So your chickens are digging up your garden and eating all of your plants?
Welcome to life with poultry.
They dig and scratch at the soil, exposing the precious roots. They devour anything green in their path, and don’t even think about having tomatoes growing anywhere near a gang of free ranging chickens. Tomatoes are like chicken crack.
Take this from some one who has a flock of chickens that love to “help” in the garden, keeping them out is quite the task. Many chicken keepers will say you can’t have both chickens and garden, but there are ways to keep chickens out of the garden, and we’re here to tell you how!
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The Struggle is Real
For an entire summer, we struggled with chickens eating and destroying our garden. Whenever they were free of their chicken run, they were wreaking havoc on my plants.
It was endlessly frustrating.
Our garlic, freshly sprouted, was torn out of the ground by sharp talons searching for worms. Our strawberries were picked at until nothing remained but tiny little stubs poking out of the ground. Our tomatoes would be left alone until they ripened to the perfect shade of red, only to be plucked off the vine by tiny beaks and devoured in seconds.
It was mayhem.
Luckily, trial and error showed us several methods that truly work to keep chickens out of the garden.
Method 1: Cut down on Flock Size
Many people who struggle with their chickens devouring all the vegetation in their yard are having problems because they just have too many chickens for their space. The more chickens you have, the more they eat and the more they destroy.
If your yard turned into a mud pit and your plants were all eaten down to stumps, consider cutting down the size of your flock before making any other changes. Urban flocks should be limited to five or less birds, larger lots can hold bigger flocks.
Method 2: Protect Individual Plants
Our chickens absolutely destroyed our potted plants the first year we had them. They loved to hop into our large fruit tree and herb pots and kick all the surface soil to the ground.
We found that placing rocks on top of the soil around the plants prevented the chickens from destroying them. You can even place them in an artful arrangement to add some beauty to the functionality.
Tall plants such as potted trees might fare well with just the rocks to protect the soil. Smaller plants like herbs may need added protection. Wrapping a length of chicken wire or hardware cloth around the pot and using stakes to secure it down will keep the chickens out. Alternately, you can insert thin dowels or sticks into the soil on the perimeter of the pot, much like a fence, and wrap string or twine around the barrier to keep the birds from hopping into the pot and eating the plants. Using Colored twine can add a hint of beauty to this chicken blockade.
Method 3: Supervise Free Range Time
If you have the time, supervising free range time with your chickens can help to keep them out of the garden. If the birds are only let out for an hour or two, it may be feasible to sit and watch them while they roam. The added bonus here is endless entertainment for you!
Back when our garden was unfenced, we would sit on the back porch every day and supervise the birds while they roamed the yard in the evening. If they got in the garden we would either physically move them out, or spray the hose near them (NOT at them) to shoo them out. This worked pretty well in the short term, but as life became more busy it was unreasonable to sit out with them all the time.
Method 4: Strategic Garden Placement
If you have the space for it, placing your garden out of their direct path and view will help cut down on poultry in the garden. Setting up the garden in the front of the property and keeping the chickens in the back will drastically cut down on problems. Placing a fence in between the front and back yard will only help to keep the chickens in their designated space.
Another tactic we used to keep the birds out of our herb garden was to move it up and out of their view. My husband built a four foot tall raised bed on stilts for our herbs. The bed is so tall that the chickens don’t even know it exists! They walk right under it to get to their dust bath and the plants grow happily up above.
Method 5: Fence the Garden
Fencing is a surefire way to keep chickens out of the garden.
Our welded wire fence acts as a great barrier when they’re wandering on foot, and they haven’t attempted to jump or fly over the fence. They can clearly see the vegetation on the other side, but can’t figure out how to get to it. We’ve tried wooden fencing around our garden, and while it looks beautiful, it doesn’t keep the little maniacs out. The chickens just use it as a jumping point. They hop from the ground to the top of the wooden fence, then hop right into the garden.
The wire fencing works better because is too flexible for them to hop on top of. For this reason, if you use wire fencing, don’t put a wooden top on any of it, even the gate, as it will surely be an entry point into the garden.
We hope this article will help you to keep chickens out of the garden! If you dear readers have any other helpful tips, please leave them in the comments, we’d love to hear them!
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