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Chickens in the garden- is it a dream or a nightmare?

Rutledge, TN

I've posted this question in a gardening thread without much response so far.... maybe poultry folks can answer...

.Can free range chickens and cottage gardens co-exist? I'm starting to like these crazy chickens that have moved in on me... but I have already had to cover the ground with chicken wire where I planted bulbs because of their incessant "digging". I just don't know if things are going to work out come springtime> Any advice?

Elbridge, NY(Zone 5a)

Oh, mine dig holes everywhere if you let them. I had to put mine in a run. They dug up DH's landscape! (gasp) That is his line of work. A veggie garden is great to let them in when you are not growing anything. Fertilized and cut down in no time.
I am not sure if anyone else has a better idea. I sure couldnt think of any other solution. You either let them roam or put them in a run. My dad has huge fences around all his plants and flowers. It works for him. ^_^

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

NIghtmare, definitely nightmare.

You could do a chicken tractor or a chicken moat, if you've got the space.

What sewin says about out of season is true, they'll strip everything down, till and fertilize, and eat a lot of bugs hiding in the soil. Great to turn a few loose in a greenhouse at the end of the season.

=0) Jay

Rutledge, TN

What is a chicken tractor and chicken moat? I am new to chicken speak.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

I'll let others describe the tractor. Basically, they're mobile, bottomless cages.

A chicken moat is fixed, a sort of narrow run all the way around the garden. The chickens will nail any bugs heading for your garden (especially grasshoppers), but they can't get in the garden. Just imagine a moat around a castle, only instead of water, it's full of chickens. =0)

The one I saw was about 4' wide, 5' high, open topped. Protects the chickens, utilizes their prodigious bug catching skills, and protects the garden.

Jay

Ferndale, WA

Hey there blubun: I have a forty by sixty garden and about forty five chickens at present. My chickens do free range, I decided rather that go to the expense of a chicken run i'd plant some of the greens I know chickens love. It worked pretty well for me. In my garden I have logan, rasp, and boysen berries. they love the berries but can only reach the lower ones. Between the berries and greens that i plant for them they are not much interested in the rest of my garden. They dig around a little but not enough to really be a problem. If however you don't plant things for them then they will destroy your garden. Good luck Haystack

Clarkson, KY

I have chicken wire around my gardens and the chickens run free... It may be possible to do edible to chickens stuff as a barrier, but they do tend to create openings and they do tend to create droppings. It may be a combination of fencing off and allowing access is your best bet. Just choose wisely.

Elbridge, NY(Zone 5a)

A chicken tractor is a porable chicken house. Usually on wheels so you can pull it around to fresh grass spots! This is one my father made me. I have the backdoor open and added an extra wire cage area for them to go into. With the door closed you can move it around the yard to fesh areas of grass. Just be sure not to run them over!!! hehehe!

Thumbnail by sewincircle
Tamworth, NH(Zone 4b)

Chickens are great earth tillers. Not so great on your garden during growing season. And, they will decimate your tomatoes, speaking from personal experience. Wouldn't be so bad if they would just eat entire tomatoes, but nooooo, they have to take a few pecks out of each one.

Never heard of a chicken moat, but I like the idea. Not sure it's practical in every situation. We fence our chickens out of any garden spot we don't want them in; otherwise they free range (I'm raising NH Woods Fowl, aka NH Woods Chickens).

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

They will eat every seed you put out. They even scratch in my potted plants. They eat some seedlings as they come up too. It took me 2 years to figure out why I kept sowing zinna seeds and they never came up. Chickens!

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Yeah, I like the idea of a chicken moat, but my beds are scattered all over. You've got to have them in a nice little regimented block. No hope for that here! LOL When I do get chickens again, I'll be doing the chicken tractor thing... only mine will be moved by the donks!

cluck, bray, bark.... cluck bray bark....

Jay

Elbridge, NY(Zone 5a)

Oh! That would be nice. The one I have here is really small. Its only 3x4 foot. Its only meant to temporarily house babies too small to join the flock in the coop. Its a halfway house! hehehe
Just kidding. I think I need a donkey anyway...ya,...to pull my tractor! Thats it...plot,plan,plot!

Citra, FL

They will flat out destroy your garden. I love my chickies, but I love my garden too, and never the twain shall meet, believe me. I have about 150 feet of 4 foot chicken wire....I may get another roll from Tractor Supply, they are only $60....and I went to Lowes and got their 5 foot tall green metal fence spikes that are easy to pop in the ground. I just put the wire up either around my garden and give them the entire property, or I put up a huge run right outside their coop with the wire. Its very easy to move around with those metal fence posts. I will never let them in my garden....I have daylilies, hibiscus, veggies....oh no, they can stay in the grassy area and the barn, plenty of stuff for them to find there.

(Tia) Norman, OK(Zone 7a)

Nightmare for sure, By the time I let mine go total free range all the gardens were finished for the season so I really didnt mind. Now it is time to do some major coop building to get them their own yard and I can have my porches and yard back!!!!!!!

I reconditioned one hutch yesterday, put a few tarps on another hutch.

Hubby tilled up the veggey garden yesterday, I had about 20 chickens in that area since November, moved them to the main coop.

I like the moat idea, I might just have to do that. My garden is 95 by 45 and probably going to do another one that size.

Rutledge, TN

Well, this is what I was afraid of. I have 11 flower gardens and they are spread out all over the place. The chickens are cuties but my gardens mean a lot to me. I will try to put them with my sheep,,,, but these guys can fly over a 12ft fence with the greatest of ease! I wish I could find a good home for them, they were runaways that just showed up here over the summer. Anyone in East Tennessee want some beautiful free chickens and roosters???

(Tia) Norman, OK(Zone 7a)

You could post an add in freecycle or on craigslist. yes they will destroy your flower beds. you could make a totally enclosed run if you wanted to keep them. you could also clip their feathers but that can be tricky, cut wrong and they can bleed to death.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

I'm planning on building a 4 x 8 chicken tractor on 10' skids with a chain attached to hook the donk to. Flap boards on the bottom ends to keep chickens in, but move as the tractor gets drug.

Even a standard sized donkey should be able to move that with no trouble.

Go for it sewin!
Jay

Elbridge, NY(Zone 5a)

ON MY WAY!!! Any excuse is viable!!!

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Then you'll have to post a pic of your long eared tractor engine on the longears thread. I can hardly wait to see...

=O
Jay

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

It has been my personal experrience that donkeys only move when THEY want to. Good Luck!

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Oh, you mean sort of like a person?
=0)

Liberty Hill, TX(Zone 8a)

There are certain things that will motivate me to move. Everytime I have ever tried to make my donkeys move they just dig their hooves in and look at me like "ya right". As soon as I turn my back they do exactly what I originally wanted them to do.
Lisa

Elbridge, NY(Zone 5a)

Try the old "carrot on a line" trick. It always works in the cartoons!!! ;)

Clarkson, KY

Thinkin' maybe I was a donkey in a former life....lol.

Elbridge, NY(Zone 5a)

i have been called one a time or two...or three...

(Tia) Norman, OK(Zone 7a)

lol

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Ah, there it is... make my donkeys move. Busted. LOL

Ask, request, bribe, entice... yes, that will work.

Make, insist, berate, bully... oh no, you're toast. =0) I think it's a religious sort of thing with them... They are fundamental "You are not the boss of me"-ists.

Sort of like teenagers, I think. LOL

Sue, RI(Zone 6a)

Sure, Jay, just like teenagers: ask them to do the opposite of what you really want and you'll be golden! lol!

(Tia) Norman, OK(Zone 7a)

Sue you SO have that right, works on 5 yr olds too.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Except for sometimes. LOL
Just to keep things interesting, jah?

Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

Haystack, what kind of greens do chickens like?

Elbridge, NY(Zone 5a)

I heard dark greens are good. I was told no iceburg lettuce.

Sue, RI(Zone 6a)

Mine loved the cabbage and turnip greens this past summer.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

I love my biddies, but they are totally a nightmare in the garden. The garden is fallow right now, so I've chicken wire barricaded my raised bed of garlic, and they are enjoying scratching up everything else. In fact, I throw a hand full of scratch where the corn and beans were last year and they have tilled up and fertilized those areas quite well. Come spring, they will be banished from the garden.

Mine loved zucchini and zucchini leaves, apple leaves, iceburg lettuce (but remember, no nutritional value in it, just fun & tasty), dark green leafy things - all of them - collards, spinach, leaf lettuce, kale - so far anything dark green and leafy that I don't eat, they do! Mine aren't a big fan of pumpkin, but I've heard that some chickens are. Mine like the seeds, though.

I am going to grow a patch of corn in the run this spring, but will have to baracade the chickens out until the corn is ready to harvest. The chickens will eat the corn off the cob, chew on the leaves, run around and hide among the stalks and generally tear it all to shreds. For a few dollars of corn seed, they will have months of entertainment! I let them into my people corn patch this fall and they had a ball.

Elbridge, NY(Zone 5a)

Great ideas! I bet your biddies are happy. :D

Sue, RI(Zone 6a)

I cleaned out my coop last week and spread it in the garden where some of the corn is being planted. We move our pens around every couple of years and I tend to use those areas to plant corn and tomatoes. They do fantastic. So I guess they can be a dream for the soil!
I love the idea of growing their own garden. I just ordered some Orange Hawaii Marigolds from Baker Seeds. The catalog stated that the flowers are used as a natural feed additive to brighten the yolks of eggs. I thought it would make a nice treat for them. :-)

Rutledge, TN

I am happy to report that my gardens have come back in beautiful bloom, thus far, and all the cultivating that the chickens were up to last fall has had no effect on anything! In fact, now that everything is growing back, the chickens seem to have no interest at all and have moved to an entirely different area. I guess i got lucky, and so did the chickens since they get to stay free range.

Lodi, CA(Zone 9b)

That is a great idea Sandy.. I have an area I was gonna plant something for them.. that's perfect! I'm jazzed.. they can have their own garden area. :)

Elbridge, NY(Zone 5a)

How wonderful for you Bluebunn!! A win win situation! :D

Lodi, CA(Zone 9b)

oooops! I forgot to say that too bluebunn! I love it when the plan comes together! LOL

I had to chase chickens all day the other day when I planted my berries.. they were digging them up as fast as I could get them planted.. LOL So no.. it wasn't a dream for me... for the girls? Oh yeah! They had a blast.

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