Raising poultry? 5 ways to use them in your garden

Gardens and chickens just seem to go together! Many people that have one, have the other and that's a great thing because they can have a mutually beneficial relationship! The garden can provide food for the chickens and they can provide fertilizer for the garden. Actually, there are a few different ways that raising ducks or chickens can benefit your garden.

chicken helping in the garden

Raising backyard chickens and growing a garden started the homesteading craze! 

Of course we all know that chickens need kept out of the garden or they will destroy it! I mean, sometimes they can get in when the garden is well underway...but mostly they cause a mess! They like to uproot sprouts (and eat them) dust bathe in the cool dirt under busy plants and take bites out of tomatoes and pretty much anything that looks appetizing!

Using chickens in the garden

So if the chickens can't get into the garden all the time, how can they actually help?

1) Getting ready in spring.

Chickens are a great help in the garden when you need to get things started come spring. They love to eat up tiny sprouts that shouldn't be there and chow down on any bugs they find wandering around your garden plot. I allow the chickens and guinea fowl free access to the garden till I'm ready to plant in spring. They get started as soon as the snow melts off.

They get to eat any weed seeds or sprouts and I get the benefit of them digging up and eating grubs. The less grubs I have, the less moles visit the garden and that makes me very happy! Plus they're tilling the garden for me as they dig up bugs. This exposes more weed seeds to the sunlight and causes them to sprout and then the chickens eat the sprouts.

2) Garden rejects.

Between farm rejects and grocery store rejects almost half of any given crop grown in the US is thrown away! Isn't that crazy? Thankfully, chickens don't care if your cucumbers are ugly and ducks love watermelon even if it's shaped weird! If fact, they don't even care if the tomatoes have a few bug bites taken out of them. 

Anything you decide to not harvest for yourself, can immediately go to your flock of backyard poultry...and they'll be grateful! Plus it helps to cut down on your feed cost. They will also be more than happy to help you 'dispose of' those giant zucchini that are too big and seed filled to cook!

Some of my chickens favorite garden fresh produce: zucchini, corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, amaranth, millet, pumpkins, melons, broccoli, lettuce, sunflowers, sweet peppers & berries. I talk about it on my chicken blog in Free feed: Garden rejects.

Chickens in garden eating seeds and insects

3) Insect obliteration. 

Ducks are particularly good at eating slugs, though chickens will search for grubs and worms like it's their job! You'll definitely want to keep them in a supervised area though, so they don't destroy your plants. Many people build chicken tunnels for them to run amongst the garden rows. They keep down the weeds and insects, but the plants stay safe.

I find that I can let my chickens into the garden when the plants are close to full grown, but before they start producing fruit and vegetables. If the plants are too small, the chickens will destroy them and if they fruit is coming in they'll take bites! 

You need to find that middle time in the growing season, or get some plastic fencing and light fence posts and use it to exclude them from the parts of the garden that are vulnerable.

4) Poop is rich in nitrogen! 

I have a good explanation on how to make compost in Weird things you can compost but I'll summarize here: compost is made by adding a mix of brown and green materials, adding a little water and letting them rot. Chicken poop is rich in nitrogen. Adding their coop litter to the compost pile is a great way to get rid of the litter and build up your compost.

Chicken poop is actually a bit too strong to apply directly to growing plants but it's great in the compost pile. It can be added directly to the garden in the off season though. This gives the poop time to age a bit so it doesn't burn the roots of the growing plants. So when the chickens are digging around in your garden in fall or late winter, they're actually adding fertilizer too!  

5) Fall garden clean up.

Chickens are a great help in the garden when you need to get things cleaned up in the fall. They love to eat up tiny sprouts that shouldn't be there and chow down on any produce or insects left behind after harvest. 

While digging bugs and sprouts up, they will start tilling the garden for you. This is good because insects hide in garden litter over winter. The less insects that make it through winter, they less of a problem you have next year!

Chickens are most effective at this, but ducks geese and guinea fowl can help too. I'm not sure about turkeys, but if you raise them post a comment below and let me know!

That's how I use my chickens in the garden. Do you let your chickens in the garden too?


Want gardening and healthy living information sent right to your email weekly? Click right here to join my newsletter list and get new posts sent directly to you the day they're published!

No comments:

Post a Comment