Urban chicken farming is everywhere in my little suburban area. We are used to seeing “chicken found” or “chicken lost” signs and even chickens themselves strutting across our lawns. Those folks didn’t do a very good job of chicken proofing their garden. But you don’t just want the chickens running amok. Protecting plants from chickens is also a priority. How do I chicken proof my garden, you ask? Read on to find out how to protect plants from chickens.
Garden Plants and Chickens
There’s nothing like a freshly laid egg for breakfast. For this reason and because more and more people are concerned about how their food is grown, urban chicken farming is all the rage. Adding chickens to your landscape has more benefits than just fresh laid eggs, but it can also have its share of problems.
Chickens scratch to get at bugs, often a boon to the gardener, but all that aggressive scratching can wreak havoc on tender plants. Once they get an area free of plant life, it turns into an inexpensive chicken spa – a dust bath. So it’s important to keep garden plants and chickens either at a safe distance or go with it and install plants for the chickens.
Don’t let the fact that the chickens might disturb a few plants deter you. The benefits of having chickens outweigh the downsides. Because they tend to eat pests such as beetles, aphids and larvae, your garden will be less affected by them with no need for chemical controls. Their feces make an incredibly rich fertilizer and while they’re pecking around the garden, they eat many weed seeds that might otherwise overtake the garden. In fact, many gardeners move the chickens to different areas of the garden to reap the benefits of the manure as well as the removal of larvae, pests and weeds by their feathered friends.
If, however, the chickens are a little overzealous and you’re losing too many plants, you’re probably wondering how to chicken proof your garden. There are a number of methods for chicken proofing a garden. The most obvious is fencing off the most problematic areas. There are a number of ways to do this. Probably the most common is chicken wire. There’s a reason it’s called chicken wire.
Certainly, you will want to fence off the vegetable garden since there will be new, tender seedlings coming up, as well as tempting bare areas the chickens can’t keep their talons out of. You don’t have to use chicken wire, any wire barrier works. Livestock fencing or sturdy wire mesh works well. Creating a hedge will also block the chickens from areas you would rather not have them in.
If you don’t want to make an entire fenced area, there are other ways of protecting plants from chickens. Rocks placed around the base of new plants will keep the chickens from scratching and digging them up. Cloches or netting around plants will also protect them. Trellising keeps plants up and out of reach. Tall container plantings will keep the chickens away from vulnerable plants, as do hanging baskets.
Plant flowers beds close together. Any bare patches of dirt are irresistible to chickens. Also, keep an area of the yard as a dust bath to keep the chickens from scratching other areas of the landscape. Sprinkle it with diatomaceous earth periodically to keep them mite free.
There are some plants that chickens don’t seem to be interested in. These are generally taller plants that are out of reach. Roses, barberries, dogwoodsand hydrangeasare all beauties that are unappreciated by chickens. Sunflowers, for obvious reasons, are chicken proof but plant these with care, as the un-hulled seeds are not good for them either.
You don’t just want to focus on keeping the plants from the chickens; you might want to incorporate some plants just for the chickens, especially if they are free range. It’s a good idea to plant at least one evergreen so they have cover in the winter and a dense thicket of bushes so they can scratch and doze under them during hot days. Chicken friendly berries, like elderberriesor blueberries, are a great option for the thicket. The hens will snack away on the berries, thereby cutting the costs of expensive chicken feed.