As I have bemoaned many times in this blog, chickens can
make a mess of your flowerbeds. They remove the mulch from around plants with astonishing speed, and they love to peck
holes in green leafy plants faster than Japanese beetles can chew holes.
|Free-ranging chickens may interrupt dinner|
When I began my garden, I did not plan to have chickens, and
my main concerns were keeping out the deer, minimizing weeding chores, and
conserving water. I put plants in my
garden that deer dislike and put down heavy layers of mulch to retard weeds and
Fortunately, many of the plants deer dislike are also
unpalatable to chickens. However, beds
with thick layers of mulch covering earthworm-rich soil are chicken
heaven. Because of the mess they create,
my chickens do not free-range all the time; instead, I keep them inside
portable electrified netting that I move every couple of weeks.
Bloom advises the gardener to think about which areas will
be chicken-friendly, and which areas need constant protection from poultry. A permanent fence encloses my vegetable
garden, and I can allow my chickens into sections of my vegetable garden when
no plants are actively growing in the area, or when I have a mature cover crop
in the area, but close the main gate to the garden to prevent unrestricted access.
New plants, especially seedlings, are most vulnerable to
chicken attack; a chicken could kill newly sprouted zinnia plants in seconds,
but they might peck at a few leaves of a mature plant and move on. Chickens could dig up newly transplanted
perennials in search of a new dust-bathing spot, but they won’t remove
Chickens can roam the fruit orchard most of the year, but they
need restriction from ripening fruit within chicken-jumping range. Bloom tells gardeners to use plastic poultry
netting and temporary stakes to keep birds out of sensitive plantings.
Ground covers, according to Bloom, can retard weeds and
conserve moisture, but, unlike mulch, chickens cannot scratch it into a
mess. I plan to put out more ground covers
in lieu of mulch.
One remaining problem is the chicken poo. In the garden, it quickly decomposes into
wonderful fertilizer, but on the patio chairs, it is not pleasant. A squirt of water washes it away, but if you
are planning a new garden that will include chickens, it is helpful to plan a
way to keep the chickens off the patio.
Motion-activated sprinklers may help deter chicken activity in undesired
Filled with pictures of happy chickens roaming in beautiful
gardens, as well as useful suggestions about managing the chicken’s needs,
Bloom’s book offers the gardener many ideas about incorporating chickens into