How to repel chickens

So your chickens are digging up your garden and eating all of your plants? Welcome to life with poultry. Chickens can get very destructive when free ranging. Although it can feel like an uphill battle at times, you can learn how to keep chickens out of the garden!

Take this from some one who has a flock of chickens that love to “help” in the garden, keeping them out is difficult. Many chicken keepers will say you can’t have both chickens and garden, but there are ways to keep chickens out of the garden, and keep your sanity! You can benefit from the pros of free-ranging your flock and have garden fresh veggies too!

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The struggle is real.

For an entire summer, we struggled with chickens eating and destroying our garden. Whenever they were free of their chicken run, they were wreaking havoc on my plants.

It was endlessly frustrating.

Our garlic, freshly sprouted, was torn out of the ground by sharp talons searching for worms. Strawberries were picked at until nothing remained but tiny little stubs poking out of the ground. The tomatoes would be left alone until they ripened to the perfect shade of red, only to be plucked off the vine by tiny beaks and devoured in seconds.

It was mayhem.

Luckily, trial and error showed us several methods that truly work to keep chickens out of the garden.

Contents

How to Keep Chickens Out of the Garden

Cut Down on Flock Size

Many people who struggle with their chickens devouring all the vegetation in their yard are having problems because they just have too many chickens for their space. The more chickens you have, the more they eat and the more they destroy.

If your yard turned into a mud pit and your plants were all eaten down to stumps, consider cutting down the size of your flock before making any other changes. Urban flocks should be limited to five or less birds, larger lots can hold bigger flocks.

Protect Individual Plants

Our chickens absolutely destroyed our potted plants the first year we had them. They loved to hop into our large fruit tree and herb pots and kick all the surface soil to the ground.

We found that placing rocks on top of the soil around the plants prevented the chickens from destroying them. You can even place them in an artful arrangement to add some beauty to the functionality.

Tall plants such as potted trees might fare well with just the rocks to protect the soil. Smaller plants like herbs may need added protection. Wrapping a length of chicken wire or hardware cloth around the pot and using stakes to secure it down will keep the chickens out. Alternately, you can insert thin dowels or sticks into the soil on the perimeter of the pot, much like a fence, and wrap string or twine around the barrier to keep the birds from hopping into the pot and eating the plants. Using Colored twine can add a hint of beauty to this chicken blockade.

Supervise Free-Range Time

If you have the time, supervising free-range time will keep chickens out of the garden. If the birds are only let out for an hour or two, it may be feasible to sit and watch them while they roam. The added bonus here is endless entertainment for you!

Back when our garden was unfenced, we would sit on the back porch every day and supervise the birds while they roamed the yard. If they got in the garden we would either physically move them out, or spray the hose near them (NOT at them) to shoo them out. This worked pretty well in the short term. But as life became more busy it was unreasonable to sit out with them all the time.

Strategic Garden Placement

Placing your garden out of their direct path and view will help cut down on poultry in the garden. Setting up the garden in the front of the property and keeping the chickens in the back will drastically cut down on problems. Placing a fence in between the front and back yard will also help to keep the chickens out.

Another tactic we used to keep the birds out of our herb garden was to move it up and out of their view. My husband built a four foot tall raised bed on stilts for our herbs. The bed is so tall that the chickens don’t even know it exists! They walk right under it to get to their dust bath and the plants grow happily up above.

Fence the Garden

Fencing is a surefire way to keep chickens out of the garden.

Our welded wire fence acts as a great barrier when they’re wandering on foot, and they haven’t attempted to jump or fly over the fence. They can clearly see the vegetation on the other side, but can’t figure out how to get to it. We’ve tried wooden fencing around our garden, and while it looks beautiful, it doesn’t keep the little maniacs out. The chickens just use it as a jumping point. They hop from the ground to the top of the wooden fence, then hop right into the garden.

The wire fencing works better because is too flexible for them to hop on top of. If you use wire fencing, don’t put a wooden top on any of it. (Even the gate. It will surely be an entry point into the garden.)

Grow a Chicken Garden

If you have the space, you can add in an extra garden plot to distract them from your garden… You can give them their very own Chicken Garden. If they have easy access to all the fresh goodies you’ve been growing for them, they’ll be less likely to go after the veggies in your garden. (Plus, it’s a great source of free chicken food!)

We hope this article will help you figure out how to keep chickens out of the garden! If you dear readers have any other helpful tips, please leave them in the comments, we’d love to hear them!

If you want more tips on raising chickens, subscribe to our newsletter! Every Saturday morning you’ll get an email chock full of chicken tidbits, our top weekly posts, and discounts on awesome chicken gear!

How to Keep Chickens Our of the Garden Fence in the Garden – Not the Chickens. It’s winter and most of us aren’t growing much right now. This is a great time of year for building fires in the fireplace, browsing through seed catalogs and planning our crops for 2017. This isn’t just prime time to order seeds, it’s also a good time to start planning and strategizing for success. It’s us against the weather, the diseases, the funguses, the insects and the varmints. Sometimes our biggest garden problems aren’t on the plant…. sometimes it’s the chickens. Or the cats. Or the local wildlife.

How do you keep all the other wildlife from eating your garden…. the deer, rabbits, opossum, coons, groundhogs and goats?

You really have 2 choices:

  1. Fence in the animals or
  2. Fence in the garden

I may be able to fence in my chickens and goats, but good luck keeping the other local varmints away.

If I fence in my chickens it won’t stop the deer, raccoons, rabbits or groundhogs from eating all my fresh veggies. You may live on a prairie where your garden grows and remains undisturbed until you harvest your food.

Not here.

I live in the middle of the woods… in Kentucky. We don’t have lions, tigers and bears; but we do have raccoons, opossums and deer. And they love gardens. You can pour liquid fence. You can run fishing line. You can have your husbands and sons pee all over your garden. BUT that hasn’t stopped the wildlife around here. Fencing does.

It may seem like a daunting task, but it’s really not that hard. I’ve assisted in so many fencing projects on our farm that it doesn’t phase me much anymore.

To fence in your garden all you need is:

  • Some posts. We used cedar trees that had fallen (free from the woods).
  • A post hole digger or a 2 man auger.
  • Some woven wire fence (that rabbits can’t get through and deer can’t jump over). Mine is 6 feet tall.
  • A gate.
  • Of course you’ll need a few tools: chainsaw for cutting posts to the right height, fence staples for attaching the fencing, hardware for hanging the gate and a couple hammers.

Tips on the Process:

  1. If you’re going to be building raised beds – build them first.
  2. If you’re going to be filling raised beds – fill them first.
  3. If you’re going to be mulching or laying gravel on your walking paths – cover them first.
  4. Consider the location of your compost pile. Ideally, you want it to be near the garden entrance for easy access.
  5. Go big. I’m here to tell you, no matter how big you make your garden, it won’t be big enough. If you are anything like me and want to grow everything that you put into your mouth – you will need more beds, more garden and more plants. You can always leave beds empty (and mulched) if you don’t want to use it- but I’m always happy to have more space to plant.
  6. Make the entrance big enough. If you want to be able to get a side-by-side in there, or wheelbarrows, or 4-wheeler, or wagon – make the gate big enough & the paths wide enough so you can maneuver around. It’s much easier to move manure, compost and mulch with a machine (that dumps) than it is by hand (with shovels).

Fence goes up last.

After the beds. After the soil. After the paths.

Why must I stretch my fence last?

The problem is that once the fence is up you have to enter your garden THROUGH THE GATE. This may not sound like a big deal, but if you are pushing a wheelbarrow filled with manure that weighs 300 pounds it matters. The garden bed you want to dump the manure into may be 10 feet away from the compost pile BUT the dang door is on the other side of the garden – 70 feet away – uphill, mind you.

Don’t you wish you lived here?

Yes, this is my life. My compost pile is behind my garden. Down a hill. Nowhere near the gate that leads into the garden. Ugh. So, anytime I want to take compost from my compost pile and deposit it into my garden I have to move it 70 feet, uphill to the only entrance into my garden.

I know, cut another entrance…. I need to do that.

Once you have your beds built, filled and the paths in order you will be ready to stretch the fence.

We used a two-man auger (DH on one side, me on the other) and drilled all the holes in a morning. We set the posts & stretched the fence. It took a weekend.

If you want to keep critters out but don’t want a permanent fence just go grab some construction fencing.

We have used it a few times and it’s worked well for us. You can use some wooden tobacco steaks (free around here) and $25 worth of orange, plastic fence. It goes up in a few minutes & a 12 year old can do it.

Temporary fence is great if you want to be able to till your garden (with a tractor) or if you want to move it to new locations (Yay! Crop rotation) or if you think you won’t want a garden next year.

They do sell this fence in a nice black or dark green but it costs twice as much – go figure.

I have all sorts of problems in my garden (like blight and squash bugs) but thankfully I don’t have chickens, raccoons or deer to deal with.

If you would like to receive regular updates, recipes and old fashioned tips you can subscribe via email here.

XO,

Candi

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I have lived on a farm or homestead for 32 of my 39 years of life. During most of those years, we tended to large gardens and kept a sizeable flock of poultry.

Even now, I have a flock of 50 or more, and my garden plots seem to multiply every growing season.

Every few years or so, I’ll see an article in a magazine, glamorizing the “chicken-friendly garden.” It will include idyllic photos of small red Bantams plucking beetles from a new squash vine.

There will be talk of how simple it is to skip the middleman and allow the birds to fertilize the garden directly.
The truth about why I homestead has forced me to be realistic concerning the facts about chickens and my harvest.

Even the pins on Pinterest make it sound so beautiful.

Surely, I must be doing something wrong in keeping chickens and garden separate?

I love my little hens. They are wonderful and inquisitive creatures, and their eggs make me so happy! My number one goal in gardening, however, is not to offer them a place to hang out. It is to feed my family.

The truth about why I homestead has forced me to be realistic concerning the facts about chickens and my harvest.

While they can coexist, there are some deliberate (and often labor-intensive) steps that you’ll need to take to keep both birds and growers happy! These include setting proper boundaries, and implementing safer ways to integrate the worlds of fowl and flora.

Chickens Are Selfish

In my many years of attempting to give the birds small, carefully monitored roles in the garden ecosystem, I have learned a few things.

The most important of these is that these creatures want what they want and are very, very destructive to plants and their fruits. Some of their trademark behaviors include:

1. Eating freshly sown seeds from the soil.

2. Pulling up newly sprouted seedlings.

3. Creating a “dust-bath” in the newly tilled soil and smothering any vegetation growing there.

4. Stripping certain plants of their leaves and flowers.

5. Eating newly set-on fruits.

There is a very short window of time that it would be appropriate to allow them to live inside a garden.

That time is essentially after the plants have grown to a size that they won’t be easily mowed down by hungry, broody, or molting hens. But they cannot be in the garden once fruit sets on, either.

This means there are only a few weeks when they would be able to peacefully coexist with your garden plants without much harm.

Birds in Their Time Zones

So, how does a discerning gardener determine when to put hens in the garden?

Most garden plants do not all produce at the same time. What may be the perfect occasion to provide a little pest control for the squash is ill-timed for the tiny, tender green tomatoes that would just be setting on late in July.

Therefore, chickens work best when assigned to a portion of a properly-zoned garden.

“Time Zone Gardening” (as I’ve dubbed it) puts plants that produce at around the same time together. This makes it easy to block off the peppers and tomatoes from the late-producing winter squash.

Chickens can rotate through the zones at the appropriate times, causing little damage from their overzealous grazing or scratching.

Easy and Affordable Fencing

You can give your garden the best possible chance of survival by dividing your zones with deer or rabbit fencing.

Material that is two feet in height, stretched out and secured with small posts, should keep birds put.

Very few will think to crawl underneath, but you can always use small tent pins or a similar stake-type fastener to secure the fencing to the ground soil.

This brings us to how to keep birds in their place. I’m not going to lie and tell you that chickens do what they are supposed to do. Ever.
I’m not going to lie and tell you that chickens do what they are supposed to do. Ever.

If you allow your birds to go natural (i.e. no wing clipping or other modifications), they can – and will – learn to fly as high as their little wings will take them. This means that even the best-constructed garden fencing can eventually fail.

That is why I have also taken to allowing only the smaller, less experienced birds around my garden.

Tiny bantams who have no idea that there is life outside the netting are ideal for this type of environment. The broody, five-year-old Black Australorp hen with ideas about the world is not.

Choose the right chicken, and you’ll have far fewer bad behaviors to deal with!

Perimeter Duty for Hens

If you are in love with the idea of having your chickens work the garden, and you are beyond frustrated with trying to keep them sorted out, perimeter work may be for you.

Building a chicken run along the outside walls of your garden is better than nothing. Chickens can make quite a difference in keeping grasshopper and slug populations down by only working the outside edges.

I have done this with just three sides of my garden most years. The fourth side is where I like to let my plants “do their thing.”

Overzealous pumpkin vines are redirected to this fourth wall, or I may allow an heirloom cucumber to make its home here. Garden fences are prime real estate for many of my experiments, so I’m not willing to give them all up to the chickens!

Raised Beds, Lowered Chickens

Finally, if you’re looking for an easier way to let poultry have their fun and do a little pest-control work while they’re at it, put them around your raised beds.

Once my greens are fully established, the chickens don’t want much to do with them. They will, however, scurry around the base of the raised beds, reaching up to snag a slug or harmful grub straight out of the dirt.

Again, this is probably best for the better-behaved, smaller hens. If at any point they find the greens to be tasty enough to reach for, they get put back into perimeter duty. This type of gardening only works with very clear boundaries!

Problems to Look For

There will always be exceptions to best practices.

Chickens seem made to stretch your expectations, and challenge the typical gardener. That’s why you should be on the lookout for the following troublemakers who would be better off free ranging in the field than inside the fence with your plants:

Broody Hens

These gals will find a place to nest (usually somewhere in the wild mass of overgrown tomatoes) and refuse to leave.

Do your best to keep broody hens near their regular laying boxes. I have had seasons where there were more eggs than eggplants in my garden!

Roosters

If you keep roosters, you know that they have a purpose. But they also cause hens to fight and distract from the job of pest control.

Gardening is an all-girls activity for the chickens on our farm.

Hen and Chick Sets

Unless you want to hear hours and hours of distressed calls between mother hen and baby, leave the little ones out of the garden. They tend to get tripped up and lost in the maze of plants.

Chicks are better off in a more secure and less overgrown environment.

A Natural Partnership for Your Garden

I have yet to decide if we will deal with the hassle of putting fowl in the gardens this year.

At the very least, it’s easy enough to allow them to free-range in my large watermelon and squash patch in the weeks before the fruit sets on, where there is no fencing or other infrastructure to deal with.

Even if you decide to keep your feathered friends out, there are ways to keep the symbiotic relationship alive – even in a surrogate manner.

Weeds and rotted fruits should get tossed to your hens daily. Chicken manure can be put into compost where it will be turned into a safer, less nitrogen-rich version than when delivered “in person.” Even eggs shells can be ground down into a fine soil additive for good plant root health!

Chickens and the garden are natural partners for a more healthy, efficient system. How you put them together, however, is a very personal choice.

Will you be putting birds inside your garden fence this year? What stories can you share about chicken environments gone wrong? Tell us in the comments! And don’t forget to check out our article on growing greens for healthy and happy chickens.

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About Linsey Knerl

Born and raised in a small Nebraska town, Linsey Knerl is a homeschooling mother of six who enjoys blogging and working hard on her 3 1/2-acre Nebraska homestead. When she’s not working on her next fantasy novel, you will find her in her kitchen, perfecting the Danish recipes of her grandmother with those special ingredients you can only find in a backyard garden.

All summer, I’ve been debating letting my chickens free-range, but I have a single question; How do I keep my chickens off my porch and deck? So I found the top 10 ways to keep chickens off a deck, patio, or cement block.

10 Ways To Keep Chickens Off Your Porch!

  1. Identify What attracts your chickens to the porch
  2. Move Your Chicken Coop Away From Restricted Areas
  3. Keep feedings away from your deck and porch
  4. Raise the stakes or perching options
  5. Train chickens to stay off your porch
  6. Use motion activated sprinklers to keep chickens off the patio
  7. Use fake predators
  8. Use a training animal
  9. Fence off restricted areas
  10. Use spices and plants to repel chickens

Those steps may sound easy, but some of them take a lot more time to implement than others. Keep reading and I’ll discuss the time and effectiveness of each step.

Identify The Attraction to The Porch

Chickens have basic instincts and usually, it’s an instinct that drives your chickens to your patio. The three basic instincts of a chicken are survival, comfort, and food. Survival includes reproduction. Chickens have many reasons for seeking out your porch or deck.

Decks are closer to human activity and so chickens are often better protected from birds of prey and other predators when they are on the patio. Your deck may offer a shaded place for several hours a day.

Another reason is that chickens quickly realize where their food comes from. Even if you have free-range chickens that only need to be fed during colder months, they know that you are the source of their food.

Plus, the optimal perching options that decks and porches usually have. Consider the chairs, rails, BBQ grill, and other high places that chickens can perch. Once you’ve identified likely reasons that your chickens love your porch, you can start to address the problem.

  • Porches offer high perching
  • Protection from predators
  • Shade
  • Close proximity to humans
  • Protection from the elements

Move Your Chicken Coop Away From Restricted Areas

Even free-range chickens should be cooped up at night to help protect them from predators. In the country, these predators range from weasels and minks to raccoons, foxes or coyotes. In the city, chicken predators are often neighborhood cats or dogs.

According to Jennifer Cook, the small acreage management coordinator at Colorado State University Extension, free-range birds need 10 square feet of space per bird to forage.

That means that if you have 5 birds, you need 50 square feet of space for your girls and if you have 12 birds, you need 120 feet. If your coop is closer to forbidden areas than that, it will be a lot harder to keep your girls away.

Of course, chickens like to roam and the more comfortable they get with a specific area, the farther they will go. Yet, it helps to keep your coop away as it will be nearly impossible to keep them off your porch if your coop is in close proximity to it.

  • Keep your chicken coop at least 10 sq feet per chicken away from the house and living areas

Keep Feedings Away From Your Porch

It can be super tempting to train your chickens to come running when you come outside or when you issue a specific call.

But, if you train your chickens to come to your call, then they are much more likely to seek the places that get them closer to you. That means they are more likely to seek you on your porch, in your garage, and on your deck.

It is vital that you limit feeding your chickens to places away from your deck and porch. This trains your chickens to go to specific areas for food instead of seeking you out. Chickens are naturally social so they will want to seek you out anyway.

Don’t encourage them to flock around your living areas by feeding them as soon as you get outside unless you don’t care about them gathering, perching, and pooping on your deck and patios. It is more convenient than keeping feed nearby, but it will save you hours of cleanup in the months ahead.

Another note; Don’t offer dog or cat food on your porch or deck either. This will attract your chickens as well and make it hard to keep them off.

  • Keep food off the porch. This includes chicken food, edible plants, and other animal food.

Raise The Stakes, er Perching Options

Chickens love to compete for the highest perch and the best view. Roosting high up helps your chickens watch out for predators and get a good vantage point. Even domesticated chickens love to roost high up.

Your chickens may be attracted to your porch because it offers the best perching options. That often means perching in your fruit trees, on your porch, or atop your car. Make those things less appealing by offering your chickens better perching options closer to the coop.

If you already have a perching problem on your deck rail, then offer a better perch close to the deck. Gradually move the perches away from the deck and close to the coop.

This helps to train your chickens to perch on something other than your patio rails or bike. Combine this with efforts to make your porch rails less attractive. Hang plants off your rails or add other decor to take up space on your rails.

  • Offer better perching options and move it away from the deck over time
  • Provide deterrents for chickens who still want to roost on the porch rails

Train Your Chickens To Stay Off The Porch

Chickens can be trained to stay off the porch or cement. There are many ways to train a chicken, but two very effective ways to train a chicken to stay off of something.

This training can be through negative consequences or positive consequences.

Keeping your feedings away from your porch and deck are a way of providing positive reinforcement. But it may not solve the entire problem. There are a few safe ways to provide chickens with negative reinforcement to stay off your porch.

  • Water spray
  • Yelling and scaring them away
  • Other fighting visuals

Chickens can be trained, but it takes time and consistency. If you only sporadically provide the motivation to leave your porch, then you will be “training” your chickens forever. This means that you need to stay home and available to train your chickens for the first little while. You must keep a watchful eye on your ladies and respond promptly.

How do you train a chicken? Decide the boundary that you want to keep your chickens away. This could be the cement patio, it could be the bottom step of your deck, or it could be the flower beds around your porch. Choosing a specific boundary is important because it helps you stay consistent.

Keep a hose near your porch, or deck, and every time a chicken crosses the boundary, spray them and say “stay off my porch!” When chickens get the consistent response of water, it trains them to stay off the porch. Often, with consistency, the older hens will start keeping younger chicks away from the forbidden area.

Scaring them away is another method of training. This involves yelling and waving your arms to shoo them off the deck everytime they get on it. You can use a broom that you wave (without hitting them) or a large bright cloth to frighten them.

This method takes a little more time than water because you physically have to chase them off the deck, but it keeps your patio from getting soaked. As you chase them away, keep the command consistent such as “shoo!” or “Get Off!”

Eventually, you will be able to command them off and will be able to convince them to hang out somewhere else.

Use Motion-Activated Sprinklers To Keep Chickens Off Your Porch

If you don’t have time to train your chickens or the desire to do so, consider a motion activated sprinkler to do the job for you. Motion activated sprinklers use infrared light to detect motion. You can set them up at the base of your porch steps or along the perimeter of your deck. The downside to motion sprinklers is that anything will set them off.

This includes people and other animals.

After your chickens are solidly trained to stay away from the patio area, you can start deactivating the sprinklers for more comfortable human use.

  • It will fire at humans also so you’ll have to stay off the deck or manually man the deck when you are out

Use Fake Predators Keep Chickens Away

Owls, snakes, and hawks are common predators to chickens so chickens have a natural aversion to them. However, simply placing a plastic owl on your porch isn’t likely to keep your chickens away long term.

Chickens are smart and will quickly learn that the owl isn’t really dangerous. That’s why many chicken owners purchase mechanical predators to scare chickens away. To be effective, you will need to change the position of your preditors, the volume, and location. This keeps your birds from becoming as accustomed to them. It also takes some time and commitment your birds alert.

But as a side benefit, these predators can help to keep other real predators away from your chickens. You can also buy rubber snakes and move them around various locations.

You will also find that different types of chickens are more flightly than others. As a result, you will have varying success with decoy predators to scare away your chickens.

Leghorns and Buttercups are more flighty and will likely stay away from a fake predator. Cochins or Brahmas are less flighty and more likely to realize that the predator isn’t real and then ignore the warning.

  • The variety of chickens will impact how flighty they are when encountering fake predators
  • Predators will need to be moved around and repositioned for effectiveness

Use Another Animal To Keep Your Hens In Check

You can use other animals to keep your chickens away.

In some cases, a rooster can help to keep your girls close to the coop. Roosters are generally protective and can help herd the flock closer to home. Of course, you may need to train your rooster to stay close to the coop for this to be effective.

A guard dog can also be used to keep your chickens off the porch. Choose a dog that won’t kill or eat the chickens. Instead, train your dog to frighten the chickens away anytime they get near the deck or porch.

Fence Off Your Porch, Deck, and Patio

You may have noticed that older farmhouses have fences around the house, flower gardens, and deck. That’s because fences are effective at keeping chickens out. However, fencing off a porch or deck is often undesirable for many people. There are many fencing options. These include

  • Full fencing and rail
  • Chicken wire or wire cloth
  • Yellow ribbon
  • Hotwire or electric fence

These options have different benefits and drawbacks to them. Let’s go over your options.

Full Fence: A full fence or rail option should be 5 feet high. Even chickens with their wings clipped can often get over a 4-foot fence if they are determined enough.

If your chickens have plenty of roaming space, then a shorter fence will be more effective than if your chickens are crowded. Fences can be made of all types of materials including stone, wood, or wire.

Chicken Wire or Wire Cloth: Chicken wire is not very strong, but can be effective if you are trying to block off a forbidden area. Wire cloth seems to be more effective and is more popular for chicken owners.

Wire cloth can be used over the chicken wire or placed on the ground to keep chickens from digging in the flower beds around your porch. Several chicken owners recommended using a short fence, the height of your hens, to discourage hens from crossing the border into your porch.

Hens would run into the fence and be discouraged from crossing the border. However, it might be tricky to put the fence in the right place so that chickens don’t fly over the fencing.

Yellow Ribbon: A yellow ribbon can be used in much the same way as a short fence. It is used as a visual deterrent to the chickens. However, you will probably have to be diligent in training your chickens to stay on the right side of the yellow ribbon or they will soon ignore it.

Hot Wire: A hot wire is an effective way to train chickens to stay away from a boundary. The discomfort keeps chickens from attempting to roost on the top of the fence. It can also be used as a fence and means of keeping chickens out.

Use Spices or Herbs to Deter Chickens

Most chickens detest the strong smell of many spices and herbs. You can spread spices across your deck. You can also grow specific herbs or annuals that tend to deter chickens around your porch or patio.

Spices that deter chickens include:

  • Paprika
  • Curry powder
  • Black pepper
  • Garlic
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Salt
  • Citrus Peels

In addition to the strong smell, many spices will also cause discomfort to chickens who walk across the spices. The discomfort doesn’t harm the chickens but will hopefully cause them to leave the offending area.

The main difficulty of using spices is that you will have to replenish them every time you water or it rains or snows. If you live in a windy place as I do, then you will also have to replenish the spices multiple times a day due to the constant wind or breeze.

Another option is to grow plants that act as natural deterrents for chickens. Most perennial herbs have strong smells that deter chickens. Additionally, there are many annual plants with strong smells. Keep in mind that some chickens will forage even smelly plants for food. Plants that help to deter chickens include

  • Oregano
  • Lavender
  • Chamomile
  • Lemon Balm
  • Mint
  • Thyme
  • Marigolds
  • Petunias
  • Alyssum
  • Impatiens

Keep in mind that healthy, established plants will fare better against chickens. Small seedlings may not have enough smell to deter chickens and will easily fall prey to their digging and feeding.

Related Questions

How do I stop my dog from eating chicken poop? Dogs eat chicken poop for a variety of reasons. It is instinct for some breeds of dogs, especially smaller dogs. It can provide protein, B1 vitamins, or potassium to a dog’s diet. Other dogs may eat chicken poop out of boredom or to get a reaction from you. You can limit your dog’s exposure to chicken poop, focus on positive reinforcements to stay away, and supplement your dog’s diet with more protein and vitamins.

How do I keep chickens off my cement? Keeping chickens off cement involves a lot of the same techniques discussed in keeping them off a porch or patio. Keep consistent, consider a barrier, and remove all attractions to the cement. Make sure they have plenty of sunshine, shade, food, and perching opportunities away from the cement and never feed them or reward them for being on the cement.

Conclusion

Keeping chickens away from your porch may require the use of several techniques, especially if you don’t want to fence off the area in question. Remember that chickens need space, safety, and food to thrive and offer those things away from restricted areas. Consistent reinforcement will make it more likely that your chickens will stay away from your deck. What ideas have been successful for you that I haven’t mentioned here?

We all love our fluffy, feathered friends and want to do the best for them. If you already have an established flock or haven’t started yet and are still in the planning stages – this article is definitely for you.

Before I got my chickens I spent the better part of a year researching the breed of chicken I wanted, how to house them and how to keep them safe and healthy.

I was called overly obsessive at times, but so far my efforts have paid off dividends as my girls are healthy and happy and we haven’t had any issues with predators in 5 years.

Today I have put together my favorite 21 tips for keeping your chickens safe from predators and healthy.

Coop Defenses

Protecting your flock from predators starts with the coop.

Whether you buy it pre-made or build the coop yourself, there are several simple things you can do to make it safer for your chickens.

1. Know The Enemy

First of all you, need to be aware of likely predators in your area: foxes, hawks, owls, coyotes, raccoons and possums tend to be the most common.

If you know which predators are likely to attack you can create effective defenses to stop them.

Some of these predators are very smart, others opportunists. Each can be deterred by simple backyard security.

2. Bury Chicken Wire

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If you are constructing a run, it’s important to remember that many predators will try to dig under the run to attack your girls.

One thing to remember: chicken wire will keep chickens in; hardware mesh will keep predators out.

A determined, hungry animal can and will break through chicken wire.

When building your run, make sure you bury hardware mesh at least 2 feet deep around the compound- 4 feet deep would be ideal.

Dig a trench about 6 inches deep and 3 inches wide and bury the hardware mesh to create an underground security perimeter.

This will deter most predators from digging.

If you are using a chicken tractor instead of a run, the same principal applies. Cover the floor of the tractor in hardware mesh to prevent predators digging their way to your chickens.

Note: Occasionally when chickens stand on wire floors in chicken tractors for long periods of time their feet can get cut, so check their feet regularly for cuts or sores.

3. Cover Their Coop

If you live in an area with lots of hawks and owls you will need to place a cover over your run.

You can use chicken wire to cover your run- this still provides your chickens with visibility but stops any air-bound predators swopping down and attacking your flock.

If you want your birds to have some shade, as well as protection, you could use a tarp sheet instead of chicken wire.

4. Increase Visibility

If you are fortunate enough to have a large garden, make sure you cut down any tall grass, bush or overgrown areas within 50-75 feet of your coop.

The less cover a predator has, the more vulnerable they are at being seen before attacking.

This with thwart less confident predators, as they won’t risk exposing themselves to attack.

5. Block Any Access Holes

Make sure you regularly check your coop for any access holes.

Even small trivial gaps/holes can be used by predators to gain access to the coop- a weasel can squeeze through a ½ inch hole.

You do not want a weasel in your coop.

A weasel will kill seemingly for the fun of it and can kill a moderate size flock in a night.

Remember to check your coop at least monthly for signs of attempted entry and reinforce those areas.

It might also surprise you to learn that barn cats will slip into openings and, if hungry enough, they will tag-team and take out your smaller chickens.

It is helpful to prevent predators with savvy climbing skills from entering through the roof of your coop. Lining your coop, or even fencing with metal siding will prevent these agile critters from getting a grip on your fencing, and climbing to the top and over or thorough to your sleeping hens.

You’d be surprised at how easy it is for small predators, like snakes, to slither into coops and eat your eggs, and even your chickens in some cases. Closing off all access holes, while allowing for proper ventilation, can be a challenge for chicken owners.

The best way to solve this is to have openings for ventilation at the top of the coop and prevent predators from climbing into the holes.

6. Lock Your Ladies Up At Night

Most importantly, remember to lock up your ladies at night!

Use a mechanism that can’t be opened by smart creatures. Raccoons are notoriously intelligent and they can open simple locks & bolts.

I like to use a Carabiner because it requires opposable thumbs to use.

Also remember to use a padlock to keep out the ultimate predator – man.

Unfortunately several of my friends have had their chickens stolen either for dinner, or because it’s a rare breed.

I use three locks on my coop – two on the entrance door and a separate lock for the ‘pop’ door.

7. Check Your Biosecurity

Make sure you clean up your pen in the evening after your chickens have gone to roost- pay special attention to any scraps and food lying around.

We may not think of rats as predators, but they are attracted by leftover food. Once they have moved in to the neighborhood, they can and will eat eggs and chicks.

If you see rats during the daytime, it’s likely you have a serious problem.

Note: Rats dislike daylight so only the ones lower in the hierarchy will risk a daylight raid.

8. Be Alert For Snakes

Check your coop daily for snakes. Black, rat and corn snakes will pilfer eggs and on occasion, small chicks. They can simply be re-located to another area if necessary, although snakes do help keep down the vermin.

If you find that certain snakes keep returning to your coop, you will need to capture them and relocate them elsewhere.

9. Collect Eggs Daily

A lot of predators will only break into your coop to get eggs.

If you make sure to collect your eggs frequently during the day you will deter many predators- especially rats and snakes!

10. Fit Motion Sensor Lighting

Predators such as raccoons will only attack in the dark at night.

You can fit solar powered motion-detection lights to your coop to stop predators attacking.

The light will turn on when it detects any motion near the coop. They can also be modified to send you an alarm when the lights are activated.

Most predators will simply run away from the spotlight.

Free Ranging Defense

Whilst it’s relatively easy to secure a chicken coop and run, what do you do when your chickens are free-range?

Keeping free range chickens safe is hard but not impossible if you follow the tips below.

11. Hang Your Old CDs

If you have free ranging hens it can be more difficult to protect them against birds of prey.

One effective way I’ve found is to hang unwanted CDs from trees, posts etc.

The reflection of the sun from the CD will deter them. You can also use pie pans, disco balls – anything that will reflect light.

Note: Do not use mirrors; you don’t want to accidentally start a fire!

12. Use Electric Fences

If your chickens are free-ranging you can erect an electric fence around the perimeter to keep predators away.

They are fairly inexpensive and easy to install.

I don’t personally use electric fences, but people I know who have them swear by them.

13. Install Safety Shelters

Sometimes with birds of prey they can get extremely desperate and will attack no matter what.

Make a couple of safety shelters for your birds to run into. You can use a 55 gallon plastic drum cut lengthways or a wooden pallet perched on blocks.

If your chickens get caught out whilst they are roaming they can run underneath these safety shelters to keep covered.

14. Get Roosters

Within town and city limits there are usually restrictions on having roosters – they can be a noisy pest to your neighbors.

There aren’t too many folks who like to be woken up at the crack of dawn by a rooster crowing his head off!

However, if you live in the country it’s usually ok.

A good rooster will protect his ladies and will give his life to preserve theirs.

Note: Make sure to research the breed of rooster you want thoroughly before you jump in and get one.

15. Use Guard Dogs

A guard dog does the same job as a rooster – only better.

Dogs can range further away from the flock and the scent of a dog is very disturbing to most predators, so they will likely leave your flock in peace.

Make sure your dog is good with your chickens before you leave them together unattended. You don’t want your guard dog turning into the predator!

Hygiene and Cleanliness

Chickens are inquisitive creatures. They love to investigate new things and this can get them into trouble! The following tips will help you be more aware of potential hazards to your flock.

To keep your chickens safe you need to do more than just keep the predators at bay. Sometimes the biggest threats are already in your garden.

16. Avoid Toxic Chemicals

Weed killer and other commonly used garden chemicals (Insect Baits/Traps etc.) can be accidentally ingested by chickens.

As with small children, keep your flock away from any area of your garden which you may have sprayed or treated. Also keep the chemical bottles well away from your girls.

If your chickens do ingest any toxic chemical call your vet immediately.

17. Botulism

For those of you that haven’t heard of the term Botulism before, it’s a “rare poisoning caused by toxins”.

If you use poison to keep the rodent population in check, be aware your chickens can be poisoned by pecking at the carcass. You should dispose of any dead animals you find somewhere they can’t be accessed.

Botulism can also be caused by fouled drinking water (usually by ducks). If you keep ducks, make sure the chickens don’t make a habit of drinking water which the ducks have pooped in.

18. Clean Their Feeders

Following on from Botulism you need to keep food and water dishes clean.

I use a 1:10 bleach solution weekly in all my feeders and drinkers.

19. Keep Their Feed Fresh

Ensure your feed is fresh and not moldy.

Keep it stored in waterproof containers – plastic totes, garbage bins or something similar. Moldy feed can and does kill chickens, so make sure the lid for your containers is airtight also.

20. Keep Their Coop Tidy

A dirty coop not only attracts flies but can cause a number of health issues for your birds.

For instance high levels of ammonia can cause blindness and respiratory issues. I normally clean my coop once a week and occasionally more during winter. A good test is if you can smell ammonia in your coop – cleaning is overdue!

21. Ensure Regular Health Checks

Last but by no means least is regular health checks.

Try to check your birds visually every day.

Included in your visual health check should be a vent check. They can get matted and poopy back there- this creates a perfect environment for flystrike.

Checking Chicken’s Vent

If it’s dirty – clean it.

Go gently using soap and water. Sit the bird in the warm water and try to soak off the matted area. You may have to trim some feathers.

These 21 tips will definitely help keep your chickens healthy and the predators at bay!

Let us know your favorite health tip in the comments below.

Every summer, it’s the same problem. Your chickens free-range in the morning, and in the evening your garden is nearly unrecognizable.

Fortunately, I’ve put together a handful of time-tested solutions that can help keep peace on your homestead. Read on to find out how to keep your chickens out of the garden.

1. Use Herbs to Repel Your Chickens

Just like us, there are some scents that chickens can’t stand – like that stinky durian fruit that everyone seems to want to get their hands on lately.

So, you can plant distasteful herbs in areas where you don’t want your chickens to forage.

Bonus, you will love the scents, and uses for these herbs!

Some of the herbs that chickens hate include:

  • Lavender
  • Chives
  • Catnip
  • Spearmint
  • Marigold

You may see some of your chickens taste-testing these plants, but the flavor may quickly deter your chickens.

If you densely plant these herbs in your garden, or around it, your chickens will turn their beaks and head off in the other direction. They probably won’t even spend time looking at the luscious tomatoes on the other side of those abhorrent herbs.

If you prefer, you can also sprinkle some of your purest essential oils around your garden. Just make sure that the oils will deter your chickens, and not cause harm to your garden.

Never put essential oils on your plants, as some are quite “hot” and may burn the vegetation.

If you do use essential oils, consider peppermint or spearmint, as these oils have a strong aroma, and are natural pest deterrents.

No, I know, your chickens aren’t pests… I’d never say that!

2. Citrus Can Deter Chickens from Your Veggie Garden

Somewhere along the line, citrus got a bad rap with chickens. Some believe that citrus can even kill a chicken.

Well, probably anything in large doses can kill a chicken, but in reality, citrus isn’t really all that dangerous for chickens.

In fact, your chickens probably want nothing to do with your leftover grapefruit peels, or the oranges you told yourself you were going to eat when you bought them but never did.

Most chickens will keep clear and avoid citrus fruit; they just don’t care for it.

And if you’ve ever offered an orange to them, it’s probably still being kicked around the coop.

Luckily, you can use this to your advantage. Use your orange peels, essential oils, or citrus juice to line your garden.

You may need to apply a more substantial amount of citrus more often if you use this chicken deterrent method – especially if there is heavy rainfall in your area.

3. Fence Your Garden In and Keep Your Chickens Out

There are some things that might work to keep your chickens out of your garden, and then there are entirely fool-proof things – like fencing.

You can fence your chickens’ favorite plants in with chicken wire, or you can put a fence around your entire garden. Whatever works best for you.

Here’s the thing, though; if you are an avid gardener, and you love leaving your chooks out every day, fencing is going to be your best bet.

Fencing will give you peace of mind.

You know fat little hens can’t fly over a fence, so you can allow your hens to find their own veggies and proteins without invading your garden.

Really, fencing is a win-win. Oh, and you can be sure to keep other garden-loving critters out with fencing, like peter rabbit and his posse, for example.

4. Add Ground Covers to Exposed Soil

A Chicken Taking a Dust Bath

Chickens love gardens for three main reasons:

  • Bugs
  • Plants
  • Dirt

That last reason right there can sometimes be the main reason your chickens are spending their time amongst your roses. Dirt baths are essential to chickens, they help keep a chicken’s oils under control, and keep parasites off.

If there is a lot of dirt exposed without plants growing, your chickens will officially declare your garden their space. The fruits or veggies in your garden are merely a perk at this point, like the cucumber water at your favorite salon.

To fend off your chickens, consider using the following ground cover methods:

  • Landscaping Fabric
  • Mesh or Netting
  • Stones
  • Ground Cover Plants

Adding one or more of these barriers will make spa-day next to impossible for your chooks.

5. Make Your Chickens a Garden of Their Own

A chicken garden may not keep wandering eyes from your garden all the time; however, if you can create a garden that is more exciting to them than your own, you and your chickens can tend your separate gardens without issue.

A chicken garden should include some of their favorite crops and space for dust baths. A refreshing fount of water will also give your chickens little reason to want to scope out your garden.

6. Stop Weeding Your Garden

Ok, so weeds probably aren’t your best friend if you want a gigantic harvest of perfect veggies at the end of the season. However, if there is less ground to bathe in, your chickens will have one less reason to set up shop in your garden.

A surplus of tangly, probably unsightly, weeds will make it challenging for your chooks to scratch for goodies. Dust baths will be entirely out of the question.

7. Supervise Your Chickens While Gardening

I know, you like to leave your chickens up to their own devices, and if none of the other items on this list are feasible, you can consider restricting their time out of the coop.

Evenings will work best for this option because it won’t be long before the sun goes down and your chickens are ready to head back to the coop. You don’t have to spend hours chasing them out of your garden, maybe just an hour or two that you already plan to spend outside.

So now you know, there’s plenty of things you can do to keep your chickens happy and your garden growing. Try combining a few of these ideas, and see what works for you. It may take some trial and error, but chickens and gardens can live in harmony.

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My Pet Chicken Blog

My chickens free range, and there are a lot of benefits that go along with that. I love to garden… and there are a lot of benefits that go along with that, too. Sometimes these two hobbies are tough to combine though. Chickens love to scratch. They love to dig. They love to dust bathe. And none of this is particularly good for your garden. They’ll eat your newly planted seedlings just as fast as they will eat weeds and bugs. And even when they’re not eating your plants, they’re wallowing holes in the ground to dust bathe. They won’t care if they’ve just crushed all your petunias and scattered 20 cubic feet of mulch that you spent four hours laying down. So, if you’re like me, you might struggle to keep your garden beds free of chicken damage. Especially difficult is figuring out a way to keep your chickens from scattering the mulch out of your landscaping beds.

Because she wants to do it. You can see it in her eyes.

First I’ll share a couple of the traditional solutions to managing the damage chickens can cause to your gardens and landscaping, then I’ll tell you my secret way to keep your chickens from scattering the mulch in your beds.

Traditional: Use fences to exclude the chickens.

The chickens can’t get into my vegetable garden, surrounded by a tall fence!

A simple solution, especially for larger areas like a vegetable garden, is to use a fence and just keep them out. Make it high enough that they can’t fly over, low enough to the ground that they can’t push under, and with small enough holes that they can’t squeeze through. In some circumstances you might be able to use fencing for selected smaller beds. If your plants aren’t edible or easily disturbed like vegetables and flowers, a low fence will probably suffice.

You can occasionally use fencing in other areas, too. But is it the best solution?

A little chicken wire fencing sometimes works in smaller beds, if you’re just protecting shrubbery… but it’s something of an eye sore, and it doesn’t always keep your chickens from scattering the mulch, either. Still, I keep this area in front of my house protected with wire because the deer like to eat the shrubs, too. (Durn deer. Sometimes I think I spend more to feed the deer than I do to feed the chickens!)

Traditional: Choose your plants carefully.

My oregano always fares well against my chickens.

There are certain plants that your chickens will leave alone, once the plants are established (deer, too). In particular, I find that perennial herbs like oregano, thyme, lavender, mint, lemon balm, marjoram, chamomile and the like do very well. Sweet woodruff also makes the cut in my yard. The flock may peck at the leaves occasionally, looking for hidden bugs, but for the most part they just don’t seem interested in eating herbs in large quantities. The perennial herbs I use are strongly rooted, once established, and become tough to scratch out. The herbs spread and even seem to make the areas around them less attractive for dust bathing, since the ground isn’t soft enough to wallow out with the root system established.

In my area—it is so green and beautiful here in WV—there are plenty of other things for the chickens to eat, so they rarely bother regular annuals like nasturtiums, impatiens, alyssum, petunias, marigolds and so on. Deer are not nearly as easy to manage, so I tend to stick with herbs! Please note that if you live in a dry or desert area with little green, or if your chickens have a small, bare run, they will certainly be tempted to eat your plants, even if those plants normally wouldn’t be first (or third, or tenth) choice. Choosing herbs or other “unappetizing” plants will be especially important in those situations.

These traditional methods do work, but they have their limitations.

The problems:

1. Not everything can be fenced. Our cottage has border beds around the porches and against the house. While I can stand having a little bed near the house fenced unobtrusively with chicken wire, I don’t want to set up a fence all the way around to protect the border beds. There are also other small beds in the yard, maybe four-foot-square each, that won’t be attractive if I fence set up a fence around them. The fencing would stand out like a sore thumb. Instead, it would be like a series of cages set up around the yard… and that “prison yard” look just isn’t what I’m going for.

2. You can’t get your plants established in the first place if your chickens keep digging up your seedlings. It’s one thing to know that the chickens won’t bother your established herbs, but it won’t do you any good at all if you can’t actually establish them because the chickens keep scratching out the seedlings before they get a chance to grow!

3. Even with established, carefully chosen plants, your chickens will destroy your mulch. They’ll scatter it looking for insects, spiders, and other bugs. Even in the fenced area of shrubs above, I occasionally have a chicken sneak in and dig around in the mulch. And without mulch, everything can look unfinished and even dilapidated. Using stone or lava rock rather than wood mulch may last longer, but it’s not a permanent solution. While the flock may not dust bathe in lava rock, they will still scratch it out looking for grubs. (Plus, the rock absorbs and radiates heat in the summer–not what we need in my area!)

So, a couple of years ago, I came up with a solution to keep the mulch down and undiggable around smaller plants and open beds. It seemed so simple once I’d thought of it, but it has worked magically for two years now. It’s been tested! That means I’m ready to share it with you

How to keep your chickens from scattering the mulch.

Secure your mulch with deer netting.

That’s all. Secure your mulch with deer netting on top.

The deer netting serves to keep your chickens from scattering the mulch. Look how nicely it dresses up this old garden bed; the netting isn’t distracting to me at all. (Now, I just have to replace the lattice!)

Did you expect something long and complicated? Something expensive? It’s not; it’s so easy! Using netting on top of your beds will keep your chickens from scattering your mulch. How did I not think of this before? I use an “invisible” black deer netting with relatively small holes; if you have a netting with larger holes, you may want a double layer. The netting I use currently sells for about $20 for 100 feet x 7 feet.

I often use water permeable landscape fabric under the mulch in permanent beds—this part is up to you, though! I don’t use the fabric in a bed where I want to be able to change the landscaping a lot year to year, and I don’t use it with quickly spreading perennials where it might inhibit growth. I usually use fabric under shrubs or in areas with permanent plantings.

Just lay the mulch on top of the fabric (or the ground as you prefer). Then lay the netting on top of the mulch. Once your mulch is covered by the netting, just secure it with fabric staples or edging.

Keep your chickens from scattering your mulch with deer netting

How easy is that?

To plant in the bed, you can cut through the netting, push back the mulch and then cut through fabric, as necessary. With larger plants like shrubs where a lot of earth must be moved, I usually find it easier to plant first, then lay the fabric, mulch and netting over top, cutting X holes where needed. Be sure to have the netting relatively tight against the mulch so your hens can’t get a toe stuck in!

I hope this idea will help chicken-proof your gardening this year. Please let me know if you’re going to try this method to keep your chickens from scattering the mulch–and let me know how it goes. Do you have any other suggestions for chicken-proof or chicken-resistant gardening? Please share in the comments!

How to Chicken-Proof Your Garden

Jessi Bloom, a landscape designer in the Seattle area and the author of the book Free-Range Chicken Gardens, says a happy coexistence is all about preparing your garden. “You wouldn’t have babies and not prepare your house for them,” she says.

The first consideration is the number of chickens appropriate for the space. “People have way too many chickens for the amount of space they have,” Bloom says. She recommends that smaller urban yards host no more than three to five chickens, and bigger suburban lots no more than five to eight.

“If you have 30 chickens on a quarter acre lot they should not be let out,” Bloom says, “They’re going to destroy it.”

Linette, an outlaw chicken owner in Philadelphia, introduced six chickens to her back yard last year. Her lot is big enough, at four-tenths of an acre, so her chickens have plenty of space and are easily discouraged from the plants Linette wants to protect. Even so, Linette keeps her vegetable garden fenced off with chicken wire during the growing season.

If a fence around the more vulnerable plants is not practical, there are a few easy fixes.

1. Chicken wire is your friend

A simple collar of chicken wire around a small plant will discourage chickens if they have enough to eat.

To give the chicken wire structure, use a tomato cage or a couple of stakes. Bloom says her garden has a steampunk aesthetic in the spring because there are so many wires and contraptions to keep the chickens away from sensitive new plants. Linette used a low wire fence, not even a foot high, to keep the chickens away from her strawberries.

This wouldn’t phase a determined chicken, but because her chickens have so much space and so many other plants to eat, they didn’t cross the fence.

2. Need something more? Check out hardware cloth

Sturdier than chicken wire, this wire mesh can be used to protect newly planted seeds.

Cut out a large square, and cut a small square at each corner. This gives you long tabs on each edge of the larger square which can be bent down so it stands up off the ground. It can be weighed down with bricks and used to protect newly-planted seeds or low-growing plants like ground covers

3. Get serious with bricks and stones

An aggressive chicken can scratch smaller stones out of the way, but a ring of bricks or larger stones around the base of a plant can discourage scratching.

This method is especially important in newly planted containers, because the chickens love nothing better than to kick the loose soil out of a pot.

4. Get weeds to do the work

Yes, even weeds can help protect your plants.

When you pull out weeds, you make patches of bare dirt that draw chickens like a magnet. Once they’ve stripped out worms and bugs, they lie in the dirt and pack it down to make dust baths. Even a sturdy plant like garlic will not take well to this treatment, but simply leaving the weeds in the bed discourages the chickens and doesn’t hurt the garlic.

5. Strategic planting

Bloom suggested planting flower seeds in tiny crevices the chickens can’t get to, like these nasturtiums planted in the spaces between the bricks that line a chicken run.

The chickens couldn’t scratch or peck the seeds, so the plants had a chance to germinate. Once the seeds sprouted they tasted the leaves a few times but have otherwise left them alone, preferring easier pickings in other parts of the yard.

6. Plants just for the chickens

Bushes and low-growing trees can provide shelter for chickens to escape from predators.

Linette’s yard is arranged so there’s always a bush nearby for a foraging chicken to dart under if danger threatens. On hot days, they spend a lot of time scratching and dozing in the deep shade under the bushes. It helps to plant at least one evergreen so the chickens have cover even in the winter. Bloom also grows a variety of berries in her yard to feed her chickens, and growing some of their food cuts down on the need for expensive store-bought chicken feed. She’s wary about recommending specific plant varieties because some are invasive in one region but perfectly fine in others. However, she likes elderberry because it provides both food and shelter to her chickens. Blueberries are also good chicken food, but you’ll want to protect some of the bushes or no blueberries will make it into your kitchen.

Gardening with chickens can is a constantly evolving process. No system is perfect, but a few inexpensive strategies can make the experience easier on the gardener and the garden.

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PHOTO: M. Huston/Flickr by Stephanie Staton April 25, 2016

Chickens are abundantly amusing and useful livestock to keep on the farm, but that doesn’t mean keeping them is without its challenges, especially with free-range fowl. Shutting them up at night keeps them safe from predators and in their intended living space, but free-ranging during the daylight hours enables them to engage in natural foraging activities for better nutrition and overall health.

Keeping them from roosting in trees, wandering off or peeking through your windows, however, can be difficult. When your favorite relaxation spot or frequently used machinery becomes their new perch—aka a droppings board in function, if not in name—the rose-colored glasses start to fade. If you’re having to wage war with your free-range birds to keep them under control (and off the porch!), the following tips should help to turn the tide in your favor without imprisoning your prized poultry.

1. Move Your Coop

Jennifer Cook, the small acreage management coordinator from the Colorado State University Extension, says that a free-range flock needs a minimum of 10 square feet per bird in a run or fenced area to forage. If you have 10 chickens, they need at least 100 square feet of space set away from your human-designated areas but will likely roam farther based on their comfort with the space as well as with you.

Placing shelter and feeding stations nearby makes sense from an accessibility standpoint, but this accessibility makes your porch, equipment or anything else that could serve as a nice poultry perch tempting to your fowl flock, too. If proximity seems to be the problem for your situation, consider moving your coop and other shelters farther from the area where your chickens need to be banished.

If proximity isn’t the problem and your hens are just straying too far from the coop, as they tend to do as they become comfortable with an area, Jacquie Jacob, a poultry extension associate at University of Kentucky, recommends adding a rooster to your flock: “Sometimes a rooster will keep them closer to home,” she says.

2. Limit Your Feeding Areas

If your poultry shelter was already positioned at a suitable distance or moving it didn’t have the desired effect, evaluate the behavior of your flock to determine what might be driving them to set up shop in your zone. “Other than the use of confinement, it is hard to get chickens to not roost where you don’t want,” Jacob says. “Sometimes, they want to be near people, so even if there are better perching areas, they still migrate to where the people are to see if they can get handouts.”

Be sure to keep your handouts restricted to the area where you want them; feeding near your personal areas will only encourage them to seek you out. Food should be associated with a location more so than a person.

If you’re not the attraction, look around to see what is. Does a porch railing or tractor steering wheel give them a better vantage point than they already have? Chickens will look for the highest perch for the best view and might even compete for the honor if there isn’t room for more than one, which is why you might find them roosting in trees on your property or, if you lack those, your porch rail. If you find this is the case, raise the stakes—or perch alternative, as it might be. Offer a higher perch near the point of offense to lure the birds away. If your chickens take the bait, gradually move the perch toward their designated area to help ease the transition.

3. Break Your Chickens’ Bad Habits

Even with proper spacing and preferable perch options, habits can be difficult to break. If you have the time and energy to devote to herding the birds off your porch several times per day for days on end, then a traditional shooing method might be enough to curb your birds’ bad habits.

You will need to be home to drive the birds from their perch as quickly as possible each time they come to it. Leaving to go to town or leaving the area to do other tasks will kill the consistency needed to make this method successful. These “shooing” methods include just walking calmly and slowly with arms extended toward the birds—probably the safest and least trust-damaging method to use with your birds—to using spray bottles to spritz the offending fowl.

That said, most small-scale farmers don’t have that luxury and would prefer to devote their energies to other farm-related chores. In this case, look into automated deterrents, including mechanized decoys and water sprayers. Chickens have a natural aversion to their common predators, which has led some companies to develop animated owls, snakes and hawks that move and make sounds. These frightening tools have limited efficacy as the birds can become accustomed to the mechanized predators, especially if they aren’t moved to various locations and positions on a regular basis. While this is a lesser commitment, it does require some upkeep to garner the most benefit from it.

Another mechanized tool that might work is an automated sprayer often sold for deterring dogs from landscaping. These motion-activated sprayers shoot a small stream of water at the offender. This one would require thoughtful placement to avoid spraying yourself or other members of your family, but it affords the consistently random deterrent required to keep chickens at bay.

Protecting Surrounding Birds

Be sure the deterrents you choose don’t impact the raptor population in your area. Although birds of prey, such as great horned owls, hawks and eagles, are natural predators of poultry, it’s illegal to use scare tactics or lethal controls on them without a permit.

People who experience raptor damage problems should immediately seek information and/or assistance, according to the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management, a research website (www.icwdm.org) funded through a grant and maintained by Scott Hygnstrom, the director of the Wisconsin Institute for Wildlife at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point:

“Frustration killings occur far too often because landowners are unfamiliar with or unable to control damage with nonlethal control techniques. These killings result in the needless loss of raptors, and they may lead to undesirable legal actions. If trapping or shooting is necessary, permits should be requested and processed as quickly as possible. Always consider the benefits that raptors provide before removing them from an area; their ecological importance, aesthetic value and contributions as indicators of environmental health may outweigh the economic damage they cause.”

Although they vary by state, the legalities that protect these birds are quite strict: All hawks and owls are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. These laws strictly prohibit the capture, killing or possession of hawks or owls without special permit. No permits are required to scare depredating migratory birds except for endangered or threatened species, including bald and golden eagles.

In addition, most states have regulations regarding hawks and owls. Some species may be common in one state but may be on a state endangered species list in another. For permit requirements and information, consult your local representatives at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and/or state wildlife department.

The Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management recommends preventing an attack before predation becomes a problem: “Eliminate perch sites within 100 yards of the threatened area by removing large, isolated trees and other perching surfaces. Install utility lines underground and remove telephone poles near poultry-rearing sites. Cap poles with sheet metal cones, Nixalite (bird barriers), cat claws or inverted spikes.”

The same fright devices you use for your chickens might not be legal for birds of prey in your area, so check local regulations. The same pitfalls of these devices often apply to birds of prey: Generally, if birds are hungry, they quickly get used to and ignore frightening devices.

How to Use Plants to Ward Off Chickens

By Bonnie Jo Manion, Robert T. Ludlow

Some plants deter chickens from entering certain areas. Chicken-resilient plants come in many forms, as in specific trees, shrubs, perennials, herbs, and ground covers. It helps if they are woody, with deep roots. Many plants that are dense such as mass plantings and groundcovers can also be effective in deterring chickens.

A young form of any tree, shrub, perennial must be protected from chickens until it has time to mature. A plant that is considered to be chicken-resistant needs time to grow and mature before exposing it to a flock of chickens.

Here are plant examples that are considered to be chicken-resistant:

  • Trees: Most trees are chicken-resistant. An exception might be if an outside pen was constructed around an existing tree, and a large flock of chickens was continuously burrowing under it, roosting, and heavily fertilizing it.

  • Shrubs: Most popular with chickens for shelter, protection, and relaxing. Can vary in sizes. Salvias are woody perennials that stand up to chickens. Some popular varieties are Cleveland Sage, Salvia Clevelandii, and Mexican Sage, Sage mexicana.

    Here are some more examples to consider:

    • Barberry: Berberis spp.

    • Breath of Heaven: Coleonema spp.

    • California Wild Lilac: Ceanothus spp.

    • Camellia: Camellia spp.

    • Euonymus: Euonymus microphyllus

    • Ferns: Polystichum spp.

    • Lavender: Lavendula spp.

    • Lilac: Syringa spp.

    • Pittosporum: Pittosporum spp.

    • Plumbago: Plumbago spp.

    • Rose: Rosa spp.

    • Rosemary: Rosemarinus officinalis spp.

    • Spiraea: Spiraea spp.

    • Sage: Salvia spp.

    • Viburnum: Viburnum spp.

  • Perennials: Plants that are “work horses” in the garden. Landscape geraniums, Pelargoniums spp., can cover large flowerbeds and parts of the garden with chickens scratching around them.

    Check out these varieties:

    • Black-Eyed Susan: Rudbekia spp.

    • Calla Lily: Zantedeschia spp.

    • Catmint: Nepeta spp.

    • Daylily: Hemerocallis spp.

    • Hosta: Hosta spp

    • Iris: Iris spp.

    • Lily of the Nile: Agapanthus spp.

    • Peony: Paeonia spp.

    • Shasta Daisy: Chrysanthemum maximum

    • Yarrow: Achillea spp.

  • Groundcover: Tap into the beauty and function of ground covers. Ground covers are usually dense, aesthetic, aromatic, functional, and some are edible. The density keeps chickens away from them. They have trouble scratching through the soil.

    Here are some examples:

    • Blueberry (low bush): Vaccinium angustifolum, Brunswick, Burgundy, and Top Hat varieties

    • Feverfew: Tanacetum parthenium.

    • Juniper (low varieties): Juniperous.

    • Mint (creeping types): Mentha spp. It can be invasive in a garden.

    • Rosemary (trailing types): Rosmarinus officinalis

    • Roses (ground covers): Rosa spp.

    • Sweet Woodruff: Galium odoratum. It can be invasive in a garden.

    • Thyme (creeping varieties): Thymus spp.

  • Annuals: Annuals have a short season, yet mature into a splash. Chickens benefit by eating these in the chicken garden.

    Here are two types to check out:

    • Borage, Borago officinalis. Every chicken garden should have this annual growing in it. It easily reseeds, but does not transplant well because of a large taproot.

    • Nasturtium (trailing variety), Tropaeolum majus. Another indispensible annual in a chicken garden. Reseeds easily.

Garden Plants And Chickens: How To Protect Plants From Chickens

Urban chicken farming is everywhere in my little suburban area. We are used to seeing “chicken found” or “chicken lost” signs and even chickens themselves strutting across our lawns. Those folks didn’t do a very good job of chicken proofing their garden. But you don’t just want the chickens running amok. Protecting plants from chickens is also a priority. How do I chicken proof my garden, you ask? Read on to find out how to protect plants from chickens.

Garden Plants and Chickens

There’s nothing like a freshly laid egg for breakfast. For this reason and because more and more people are concerned about how their food is grown, urban chicken farming is all the rage. Adding chickens to your landscape has more benefits than just fresh laid eggs, but it can also have its share of problems.

Chickens scratch to get at bugs, often a boon to the gardener, but all that aggressive scratching can wreak havoc on tender plants. Once they get an area free of plant life, it turns into an inexpensive chicken spa – a dust bath. So it’s important to keep garden plants and chickens either at a safe distance or go with it and install plants for the chickens.

Don’t let the fact that the chickens might disturb a few plants deter you. The benefits of having chickens outweigh the downsides. Because they tend to eat pests such as beetles, aphids and larvae, your garden will be less affected by them with no

need for chemical controls. Their feces make an incredibly rich fertilizer and while they’re pecking around the garden, they eat many weed seeds that might otherwise overtake the garden. In fact, many gardeners move the chickens to different areas of the garden to reap the benefits of the manure as well as the removal of larvae, pests and weeds by their feathered friends.

How to Protect Plants from Chickens

If, however, the chickens are a little overzealous and you’re losing too many plants, you’re probably wondering how to chicken proof your garden. There are a number of methods for chicken proofing a garden. The most obvious is fencing off the most problematic areas. There are a number of ways to do this. Probably the most common is chicken wire. There’s a reason it’s called chicken wire.

Certainly, you will want to fence off the vegetable garden since there will be new, tender seedlings coming up, as well as tempting bare areas the chickens can’t keep their talons out of. You don’t have to use chicken wire, any wire barrier works. Livestock fencing or sturdy wire mesh works well. Creating a hedge will also block the chickens from areas you would rather not have them in.

If you don’t want to make an entire fenced area, there are other ways of protecting plants from chickens. Rocks placed around the base of new plants will keep the chickens from scratching and digging them up. Cloches or netting around plants will also protect them. Trellising keeps plants up and out of reach. Tall container plantings will keep the chickens away from vulnerable plants, as do hanging baskets.

Plant flowers beds close together. Any bare patches of dirt are irresistible to chickens. Also, keep an area of the yard as a dust bath to keep the chickens from scratching other areas of the landscape. Sprinkle it with diatomaceous earth periodically to keep them mite free.

There are some plants that chickens don’t seem to be interested in. These are generally taller plants that are out of reach. Roses, barberries, dogwoodsand hydrangeasare all beauties that are unappreciated by chickens. Sunflowers, for obvious reasons, are chicken proof but plant these with care, as the un-hulled seeds are not good for them either.

You don’t just want to focus on keeping the plants from the chickens; you might want to incorporate some plants just for the chickens, especially if they are free range. It’s a good idea to plant at least one evergreen so they have cover in the winter and a dense thicket of bushes so they can scratch and doze under them during hot days. Chicken friendly berries, like elderberriesor blueberries, are a great option for the thicket. The hens will snack away on the berries, thereby cutting the costs of expensive chicken feed.

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