If you have always wanted to keep chickens in your backyard, but you were afraid that they might ruin your garden, then you are right to be concerned! Not all chickens are garden friendly, and if you have a flower garden with wonderful blooms and incredible layers of color and style, then beware – backyard chickens will love those flowers almost as much as you do. And that can spell disaster for your floral arrangements!
While watching a group of hens scratching contentedly on the lawn in the warm summer sun is a universally appealing image, it’s important to appreciate that the chickens aren’t simply scratching around for the fun of it; they’re engaged in an almost constant search for food. Worms, grubs, insects and most forms of seed, as well as grass, flowers and other vegetation, will all be on the menu.
Chickens love to eat flowers!
Chickens will dig and scratch as much as they can to find these treats, and will certainly pay no attention to a carefully crafted garden layout, or whatever flower happens to be in perfect bloom. Consequently, it can take only a handful of backyard chickens to strip, rake and ruin a well crafted flower bed, and you will be shocked how quickly they can completely transform your pretty garden beds. However, the tendency to do this does vary from breed to breed, so it is possible to minimize the destruction.
The first and most important issue is segregation. If you absolutely love your flower beds, don’t let the chickens get into it during peak blooming time – they will eat it! Don’t get me wrong, chickens can be a great asset to have in your garden during off seasons as they will hind and eat all the bugs and snails that would otherwise cause damage, so they can be useful to help get rids of pests. The thing is, they are voracious and non-selective in their appetite, so don’t let them become the pest, and arrange a method to keep them out of your favorite garden.
Chickens are escape artists!
Another word of warning – no matter carefully you keep chickens in your backyard, or how well you think you have fenced them in or out of your flowers, they can tend to be escape artists, and if you don’t watch them, the urge to get amongst your beautiful flowers may be too much temptation for some chickens and they might just cause the irreversible damage to your flowers every now and then. But it is possible to care for gardens and maintain good backyard chicken care
Do you want chickens AND flowers?
If you would like to maintain a decorative garden with herbs, flowers and other plants for show, AND you want to keep chickens in your backyard, then you need to be selective about your types of chickens you prefer. Rather than choosing the larger breeds, which have bigger legs and bigger feet for scratching and digging, some of the smaller breeds are far less damaging.
Keeping feather-legged breeds, such as the Silkie, the Brahma, or the Cochin is a good idea for keen gardeners; as these will tend to scratch less than the larger breeds or chickens. Bantam versions of the pure breeds can be a sensible choice, and the diminutive bantams, such as the Belgian, Japanese and Pekins, are good too. Click here to read more about the different types of backyard chickens.
Backyard Chickens often play “Follow the Leader”
Even better, I have found these smaller breeds of backyard chickens to be less likely to break into your special garden, and therefore you don’t have to worry quite so much about the escape artists leading the rest of your flock into your precious flower beds.
The problem with the larger breeds of backyard chickens isn’t necessarily when one chicken finds it way into the flower bed, but when one bird leads the whole flock into the breach and before you know it, there will be not a single flower head left. The smaller breeds of chicken like to stay together also, but hopefully they will stay closer to the chicken house and not stray into the forbidden garden!
A secure chicken run is important
This is where a suitable chicken run becomes important, and especially at those times when your flower garden is in peak bloom. A fully fenced chicken run can be a great way to allow your chickens some free range time outside of the chicken coop, but also keep them segregated from the rest of your garden.
Doesn’t have to be forever, and at times when your flower bed is past its peak, you might want to release the chickens into the spent plants and foliage, and the chickens will absolutely love getting amongst all those bugs and snails and pests. In this way, you can let the chickens have some free range time, and at the same time, let them clean up the garden bed for you, and their droppings and scratchings will fertilize and refresh the garden soil in time for next season’s plantings.
Don’t forget to lock the gate on your Backyard Chickens!
Oh, and in case I forget to mention it, backyard chickens absolutely love fresh little baby shoots and buds, so at such time as you plant out your new flower bed in the spring, lock the chicken gate, as flower buds are meant to be for the spring time flower show, not breakfast for your chickens!