If you’re thinking about getting chickens, you might be wondering if they’ll ruin your garden. Chickens are known for being curious and destructive creatures, so it’s understandable to be concerned. With the prevailing view that free-range chickens produce tastier, more nutritious eggs because they’re happier, you might be planning to allow them to have the run of your garden.
The simple answer is yes, if chickens are continuously left in your garden, and it is small, there’s a high possibility that your flowers, plants, vegetables, and grass will have all been scratched up and foraged through.
However, I believe that the answer to this question isn’t so simple, while some of their behaviors can create problems and even wreak havoc on your garden. Many of your chickens’ activities will benefit your garden as well. It is possible to have a lovely garden co-existing with your chickens. Read on to learn about the clever ways to manage this.
Will Chickens Ruin My Garden?
Chickens’ natural behavior is to dig and forage for grubs and insects, peck at vegetables and fruit, indulge in dust baths, scratch in the dirt, and poop wherever and whenever they feel like it. There are some benefits to your garden from these actions and some potential hazards. So are chickens bad for your garden?
The number of Chickens You Have Matters
The number of chickens you have will make a difference in the impact they have on your garden. More chickens mean more potential destruction but also greater chances that they’ll find and eat most of the grubs, slugs, and other pests in your garden. If you only have a few chickens, they may not be as effective at keeping the pest population down.
Consider Your Garden’s Size
The size of your garden area will also affect how much damage your feathered friends can do. If you have a small garden with not much space, a couple of chickens or a small flock may be all that your garden can handle. In this case, it’s important to take measures to protect your gardens from chicken scratches and pecks. If you have a larger backyard or acreage, you may be able to keep a flock of chickens without too much worry about them destroying your garden.
The Type of Soil You Have
The type of soil in your garden will also play a role in how well it withstands chicken scratching and foraging. Loose, sandy soil is easier for chickens to scratch up and can become compacted more easily. This type of soil is also more likely to have weed seeds that chickens will uncover and eat. Clay soils are tougher and can better withstand chicken scratches but may be more difficult for chickens to peck through to find insects.
The Plants in Your Garden
The plants in your garden will also influence how much damage chickens can do. Chickens like to eat leafy greens, so if you grow lettuce or spinach, you may find that chickens are constantly nibbling at your plants. If you have fruit trees or berry bushes, chickens may peck at the ripening fruit. Some plants, like marigolds, are known to repel chickens, so you may want to consider planting these around the perimeter of your garden.
Benefits Chickens Will Bring To Your Garden
So why are chickens good for the garden? Chickens are excellent at getting rid of pests such as beetles, aphids, slugs, and grasshoppers that could otherwise destroy your garden plants. They love larvae too, so they can clear your garden of those plant killers before they have a chance to damage your plants. Small seeds of weeds will also be eaten by chickens. Chickens enjoy the weeds – which helps keep your garden weed-free!
Chicken manure is an excellent, rich fertilizer for your plants. And because they scratch and dig around in the dirt, they help aerate the soil. Chicken poop also contains nitrogen, which is excellent for plants.
Disadvantages To Having Chickens In Your Garden
Because chickens scuff up the ground, they can turn your grass into a dust bowl or a mud pit. They like scratching in low planted pots, newly-planted beds of flowers or vegetables, and mulch. Some hens will dig up slate and gravel paths to search for worms (spreading stones everywhere). They enjoy eating vegetables and will destroy any ripening fruits within their reach.
The smell – make no mistake, your chickens will make your garden smell without good drainage and management. Drainage is key when keeping chickens, we recommend using wood chipping on the floor rather than grass because it absorbs the chicken droppings and is easy to clean. I have a whole article and managing smell here.
Pests – having chickens increases the chances of vermin getting into your garden. It’s not the actual chickens that cause them to get into your garden rather their feed attracts vermin.
Will chickens ruin my vegetable garden?
For many people, chickens are a beloved part of their backyard flock. But what happens when those same chickens get into the vegetable garden? Is it bye-bye veggies, or can the two peacefully coexist? Let’s explore both sides of the coin to see if chickens really are the garden-ruining monsters they’re made out to be.
Pros of Having Chickens in the Vegetable Garden
Chickens can actually be quite beneficial to a veggie garden and are great at pest control. Their scratching and pecking help aerate the soil, and their droppings are a fantastic source of nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Plus, having chickens around can help deter garden pests like slugs, snails, and rodents. Just be sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t nibble on your delicate seedlings!
Cons of Having Chickens in the Vegetable Garden
On the flip side, chickens can also do a fair amount of damage to a vegetable garden. They love to scratch and dig, which can uproot delicate small plants. They also enjoy eating tender leaves and stems – not to mention plenty of bugs and other critters that you might want in your garden. If you have chickens in your vegetable patch, you’ll need to take some extra precautions to protect your plants from becoming chicken feed.
how do you keep chickens from eating your vegetable garden?
So, what can you do to prevent your chickens from wreaking havoc in your vegetable garden? The key is fencing—chickens can’t fly very high, so if you build a fence around your vegetable plants that’s tall enough to deter them (at least four feet), they shouldn’t be able to get in. You can also try using chicken wire or netting around individual plants or areas of your back garden that you want to protect. Just make sure that whatever fencing or netting you use is buried deep enough into the ground that determined diggers can’t just tunnel underneath it.
Will Chickens Ruin My Grass?
So, will chickens ruin your grass? The answer is maybe. It depends on a few factors, including the type of grass you have, how often the chickens are on the grass, and what kind of care you take of your lawn. In this blog post, we’ll explore these factors in more detail to help you make a decision about whether or not chickens are right for you.
The Type of Grass You Have Matters
One of the most important factors in determining whether or not chickens will ruin your grass is the type of grass you have. If you have Bermuda grass, for example, then you’re in luck. Chickens love to eat Bermuda grass, and it’s actually good for them. But if you have a different type of grass—fescue, for example—then chickens can do some damage. Fescue is tougher than Bermuda grass, so when chickens eat it, they can rip up large chunks of sod. This not only looks bad but can also kill the grass underneath.
How Often The Chickens Are On The Grass Matters, Too
Another important factor to consider is how often the chickens will be on the grass. If you only let your chickens out for a few hours each day, then they’re not likely to do much damage to your lawn. But if you have what’s called “free-range” chickens—chickens that are allowed to roam freely all day long—then they can really do some harm. Free-range chickens will walk all over your lawn looking for food, and they’ll scratch at the ground a lot as well. This can compact the soil and make it difficult for new grass to grow. It can also lead to bald spots on your lawn where there’s no grass left at all.
The Care You Take Of Your Lawn Matters As Well
Finally, it’s important to consider the care you take of your lawn when deciding whether or not chickens will ruin it. If you mow regularly and fertilize regularly, then your lawn will be better able to withstand any scratching and pecking that the chickens do. But if you neglect your lawn, then it won’t be as strong and resilient—and that means it’s more likely to be damaged by chicken claws and beaks.
how to stop chickens from destroying Your garden
There are many ways how to stop chickens from ruining your yard:
One of the most common and effective ways to keep chickens out of your garden is to erect fencing around the perimeter. Barbara Pleasant, a successful gardener with years of experience keeping chickens, uses knee-high chicken wire to fence in her plants. This prevents her chickens from being able to reach or scratch through the plants. If you’re going to use fencing, it’s important to make sure that it’s high enough that your chickens can’t simply fly over it.
2. Cages To Protect Plants
Another method suggested by Pleasant is to use box-shaped metal cages around low-growing plants. These cages should be made from wire fencing that’s strong enough to resist being scratched or pecked through by chickens. You can also use PVC pipes bent into hoops, which you then stick into the ground over your bed of plants. To make this method extra effective, cover the pipes with netting so that there are no gaps for chickens to squeeze through.
3. Hanging Baskets
Chickens can’t reach hanging baskets, so this is a great place to put any plants that you’re particularly worried about them damaging. Hanging baskets also have the added benefit of being out of reach of other animals like rabbits or deer.
4. Tall Pots
Tall pots are another good idea for protecting plants from chickens. If you have plants that are particularly vulnerable to being scratched or pecked, you can put them in tall pots and then set the pots in the ground. This will make it harder for chickens to get to the plants, and it will also help to keep the roots of the plants warm and moist.
5. Deter Your Hens
There are a few things that you can put around your garden to deter chickens from coming in. One popular method is to hang CDs or other shiny objects from the fence or netting around your garden. The reflective surface will help to scare chickens away. You can also try using chicken wire or netting around individual plants or areas of your garden that you want to protect. Just make sure that whatever fencing or netting you use is buried deep enough into the ground that determined diggers can’t just tunnel underneath it.
6. Raised garden beds
If you have enough space, you can also try building raised garden beds. This will make it harder for chickens to get to your plants, and it will also help to protect the roots of the plants from being scratched or pecked.
7. Certain plants don’t seem to interest chickens.
Many gardeners plant flower beds, shrubs, ground cover, and vegetables that chickens don’t like and have flourishing gardens to prove it. For a complete list of poisonous plants and plants that chickens don’t like see https://backyardhomesteadhq.com/plants-chickens-wont-eat-the-complete-guide/ for a list.
Plant chicken-resistant plants to keep your garden going. Experienced backyard chicken keepers experiment with a new plant first to see whether their chickens like it. The outcome determines the fate of the plant. You may have to wait until the plant is big enough or in bloom before you can tell whether it will be eaten. Some plants that chickens don’t like include: daffodils, hollyhocks, larkspur, marigolds, morning glories, nasturtiums, petunias, and zinnias.
8. Consider using a Chicken Tractor
A Chicken Tractor is a movable chicken coop without a bottom. You can move it around your garden to let your chickens fertilize and till the soil while they eat weeds and bugs. The only downside to using a Chicken Tractor or movable runs is that you have to build it or buy one. But if you have the time and resources, it’s a great way to let your chickens help in the garden while keeping them safe.
9. Limit The Time They Can Free Range In Your Yard
If you’re worried about your chickens destroying your garden, one of the best things you can do is limit the amount of time they can free range in your yard. You can do this by creating a fenced-in area for them to roam or by only letting them out for a few hours each day.
With some clever strategies and commitment to both your chickens and your garden, it is possible to allow your free ranging chickens in a beautiful garden. With a little bit of effort, it’s entirely possible to keep chickens from destroying your garden. By using things like fences, cages, and hanging baskets, you can protect your plants from chicken damage and still enjoy having them around.
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.