Today I was cleaning up outside, and dumping more used bedding of straw and wood chips into our now very dormant garden… with the chickens busily running around me. They get extremely excited when I dump stuff into there, and immediately start digging even more feverishly in amongst the straw. It’s as though they know that worms are in the dirt, but the extra layer of straw just makes the game that much more exciting. Funny though, in the spring and summer months, I am constantly chasing them out of the garden with some sort of gardening implement in my hand, yelling like a crazy person”Chicken out! Chicken out!”, and those jerks somehow manage to sneak back in when I’m not looking. If you’re someone without chickens, you might be asking yourself, “Aren’t chickens supposed to be great for the garden? Aren’t they the perfect bug catcher, that delicately work around your plants? Don’t they leave nitrogen behind that is supposed to be good for the garden?”. Let me tell you that I don’t care how many beautiful pictures there are on Pinterest of chickens magically weeding your garden, it is utter and complete, um… how should I put this…oh yes, that’s the right word… bullshit!
The photo of our garden shows the chickens busily scratching for the bugs and worms. Which is wonderful now, as by doing so, they dig and fluff-up the soil, turning in the straw and nitrogen-filled poop into the garden… fabulous. Unfortunately, this is exactly what they do in spring as well, and they also love the tasty little seedlings you’ve planted. Never mind tomatoes. They love tomatoes, and will happily risk being chased by a crazy woman with a rake.
So, we tried to protect the garden. What you don’t see along the fence, is black invisible net-styled fencing. The wooden sticks that line the bottom of the fence edge aren’t for artistic purpose. They were cut from extra shingles we had, and nailed one day up with the pneumatic nailer when I was ready to strangle some of our hens whom were sneaking in through the bottom of the netting. Some still managed to sneak in, somehow navigating through the widest space of the boards, and cutting the invisible netting. Now that it’s winter, we open the gate and let them all in, so it’s mayhem like this everyday.
Oh and a heads up… the chickens also like to dig around the base of all your perennials, so my peonies got dug up. It seems like they’re leaving the rhubarb alone, so at least that’s a win. The chickens love digging up the odd potato as well, but aren’t interested in eating them… of course, our dogs for some reason love playing with the potatoes and leave them all around the yard so I suspect come next spring, we will have numerous potato plants growing in strange places…
As for the ducks, the ducks head into the garden when the chickens do, just to see what’s going on. The ducks aren’t destructive, just nosey! And the male turkeys follow me in there when I’m working as they like to strut their stuff… constantly! That and wanting rides in the wheel barrow.
So when planning your farm garden, keep in mind how your going to protect it from your chickens. In the winter months, they’re fabulous. In the spring and summer, you better pick your garden tool to shake!
Good luck and happy farming!