Keeping chickens can be very rewarding and make a wonderful addition to any garden. They supply you with fresh eggs, provide garden fertilizer, help control pests, and make lively pets.
Chickens Help With Pest Control
Chickens will make a meal of common garden pests, including beetles, cabbage worms, slugs, caterpillars, and more. When allowed to roam freely, chickens will happily pluck insects from your garden. One chicken can easily debug around 120 square feet of land per week.
Chickens Are Great For Composting
Chickens serve as great composters for your kitchen scraps, weeds, and rotted garden fruits. Feeding chickens your kitchen scraps has many benefits. Not only does it reduce your outgoing waste and trash disposal bills, but it also provides “free” meals for your flock.
One chicken can eat on average around ¼ of a pound per day, meaning a small flock can easily get through 60 pounds per month. To do this, simply keep your scraps in a food-safe bucket before spreading it out for your chickens. Avoid feeding your chickens vegetable and fruit peelings. What they don’t eat can be added to compost for your garden!
After having your morning breakfast of fresh eggs, you can crush up the shells and add them to your compost heap. Eggshells are high in calcium, which is an essential nutrient when growing strong plants and root systems. Calcium in your compost is especially important when growing tomatoes, peppers, or eggplants.
Chicken manure is an excellent source of nitrogen for your plants and should go straight on your compost heap. Simply harvest your flock’s manure from the coop on a regular basis and keep it in a leak-proof composting container. Though it may feel like an icky job, your plants will soon reveal the benefits.
Any gardener will tell you that turning compost to oxygenate it can be a laborious chore. However, the more air you give to your compost heap, the quicker it will break down. Chickens can do some of the work for you, as they are great tillers, scratching, mixing, and spreading the compost.
You can also leave out mulch for your chickens to spread around. Simply place the mulch or compost where you want it and confine your animals to this area. The chickens will root through the substrate, spreading it all over the area.
Chickensandmore.com says if you wish to engage your chickens in this way, simply spread the compost out in an enclosed area and let your chickens explore! Always allow your compost to heat up before letting the chickens in, as this will draw more interesting. Afterward, return your compost to its bin.
Maintaining Harmony Between Chickens and the Garden
Keeping chickens in the garden can come with challenges. While they can coexist, boundaries must be set. Free-roaming chickens will quite happily wander through your flower beds and vegetable patch digging up dirt, eating freshly sown seeds, pulling up seedlings, eating new produce, and taking dust baths in your plants. When selecting chickens for your yard, try to select a chicken breed with feathers on their legs, as this softer surface does less damage to your plants.
Use bird wire to protect tender plants by creating small barriers or arches the chickens cannot fit under, nor easily step over. Chickens can make a difference in keeping grasshopper, slug, and other pest populations down even when only working the outside edges of your garden.
Taller raised garden beds are perfect for chickens to scurry around the bases and do some pest control.
Providing chickens with a ready-made dust bath can also help to alleviate your chickens’ need to dig up flower beds.
Chickens and the garden are natural partners for a more healthy, productive, and efficient system. The addition of chickens to the garden decreases your household waste, helps grow vegetables and fruits without relying on pesticides, provides nutrient-rich composting materials for healthier soil and plants, and they are affectionate and entertaining little animals that will keep you company in the garden.
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