8 effective ways to use chicken in the garden


I travel into a village where nobody knows or care about building poultry pen and I discovered so many things that were about to explore now.

This is the kind of information that has the potential to really make a splash! I am continually blown away by the power of chickens in the garden!

They’re such great workers, in that village where I went to people keep chicken anyhow without medication. So after my research, I say to myself I would keep chicken to my garden even if I couldn’t eat their eggs or meat.

In this article, I’ll explore eight different ways you can use chickens in the garden. You’ll discover how you can put chickens to work by providing nitrogen for your compost pile, replacing machine tillers, fertilizing your garden, turning compost, spreading mulch, disposing of your garbage, controlling pests and sanitizing your orchard.

1. As a Nitrogen Source for a Compost Pile

One chicken can produce eight pounds of manure a month according to Ohio State University. That’s about enough to compost one cubic yard of leaves!

And I have agreed with Ohio State University because I have witnessed what the chicken can do. To make great compost, you need carbon to nitrogen (C: N) ratio of about 30:1. Chicken manure is very rich in nitrogen and is rated at about (10:1). This means you won’t need much to balance it out with its readily available counterpart; carbon materials like leaves, hay or straw. Leaves, for example, are rated at (47:1), so for every 1 pound of chicken manure, you’ll use 45 pounds of leaves! A little goes a long way with chickens manure! And their poo doesn’t have any side effects on the human being because they feed themselves without vaccine/antibiotics. How to do it: Harvest your flocks’ manure regularly and store it in a leach-proof container until you are ready to build your pile. If you don’t want to store poop, then you can apply the manure with the carbon material as you go. For more information about compost, building check out my article on composting with chickens.

2. As Tillers

One chicken can till 50 square feet of established sod in just 4-6 weeks! By scratching and eating practically all vegetation, chickens make great tillers. Although they take much longer than a machine tiller, they require no fossil fuel, they’re much quieter, and you don’t have to do any of the work. Some people who have these ideas have sold their machine tiller years ago and they are now using chickens ever since. Based on my own experience, 1 chicken can till about 50 square feet of reasonably short sod within 6 weeks. Keep in mind that chickens will also till areas you might want to keep, so consider fencing them out if you are wanting to preserve certain areas of vegetation or sod. How to do it: Simply leave your flock in one place long enough! For small jobs, like individual garden beds, I suggest a chickens tractor suited for your particular garden design. For larger projects, I suggest mobile housing and temporary electric netting. Feel free to estimate your timing based on the size of your flock and garden plot on the 50 square foot per chicken statistic.

3. As Automatic Fertilizers

One chicken can provide enough nitrogen fertilizer for a 50 square foot garden in a little more than a month. The chicken’s nitrogen levels in manure aren’t just great for compost, it’s the key ingredient to fertilizing our gardens. Based on the eight pounds one chicken will poop in a month, the average chicken will extract about a quarter pound a day! There’s 1.5% nitrogen in their manure, so that’s .004 of nitrogen a day. If we’re shooting for a solid.30 pounds of nitrogen every 100 square feet, it will take one chicken 75 days to fertilize a 100 square feet. It doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up quickly when you have multiple chickens. At this rate, 24 chickens could fertilize 1200 square feet of garden in just 6 weeks! How to do it: Confine your chickens to the area you want to be fertilized and figure their length of stay based on the size of the area and how many chickens you have. Be careful not to leave your chickens in one place too long (without mulching) as you can have too much of a good thing!

4. As Compost-Turners

One chicken can help do a quarter of the work of turning a compost pile! In order for your compost to break down, it must get oxygen. The more air you give it, the quicker it will break down. Many gardeners make a habit of “turning” their entire compost pile regularly when they need some of the precious material quickly. Turning is a laborious job, but your chickens can do at least a quarter of the work for you. I estimate they’ll do a quarter of the work because they won’t take down the entire pile and they certainly won’t re-stack it for you. However, they will take down a good chunk of it, and all you’ll have to do is turn what they left of the pile and re-assemble what they spread out. How to do it: Assemble your compost pile and allow it time to heat up. It contains only fresh ingredients your chickens won’t show much interest. Once it’s warmed up and had time to start to decompose it will be swarming with life! If you need to protect your pile while it heats up, you can put it in the protected bin, temporarily fence it off, or keep it covered. Once it’s had time to heat, your chickens will show great interest in the live biota that now makes up the pile. Later, you’ll come back and re-assemble the pile. I re-assembly and turn the piles once a week and within 4 weeks I have finished compost.

5. As Mulch Spreaders

One chicken can level a large pile of leaf mulch within two days. Chickens can level a pile in no time. If I want to spread mulch or compost, I just pile the material where I need it spread and fence in my chickens around it. My flock of 30 can easily spread a large pile of leaves in a half a day, and one cubic yard of compost within two weeks! How to do it: Confine your chickens around a pile of mulch or compost where you want it spread. Leave them until the work is done! Time to spread will depend on the size of the pile, material, and age of the material. Older material will have more biota and the chickens will show more interest. If your chickens aren’t showing interest in a pile you need spread (like fresh wood chips), try spreading their feed on the pile, so they have to scratch for it.

6. As Garbage Disposals

One chicken can convert up to pounds of food “waste” a month into fresh eggs and meat! 17% of what Americans throw out as “trash” is food according to the Gossamer foundation. Chickens are an omnivore, like us, and will eat practically everything we can and more! Why not give our food scraps to our chickens and save money on trash disposal. How to do it: Collect your food scrap in a food grade container or bucket. Chickens will eat practically any type of food you’re throwing out, including meat. If your not sure it’s safe for you chicken, try it and see what they do. I believe they have the sense to know whether it’s good for them or bad. You can clean up what they won’t eat or let it decompose where it’s at.

7. As Insect Control

One chicken can easily de-bug up to 120 square feet a week! Chickens will thrive on all kinds of insects, beetles, and grubs. They’ll snap up pretty much anything that moves above the surface and they’ll scratch down more than six inches in garden mulch for grubs! A couple of years ago, I moved a flock of 15 around the pasture in 1700 square feet of mobile electric netting. Those birds easily eliminated the bug population in that area within a weeks time. How to do it: There are several options here. Before you plant the garden, you could confine your chickens in a tractor or with an electric net over the area, then move them out when you start your garden. You could also free range your birds while protecting your garden and other areas you don’t want them. I’ve heard of folks fencing the chickens around the entire garden. This would work to protect the garden from any crawling insects and the chicken manure might attract harmful slugs out of the garden, to the chickens. You could also move the chickens around the garden or property with a tractor or mobile netting depending on the size of your operation. Finally, you can allow them supervised time in the garden or give them in 30 minutes to an hour before dusk. That way they’ll have just enough time to get at the bugs, and they won’t have any time left for your goodies!

8. As Orchard Sanitation

One chicken can de-bug an entire fruit tree within an hour, breaking the life cycle of pests and disease. Disease and insect problems plague your typical orchard, but it should come by no surprise that the that the chickens can help in this area too. With some strategic timing, chickens can significantly boost orchard production! How to do it: Typical fruit trees don’t need a lot of nitrogen so you’ll want to limit the birds time around them and use some strategically timed planning. I suggest running the chickens through during the spring when the adult worms are coming out to lay their eggs. I would run the flock through again in the Autumn to eat the fallen fruit that insects might use as housing throughout the winter.

 

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