chickens in vegetable garden?

dab07November 4, 2009

Hi, I know this is probably a very basic question, but here it is. I have tons of slugs in my vegetable garden. If I let chickens run around freely in there, would they stick to eating the slugs and other critters, or would they go after the vegetables?

Thanks.

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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

The chickens will eat anything they can, vegetables as well as slugs. Very often in a fairly new organic garden when mulches (which provide a very good slug habitat) are some what new the slug population increases faster then the population of the slug predators can. Things will eventually balance out.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2009 at 7:00AM
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marlingardener

Yes to both questions. However, if the slugs are more available, the chickens will take more of them and fewer vegetables. When the grasshoppers arrive here, I pick everything that is ripe, tent my tomatoes and let Ruby Begonia and Lucy into the garden. I get an occasional peck mark on the cucumbers and squash, but they leave the beans and greens alone. 'Hoppers are so yummy! You might try the same method for the slugs.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2009 at 7:45AM
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anney(Georgia 8)

E&D

Since you already have the chickens, my comment won't be useful for anything more than information.

In the spring, I decided after feedback from a post here that the best barnyard fowl for insect-consumption but little damage to garden plants is guinea fowl.

It's too bad you can't train chickens to eat only slugs!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 6:34AM
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adirondackgardener(Western Maine)

I've tried it more than once and it was a dismal failure each time. They will eat some slugs but there are so many other tasty veggies to eat,they will definitely not stick to the slugs. They also prefer worms and other insects that live below any mulch you may wish to keep on your soil. Chickens love nothing more than scratching mulch and any small plants in the way away from your plants to find treats.

Even now, should I leave the garden gate open while the chickens are about, it is never a successful event. Since there is never a time when there is not something in the ground, from spuds growing under mulch in early spring to garlic planted late in the fall, there is almost never a good time for chickens to be in my garden (Except perhaps when there is a couple of feet of snow on the ground.)

You can try it but stay in the garden with them and shoo them away from your plants. You will find it easier herding cats.

Wayne

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 7:45AM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

There are numerous threads on this topic. They all show the diversity of people's opinions. The chickens will tear up your garden. Ducks are better.

Dan

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 8:21AM
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dab07

Thanks, everyone. I don't have chickens yet, I'm on the fence about it and thought this factor would help decide.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 11:21AM
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PaulNS(NS zone 6a)

We let our hens range the garden freely in spring and fall, letting them out for an hour or so before dark so that they come back to the coop on their own. And try to be outdoors when they do, in case the neighbour's dogs come roaming.

We've tried different ways of letting the hens into the growing garden, since they love to roam and they do eat pests (we have way less of an earwig problem since we started doing this).

One was a chicken tractor, not super successful because I made it small enough - 6'x3'x3' - for one person to move it easily, but it required frequent moving. I think a tractor double the size would still be moveable and more to the hens' liking.

Last year we fenced in ~150-foot sections of the garden with wooden stakes and chicken wire, easy enough for two people to move once a week or so. The chickens tilled the soil, pooped, and ate pests in sections that had nothing we wanted to protect from them - harvested or cover crops. This spring we made a run for them in the grass strip alongside the garden, using stakes and chicken wire. They get the slugs and bugs that move into the garden from the grass, and we toss weeds, spent plants or whatever into the run for them. Since they're fertilizing the run, and it's turning into a kind of composting area, I suppose we'll have to make use of it one of these years.

For slugs, you could lay old wide boards on the soil, turn them after a few days and let the chickens eat the slugs that collect on the bottom.

Letting chickens free-range safely and without having the garden destroyed is an ongoing challenge.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 1:30PM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

I grew up in a community of subsistence farmers and they, as anney suggested upthread, preferred guinea fowl.

They used kids and old bird dogs, bird dogs to old or crippled to hunt, to keep chickens out of the graden.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2009 at 1:49PM
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briergardener_gw

Very old post, but I have one question.
I have veggie bed covered with leaves and chicken wire on top for winter.
If I remove chicken wire and let my chicken to go to t his veggie bed, will they EAT ALL earthworms or not?

thanks

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 10:48AM
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LKZZ(7b)

They will eat what ever they fancy...so...I would gather the slugs and give them to the chickens in their run. Kinda yucky but good protein.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 10:45AM
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