Chickens and your Garden
Are Chickens a help of a hindrance to your garden?
If you are thinking about keeping chickens, you might be wondering what impact they will have on your garden if you allow them to roam free. Will they help your garden to thrive or will they churn up your soil and eat many of your precious plants?
The Good News About Chickens
More and more people are keeping chickens on their properties. The unique character of the birds and the eggs that they produce are certainly major draws. The good news is that, if managed correctly, your chickens can also help improve the environment your garden.
Chickens will search around for worms and grubs in the soil and this will give it a good tilling. Chicken manure makes for good fertiliser too. But it is high in nitrogen and so should kept for a few months before being applied around plants, otherwise it may burn them.
Insects and Plants
Free range chickens will also eat insects which is a good thing unless the insects happen to be resting on plants that you don’t want destroyed! In their search for insects the chickens will consume young ornamental and vegetable plants in your garden. More mature plants should be safe.
If there are plants that you wish to protect, these should be fenced off. Your other alternative is to invest in or build a large enclosure which can be moved around the garden to suit. It is useful to move your chickens around any lawn areas as they will eat some of the weeds that develop.
Your birds will need to help them grind the food in their gizzards. If you allow them to live free range in your garden, they may have access to rocky soil and that could mean that they do not require a supplement of chicken grit. Always keep a supply of chicken grit on hand, though, in case your chickens need ever need it.
Chicken Friendly Planting
If you do decide to give your chickens the run of the garden, then you can boost their health and wellbeing with judicious planting. Herbs are a very good choice, especially fennel, marjoram and parsley which are thought to boost egg production. Carrots, marigolds and watermelon can give egg yolks a deeper orange hue. If you are going to raise chicks then plant some basil, dandelion and tarragon as these herbs can help to ensure healthy birds. Chervil, dill, oregano and sage are considered to be excellent food supplements for chickens and rosemary and thyme help to boost their immune systems.
There doesn’t appear to have been any research into how herbs impact the health of poultry but anecdotal evidence suggests that they do have a beneficial effect. fresh herbs can also be used in nesting boxes to calm the sitting hens, to create a nice aroma around the coop and to repel insects.
Living in Harmony
It is possible to allow your chickens a degree of freedom in your garden without too much plant destruction ensuing. The chickens can help to cultivate your soil and to keep the bugs at bay whilst providing a good source of manure.