Red Wicket Market Farm is a small farm 25 minutes from downtown Columbus, Ohio, near Slate Run Metropark. Breeding Black Copper and Blue Copper Marans to the Standard of Perfection.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Chickens in the Garden

When I talk to people about our garden and our hens, one of the reactions I often get is "it must be so wonderful to have chickens in the garden. The chickens eat the bugs, and you get free fertilizer!"

While I agree that having chickens in the garden sounds great, the reality isn't so rosy. Don't get me wrong. Chickens LOVE the garden.

The problem is that they love it a little too much. They scratch up seeds and eat them before they sprout. They scratch up seedlings looking for bugs. They scratch up shallow rooted plants like watermelon and kill them. They view mulch as a personal challenge and scratch it away. And then, they eat. the. tomatoes.

This means WAR! This morning I found 12 ruined tomatoes, a ruined pumpkin, and a destroyed baby winter squash. They've also dug themselves some lovely dust baths in my sweet potato hills, destroying the roots. I spent the morning sweating with a bunch of posts and a roll of chicken wire. That will keep the plants safe... until the pullets realize they can fly over. Sigh.

I guess I know what my first gardening job will be in 2013--time to construct a nice, strong, chicken proof fence. So, next time someone you know says "I think I'll get a few hens to run in my garden," you'll be able to save them a lot of grief. Tell them that chickens and gardens can go well together--chickens do give you lots of great fertilizer, and they're happy to eat all your giant zucchini and wormy tomatoes--but that chickens don't belong in the garden!