Monday, January 30, 2017

Keep Chickens From Eating Your Garden

Well, you could keep them in the house of course.
We can't leave the door open in summer, or the girls will try to come visit me.
But if you don't want to keep them in the house,
there is another way.
We will soon be getting our spring chicks as I know many others will also.
Each year I read about how people can't keep their chickens out of the garden.
I actually let the chickens in the garden.
They are great at finding those awful little slugs and bugs. 

My mom had told me this before, and I wondered if it was one of those
"silly Mom" things or if it worked.
I listened to my mother, and she was right! 
(It's okay.  I already told her she was right:)
I don't feed the chickens any kitchen scraps.
I haven't fed them any sort of scraps from day one.
So in essence haven't trained them to eat/like those items.
They start out under the heat lamp eating an organic chick starter.
(I prefer non-medicated; why medicate healthy chicks?)
Once they out grow their brooder box, they get to go to the coop.
They have feathers by now and just get the heat lamp at night.
We are in the mountains and can get snow and/or freezing temps until June.
After a few days, maybe a week in the coop, once they have "settled in" and know where home is, they get to be free during the days.
They still have the option of their feed which after the first bag of starter crumble gets switched to layer pellets (still organic, non-med.)
They don't waste pellets like they do crumble.
However, as spring emerges, they eat less and less feed.
They begin finding those juicy yummy bugs and slugs.
Chickens actually prefer meat to veggies if given the choice.
Chickens are not vegetarians.
The only time I really have to watch them is when I am still planting.
They like to scratch in the freshly turned soil.
By the time they are to this stage, most of the garden is in anyways
so it's a very short-lived problem.
The only sort of kitchen waste we share with them is when we butcher.
The dog usually has his fill, and the chickens tend to take over
the cleaning of the bones.
They will do an amazing job of getting any remaining meat off of the bones.
In times past, many folks kept a butcher pig.
In addition to whey, this is where the kitchen scraps went.
We aren't set up for pigs, but have certainly considered it.
It might be something we do in a year or so, just not this year.
This year, we will again add our kitchen scraps to the compost bin.
They are still valuable, but being used in a different way. 
The only caveat to this is if you have adult hens that like to feast in your garden, they will teach the chicks/pullets where your garden is and
which are the tastiest treats.
So this really only works if you are starting from scratch with new birds.

Now if we can figure out how to keep the chickens out of the house?

          

Just as a little side note: 
This year I may wait until the beginning of March to get chicks.  
As you can see by the past two posts, we've had an exceptional winter and still have a good deal of snow on the ground.
I know in other areas, it's been mild so am sharing this before most folks are getting their chicks (hopefully.)

7 comments:

  1. We had free range chickens for years, never bothered the garden. Then one year we had ducks, and they made such a mess of the garden.
    Great tips :)

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  2. such a good idea to let them roam when I was a child we kept chickens and ducks the foxes got all the chickens but the ducks used to take to the water and survived and multiplied rapidly.

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  3. Very interesting and good to know. I hate chickens, but who knows maybe when I retire I will get into chicken ranching.

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  4. We have our garden/run enclosed. Our 3 hens do a great job eliinating weeds/bugs. We keep our small veggies enclosed with rabbit fencing around them like a small tomato cages. Wehn they are bigger we remove the cages. We keep the tomatoes separate. Works great! We free range them in the main backyard supervised so they don't dig up the perennials.

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  5. I always worried about them eating my plants, but raising them from chicks without giving kitchen scraps is a great way to avoid that issue! Thanks for sharing on the Homestead Blog Hop!

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  6. Interesting! I can't let my chickens in the garden while things are in full swing. They will eat the lettuce to the ground, as well as eat my strawberries. They leave the tomatoes alone, but love digging in the potatoes. Once things have been harvested though, I let them have the garden back, which they love. Enjoyed your article, and yes, my chickens would come in the house if I would let them, lol!

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