Gardening with chickens
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I love my chickens. I love watching them graze and forage: ripping grass, slurping worms, snapping beetles.
I do not love when they devour my garden.
Kale seems to be their favorite, but then when tomatoes are ripening on the vine, I would also find the fruits punctured and spoiled. Today, freshly mulched potato beds were minutes later laid bare again, chickens happily scratching every last bit of straw into the walking path. Even leeks and onions do not deter these resourceful birds’ ambition; until they are well established, the young plants will be tossed aside to make room for dusting.
Sometimes chickens and gardens can work together, at the right time of year. A bare garden bed with a fresh layer of compost is irresistible to them, and they’ll help you dig, rake and fertilize. That’s before vegetables, though. When those precious fruits and greens are ready to harvest, you want those birds to steer clear.
Gardening with chickens is not easy, if you want both to thrive.
My solution: fence. Garden in, chickens out.
These ladies have no idea how lucky they are. It would be so much more economical to just keep them in the coop, but I am determined to have free-range chickens AND a thriving vegetable garden.
So I bought some cheap gray plastic chicken fence and went to work enclosing my raised garden beds. The fence is two feet high and easily set in place with the fiberglass fence posts I dug out of the shed (wearing sturdy gloves). Earlier, I’d covered each bed of tender plants with a row cover. After installing the fence, I made a canopy of each row cover by attaching it to the corner posts with clothes pins.
The chickens are no doubt disappointed at losing their gourmet lunch buffet, but the fence does its job. I have my chickens, and my garden too!