Grit Blogs > Tillys Nest

Backyard Chickens and Keeping Honeybees

Honeybees returning to the hive after foraging for pollen

I never had considered keeping bees.  As I learned of serious challenges they faces in our world today, I began to think about keeping a hive or two on our property.  It has been estimated that one in every three bites of food we consume is possible through the work of honeybees.  The importance of their work and existence was taken for granted for years.  Today, their existence is vulnerable and scientists are finally dedicating research efforts to ensure their survival for future generations.

Four years ago I discovered that our town not only welcomes the keeping of bees, but also has a local association that offers an introductory class.  This past Winter as snow fell on the ground, I immersed myself in everything bees including taking their course.

One of the biggest questions that I had prior starting out on my honey bee keeping journey had to do with how the chickens and the bees will coexist in my yard.  I was nervous.  I knew nothing about keeping bees, yet I knew a lot about keeping chickens.  I wondered to myself.  Will the bees sting the chickens?  Will the chickens bother the beehives?  What will happen if the bees swarm?  Can my chickens still free range in the yard with beehives present?

I have read beekeeping books cover to cover multiple times and I've been busy browsing the internet for videos and resources. The learning curve has been huge.  I feel as though I have learned so much yet have only touched the tip of the iceberg.  I look forward to attending each new class.  When I'm there, my mind is no longer focused on kids' homework, laundry and dinner plans, but on the intricacies of colony life and the hive.

Apparently, bees and chickens can get along famously.

Chickens can happily free range even with bee hives present.  Sometimes, they like to hang out in front of the hive snacking on bees that are fully loaded with pollen coming in for a landing returning to the hive.  If this is the case, chickens can be deterred with temporary fencing.

People who live in areas with bears keep their hives inside of the chicken's run for safety. Chickens will hop on top and roost on the hives, happily coexisting.  Flock keepers, as a precaution, will lock the chickens into the coop when the hives need to be opened or manipulated.

Chickens will pick clean the areas under the hives, cleaning up hive debris and dead bees.  They will also eat live bugs and beetles that prey on the hives.

Chickens will pick honey comb clean of unwanted and unnecessary debris.

Some people place their hives on the roofs of their chicken coops.

Sometimes, chickens will get stung, but not often.

Swarming bees will not bother chickens.  Apparently, swarming honey bees are rather docile.

Early this past Spring, I completed building my hives.  They are sat in the garage waiting for the warmth of Spring to receive a fresh coat of paint and to be located outside in a sweet sunny spot.  This past May, I picked up my bees from a beekeeper in New York State.  Today, I am happy to report that the two hives are now bustling with bees as they build their new home outside of our kitchen window.  I am officially a beekeeper.

I feel it is so important to at least try to make a difference in the world in which we live; even if it is as small as keeping a couple of beehives.  So, if you please, I invite you to come along on our newest journey of keeping bees for the first time.  Along the way, I will try and share with you what I have learned, successes and failures.  I hope maybe to inspire some of you to take a leap of faith in your life and try something new, even if it makes you a tad bit nervous.

If you would like to read more about my life with the bees click here.

Disclaimer:  In certain parts of the United States, Africanized bees exist.  We do not have these bees anywhere near Cape Cod.  Keeping honey bees in an area where Africanized bees are known to exist, may require additional safe guards that I have not researched and are necessary for keeping your honey bees and chickens healthy in your area.  I would strongly advise you to investigate if you live in an area with Africanized bees.