Since self-sustaining gardens are becoming more popular, many have turned to chickens to provide eggs and manure. Chickens are a natural complement to gardens; however, they can also be a bit destructive.
Chickens can ruin your garden if you don’t take steps to prevent them. Although chickens can be extremely helpful in fertilizing and tilling the ground, they can also eat or dig up plants if you leave them unsupervised.
In the rest of this article, I’ll explain why chickens can be so destructive to gardens. I’ll also talk about a few things you can do to ensure your chickens do not ruin your garden.
Things to Know About Keeping Chickens From Ruining Your Garden
Chickens tend to get pretty destructive if you leave them alone in a garden. You may leave for a short while and come back to find your plants, fruits, vegetables, and flowers chewed up and your new seedlings dug up.
However, this doesn’t have to be the case. There are several ways in which you can keep chickens from ruining your garden.
Most of these plans involve some level of supervision or regular care. So it may be a bit of a hassle at first, but I promise you, the results are worth it!
Let’s take a look at some things you should know about keeping your chickens from ruining your garden:
1. Using Fencing Will Keep Chickens Contained
The most simple solution to the problem of chickens destroying the garden is to keep them contained away from it. Chickens generally do not fly or jump too high (although this depends on the type of chicken), so a simple fence is enough to keep them contained.
You even have multiple options for fencing today. There are simple wire fences, electric fences, and even DIY fencing options. I wouldn’t recommend electric fencing unless you have exceptionally stubborn chickens, though.
For example, you could use the MTB Galvanized Steel Poultry Netting (available on Amazon.com) to keep your chickens contained. This chicken wire is a classic type of netting that keeps chickens from escaping while keeping chicken predators out.
It’s got enough material that you can easily make a fence that your chickens cannot escape from. It’s also sturdy and very cost-effective!
2. Moving Their Run Regularly Keeps Your Garden Healthy
Another simple way to keep your chickens from ruining the garden is to regularly move the run. Chickens will dig up the ground wherever they’re let out to run. They forage for insects and worms in the dirt, and they also like to kick up dust.
This habit is what ruins the garden.
A simple solution to this problem is to let them run in different parts of the garden each day. This way, they can till the ground in different areas daily, giving each part of the garden time to rest.
Now, this is only possible if you have a moveable chicken coop. If your coop is stuck in one place, this becomes a lot harder.
You can solve this by making a moveable chicken coop like this one on YouTube:
3. Chickens and Gardens Complement Each Other
I know it seems like chickens are far too destructive to keep, but the truth is, chickens are the perfect natural complement to your garden. If managed properly, chickens can be extremely beneficial to your garden.
Chickens produce manure that is great for fertilizing the soil. In fact, studies have shown that chicken fertilizers help plants grow better. Although they’re too strong to be used fresh, you can compost them and use them afterward.
Apart from manure, chickens also help your garden by tilling the soil. It’s when the digging becomes excessive that it becomes a problem. However, as long as you control it, chickens can be great for tilling the soil.
Chickens can also be used for natural pest control. Remember how I mentioned that chickens forage for insects and worms by digging up the ground?
Well, if you herd them in the right direction, you can use their eating habits to control pests in your garden. The same destructive tendencies I mentioned earlier can be leveraged to benefit your garden.
4. You Can Use Plants to Repel Chickens
I think at this point, we all know that animals have a different sense of smell from us humans. And, in the same way that we avoid smells we don’t like, animals do too. So if you want to keep your chickens away from a certain area, use their sense of smell against them.
You can keep potted plants in a line or ring around your vegetable patch. Make sure the plants you use have smells that are unappealing to chickens. Plants like calendula or citrus fruit plants work very well in repelling chickens.
Just plant them at the edge of your vegetable garden or keep them in pots around the vegetable patch to keep chickens out.
5. Limiting Free-Range Time Limits Damage
Another thing to keep in mind is that your chickens are only destructive if they’re in your garden all the time. Some chickens can be left to run through the garden all day. However, if you have very destructive chickens, you may want to limit their free-range time.
If your chickens are constantly ruining your plants, you can try to create a schedule to let them run. Let them out for a certain amount of time, a few times a day, instead of leaving them free to roam all day. This way, they’re less likely to cause damage simply because they don’t have enough time.
6. Supervising Your Chickens Will Help Reduce Damage
Although this particular tip is time-consuming, it still works well. If your chickens can’t be trusted alone in the garden, you can try to supervise them while they run. By supervising them, you can prevent them from pulling up your plants on your own.
Of course, this only works if you have enough time to watch them. But supervising the chickens doesn’t mean you have to always keep an eagle eye on them. You could bring a book or movie to keep you occupied or finish mundane tasks like responding to texts or mending clothes while you watch the chickens.
7. Don’t Keep Too Many Chickens
The last thing to note is that you should only keep as many chickens as you need.
If you only have a small garden, 2-3 chickens should do. Any more than that will destroy your garden no matter what you do, simply because the garden isn’t big enough for them.
For a larger garden, you may be able to keep 5-6 chickens. Most house gardens will not need more than that. If you keep too many chickens, they will definitely pull up your plants and ruin your garden by digging them up frequently, so ensure that you only keep as many chickens as you need.
It’s better to err on the side of caution and keep fewer chickens. You can always get more chickens if you realize that you need more.
However, getting rid of extra chickens is a lot more difficult. And if you’re like me, you get attached to your animals, so giving them away becomes even more difficult.
Should You Keep Chickens?
While chickens may not be essential to a garden, they can definitely be helpful if you take care of them properly. They’re great for improving soil quality, and they really help in clearing weeds.
So yes, if you think you can care for them well, you should keep chickens. Not only do they help keep your garden healthy, but they also provide eggs for you to eat. And spending five minutes on the internet will also tell you they’re great fun to have around!
Chickens are only destructive to the garden if you let them be. There are plenty of ways to keep chickens healthy and happy while also protecting your garden. If you’re willing to put in a little effort to protect your garden, your chickens will not be able to ruin it.