chickens and gardening, learning as I go
I used to use a sprinkler on my garden and my chickens didn't seem to tear it up. There was plenty of grass and weeds to occupy them. And they didn't like the water spraying them.
This year I went to drip gardening and had to completely change how I gardened to accommodate them. It took replacing delicate squash, cantelope, cucumber plants and just sitting and watching them to see what was going wrong this year. What compelled the chickens to tear my vegetables up. My garden is so easy now to weed as the only place weeds grow is just under the vegetables where the drip is.
I have 30+ chickens that I free range during the summer, and really wanted them to help keep down the ear-wig problem I have in the garden. Plus the richer eggs :)
(I keep them locked up until the plants are growing well in the spring)
First I found that I had layed compost under the plants, the bugs were hiding underneath, so the plants were getting torn up while the chickens searched them out.
Then I saw that the chickens found all the dry dirt between the plants a great place to dirt bathe.
It of course had been rototilled so was soft and perfect for dirt bathing. In their exuberance they were rolling over on my vegetables.
After watching them, I pulled out any compost left under the plants (now I know to mix it with dirt and put it back under the plants at night) and I saw that I needed to protect the main stalks of young plants until they got bigger and spread out much more than I had previously.
I had a couple rolls of the decorative border wire for flowers, so cut it into lengths that could be formed into little cages (like tomato cages) and put these around the small plants.
The hens cannot fit through the wire, and the smaller chicks don't have enough room to scratch in them.
The decorative border wire has long wires to stick in the ground, so it made it a little harder for them to pull out or knock over in their bathing exuberance. I also have flags on light metal rods i can stick around the stalks if needed.
I scraped up a few spots in my 'walkway' between plants to make them appear very inviting for a dirt bath, and put an extra drip line to an area under a tree to promote worms to be there so i could turn it up for the chickens. I flip a few shovelfuls out, they scratch through it and fill the hole back in again. (daily ritual)
For particularly troublesome spots with the chickens, I put down both a cage and then made another out of small chicken wire to keep them all out except their heads to get bugs.
(There always seems to be a spot that has a million bugs they want.)
The plants are starting to produce vegetables and the chickens happily stick their heads through the wire directly under the plants to eat the bugs. They can scratch around, or dirt bathe around the plants, and even look under the trailing leaves as the squash runs across the ground, but don't seem to be tearing the plants out now.
Next year I will probably have to make more adjustments as the chicks this year that I bought are giant buff cochins. The hens will weigh up to 8 pounds, and the roosters up to 11 pounds.
They will have a lot more weight to throw around the garden and my little cages around my plants.
I really don't like to spray sevin on my garden for the earwigs, sowbugs and any other pest, but the insect problem here is HUGE. Even with all the chickens if you move a stone in the garden or yard earwigs pour out.
I tried homemade bug spray first, and it didn't slow down the earwigs at all.
If anyone knows of a way to keep earwigs out of your garden, I'd love to hear from you.
It would make my life so much easier.