limit the chickens to an area away from them or supervise them.
So if you’ve got a lot of weeds in the yard, you can just leave the chickens to run in the yard for a few hours. They’ll likely pull out most of the weeds (if not all), saving you a lot of work. Once they’re done, you can go in and comb through for anything they may have missed.
Chicken Manure (and Solarization) Prevents Weeds From Growing
One of the most common problems in weed control is preventing them from growing again. Many weeds grow all over the place with no external help. They also reproduce at a massive rate, using multiple methods. So you can pull them out once, but how do you stop them from growing again?
The answer is, once again, chickens.
Another lesser-known way chickens help clear gardens of weeds is through their manure. Many common weeds prefer soils low in nitrogen, but chicken manure has one of the highest nitrogen concentrations.
Common weed control chemicals are either unavailable, expensive, or damaging to the environment in many places. So, researchers in these places have experimented with using a combination of poultry manure and solarization as a substitute for common weed control methods.
But what’s solarization?
In simple terms, solarization is the process in which farmers cover sections of soil with plastic (polyethylene) tarps to trap heat from the sun. This raises the temperature of the soil, killing pathogens, mites, bacteria, and weeds in an environmentally friendly, non-chemical way.
However, solarization is also delicate work that requires time and effort. It usually takes around 6-8 weeks for the process to complete, and you have to be careful not to raise the soil temperature too much. If the soil becomes too hot, it will kill even the seeds you want to plant.
These studies showed that solarization alone reduces weed density by 60%. However, adding chicken manure reduces weed density by up to 94%, compared to control groups where weeds were left alone. Adding chicken manure to the solarized soil also speeds up the process, bringing it down from 6 weeks to 2 weeks.
Thus, not only do chickens pull out weeds when they grow, but they also help prevent weeds from growing again. You can use chicken manure to fertilize your garden. This will most likely kill many common weeds and make the soil unsuitable for them to grow again. The manure will also kill weed seeds in the ground.
Do Chickens Like Eating Weeds?
Chickens like eating weeds. Although they generally prefer insects and worms, many chickens will also feed on grasses and other plants for nutrition. They naturally look for weeds that they find appetizing.
However, some weeds may be poisonous to chickens. In their hurry to eat, they may not realize which ones. So it’s best to research the weeds growing in your yard before you let your chickens run free in it.
Here are a few weeds that your chickens will like and can eat:
All of the weeds mentioned above are perfectly safe for your chickens to eat. They’re also pretty popular, with many chickens searching out these plants.
By nature, weeds absorb and use up all the nutrients in the soil. While this is obviously bad for your other plants, it does make the weeds highly nutritious. So chickens that are allowed to eat these weeds will get a lot of their needed nutrition just by eating those pesky weeds you want to get rid of.
However, it goes without saying that if you’ve sprayed pesticides or used chemical fertilizers on the weeds, you should not let your chickens eat them. The chemicals used could cause serious problems for the chickens.
Apart from chemical-sprayed weeds, there are also some plants you should never allow your chickens to eat under any circumstance. Here are a few plants that chickens can’t eat:
Most chickens will avoid these on their own, but it helps to keep an eye on them anyway.
Will Chickens Destroy Your Plants?
As useful as they are, chickens can also be very destructive if left unsupervised. In their efforts to forage for food, they may completely ruin your garden.
However, there are ways in which you can prevent chickens from destroying your garden and get them to leave your plants alone. You can learn more about preventing chickens from ruining your yard here: Will Chickens Ruin Your Garden? 7 Important Facts
Will Chickens Help With Your Vegetable Garden?
Apart from their help in clearing the yard of weeds, chickens are very helpful in helping to maintain a garden in general. Whether you plant a few pretty flowers or a vegetable garden, chickens can be used to take care of the garden at a much cheaper rate.
While foraging, they till the ground and allow air and sunlight to reach deeper into the soil. This provides the plant roots with much-needed nutrients. Chicken manure is also high in nitrogen, so it’s great for plants that thrive in nitrogen-rich soils, like leafy vegetables, tomatoes, or potatoes.
However, keep in mind that this isn’t the case for all plants or even all vegetables, so it’s essential to do your research and find out what kind of soil the plants you plan to plant prefer. If you plan to plant vegetables that prefer a lower level of nitrogen, it’s best to use less chicken manure or some other manure.
Chickens produce up to 3.6-5 kgs (8-11 lbs) of manure every month. So, if you want to plant vegetables that prefer nitrogen-rich soil, chicken manure is perfect for your needs.
Chickens are incredibly useful for clearing weeds and maintaining your yard. Not only do they pull out and eat the weeds, but they also produce manure which is great fertilizer. This manure and a period of solarization can also kill weed seeds in the ground, preventing weeds from growing again in the same spot.
Overall, while you may need to put in a bit more effort to look after the chickens, they’re a great boon to your yard. And they help keep costs down!