Keeping Chickens in the Garden

Chickens in the GardenThis article looks at the benefits and drawbacks of keeping chickens in the garden. Most home poultry keepers like to allow their birds freedom to roam around the garden but they worry about the effects.

What good will chickens do in my garden?

Chickens can be a great benefit to the garden. For a start, their droppings are one of the richest manures the gardener can find. Too strong to apply directly to most plants but a wonderful activator for the compost heap.

The benefits of poultry manure have been known for many years and there’s an article taken from the 1899 book 200 Eggs A Year Per Hen about it here: Poultry Manure

Hens are omnivores, they eat a wide range of foods: green herbs and vegetables, seeds, insects and small animals. Allowed to roam the garden they’ll pick up weed seeds, pests and even attack and kill mice. They’ll also eat some weeds directly like dandelions and chickweed.

As they scratch about they aerate the top soil and basically hoe it off for you. The scratching turns up pests in the soil like leather jackets and even better slugs, which many hens love to eat.

Finally, as they go around scratching and pecking they are depositing small quantities of their rich manure in amounts small enough to do no harm but enough to be useful.

If they’ve been kept on a patch of lawn for a few days they will not have had time enough to damage the lawn but they will have scarified the thatch and fertilised it. It will be noticeably greener and more lush as it grows.

Will chickens do any harm to my garden?

They can do damage if allowed to free range around the garden. The amount of damage will depend on what sort of garden you have and how many hens you have. 3 birds will make little noticeable difference to the average garden.

If you’ve a beautiful flower bed, you can bet they’ll take a shine to it and decimate your prize blooms. Or decide to dig themselves a dust bath in the border or worse still your bowling green standard lawn!

The best answer is to allow your hens to range but control them with movable fencing so minimising any harm and maximising the benefits of their ranging.

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