The answer to this question isn’t that simple, however it really does depend, having a flock of chickens could be beneficial to an orchard whilst still damaging it in another aspect. In this article, we’ll be discussing the positives and negatives of doing so as well as reaching a conclusion hopefully giving you a better insight into how the birds will effect an orchard.
What is an Orchard?
An orchard is the arrangement of trees, plants, and shrubs that are designed to provide food for human consumption. They can be anything from an apple to a coconut tree. When you hear the word orchard you’ll often think of a commercial farm producing thousands of fruits, which isn’t wrong by any means. However, it’s defiantly also possible for individuals to have scaled-down versions typically for their back garden or a separated area of land. If you’re keen on growing fruits or have a designated area of the garden for that purpose alone then you could say you have a mini orchard.
I wouldn’t consider us professional by any means however growing fruits is something we’ve been working on for a number of years now, whether it be apples, blackberries, raspberries, or even tomatoes. Maintaining them to a good level alongside the hens has always been something that we believed to be important. With that being said here’s some fact derived information about how you should keep chickens in an orchard and the results of doing so.
Why keep chickens in an Orchard
Obviously this will depend on what sort of orchard you have along with how many chickens you’ll be keeping but generally if your chickens are kept in their coop amongst the fruit trees this shouldn’t cause any issues. However letting them roam around the trees, shrubs, and bushes probably isn’t a good idea. Hens can be very inquisitive as well as sometimes messy which means the fruits you are so carefully growing may get pecked apart and ruined. Not to mention the hens may also contaminate the orchard with dropping which isn’t particularly nice especially in the area where your growing fruits, which you’ll be eating or even selling.
That’s not to say that keeping chickens in your orchard won’t come with its benefits. The hens are great for disposing of waste, this can be anything from bad fruit to bugs which may affect the plants. When you think about it from that angle then keeping the hens enclosed within an orchard doesn’t seem like a bad idea. The hens will help keep the insect levels lower which depending on where you are will have a slight or significant impact on your orchard.
Essentially if you’ve got a hobby of growing fruit, this shouldn’t by any means put you off from getting a flock of hens however knowing how to ensure one doesn’t affect the other is crucial if you want to maintain both the orchard and the chickens to a high standard. In the next section of this article, we’ll be discussing different ways in which you can keep your chickens in an orchard, giving you some ideas if you’re considering doing so.
How to keep hens in an orchard
When keeping your hens within an orchard there are a few things we’d recommend doing in order to get the best results. In this section of the article, we’ll be going through a few tips that may come in handy when keeping your hens inside an orchard.
Let’s start off by talking about the enclosure. There are no two ways about it, your hens can not be left to roam freely continuously within the orchard, they will end up eating all the fruit and ruining the environment by rummaging around as well as leaving droppings everywhere. If you’re able to let them out for short periods whilst monitoring their behaviour then it may not be as bad, however as a general rule keeping them away from your fruit is your best bet.
Your average chicken enclosure should do the trick, something robust and reliable is what you should be aiming to get. If you’d like to check out some reviews of chickens enclosures at different price points then check out our coops page.
As the hens will be surrounded by fruit, them wanting to escape out of their enclosure will be much higher compared to if you were keeping them in a regular garden environment. It’s crucial to understand you may be able to train your hens to a certain extent but surrounding them with fruit and not expecting them to try and consume it is not viable.
A general rule to go by is, that if your orchard is primarily filled with shrubs and bushes then the chickens should never be let out freely, however, if its predominately trees then it will be much harder for the hens to access the fruit. A great example is apple and pear trees where the fruit is not located at ground level, strawberries and raspberries on the other hand can grow much closer to the floor so keeping your hens away from them is important if you’re looking for a good harvest.
All in all its fair to say that keeping hens within an orchard will come with its challenges whether that be cleaning their coop which we recommend doing weekly or making sure they don’t ruin the fruit trees. We understand that the majority of chicken owners probably won’t be interested in keeping their hens in an orchard however we still decided to write this article due to our own curiosity around the subject as well as for the minority that this question may in fact interest.
If you are looking to keep your hens in an orchard its entirely up to you, there will be challenges however its not all bad, if set up properly the hens and fruit trees can flourish together. We’ll finish by saying its not something we’d directly say is good however is still defiantly attainable.
So there you have it, a quick guide on whether or not keeping chickens in an orchard will be beneficial. If you found this article useful then feel free to check out some of our others @easyhens.com
David Cameron is a passionate chicken enthusiast. Growing up, he always wanted to be a veterinarian and loved animals. After graduating from veterinary school, David spent over 40 years as an equine veterinarian. He and his wife retired a few years ago and moved to North Carolina. Here, David’s love of chickens grew even more – he now has 7 chickens and 6 quail. If you have any questions about chickens, feel free to reach out.