There’s a lot of information on the web these days, on how to ‘garden with your chickens’. Sites praise the fertilizing qualities of composted chicken poop (totally true) and rhapsodize about the helpful animals, turning your soil and living in harmony with your vegetables and blooms.
My friends, this is a steaming load of chicken manure.
Those chickens are going to tear up your garden. Not established plants in your yard…but that freshly tilled soil? It’s a chicken wonderland.
My personal favorite is the well-meaning folks who suggest that if you just have enough space, you can somehow magically encourage your chickens to NOT visit the salad bar, and go somewhere else instead. Well, I’m here to tell you: we have 3 and a half acres, and 6 chickens. This works out to more than half an acre per chicken. Enough space is not the problem.
Instead, it’s that the gardener and the chicken have much different goals. You see a vision of tidy rows, sprouting delicious food for you and your family. The chicken sees a) tasty young plants for snacking, b) the best source for delicious protein-packed worms in the whole place, and c) lovely loose soil that’s great to dig through and dirt-bathe in. These goals are incompatible.
Last spring, the first year our chickens were totally free-range, I received surprises all spring long: OH MY GOD, the CHICKENS ate my PANSIES! They’re dust-bathing in the new strawberries! The peas are up, but the chickens found them… what will we do???
By May, we had a byzantine contraption over the garden bed, with bird netting and bamboo hoops and wishful thinking. It WORKED, mostly…but was a giant pain for anyone (often me) wanting to get into the garden and work in it. Then we enclosed the veggies with an electric net fence, which worked great, until the pig got big enough to need additional space: then she got the fencing.
It’s not their fault, really, they’re just being chickens. But I tell you what: I grow vegetables for US, not the hens. And I’ve worked hard to encourage those worms in the garden, where they belong. The chickens can take their chances in the whole rest of the property, like regular birds.
Until next time,
(The pansies hang in pots now. Chickens CAN fly, but they’re kind of lousy at it.)
This post shared on Homestead Blog Hop #25. Thanks for visiting!