Chickens love gardens but gardens do not always love chickens. Part of what makes these birds delightful is how excited they are about every opportunity to dig for bugs or tender greens. This can be either a bonus or a problem in the garden. Like most animal lovers, I can’t abide the idea of keeping my chickens confined to small areas. My chickens don’t have free reign to patrol my front yard but they can safely stroll in the backyard. The backyard is also where I keep my vegetable garden.
How do I mix these 2 worlds comfortably? I use 4 basic concepts: elevation, barriers, mulch and plant choice. The first 3 are physical restraints. Elevation is simply keeping some plants out of harms way in hanging pots or on posts. Barriers include fencing and netting. Mulch just means heavy mulch to discourage rabid digging to protect tender sprouts as they emerge.
Plant choice is easier for the herbalist. Chickens have a refined sense of smell. Heavily scented herbs are not comfortable for them. Some plants are chicken safe because they grow too fast for to be troubled by a little pecking. There are some herbs that get out of control without management. This is when the second list comes in handy. Please note that once a folk gets over the novelty of a new plant, they may choose to ignore it. If you want an herb controlled, such as those from the weed list, pick the leaves and throw them to the chickens to renew their interest.
Once an herb from the list below is established, it is free from chicken interest. To establish a plant, keep it firmly guarded from chicken feet and beaks by covering it with barriers. Even if the plant itself is too fragrant for a chicken, the newly disturbed soil below it is of keen interest. Another way to keep chickens and gardens in a healthy relationship is to reserve the soft, newly tilled soil for vegetable beds. Most herbs don’t need coddling. Save the loam for lettuce.
Herbs Chickens Ignore
- Bee Balm
- Lemon Balm
- Oregon Grape
- Pearly Everlasting
Weeds Chickens Love to Eat
This list is not complete but give a good sampling of herbs to start with when planning your garden. Ducks and geese have a different list. They are also flat footed and will pad down the very grass that chickens will encourage. Remember that too many chickens in any area will turn the garden to wasteland. Plan and manage your population wisely.