Chicken Gardening

I have an amazing flock of backyard gardeners. Dedicated and faithful, they are. Every day, I let them out of the run for recess and they rush around, making sure all their gardening tasks get done. They take their job seriously.

My 9 hens help me aerate the compost bin, a task, you might recall, that I fail miserably at (even as a proud pitchfork owner).

They also love to roam around in the soon-to-be-expanded garden space, regularly stirring things up. Thanks to the rainy NW winter and to the girls, things are progressing along nicely.

Then there is their chicken run. As they scratch and peck inside their own little walls, they help churn their abundant droppings into nutrient rich soil.

You can see how interested they are in gardening by the pictures I took while I was cleaning out the chicken run. They were eager to help. They never complain. They always show up for the job (unless it snows and they get too freaked out to wander outside–see here and here). They work at it until I call them in at night. Tireless and happy, they chat with me on their way in after a hard day’s work.

Where the new garden space is. This is what the compost looks like this week...

This is what that space looked like last fall...see how hard they've been working?

Lovely dirt the girls made inside their chicken run this winter...

Always eager to help.

While there’s much to be said about the fact that backyard hens provide fresh eggs, it’s an overlooked fact that they can also be hard working, dedicated gardeners. Yes, they contribute amazing poundage of chicken poo for fertilizer. And they capture bugs with the precision of a sharp shooter. But what I love about them most in their gardening role is that they pick up where I fall short: with their help, the compost-turning-to-dirt is almost ready for spring planting.

Thank you, girls.

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15 Responses to Chicken Gardening

  1. Will work for food. Gotta love ‘em!

  2. Seasonsgirl says:

    Love the chicks :)

  3. Elaine says:

    Do you ever have problems with the chickens flying out of the yard. Mine are only a month old but I have not let them roam yet as I fear we could not catch them or they would fly over our wall.

    • Mine live in a fenced backyard…however, one section of the fence is just chain link and they used to fly over it and into the front yard. They never wandered from the yard and I would have continued to allow them to do it until the day they discovered the raised beds on the OTHER side of the front yard….after that, I got that chicken netting stuff (plastic) and attached some wooden stakes to the chain link and kept them in the backyard. :)

      There is a guy a block over who lets his chickens free range and they get outside his fence, in the space between the sidewalk and the road. I’ve stopped before and told him, thinking they escaped without his knowledge. He said they do that all the time, and they’ve never gone in the road.

      One thing you can do, though, if you’re worried about them flying over the fence is to clip one of their wings. It doesn’t hurt them, but it keeps them from being able to fly much higher than 3 feet. If you want to know more about how to do that, I wrote a blog post about it here: http://citygirlfarming.wordpress.com/2011/05/25/clipping-chickens-wings/

  4. Lovely chicken pictures. I can see you have great helpers there.

  5. Johnny says:

    Love the set-up here, looks like they got a good amount of space. How many chickens do you think it could handle?

    • It is a nice amount of space, but as soon as the garden is in, the chickens are getting kicked out (much to their disapproval, I’m sure. They aren’t going to be happy!) ha.

      Right now, though, I’ve got 9 of them digging around out there. :)

  6. Kelsey says:

    Do you have problems destroying your plants or your lawn? I just got6 chickens and we live in town, so our yard is not huge. We have lots of shrubs and flowers. We have problems with crab grass taking over and normal grass getting pushed out, so this year we are planning to seed clover and grass. I have just been reading that chickens destroy your lawn and plants, so I’m now concerned about how our yard will look with free range chickens. What are your thoughts? Thanks!

    • Kerrie says:

      Well, yes, chickens do like to rummage around the yard, eat things, dig things up, etc. There are two good ways to handle it: 1. put fences around things you don’t want them to destroy 2. put a fence around them.

      My backyard is divided into two sections. Section one (largest part): Kids and dog. Section two (smaller): Chickens. I used to fight with the hens to keep them away from the gardens, and fight with the dog to keep him away from the hens, and last summer, I just put a fence down the middle of the yard and gave everyone their own space. And gave me my sanity back. It works wonderfully.

      The fence I made isn’t beautiful, but it’s functional and affordable and it works. Peace of mind is very much a lovely thing….here’s more about it, if you want to see it:

      http://citygirlfarming.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/peace-between-the-dog-and-the-chickens/

      Good luck!

    • Fence them in a run. We lost half our lawn and all pots and some plants to four chickens. They help in small doses but with a city yard I just let mine out for a couple hours in the mornings. I am so much happier with them and without the poop all over the backyard. We gave them plenty of room.

      • Kerrie says:

        Oh yes, it’s nice to have the backyard poop under control. Mine, too, have a nice spacious run, but I let them out in the ‘chicken yard’ for most of the day, when the weather is nice enough. They’re spoiled. :)

      • Kelsey Stottlemyre says:

        So I wonder how that lady that wrote the Free Range Chicken Gardens book is able to have all of her pretty flowers and the chickens don’t tear it up? She acted like they don’t bother anything. Our yard is not manicured or anything. Its a messy cottage garden. I don’t need perfect grass. Like I said we were going to do eco grass with grass and clover. I just want something green growing on the ground and I don’t want my plants killed, but I want to be able to free range my chickens. Its so nice seeing them out there pecking around. Maybe its just wishful thinking.

      • Kerrie says:

        I don’t think it’s totally wishful thinking…I have shrubs the chickens love to lay under, for instance. They don’t bug them. But any places where there is loose soil (ie garden, flowers, etc.) they love to dig around in and invariably dig up the flowers/plants in the process. They also like to eat them.

        But on the plus side, they also like to eat bugs and weeds.

        You could put a little chicken wire around things you want to save.

        Or, give them supervised recess to keep them from getting into things you don’t want them to get into.

        I got tired of chasing them out of my garden and replanting my plants, so a fence was my solution…but something else might work for you.

        BTW, it IS great to see them out running around in the yard. They love it, too. :)

      • Kelsey says:

        Kerri- thanks for all the advice! It’s much appreciated! We have a fence around the veggie garden. I saw on jessi blooms website, the lady that wrote the chicken garden book, that she puts large stones and rocks at the base of plants, then the chickens can’t dig up the plants. I think I might try that too.

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