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Chickens in Garden Spaces to Till and Fertilize

Chickens can be an amazing workforce when allowed to free range in your vegetable garden. The variety of chores they can accomplish for you in a small amount of time make what they give back invaluable!

Wyandotte chicken in the garden.

And, of course, your backyard chickens also give you the additional benefit of eggs, meat, and being capable of reproducing themselves. This is a great way to use the permaculture approach for your chicken flock.

When you get your chickens out of their chicken run and keep them in the garden during a specified period of time, they can clean up unwanted foliage, till, and fertilize with minimal work from you.

Can Chickens Roam in the Garden?

Free-ranging chickens can damage your vegetable garden if they aren’t contained. If boundaries are set with chicken wire and monitored, chickens can absolutely roam in your garden beds and be extremely beneficial.

I’ve shared how chickens can help reduce pests and control bugs in the orchard. Now we’ll discuss how chickens can till and fertilize your garden. 

Pros

  • Fertilize – Chicken manure adds nitrogen to the soil and primes it for the growing season.
  • Dispose of Garbage – They love to eat food scraps in the garden.
  • Till and Turn Soil – By scratching and eating practically all vegetation, chickens make great tillers.
  • Pest Control – Chickens love and thrive on all kinds of insects, bugs, and grubs.

Cons

  • Eat Freshly Sown Seeds – Those freshly planted seeds are a delicacy for chickens!
  • Pull Up Seedlings – And so are seedlings!
  • Eat New Produce – Your feathered friends like almost all the same foods you do.
  • Take Dust Baths – What better place to take a dust bath than in the loose soil?
Chickens working in a garden.

Use Chickens for Tilling the Garden Soil

One backyard chicken can till 50 square feet of established sod in about 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! In fact, I sold my machine tiller years ago and have been using my chickens ever since.

Supplies Needed

Chickens working in a garden.

How to Use Chickens to Till the Soil

When I needed my sweet potato patch cleaned up, I put my flock of approximately 30 birds on it. They were as happy as could be and did most of the necessary work in one day.

  1. Set up a chicken tractor or poultry netting in the desired area.
  2. Let your chickens work in one place long enough to accomplish the job you want them to do. Pro-Tip: Feel free to estimate your timing based on the size of your flock and garden plot on the 50 square-feet-per-chicken statistics.
A woman holding a bunch of freshly harvested beets.

Chicken Manure Provides Nitrogen Fertilizer

One chicken can provide enough nitrogen fertilizer for a 50-square-foot garden in a little more than a month. The chicken manure nitrogen level isn’t just great for the compost pile, it is the essential ingredient to fertilizing our gardens.

The average chicken will create about a quarter pound of fresh manure daily! The manure is 1.5% nitrogen, so that’s .004 pounds of nitrogen per day. If we aim for a solid .30 pounds of nitrogen for 100 square feet of garden space, it will take one chicken 75 days to complete the job.

It doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up quickly when you have multiple chickens.

Raised garden beds filled with crops.

Supplies Needed

  • Confined Garden Bed – To fertilize directly, a chicken tractor can be set up on a raised garden bed, or poultry netting can be used to confine chickens for in-ground planting areas.

How to Use Chickens to Fertilize the Soil

Set up chickens in a confined area using a chicken tractor or electric poultry netting.

  1. Allow chickens to remain in the designated space based on the size of the area and how many chickens you have. Pro-Tip: Be careful not to leave your chickens in one place too long as you can have too much of a good thing!
  2. In the event your chickens have added too much nitrogen to the area, simply mix in wood chips to help keep a proper balance.

Make your chickens work for you! With these tips, your backyard flock will be providing more than just eggs or meat.

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Hi, I'm Justin

I share from a love of teaching and the sustainable movement. Here, you’ll find exhaustive permaculture articles, plentiful photos, cinematic educational films and business tips and tricks.

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