Raising chickens in your backyard is at once fun and rewarding. Chickens have their own individual personalities and they can actually be affectionate toward humans.
Of course, chickens are animals – and they will always behave as such. They will be noisy and dirty – and they will roughhouse with each other. Still, those of us who’ve raised chickens love having them pecking and clucking around the backyard.
How Chickens Can Help You Garden
Whether you live in a town or on a farm in the country, raising a flock brings benefits beyond fresh eggs in the morning. Chickens can be fantastic little helpers in the garden, too!
Not only do the birds enjoy the space, but they also keep the dust down and attract beneficial insects to the backyard.
Here are 5 ways chickens can help in your garden.
1. Chickens produce excellent fertilizer.
One chicken can produce eight pounds of manure a month according to Ohio State University. That’s enough to compost one cubic yard of leaves!
Store your flock’s manure in a leach-proof container until you are ready to build your pile. If you don’t want to stockpile manure, you can apply the droppings with the carbon material.
2. Chickens are eco-friendly tillers.
Just leave your chickens in one place long enough and they’ll get the job done for you. You can contain them in a tractor or fence them in to keep them from areas that do not require tilling. And, unlike machine tillers, they don’t require fossil fuels to do the job.
Jill Winger of Prairie Homestead estimates that one chicken can till a 50-square-foot patch of garden in six weeks. You can estimate your gardening timetable according to her suggested ratio.
Chickens can help you turn your compost pile.
To break down, compost requires oxygen. The more air, the quicker the process of decomposition. That’s many gardeners “turning” their entire compost pile regularly.
Turning can be a tedious, laborious chore, but your chickens can some of the work for you. They will turn a good chunk of your pile, and all you need to do is turn what they have not and re-assemble what they spread out.
Chickens can spread mulch and compost in no time.
Chickens can level and spread a pile of mulch or compost in no time. Just heap the material where you need it and establish a fence to confine your chickens. If the birds show no interest in the pile, simply cast feed over the area. That will force the birds to scratch.
Chickens are good for pest control.
Chickens will devour all kinds of insects, beetles, and grubs. You can let your flock loose on your garden before planting, then move them when it’s time to plant. You could also free-range your birds, provided that you protect your garden with suitable fencing.
If you have a backyard orchard, allow your chickens to graze around the trees. A few birds can rid an entire fruit tree of infestation within a day or two, breaking the life cycle of pests.
Thinking about raising chickens for your garden?
Before you head out and buy a clutch of chicks, make sure you’re ready for the responsibility. Check that local ordinance allows you to raise chickens in your backyard. Some municipalities impose a strict ban on the birds – or limit how many chickens you can keep on your property.
If local ordinance permits you to raise chickens, you’ll need a chicken coop or a secure hen house. Your birds will need a place to roost, run, and lay eggs. Make sure your coop also protects them from predators.
“Each chicken needs three to four square feet of space in the coop, and another three to four square feet in the run,” says Barbara Pleasant of GrowVeg.
Because chickens are social animals, you need a minimum of six chickens, Pleasant says. The birds will require an 18-sq foot coop and a run of the same size.