Chickens and gardens don’t always make the best match - but what few people know is that chickens can actually be quite useful to your gardening endeavours. Chickens do so much more than just lay eggs - they can replace insecticides, contribute to compost management, and produce natural fertilizer. In fact, if done right, your garden is sure to get a boost from your chickens. We spoke to Urbainculteurs to put together this little guide on welcoming chickens into your yard without putting your garden at risk
1. Are my chickens going to damage my garden?
Unless you follow the necessary protective measures, they definitely will. Like humans, chickens enjoy a large selection of foods, and the preferences of each varies. Unfortunately, your chickens can’t tell the difference between the lush head of lettuce that’s just coming out of the ground, and the scraps from last night’s dinner. When you set your chickens free to roam your yard, it’s important that you keep an eye on them, or better yet, install a protective net around your garden to avoid any damage to your produce. In fact, it’s the main reason we insist that you take care to set up your net when you let your chickens loose - thanks to its pickets, it’s quick to install and easy to move.
2. How will my chickens benefit my garden?
Chickens are great garden aids! They love to snack on slugs, earthworms and others insects that can be damaging to the growth of your sprouts. With chickens by your side, you can easily reduce your needs for say goodbye to insecticides.
In the spring, your feathered friends will gorge themselves on your nettles and dandelions, starting the season off with a net score of - You: 1, Weeds: 0. Right before planting your seeds, we recommend that you let your hens have a wander through your garden: without even asking them to, they’ll do the weeding for you while also scratching at the soil. In the fall, your hens will regale themselves with dead leaves and overripe fruit that has fallen to the ground, which will leave you with fewer piles to gather - ideal.
POC POC and Urbainculteurs Tip : Don’t be afraid to let your hungry little hens spend some time in your compost bin, if you have one. They’ll definitely enjoy eating the larger bits, which will accelerate the decomposition of the rest.
3. How do I put my chicken poop to good use?
Chicken poop is extremely rich in nitrogen, making it an incredible fertilizer. According to Urbainsculteurs, that’s great news for your vegetables, which need this nutrient to grow and stay healthy. But beware: chicken poop is so rich in nitrogen that it can sometimes burn your sprouts, so you have to be sure to compost it before sprinkling it into your garden. To compost chicken feces, first mix them in with carbonaceous material - your aviary litter, for instance, which is made up of wood shavings and other carbonaceous materials. Chicken feces are rich in micro-organisms of all sorts, which will add some life to your compost, ultimately generating a strong fertilizer that will improve your garden’s health. It’s a free, natural way to fertilize your soil!
Take care: domestic compost rarely reaches the elevated temperatures necessary for killing all the potential pathogens in chicken forces, meaning that composting your chicken poop and using it in your garden does come with a certain risk. It’s up to you whether you want to take it on.
4. What should I do if some areas of my garden are already weed-free?
Don’t worry - if they have no weeds to pick at, your chickens will dig up a natural dust bath, where they’ll roll around and have fun. If the location of the bath doesn’t bother you, it’s best to leave it as-is. Chickens are creatures of habit - they’ll return to the dust bath rather than build a new one every time they’re set free to roam.
When you can limit your chickens’ roaming and scratching space with a net, living with chickens brings a whole new kind of life to your yard, on top of being a great help in the garden. If you have a garden that would be fit for the Queen, however, you may be better off leaving the urban chicken project to next year. Your call!