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Chicken Tractors, or How We Put Our Chickens to Work

Chicken Tractors, or How We Put Our Chickens to Work

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We topped the garden beds with composted manure today. The chickens were there in an instant, scratching and slurping bugs and grubs. We’d heard the term chicken tractors; indeed, these girls are tilling the soil for us.

Our hens play an important part in the vegetable garden. Sure, we could do without them, but they actually do some of the work for us! I will be forced to fence them out eventually, in order to harvest vegetables myself rather than surrender the whole business to the chickens. For now, though, they have the run of the garden. They gleefully scratch up any fresh soil, manure, compost, whatever has just been exposed, to grab the bugs. Scratch scratch scratch, hop back and inspect. Snap up the grub or worm that appears. Scratch scratch, repeat.

More importantly, they help to incorporate the new layer into the soil below. All the scratching mixes the layers and makes the forking easier later. Hand digging is necessary here; my garden beds have wood sides and are too small for a rototiller. Besides, call me crazy but I enjoy the manual process. We’re talking family vegetable garden, not a commercial plot, so it’s reasonable.

After we’ve harvested in the fall, I’ll let the chickens back in the garden to graze. They’re also helpful in cleaning up any leftover vegetables; rather than composting the old kale or lettuce, I’ll let the hens have it. The manure will come back to us in the end!

24 thoughts on “Chicken Tractors, or How We Put Our Chickens to Work”

  • Chicken tractors… lol! Your post gives a whole new meaning to what I thought the term meant. We have chickens too. I haven’t been able to put a garden in the last couple of years, but I’m still hoping to put a fall garden in this year yet or at least prep for next spring. I am planning on putting our chickens to work for us too.

    • Hi Patricia! A chicken tractor is actually a portable enclosure, so you can control where the chickens forage/dig…but they do act like little tractors themselves. Good luck in your future garden, and thanks for reading!

  • Brilliant! I feel so silly, I knew what a chicken tractor was but I didn’t realize why it was called that. We let our chickens free range in the backyard, but I hadn’t considered letting them into our (fenced) garden. I will definitely do that after harvesting this fall, and again in the spring!

    • Hi Chandra! We don’t use an enclosure like the traditional chicken tractor–they seem to know where to go. They’re like little rototillers 🙂

  • Super great blog post about your chickens and the role they play in your gardening! Love it! Looking forward to seeing your other blog posts!

  • Our garden is fenced off because of the chickens, but they have full run of it in the spring and come fall. This year the bugs have been pretty bad and I have let them in a few times to do some bug control. I love how I can just dump compost or what not in the garden and they will spread it out for me. I honestly would not want to garden without chickens.

    • Hi Samantha! It sounds like you have a great system. I agree, I wouldn’t want to garden without chickens either! Thanks for reading.

  • Chickens are free labor as well on our homestead. Another benefit of putting chickens to work in your garden is that through all of the scratching and pecking they eat the seeds that would later turn into weeds in your garden. We love our chickens and yours are beautiful.

    • Hi Stacey, thanks for the kind words. You’re right, chickens are definitely helpful with weeds too! I love seeing them snack on dandelions 🙂

  • Love it! We plan on doing the same with our chicks once they get big enough and we get the garden set up. At the rate they are growing, it shouldn’t be long before they are helping us in the garden and providing us with lots of eggs! I can’t wait!

  • Ok, we have a ton of chickens and spend all of our time trying to keep them out of the gardens! It never occurred to me to put them to work IN THE GARDENS! Thanks for sharing!

  • Love this! I don’t do composting as I have too many house chores and kids.. not enough outside time – but I absolutely love watching chickens do some work so naturally and entertaining! Such a great Idea letting them get in the garden before and after. Mine free roam, but I have them on a separate side of the property where I do my gardening… Looks like I will be changing things up for planning this fall! Thank you for sharing and I look forward to more posts!

    • Hi Jyneffer! I agree, it’s so much fun to watch chickens. They take themselves so seriously! Definitely helpful in garden cleanup too. Thanks for reading.

  • Great idea! I’ve wanted chickens for the past couple of years and I’m getting closer with the boyfriend okaying it, ha! I’ll keep this in mind for our garden.

  • Hello. I also have chickens, 10 currently plus 8 ducks. I love this idea for chickens to get some natural protein. I am unable to let my chickens free range much because of neighbors dogs and other animals that like to cone through our property. I love my chickens and ducks. It is wonderful having eggs without going to the store. I use my duck eggs for baking since I bake out of my home. Looking forward to reading more.

    • Hi Amy! Our chickens are only out when someone is home to deter the wildlife (foxes etc.) They’ve been great for bugs–we practically never see ticks anymore! Thanks for reading.

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