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How to Keep Chickens Out of the Garden

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!

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A chicken standing outside.

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. 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!

A chicken eating plantain.

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.

A chicken eating a potted plant.

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.

A black and white chicken free ranging.

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!

A tall raised bed garden on stilts.

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!

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Thursday 15th of September 2022

Please help if you can!!! My neighbors free range chickens are digging up all of my mulch and scattering it everywhere. I have sprayed with an animal deterrent, without any luck. I would be grateful for any assistance that you can provide. Is there another commercial preparation that can be applied? This is not an area that I could fence. I’m currently trying to build flower beds. No plants as yet, but next year if I can control the chickens.

Andrea Pley

Sunday 4th of April 2021

I'm going try the plastic Cat Scat Mat and some herbs. My girls do have their own little garden to go into.

Chris Harrell

Saturday 26th of September 2020

We have a feral free range jungle fowl chicken who can fly very high (top-of-the-house high). She adopted us and we feed her well. She loves our tomatoes. Thinking our only solution next year is to create a coop for us and our veggies with a roof so she can't get in. Did I mention she is not tame? And she constantly moves her nest (overgrown half acre) so we are not always successful in harvesting her eggs. Any ideas?


Sunday 9th of February 2020

Isn't it good to have them at least around your plants so they can eat the pests?


Wednesday 19th of February 2020

They will eat the pests, yes, but they'll also eat your plants, veggies, fruits, and dig at the soil which can disrupt the roots and uproot plants. They're pretty destructive in the garden.


Saturday 27th of April 2019

What type of cheap plants could you grow specifically for your chickens?


Monday 6th of May 2019

We have a whole post on this topic, I hope this helps you!