Owning chickens is something I love about being an urban farmer. Gardening with chickens is not always easy. I kept reading chickens are great natural bug control for your garden, which is true but they never tell you that chickens eat the plants too!
Every afternoon, after I got off work, I would let the chickens out. This was a routine that the chickens were very used to. When I decided to expand my garden to the back yard last year, I thought the chickens would be awesome for the garden. What I didn't know was that they would eat all of my seedlings as well as the bugs! My first attempt to keep the chickens out of the garden was to lower the electric fence (used for the dogs) so the chickens would stay out. HA! Chickens are Houdinies! They ducked under or jumped over to get into the soft dirt to scratch. Back to the drawing board.
In the mean time, I have begun to plant new plants in my back garden, including beans. I should have drawn the conclusion from all the Pinterest pins titled, "Grow bean sprouts for your chickens!" BUT I honestly can say that I was shocked when the chickens stretched their necks just right to reach the freshly grown bean sprouts without a problem.
My next line of defense was my children. Since the moment we got our chickens I have been trying to teach my kids NOT to chase the chickens. So when I told them they could chase them out of the garden, they were excited. I even stated that they could hold a chicken if they could catch it, but a 10-minute attention span is no obstacle to a chicken. Chickens are persistent animals.
I then decided that I would wait until the plants were past the seedling stage and then let the chickens out to roam. With my daughter on guard, we let them loose to roam while I was working in the raised gardens around the house. Again the chickens won out and almost killed my watermelon plant. I know that they love the melon rind but I would have never thought they liked the leaves. Again one more battle won by the chickens.
I love my chickens and I love to garden so I have taken on this challenge to research ways to garden with chickens. One of my first resources is the book by Jessi Bloom, Free-Range Chicken Gardens. I am half way through the book and can’t put it down. I love how I read it and ideas just keep popping up on how to plan out my back yard.
Pinterest is another source of great ideas for chicken strategies. I am happy to say that my chicken pins are growing daily.
So far I have resorted to putting chicken wire around the onions and potatoes in the back garden box. It is not that pretty but functional. I will have to find other strategies soon as it is warming up here in Texas. Spring is finally here.