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Weeding With Chickens

June 2, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToo often people think chickens and gardens have a happy co-existence. Chickens get weeds, pests and leave manure while the garden benefits from the exchange. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way.

More often than not digging down after weeds and pests moonscapes the area, digs up plants and leaves nothing behind!

A compromise comes in a small batch of young silkies. They’re in a wire dog crate, with no bottom tray. It’s on the ground so they have access to minimal scratching, and they can reach through just beyond the walls. Water is kept outside to give them more space and prevent the biggest one from perching on it and dumping it. A cover is available for shade or the 30% chance of rain.

While most don’t give silkies credit for function, they’re personable OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAlittle critters. We found function with rotating them through the beds ahead of planting. They’ve cleaned out weeds and not made holes and hills as the bigger birds do when they escape and hit a garden.

With moving them along as they work, they cleared out on bed in a day – and didn’t charge anything for the work! It kept them out of the seed trays and away from the existing plants.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s a difference Between the above and the photo at the right, where an escaped large chicken centered on this tire bed as a favorite spot. The two tomatoes in the bed are gone, the bed not just gone through but tilled! They don’t work evenly either! With young plants, or seeds, it can be especially bad to have chickens loose in the garden. And if they find a seed, the treasure hunt is on!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEscapes can happen, though, so we try to plan for protection. One bed is outside the chicken yard near the water. Louffa gourds are planted along the back, with the idea of putting them up the fence, and something else in the front part. The seeds are between the wire and the tin – allowing sun and rain to get through but not chickens! The scraps of wire were in the ‘maybe useful’ pile of reused items.

When quarters are tight it can be a challenge to use as much as possible and fit everything in without crowding. Doing this and helping with weeding means the Silkies *are* functional here. We all have to find what works!

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