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Pros and Cons of Putting Chickens in Your Garden

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A brown speckled chicken scratching and pecking at the ground in the garden with a black and white and a black chicken further in the background.

Now that I have backyard chickens, I wanted to see if I could use them to help with my garden. I had seen some videos on YouTube where people were using their chickens in their gardens to help with digging up the soil, eating bugs, and eating weeds at the end of the gardening season. I decided to give it a try with my chickens to see how it would work, and I found that there were definitely some pros and cons of putting chickens in the garden at least for me with my chickens.

My Experience with Putting Chickens in My Garden

I tried putting my chickens in the garden this past fall after I was done growing for the season. I definitely wouldn’t recommend trying to put chickens in your garden during the growing season, because it won’t take them long at all to start destroying your plants. Depending on where you live and what your climate is like, you might be able to let your chickens into your garden space over the winter time if you don’t have snow on the ground and if the ground isn’t frozen or maybe during the early spring before you’re ready to start planting for the season.

The video clips that I have of my chickens in the garden are from this past fall because it’s very cold where I live at the moment and there’s some snow on the ground, too.

I wanted to try putting my chickens in my front yard garden space first because I had some weeds in there that I was hoping that they would be able to dig up for me when they were scratching the ground. I’ve seen what they can do to a patch of grass in just a very short amount of time, so I figured they would have no problem digging up the grass and weeds that had started taking over my garden. Since their coop is in the back yard, though, I had to bring them from the backyard to the front yard each time that I wanted to put them in the garden because their coop isn’t a mobile coop.

I was hoping that I could just lure them over there with a bag of treats. They love scratch grains and black soldier fly larva, and they usually come running when they see me with the bag, so I thought that maybe I could just shake the bag and lead them across the yard to the garden. It sort of worked, but not very well because there was too much grass and clover and other weeds to distract them in between. Mary, my Barred Rock chicken, followed me pretty well, but the other two needed a lot more convincing and I ended up just picking them up and bringing them around the yard to the garden one by one. I think it might have worked better if it had been a shorter distance between their coop and the garden, but since it was pretty far away they had too much else to explore and they just weren’t as interested in the treats as they usually are.

My chickens don’t have free range access to the entire yard because I’ve seen hawks nearby several times and because my chickens love to dig up the dirt looking for bugs and they don’t care whether or not there are flowers planted there. So they have a covered run and then they have another fenced-in area where I let them out to semi-free range, but they don’t have access to the whole yard. So, since the space between their coop area and the garden is an area they don’t usually get to be in, they were just too enamored with exploring a new space to care about the treats that I had with me.

Once I finally got them in the garden, though, they seemed like they were having a lot of fun scratching at the ground and finding bugs to eat. And they were starting to do a pretty good job of digging up some of the grass and weeds that were in there. One problem that I ran into, though, was the fact that I have a few perennial herbs around the perimeter of the garden, and the chickens didn’t make any distinction between digging up the weeds and digging up my perennial herbs. I had to keep trying to guide them away from the herbs and trying to get them to scratch up the ground where the weeds are instead.

I tried bringing the chickens into the garden twice on two different days, and I ended up deciding that it wasn’t going to work very well for me with my chickens and garden, so I haven’t put them in again since then.

Pros of Putting Chickens in the Garden

A couple of pros for putting them in the garden were the fact that they were doing a good job of digging up weeds, and I think that if I had been able to keep them in there longer they could have easily dug up most of the weeds and grass that were in there. They were also eating plenty of bugs, and while I don’t know if they were eating bad bugs or beneficial ones, there’s probably a good chance that at least some of the bugs they were eating were bad ones that would have ended up being garden pests for me. And then while they were in there they were also starting to do some “fertilizing” if you know what I mean.

Cons of Putting Chickens in the Garden

One of the biggest cons for me was the fact that I had to bring them back and forth each time that I wanted to put them in there. My chickens aren’t big fans at all of being picked up, and I ended up having to chase them around to get them into and out of the garden each time. I didn’t get any of that on video, but if you’ve ever seen someone chase a chicken before then you can probably use your imagination.

Another con was the fact that they were starting to dig up my perennials, so I basically had to stay nearby and supervise them while they were in there to try to keep them away from the perennials. And they were also wide open to any hawks that might have flown by because the front yard garden area doesn’t have the same tree cover that the back yard has and there was no coop for the chickens to run into either.

And then another con was the fact that I could only bring them into the garden if they had all already laid their eggs for the day because there wouldn’t be any way for them to get back into the nest box when they were inside the garden fence.

Why Putting Chickens in My Garden Wasn’t Worth it for Me But Might Still Work Well for You

So, overall it just ended up being too complicated for me to make it worth it because I had to stay with them to supervise them while they were in there, and it was a hassle to chase them around and pick them all up each time that I wanted to bring them into the garden. And as much as I loved the idea of being able to use them to help with my garden, I think it’s just easier and more practical for me to just dig up the weeds myself and use their manure as fertilizer for the garden.

I think that using chickens in the garden could work well, though, for people who have a different setup, with their garden and chicken coop. If you had a mobile chicken coop, then it would be a lot more practical to just move the coop into the garden at the end of the season. Or if you have your chicken coop really close to the garden then it might be easier to get the chickens back and forth each time. And if you don’t have any perennials to worry about in the garden, and you were able to just leave the chickens in there to work on digging up the soil, then it could be a great way to allow the chickens to have some fun exploring while also doing some of the work for you at the same time.

So, using chickens in the garden didn’t end up working out very well for me, but I still think that it could be a good idea if you have the right set up that allows it to be more practical for you to get your chickens into the garden easily or if your chickens don’t mind being picked up and carried like mine do.

Other Ways That I Am Still Using My Chickens to Help With My Garden

So instead of actually putting my chickens into the garden, instead I’m going to be using them to help with my garden in different ways by using their composted manure from their coop as fertilizer hopefully with better results next year than the way this past year went for me with my mistake using chicken manure. You can learn more about my mistake here if you want to see what I did wrong with using chicken manure in my garden this past season.

And the second way that I’m going to be using the chickens to help me in the garden is by putting some leaves in their run for them to shred up so I can use them as mulch for my garden. My chickens really love scratching through leaves, so I think they will have a lot of fun shredding up those leaves for me, and it will save me the work of trying to do it myself.

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Brown and white speckled chicken scratching at the ground.
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The information in this post is not to be taken as medical advice and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.

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