Sunday, May 15, 2011

Free Range Chickens and Gardening

There is one drawback to "free range" chickens.

It's not...

... that the chickens do not stay home. Oh they do. I don't think I've even seen them across the county road. I've seen them wander all around, but for the most part, they stay in the yard and around the house, usually within eyesight. But then again, our yard is pretty big and when I say "yard", I don't mean just the front yard and the back yard, I mean the whole "farm yard" which includes the area with all of our buildings. For you city folk, I guess you might say that our "yard" is about the size of a city block.

{PS, as always, don't forget you can click on the picture to see a full screen view of it. Just remember to hit your browsers back button to return to the blog. The girls (chickens) wanted me to make sure you knew that because they want you to see how beautiful they are. They are so vain!}

... that the chickens lay their eggs all over the place. The chickens almost always return to their nesting boxes in the coop to lay their eggs. Very rarely do I find any outside the coop. Occasionally I do find an egg outside the coop, but it is always close to the coop. It's almost as if the chicken is caught off guard and realizes that she has to lay an egg and can't hold it, so she drops it right there. Kind of like your kids when they wait too long to go to the bathroom. LOL I can just picture the chicken running through the yard back to the coop, trying to get to the nest box before she has an "accident." hee, hee!!

... that the chickens will get eaten alive by wild animals. That has only happened a few times with the egg layers. If I remember correctly, we have only lost two of our egg layers to predators. We are very lucky because some of our neighbors have lost several chickens to fox, dog and other critters. I have lost a couple of my egg layers to a hawk, but that is it. Oh, and the chickens and cats get along just fine. The cats don't bother the chickens and the chickens don't bother the cats. We don't have any dogs. And we seldom have the neighborhood dogs or stray dogs wander into our yard.

... that the chickens will not come back to the coop at bedtime. The chickens always come back to roost in the coop when it is bedtime. It's not like we have to go "round them up" and put them to bed at night. They are such good girls, they are always home before their curfew and all that I have to do is shut the coop door at night.

The one drawback with "free range" chickens is that they love to dig in the dirt. Watch the video and you'll see what I mean. As soon as they hear me start the rototiller, they come running like a herd of buffalo. You can almost hear the "thunder" and feel the ground shake as they all come running.

Not only do they dig and scratch the earth, but they don't care where they dig. I constantly catch them digging in my flowerbeds. Just the other day I planted a few small annuals, alyssum actually, and as soon as I turned my back and went into the house for a few minutes, some chicken managed to dig up three of the six plants that I had planted. Not only did they dig them up, but they demolished the plant. I could not believe my eyes as I walked past the flowerbed and saw that some dirty bird had already dug in that one spot. Oh and let me tell you about mulch. I put the mulch in the flowerbeds, the chickens kick it out when they are scratching and digging. I put the mulch back in, they think they need to throw it back out. This is an endless battle that happens on a daily basis.

So, if you are planning on having "free range" chickens and gardening, take heed to my warning... Anything you don't want the chickens to ruin, you will have to fence around.


  1. Fun article! We've only ever lost two birds to predators - a guinea to a coyote and a turkey to a neighbor dog. Everything else you say is right on. Thanks!

  2. How about putting the mulch just outside of the flowerbed; they just might kick it into the right place. ha-ha So neat to watch them scratch, back up, & see their yum-yums.


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