Keeping Chickens Out of the Garden : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I'd like my chickens to free range. Not only are the chickens healthier, but they eat alot less grain saving us a ton of money. The eggs are healthier too.

I have a REALLY LARGE garden. It would be astronomical to fence it in. I usually only let my chickens range in the early spring and late fall when there is nothing in the garden. I want to let them range more if possible.

What kind of garden produce will the chickens eat and what kinds will they avoid? Can I let them range after the lettuce and young shoots are out of the garden? Any hints?


-- Tiffani Cappello (, February 28, 2001


Tiffani, Our chickens free range all year. I would suggest a fence of some sort around your garden. We use metal posts and tie bird netting to it about 4 ft. high all around the garden. You'll need to put something on the bottom to hold it down, we use bricks every 3-4 ft. If you'd still like to have chckens in the garden for bug and weed control, you can select a couple for once or twice a week to "patrol" the garden. You'll want to wait until the garden is well up, and they WILL sample produce so if you don't want that, just keep them out all together. When our patrol it's usually one at a time and we try to rotate everyone in during the season. They do cut down on bugs, we had a grasshopper problem until last yr. We still have loads of ear wigs but I'm hoping they will diminish too.

-- Kelle in MT. (, February 28, 2001.

I usually don't let my chickens out when the tomatoes are getting ripe. It is positively heart breaking to see pecked spots in the first tomatoes of the season. Mine took a nibble of other stuff on occasion but nothing that made much difference. They absolutely went crazy over maters though. I usually would just leave them in their coop till a couple of hours before dusk....they usually don't go far from the coop at that time. I just confined them till tomatoe season was over.

-- Amanda in Mo (, February 28, 2001.

could try a poultry netting over the more delicate plants, ,or their favorite veggies,, miight work for awhile

-- Stan (, February 28, 2001.

My best advice is get rid of the chickens OR the garden. If the chickens won't eat what's growing, they will surely scratch all around it and ruin it looking for bugs. Your best bet is a good fence and clipping the chickens wings so they can't fly over it. I buy 4' rods for elec. fencing and rolls of plastic wire that I thread through the posts for temporary fencing to keep chickens out of certain areas.

-- Duffy (, March 01, 2001.

Hey Duffy,

What is "rolls of plastic wire" that you thread through the posts?

-- Cindy in Ky (, March 01, 2001.

Thanks folks, I think I'll just have to pen those poor ol' bitties in. I have two gardens - one 100' by 50'and the other 30' by 60'. It would cost way too much to fence it in. Would be much cheaper to build them a better outdoor pen. Gardening is my first love. Can't stand the thought of losing anything I have tended so carefullly!!

-- Tiffani Cappello (, March 01, 2001.


I have about the same size gardens you do and use 4' plastic step-in electric fence posts like Duffy and 4 foot high rolls of plastic fencing. Forget those metal posts - probably more durable , but what a pain to keep moving around. I bought enough material to fence about 1/3 of the garden at any given time. It's very easy to move the plastic fence posts around to the areas that need it. I've found that once most vegetable plants get up & going the chickens aren't that much of a problem. Potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries, and lettuces are some of the exceptions that should always be fenced. I feel the cost of the posts & fence, and moving it around is well worth the joy I have when I'm working side by side with my chickens in the garden. I've ordered the plastic fence posts for about $1.80 each from American Livestock Supply (1-800-356-0700 or You probably need a fence post every 8 to 10 feet.You can get the plastic fence at your local garden or ag store. Good luck and may your chickens roam free!

-- Barb (, March 01, 2001.

How far are your gardens from where your chickens are? We have a 50X90 garden near the house and the chickens are kept across the yard at the barn. When they are let out to range they have a lot of areas they can explore before they get to the garden. If they are getting really bad about heading for the garden we keep them locked up during most of the day and let them out in the afternoon. I would think that perhaps a low fence 1-2 feet of welded wire or netting with a hot wire across the top for your "jumpers" would work. If they're ranging, there will be easier prey out there then what is in your garden.

-- Trisha-MN (, March 01, 2001.

Chickens and garden don't mix! Fencing may be cheaper than you realise, and is well worthwhile if your garden spot is permanent. Try welded wire rabbit fencing or plastic mesh from home depot, etc. We use the rabbit wire, which I think was about $14 per 50 foot length. It would cost you $100 or so, but lasts for decades if you take good care of it. You don't need fancy posts either, you can cut oak saplings, pvc plumbing pipe or re- bar. It helps to use guy wires on the corner posts to keep it tight if you don't go with real posts. A word of warning though, some of the chickens may fly over the fence into the garden anyway! On a similar subject, we tried putting all the birds INSIDE the fence one time to act as a chicken tractor before we planted. They were miserable and eventually all managed to fly out!!!

-- David C (, March 01, 2001.

Folks there is a cheaper option still,than using the store bought posts for anti pest fencing.1/2 inch pvc water pipe is CHEAP.Cut the pipe to the height you wish.Then drill 1/8 inch holes for the wire to pass through.A less labor intensive way than threading the wire through the fence post is to use cotter pins through the post with the wire passing through the cotter pins eye.The fence being plastic is it's own insulator.All you need is light gage wire (cheap). A grounding rod (cheap) and a fence charger.(not so cheap)Battery power is not bad if you use a car battery instead of a dry celll and charge it in your car once a week or so.

-- greg (, March 01, 2001.

I will admit that I have not perused the above posts at length. However, I, too, have suffered through what you have experienced. I use 2' high 2" mesh chicken wire to enclose my early crops. Within this rather miniscule fortress I plant my very early crops, such as lettuce, kale, sprouts, and other cole crops. Early on, my ladies will eat any tender garden fare. When the weeds, pasture, and other natural feeds appear, they become less enamored. But I definately put all tomatoes inside the "compound". There does not exist a chicken that wouldn't LOVE ripe tomatoes! But 2' high is enough. Chickens fly as well as Bill Clinton tells the truth! GL!

-- Brad (, March 01, 2001.

When the garden gets in full swing I keep them penned up until about an hour or so before sundown, when I can be out there with them..they free range all day in the months I don't have a garden.

-- Lynn(MO) (, March 01, 2001.

I don't like the chickens anywhere near my garden. They scratch all the mulch away from the plants, ruin my rows, and eat all my worms. Anywhere I put grass clippings down, like around flowers and trees, those chickens go for it and scatter it all over the yard. I got so sick of it I couldn't take it anymore. They had 11 acres to roam, but only wanted in my 1 acre off limits. I locked them up. I know its neat to let them walk around, but not when I had to go to the pasture gate and wait for my dog to bring them ALL back 20 times a day!

-- Cindy in Ky (, March 02, 2001.

Tiffani - don't give up. I bought garden stakes and used orange construction fencing (cut in half so it's 24" tall) and put that around my 50 X 70 garden. It does a super job of keeping the girls out. Plus I can take it down in the fall when I need to till and the hens can play there all winter if they want to. Good luck, Glynnis

-- glynnis in KY (, March 02, 2001.

Tiffani- I let my chickens out when I am outside working in the garden so I can keep an eye onthem. This is every day, in Spring and Summer and almost every day come Fall. I can protect them from wandering dogs and predators this way, too. In Winter they dont seem to want to wander away from the door of their coop. So the hens are out about 3-4 hours per day. On days I'm not out there, I'll open the coop 2 hours before dark, and they never enter the garden, but stay in the grasses closer to the henhouse. Once in a while I'll put two at a time into the garden.. the mess is minimal and the bugs disappear. Its lots of fun for the hens, and they are my pets. Michele

-- Michele Rae Padgett (, March 05, 2001.

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