View Full Version : **Edited to add DUCKS/Chickens in the garden - does it work?

Mar. 17, 2012, 09:17 AM
Got it with the chickens - now let me hear more about ducks :)

Ok let me hear the good, the bad, and the ugly about letting chickens in the garden.

Will they actually eat the millions of grasshoppers and assorted grubs I battle every year without destroying the entire garden?

How old are your plants before you let the chickens in the garden?

I want to have a really good understanding of what I'm getting myself into before starting coop construction. I had a brief foray into goats with the hopes they would eat down the brush in our creek...not if there is grass to eat instead! Tie them to a tree during the day to keep them where things need eaten down you say? Who knew goats could hog tie themselves up so fast and scream like someone being murdered!! :eek: Lucy and Ethel (the goats) had to be re-homed before I lost my sanity!

If I can let the chickens safely in the garden I plan on building a coop adjacent to the garden to allow for regulated "chicken turnout". 3-5 hens. The garden is about 25' x 45' fully fenced and has raised beds. Any advice about all things chicken would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you!

Mar. 17, 2012, 09:33 AM
We let chickens in our garden while we are in it. It's fenced. We show them the bugs, and they will go around eating them. We have to keep after them to keep them on task, but I think they will eat the vegatables if you feed any. Especially tomatoes (so I'm told).

I guess it helps, but I think for us it is mostly entertainment.

They will also eat any worms they can, which of course isn't good for the garden.

Mar. 17, 2012, 09:51 AM
DH and I just spent a half a day fencing the flower beds with wildlife fencing to keep the chickens out! They can really tear it up. Our veggie garden is fenced with permanent fencing to keep them out. They will eat tender plants, scratch at root systems. Last year they ate all my Hens and Chicks!:eek: (the plant)

Mar. 17, 2012, 10:14 AM
I wouldn't let the chickens in the garden during the planting season. They will eat any thing and everything! And they are master excavators - they will scratch and dig all of your plants up - normal chicken behavior, that's what they do. If you want them to pick at the old plants and remove any grass (they are pretty good rototillers), I would put them in before and after the planting season is over.

Mar. 17, 2012, 10:35 AM
Chickens will TRASH your garden....A good thing in the "off" season as a clean up. Not so good during the growing season.

Ducks are much less destructive and also eat bugs like mad. We keep the chickens where they get pasture turnout with the horses, and we are building a duck house where we can let the ducks range in the gardens when we want them to.

Mar. 17, 2012, 11:00 AM
Nope... not a good idea. Chickens will scratch up your seeds, eat your new young plants, & peck small bites out of most small veggies that you are waiting for. Now, if you can wait til your garden is about half grown & keep an EYE on them... supervised forays or short walk-abouts.... that might work. They are good at removing ALL vegetation when your gardening season is done...
just imho, :) J

Mar. 17, 2012, 12:40 PM
Second the duck comment. Chickens will also make lovely dust baths in your planet beds. Ducks won't.

Ridge Runner
Mar. 17, 2012, 01:13 PM
I am raising a bunch of Muscovy ducklings now. One of their duties will be patrolling my garden for bugs. I hope they eat stinkbugs. God I hate those things! Muscovy's are also excellent for meat and are good mothers and will raise their own ducklings. I'm hoping to have a small flock and raise them for meat as part of our farm business and have the side benefit of having help keeping my organic garden pest free. We'll see...uncharted territory for me.

Chickens LOVE squash...and tomatoes..so yes, you cannot let them have free run. Now if you put them in for a short time and kept a watch on them and ran them out when they get the bugs eaten down, you can probably use them. Ducks will also eat veggies but prefer the bugs I'm told but you'll have to get them out if they start eating the veggies. No ducks don't scratch nor dig like chickens. After this summer, I'll know how good the ducks really are at bug patrol.

Mar. 17, 2012, 03:12 PM
Chickens will TRASH your garden....A good thing in the "off" season as a clean up. Not so good during the growing season.

This. Even if they don't eat it, chickens peck EVERYTHING. So, if you're okay with them nibbling off all your lettuce and putting big peck marks in every tomato, squash, and green bean... Have at it. Growing up, the chickens were loose and the gardens were all fenced to keep them out! Now, I keep the chickens penned and bring them bucketsful of "not quite perfect" veggies and greens to enjoy.

We did have turkeys one year and they were MUCH better in the garden than chickens, so you might look into them as an alternative. The turkeys would actually eyeball a head of broccoli and pick out the worms and (unlike chickens) I don't recall that they damaged much, if any, produce.

Ridge Runner
Mar. 17, 2012, 04:03 PM
Hmmm...I may have to give my turkeys a try. I have some Bourbon Reds I kept from last year. I think I may have poults soon as my hens are spending a lot of time on their nests.

Mar. 17, 2012, 04:18 PM
My bantams "worked" in my grandfather's garden for years. Chickens eat the bugs on the plants. Just like the wild birds do. Altho I was never able to convince my bantams that the lady bugs should not be eaten.

If you make sure that there is fresh water for birds to drink, they won't peck the tomato to get liquid.

The scratching of the soil helps the roots. And they eat the bugs in the soil too. I have never seen a chicken or guinea peck plants when there was not a bug as a target.

Our 3 barn hens Lola, Lucy, and Laverne are anxiously awaiting the planting of the garden this, their first year at the barn. They have their "Happy Hens Mealworm Frenzy" mealworms that they've been practicing on.

Mar. 17, 2012, 04:21 PM
I had very friendly hens, & would bring just one or two into the garden with me when I was weeding, & when there weren't any crops that they might damage. Usually though, since I was right there, & turning up the soil, they were way too interested in that than any crops.

As far as just letting chickens free-range in the veggie garden? No.

Mar. 18, 2012, 09:21 AM
You guys are awesome! Just what I needed to hear. I would have never thought of ducks! Now on to a few questions about ducks... Can ducks happily coexist with a small number of chickens if there's ample space for them? Are ducks friendly (if raised around people)? I would love to have eggs from them as well. Are there certain breeds I should seek out or steer clear of?


Mar. 18, 2012, 09:38 AM
Ducks are VERY friendly if raised around people from the duckling stage. I had several that a friend hoisted on me after she grew tired of them (one of those impulse Easter purchases. Sigh.).

However, it really isn't advisable to house them with chickens; they really need their own quarters. I mean, they can free-range together, but really shouldn't be confined together. The male ducks (drakes) can get very possessive & downright nasty with hens, to the point of injuring them - regardless of the different species thing, & ducks in general are EXTREMELY messy. Their droppings are large/wet/sloppy & your chickens really won't appreciate the mess. Not that chickens are all that clean anyway, but their droppings dry fairly rapidly & aren't even close to what ducks produce. That is one con about ducks - they require more cleanup time, & you really don't want them "free-ranging" anywhere where you tend to walk barefoot - lol!

One more thing - many ducks (White Pekins in particular) not only don't go "broody", but tend to just drop eggs any old place, & if housed with your chickens who break & get a taste for them, you could end up with egg-eaters, which can be a difficult habit to break & one you don't want to encourage.

Ridge Runner
Mar. 18, 2012, 10:39 AM
Muscovy's are an excellent breed. Here is a nice article on them. They are not trued "ducks" and don't quack (which is nice) but are fantastic for small farms.


Mar. 18, 2012, 10:56 AM
I let my chickens freerange part of the time and they will eat anything that looks good! I keep them in a fenced area during the gardening season so they don't trash the garden. But right now I am encouraging them to hang out in the garden area and scratch up weeds and spread out compost.
I had a couple of volunteer tomatoes in a flower bed last year and the chickens never really discovered them, for whatever reason. They did eat every last one of my hostas though. But I figure if I have a few sacrifices for fantastically fresh eggs, so be it. :) We'll see how zen I can be once growing season starts.

Mar. 19, 2012, 11:20 AM
Having just seeded some cool winter crops, I've spent the last 2 days in the garden acting as a scare-chicken (crows aren't the problem...) chasing everyone out of my new beds. I'm quite happy to have them where I haven't worked yet, but they'll dig up and eat the seeds if I give them a chance.

My big Tom Turkey Gomez is following me everywhere around the yard as I've been feeding him worms...

You should get Muscovy as they're a great breed of duck and don't make as much of a mess with water as other species of duck do. They can be VERY friendly if hand-raised as ducklings (ask my boys who let me pet them!); if not they can sometimes be aggressive. They get along just fine with chickens, and they're very very funny with their little waggle dance.

In general I would NOT let the chickens into the garden they will eat things you don't want them too. You may want to look into geese specifically for grasses, they won't touch mature plants (tomatoes, etc.) but they will definitely eat lettuce & such so you have to keep them away from that. You also have to raise your weeder geese on whatever it is you want them to eat.

Our layer birds have both a very large run & I frequently let them out to free-range if I'm out to watch them because we appreciate their bug-eating so much!!

Watermark Farm
Mar. 19, 2012, 01:03 PM
I let mine out of the coop around 4pm so they don't have all day to trash the garden. If they are out all day, they destroy everything.

They don't go out until the vegetable garden is well established. They will eat tender young plants like candy.

I love my chickens. I hate my chickens.

Mar. 19, 2012, 01:15 PM
How small an opening can the average chicken get through, and over what height fence can they get over?

Ridge Runner
Mar. 19, 2012, 01:20 PM
How small an opening can the average chicken get through, and over what height fence can they get over?

Mine generally stay inside a 4 ft high electric mesh fence. You can always clip feathers on one wing if you have a flyer.

Mar. 19, 2012, 02:44 PM
I want ours (soon to be) to stay OUT of the 5' fencing which surrounds the yard and garden, but which also has about 3" spacing between the vertical board.

Mar. 19, 2012, 03:15 PM
We're about to build a garden fence and we're going 6' with the hope of keeping deer out as well.

Depends on what breed of chickens you get, some are strong fliers, and you may also want to get turkey or duck in the future :D. 3" space should keep any adult chickens out.

Mar. 19, 2012, 03:17 PM
I can indeed clip feathers on any fliers, that's good to know.

I DO want a duck or goose - was really looking into Muscovies, but we have a pool and that makes me nervous :(

If the chickens end up being able to squeeze through the openings, I guess I can fence off my garden but I'd really like to avoid that