Let your chickens do the work with these tips from Nutrena and Blain’s Farm & Fleet.
Creating new vegetable garden space from an area of lawn is often hard work. Advice is often to spray the lawn area with herbicide, let the lawn die, spade the dead grass deeply or remove it, and then soften the soil and plant seeds. That involves lots of work and the use of herbicides that many people avoid. Nutrena expert Allison W. and Blain’s Farm & Fleet have a simple solution for working your garden: let the chickens do the work.
Chickens love scratching up dirt, dust bathing in it, and gobbling up grass, weed seeds, and insects, worms and other invertebrates they find while scratching. When confined to a small outdoor chicken run, even a few chickens will soon devour every bit of grass and convert it to bare dirt.
One Iowa family recently converted a small lawn area into a vegetable garden using hens and unpaid helpers. Here is what they did:
1. Purchased a 100 foot section of seven foot tall light black mesh fence marketed to keep deer out of gardens, several seven foot fence posts, and 100 cable ties. Total cost was about $50, and the fencing will last for years and is highly portable.
2. Pounded the fence posts into the ground forming a rectangle around the lawn area to be converted to garden. Attached the deer netting to the posts using cable ties.
3. The new garden area was immediately outside the existing chicken run, so the family cut an easily repairable hole in the existing fence that allowed the hens to move into the enclosed lawn area.
Within 15 minutes the hens had abandoned their grassless old run and moved into the green grass. It took them about ten days to eat the grass, scratch up the soil, and make the area ready for planting. While eating grass, seeds, and worms they left droppings to fertilize the new garden plants.
As soon as the ground was nearly bare of lawn the family repaired the temporary hole in the original fence, confining the hens to their old run. They spaded and smoothed the new garden area, added compost made from chicken droppings and kitchen scraps and lawn clippings and planted seeds. Because deer are plentiful in the area they are leaving the temporary deer fence in place for the growing season but will remove it in the fall.
Using portable fencing to confine chickens in an area being converted to gardens is easy, inexpensive, and flexible since the fencing can be used over and over to allow rotation of garden spaces. For more tips on raising backyard chickens, visit our Hobby Farming blog.