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Chickens loose in garden?

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Topic by IceFlower posted 01-25-2010 04:08 PM 6467 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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IceFlower

156 posts in 2949 days
hardiness zone 9b

01-25-2010 04:08 PM

Can you let chickens loose in a garden without plant damage? Do they tear up groundcover? i’d like to get a couple of these silver seabright hens and use them for bug control and fertilizer, but I don’t want them to destroy my plants. Anyone have any experience with this?

-- Alynxia**** It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. 'The Buddha'****



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Radicalfarmergal

4312 posts in 3137 days
hardiness zone 5b

01-25-2010 06:39 PM

Several years of experience. Chickens love foraging in traditional vegetable gardens. If a successful garden is important to you, you shouldn’t let them in a traditional vegetable garden when the plants are young and tender; they love to eat them or will scratch them right out of the ground looking for insects. They also love the red, ripe strawberries, tomatoes, seaberries, raspberries, blueberries….and will pluck them right off the plants. They will also dig up mulch looking for insects, worms and grubs. They might also decide that your vegetable garden is the perfect place for a dust bath which can be very destructive to young plants.

After your plants are well established, one trick is to let them into the garden for about an hour before sunset. That gives them time to find and eat some of those pesky insects without wreaking too much havoc on your plants. At dusk, they will return to their roosts. Another choice would be to have just a few chickens in a large area so they won’t do as much damage. I have let the mother hen and chicks range freely while the chicks are growing up. Then you are sharing the harvest with them, but be aware that they might take bites out of many red tomatoes rather than eating one tomato entirely. Another untested idea would be to use polyculture perennial gardening which I think would allow you to have chickens in the garden without as much damage.

I love having chickens, fresh eggs and the lovely manure-mulch they provide to use in my gardens. I have learned that I would rather have them live in the pasture, except during fall clean-up and for short, controlled visits to the garden during the summer.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

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IceFlower

156 posts in 2949 days
hardiness zone 9b

01-25-2010 09:55 PM

By ‘polyculture’ do you mean the cages that are used when people are growing the chickens as ‘free range’ Robin? that they move from spot to spot? And by the way, Thank you enormously for the detailed answer. You’ve given me several things to consider…:)

-- Alynxia**** It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. 'The Buddha'****

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XploreOrganics

1393 posts in 3753 days
hardiness zone 5b

01-26-2010 07:25 AM

We use a chicken tractor for ours, was cheap to make and keeps the gals safer from predators as well as allowing them to be in the garden where you want them to be. Moving them in a tractor keeps them from destroying any one section of ground. We made our with chicken wire, wood strapping and some wheels from an old stroller.

There are many different designs and for two small seabrights it won’t need to be very big. I prefer them on wheels for ease of movement.

Tractors

-- Xploreorganics, 5b Canada, LFD 06-20 http://colorfulcanary.blogspot.com/

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4312 posts in 3137 days
hardiness zone 5b

01-26-2010 08:00 AM

You are welcome. I don’t have time to answer right now. Check out my project on chicken/chicken housing and all the other GT comments and I will write what I imagine when I use the term polyculture vegetable garden when I have more time. Like XO, I use a chicken tractor. If you do a search on chickens (Use the search box up at the top of the page.), you will see other forms of chicken housing used by Garden Tenders.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View Greenthumb's profile

Greenthumb

2290 posts in 3694 days

01-26-2010 02:28 PM

XploreOrganics has the answer in the chicken tractor and Robins is very similar.

I have chickens too and a short answer…........if left to “free range”...they will tear your gardens to shreds. I currently have the Red and black sex link breed and they are very very good at shredding anything and everything, also they are dual purpose layer/meat.

I did notice (sorry dont remember the breed) that the last batch of hens were rust coloured and only layers, I had their beeks cropped and they didnt rip much up.

I plan to fence mine into a 1/4 acre square otherwise they might wind up in the soup pot…..also going to fence in the garden

-- just one more rock, and the garden is done ; )

View IceFlower's profile

IceFlower

156 posts in 2949 days
hardiness zone 9b

01-26-2010 08:00 PM

Now I’m sure i won’t be letting the little buggers go! And I’m liking your chickens better than mine Greenthumb. I think I’d prefer good layers AND meat chickens. I was raised on a farm and have no issues with the wooden stump and axe, not to sound horrible, but I believe if you eat what you kill it’s all good. Organic chicken meat sounds good too. :)
Is that the name of the breed? ‘Red and black sex link?’

-- Alynxia**** It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. 'The Buddha'****

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Greenthumb

2290 posts in 3694 days

01-26-2010 08:15 PM

I forget what I have, its either red sex link or black sex link

I used to have roosters

maybe the chickens dont know who should get the fathers day card?

-- just one more rock, and the garden is done ; )

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4312 posts in 3137 days
hardiness zone 5b

01-27-2010 05:36 AM

Check out this chicken-related blog XO wrote if you haven’t seen it already.

A few thoughts about selecting the right breed of chicken….

There are many kinds of dual purpose chickens if that is what you want. I enjoy my Buff Orpingtons. They tend to be consistent layers and are beautiful, gentle dual-purpose birds.

Due to our cold winters, I have chosen to raise only “heavy chickens” because they withstand the cold winters better. With the warmer weather in Florida, you might want to think of a breed that does well in the heat. I have read that Minorcas, Blue Andalusians, Golden Campines, Light Brown Leghorns and White Leghorns are good warm-weather choices.

I noticed that you initially chose Seabrights which are small birds. If you want small birds, consider choosing a bantam. They are miniature chickens, usually 1/4 the size of standard chickens. Bantams tend to do well in warm weather.

Reading recommendation: If you are interested in pasturing your chickens, read Pastured Poultry Profits by Joel Salatin. Although it is geared toward making money by raising and slaughtering chickens, I found it to be very informative about raising pastured chickens in general.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

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Greenthumb

2290 posts in 3694 days

01-27-2010 07:35 AM

I had a pair of Bantams, small cute little chickens. The Rooster was as tough as nails and always protected his hen no matter how big the foe. She would lay really small eggs but three would make a nice omellete.

Sometimes both would lie on their backs and she would lay her head on his wing and “snuggle up”......very cute birds and they didnt seem to shred the plants that much.

Sadly Mr. Coyote got them both.

-- just one more rock, and the garden is done ; )

View Scott Hildenbrand's profile

Scott Hildenbrand

1690 posts in 3646 days
hardiness zone 6b

01-28-2010 08:07 PM

If you really want bug control get yourself a pair of guineas and set them loose.. They will keep your property and anyone else near by clear of ticks and annoying bugs far better than chickens.

They also make good security alarms as they’re noisy as crud and scream when they see someone wondering around.

They also make awful parents and 99.9% of the time are too stupid to sit on their own eggs..

But other than that.. Way better than chickens.. :D

But, as far as egg laying birds go… I’ve now sworn by Red Sex-Links… Their eggs are HUGE.. They never fail at laying.. And they are friendly birds. My others, not so much.. Smaller eggs.. Often with blood spots or meat spots in them.. Those are baking eggs. Heck, my Ameraucana lay better eggs than my Rocks and Wyandotte.

-- Planting Daylilies in Kentucky, zone 6b

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Greenthumb

2290 posts in 3694 days

01-29-2010 07:34 AM

My sex links stopped laying eggs…..............maybe its just too cold? but when they did lay eggs…...HUGE, often double yokes

-- just one more rock, and the garden is done ; )

View jroot's profile

jroot

5121 posts in 3504 days
hardiness zone 5a

01-29-2010 08:14 AM

too cold. Mother Nature is weighing her odds of survival of the young.

-- jroot ....... Southern Ontario .......... grow zone 5A ...................."Gardening is an exercise in optimism." ....... . . Author Unknown

View sharad's profile

sharad

1671 posts in 3091 days
hardiness zone 11

01-29-2010 10:16 AM

Very interesting discussion. I am new to all this and enjoyed every word. I love this site because of the free exchange of information and experience among GTs. I am planning to get a small farm where I can keep chicken and observe all the above valuable suggestions. Thank u all and Alynxia in particular for starting this topic. The picture of silver seabright hens is very nice.
Sharad

-- Bagwan-- “If someone feels that they had never made a mistake in their life, then it means they have never tried a new thing in their life”.-Albert Einstein

View IceFlower's profile

IceFlower

156 posts in 2949 days
hardiness zone 9b

01-29-2010 09:14 PM

I know Sharad, that’s why I posted and at first thought I wanted them. But then found out too small, and like
Robin and Greenthumb mentioned, dual is what I’m looking for. Hey, good luck with that farm too :)

-- Alynxia**** It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. 'The Buddha'****

View Scott Hildenbrand's profile

Scott Hildenbrand

1690 posts in 3646 days
hardiness zone 6b

01-29-2010 10:29 PM

This site will be of great use to you… Assuming you have not already gone through it.

http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/chooks/chooks.html

-- Planting Daylilies in Kentucky, zone 6b

View sharad's profile

sharad

1671 posts in 3091 days
hardiness zone 11

01-30-2010 12:49 AM

Scott you have given a very informative site. Thanks for posting.
Sharad

-- Bagwan-- “If someone feels that they had never made a mistake in their life, then it means they have never tried a new thing in their life”.-Albert Einstein

View norwood's profile

norwood

38 posts in 2944 days
hardiness zone 8

02-01-2010 01:15 PM

our place is much too small for chickens but I have always wanted to have a few for eggs. The info on how to “manage” the chickens for taking care of garden pests while not becoming garden pests themselves is great. I hope one day to be able to use all this info in my own garden.

-- This will be my second year finding out what will grow in my garden space! Fun fun fun! Zone 8, BC.

View ladybird's profile

ladybird

2 posts in 1752 days

05-04-2013 07:26 AM

Hi all!
I am new to chickens as well as this site :)
I move to the country 6 years ago and did what I thought I should do as any proper country girl should do:

1. Start a garden ( in the hardest most rocky soil in the US )

2. Get 2 farm/country style dogs ( 2 crazy and really obsessive border collies) Mollie and Maggie May. ( AKA )the May sisters

3. I am on step three currently and have started my flock with 4 leg horn/red star crosses

scarlet ( named after scarlet from gone with the wind ( she is truly the sophisticated mischievous brat of the flock )

Liza Jane Scarlets side kick ( what would Bonnie be without Clyde)

Lady bird a gentle sweet good natured bird

Last but not least the funny the sweet the friendly Jojo My lil buddy!

And like the garden and the May sisters the Chicklets are a whole lot of work! Not cheap either! Boy am I going to enjoy that first egg!

Anyways enough already and back to topic ;)

Chickens distroy anything and everything in a garden there is know getting around – they eat it and trample it! Leaving wacky little footprints and a trail of poop as they go.

Solution? Give them their own garden! I did. I planted safe shrubs, flowers and herbs like oregano ( for immunity and mint to keep mice away garlic chives for tick and fleas ) some are invasive and will grow faster then the girls can eat. I hope. Sun flowers too! Ahh!

Well I hope this helps and I am looking forward to sharing information and stories with you.

One red juicy tomato one sloppy wet kiss and hopefully a basket of eggs makes it all worth it! ;)

-- everything has its time and season

View jroot's profile

jroot

5121 posts in 3504 days
hardiness zone 5a

05-04-2013 09:24 AM

LOL. a great sense of humour!

A neat idea to give the chickens their own garden. I am curious to know how it survives. Anything tilled, they will go nuts over. Easy digging for them.

-- jroot ....... Southern Ontario .......... grow zone 5A ...................."Gardening is an exercise in optimism." ....... . . Author Unknown

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

14694 posts in 3874 days
hardiness zone 5b

05-04-2013 02:57 PM

their own garden – what a lovely idea.
Not sure why we say that chickens “scratch” .... they excavate! ripping up anything and everything in their way. I’ve lost so many plants to chicken “scratching’ argh.

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

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