Let me share with you my tried and true chicken garden “tool box” full of accoutrements. Every gardener with a free range flock must have several devices to protect delicate prized plants from potential destruction. Edibles are a high priority in my garden, however the girls have full access to the space year round which helps keeps pests in check…I just have to cut them off at key times throughout the season as crops are getting started and are ripening.
First up in the toolbox~
1) Wire seedling barriers: Most small gauge metal fencing scraps will work fabulously. I bust these babies out when I direct sow any seeds throughout the growing season. I also keep it over my greens and other plants I don’t want chickens walking over the top of. Always keep several chunks of wire meshing handy, and be sure to fit them to your garden bed size, but still be able to twist, bend, adjust, and shape to your needs. See page 48 in the book.
2) Bird Netting: This cheap, easy to find, practically invisible barrier will protect your plants and can be used over and over again. I drape my berry crops and plants such as tomatoes when they are ripe for the picking, and birds steer clear of it. I’ve even used it draped loosely on a fence railing which worked great because chickens don’t want to get tangled up in it. Magic! See my blog post where I use it for my tomatoes.
3) Rocks! It doesn’t get any easier than this. For any plants that get dug up while the ladies search for grubs in the soil — which is almost anytime we plant something new — ring these around the plant until it’s roots are firmly established. This is especially great for plants that need a little warmth as the rocks are a great heat sink.
And last but not least, for your toolbox pack some patience. These little birds are just doing what they know best: scratching soil and eating grubs. It is up to us to make sure we are not setting ourselves up for failure. As you will read in my book Free Range Chicken Gardens, it all depends on your garden, the number of chickens in your flock, and your routine. With this in mind and by using some of these plant barrier tricks, you can keep your chickens natural behavior in check so that your garden will thrive.