Aw, yes, heaven in our backyard. We have our chickens content while free-ranging and exploring. We sit back to admire the beautiful garden we just put in that will soon bring forth tomatoes, lettuce, and all sorts of vegetables. But wait…can you put a chicken coop in the vegetable garden?
Let’s hit the rewind button and pause because chickens and gardens don’t mix!
Chickens And Plants
Have you ever wondered why that head of lettuce you treat your chickens to doesn’t last long? Chickens are notorious destroyers of plant matter.
They love to peck, eat, shred, and dig. The most destruction is done from them pursuing insects or grubs on or near plants.
Their voracious appetite for insects drives them to heavily forage. Foraging behavior is so much more than pecking at the ground. They use their beaks and feet to dig up dirt to get grubs or worms.
Guess what? If either of the two is within inches of your vegetable plant’s base, you can almost guarantee they’ll dig up your plant.
Beetles, aphids, mites, etc., that often attach themselves to the foliage of plants are prime eating as well. Chickens won’t hesitate to begin foraging among the leaves of your beautiful tomato plants. In the process, with the frantic pecking, damage to the plant often occurs.
When a chicken isn’t in a locked target range of bugs, they find green leafy plants quite yummy to snack on.
Unfortunately, as responsible chicken owners, we must be vigilant not to plant anything harmful or toxic in areas where our chickens have access.
So, how do you enjoy and reap the benefits of a vegetable garden while giving your chickens free-range to frolic and, well, just be chickens? There are ways!
Ways To Protect A Vegetable Garden With Chickens Around
We have a few options that will help you to achieve that beautiful garden while letting your chickens free-range and enjoy the lay of the land. Each option is dependent on the amount of space you have.
For those of you with backyard chickens, we have a solution for a garden AND free-ranging chickens.
If you and your family use your backyard quite a bit, it’s important to divide enough area for your chickens, a garden, and recreational use.
If you don’t use your backyard for anything other than “chicken-land,” you have more room to work with.
Imagine your garden as a city. The rows in between your plants are the streets that will allow chicken traffic. Your plants are the buildings, and the close proximity of the base of your plants are walkways. Now your chickens are the cars.
We need to put up protective barriers to keep those cars (chickens) from getting off the highway. Walkways and buildings (plants) are off-limits. In a city, to prevent cars from walkways, etc., barriers are put up like curbs, cement dividers, etc.
In the case of a garden, we are going to put a barrier that will surround the bottom half of your plants. You can place this barrier around each individual plant or do it by rows.
Materials You’ll Need
- Barrier (tulle, garden netting)
- Support Arches (hula hoops cut in half or 3/4 inch PVC pipes)
Garden netting can be purchased online in various sizes. You can also go to your local fabric or craft store and buy tulle by the yard ($2-$3 per yard.) When purchasing garden netting or any kind of mesh, be sure that the beak of your chickens cannot fit through the holes. Using support arches keeps the netting up off of the plant.
If you have a large backyard or area that lets you get a bit creative, we have a super fun solution perfect for you.
Of course, you can always use the netting method, but with more space, you can get a bit more creative. We have plenty of space to lay out chunneling that provides a highway for your chickens through a maze in and around your vegetable plants.
Chunnels are chicken tunnels constructed with netting/wire which are arched. Your chickens are free to roam throughout the yard within the confines of these covered pathways. You get a double bonus with chunnels because your garden is protected from your chickens while your chickens are protected from predators while they are out and about.
For those of you who have open spaces just waiting to be used, we have a GREAT solution for keeping the peace between you, your chickens, and your garden.
We are picturing you living in a rural area or on a super large plot of land. You have the makings of a rotating chicken garden/run. Are you ready for this?
Flip-Flop Garden Runs
Your chicken coop will be centered between two very large runs. Each run will need to be large enough to contain a vegetable garden. Your first planting season, you’ll open one run to your chickens.
The other run is off-limits for that year because that’s where you’ll plant a luscious garden. During that season, you will use the chicken manure to fertilize your garden.
When the next planting season arrives, let your chickens enjoy the garden run. While they frolic in the garden run, their droppings continue to fertilize the soil. Now the other run is open for you to work and plant a new garden in. You can continue to flip-flop the runs to achieve a well-fertilized rich soil.
This method provides your chickens a new environment that’s enriching and full of plants to forage on.
The Last “Cluck”
You can have a chicken coop in a vegetable garden provided your plants are safe and “chicken-proofed.” When you pick that crispy head of lettuce you’ve grown yourself, don’t forget to share with your chooks!
Best of luck in your vegetable gardening venture!