So your chickens are digging up your garden and eating all of your plants? Welcome to life with poultry. Chickens can get very destructive when free ranging. Although it can feel like an uphill battle at times, you can learn how to keep chickens out of the garden!
Take this from some one who has a flock of chickens that love to “help” in the garden, keeping them out is difficult. 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 keep your sanity! You can benefit from the pros of free-ranging your flock and have garden fresh veggies too!
The struggle is real.
It was endlessly frustrating.
Our garlic, freshly sprouted, was torn out of the ground by sharp talons searching for worms. Strawberries were picked at until nothing remained but tiny little stubs poking out of the ground. The 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.
But we were desperate to have a free ranging flock of chickens AND have beautiful gardens. We wanted the best of both worlds, and after much trial and error, we finally found several methods that truly work to keep chickens out of the garden. If you’re struggling with keeping your own flock out of the garden or maybe trying to protect your veggie garden from the neighbor’s chickens, this post should help you!
7 Ways to Keep Chickens Out of the Garden
1. Cut Down on Flock Size or Move to a Bigger Lot
Many people who struggle with their free-range 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. I hate to say it, but having fewer chickens is often the best way to protect your gardens.
Urban flocks should be limited to five or less birds, larger lots can hold bigger flocks. We found that when we moved from a tiny backyard in the city to 10 acres in the country, virtually all of our chicken/garden problems disappeared.
The chickens now had more room to free range, and spread their damage out so much we hardly noticed it!
2. Protect Individual Plants
Our chickens absolutely destroyed our potted plants during the first year we became backyard chicken keepers. 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.
3. Supervise Free-Range Time
If you have the time, supervising free-range time will keep chickens 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. 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. Some people even use a motion sensor sprinkler in the garden to spook the chickens out of there if they step foot inside. As a bonus, it will water your garden!
Supervising the chickens worked in the short term for us but it wasn’t the easiest way. As life became more busy it was unreasonable to sit out with them all the time.
4. Strategic Garden Placement
Placing your garden beds out of the direct path of the chickens 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 also help to keep the chickens out.
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. You could do something similar by moving potted plants out of the chickens view.
If it’s possible to plant your flower beds in the front yard and keep your chickens in the backyard, you can have both coexist peacefully without a whole flock of chickens taking dust baths in your beds!
5. Fence the Garden
Fencing is one the most effective ways to keep chickens out of the garden.
In order to do this, you’ll need to enclose the entire garden with a chicken wire fence. It’s not necessary to use electric fences, so don’t bother spending the money on them, just a regular wire cloth fence will work perfectly.
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 plants 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 backyard chickens out. The chickens just use the wood rails 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. If you use wire fencing, don’t put a wooden top on any of it. Even the gate. It will surely be an entry point into the garden.
6. Use a Chicken Tractor
We all want free ranging chickens roaming about the yard, but sometimes no matter what you do, your free range flock just won’t stay away from your garden plants. Enter the chicken tractor.
This portable chicken run can move with your whole flock as they wander around your property, with the added benefit of protecting your plants. Many chicken keepers rely on a chicken tractor to give their flock a taste of the free range life without the fear of total garden destruction.
Another big benefit of the chicken tractor is that it’s a great way to protect your chickens from predators while they’re outside of the chicken coop.
7. Grow a Chicken Garden
If you have the space, you can add in an extra garden plot to distract the chickens from your garden… You can give them their very own Chicken Garden. If they have easy access to all the fresh goodies you’ve been growing for them, they’ll be less likely to go after the veggies in your garden. (Plus, it’s a great source of free chicken food!)
These are all the tactics we’ve tried to keep chickens out of the garden, but there are so many more! Jessi Bloom has written a whole book on the topic and discusses it at length on her website, be sure to check it out!
We hope this article will help you figure out how 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!