Chickens can be very useful in the garden, eating bugs and scratching up small weeds. But they can also be very destructive, pecking, nibbling, and scratching up the very plants you are trying to grow unless they are behind protection. I've been running chickens free range in my garden for 8 years and, from my own experience, the following are lists of vegetables and their susceptibility to chicken damage.
Totally safe with chickens, only occasional trampling or scratching up of new transplants or seedlings:
Winter and summer squash
Melons (bury seeds well, will eat seeds if they can see them)
Pole and bush beans
Yard long beans
Not safe with chickens, like to eat leaves, fruit, or seeds easily scratched up:
Collards, cabbage, all Cole crops
Tomatoes (only the fruit, they don't bother the leaves, trellis to get the fruit above chicken height)
Corn (seedlings, but not large plants)
I didn not have exactly the same experience with you when I had free ranging chickens that could get into the vegetables, Most of it I agree with but to match my experience
I would have to move
Squash (both winter and summer) to unsafe, they love them and leave peck marks in all of it.
Cucumbers mixed results, they didn't go for the small pickles but they love the long slicers
In a sort of semi safe position
Peas/fava beans while neither took any hits to the pods, the leaves of both were loved,
Carrots and parsnips, my girls had zero interest in the leaves from these, (or the roots unless cooked) and wouldn't even eat them when they were confined to their coop for 6 months due to avian flu
I found oddly that my ducks and to a lesser extent the chickens LOVED rhubarb leaves... not sure that did them too much good.
Good list. My chickens don't bother Swiss chard. Sometimes they do peck at a few squash & baby pumpkins so I plant extra for them & other hungry critters. Plenty to go around.
Argue for your limitations and they are yours forever.
Location: Upstate SC
posted 9 months ago
Its likely that the breed of chicken, stocking rate, and the presence of wild edible plants outside the garden has an effect what crops they damage. Possibly also the cultivar could have an effect. The only winter squash I'm growing is Seminole. The problem I had with carrots and parsnips is the chickens would scratch up the seed bed during the 2 weeks it takes for the seeds to germinate. My chickens are welsummer, barred rock, brahma, austrolorp, and favorelles.
Mike Barkley wrote:Good list. My chickens don't bother Swiss chard. Sometimes they do peck at a few squash & baby pumpkins so I plant extra for them & other hungry critters. Plenty to go around.
Swiss chard is a bit like comfrey: the girls will attack it if there isn't something better for them to eat. If there are beets, lettuce, or other tasty greens that they enjoy more, they'll walk right past the chard so they can attack the cabbage. But in a hard time, they'll settle for chard.
Kind of like me. I'll eat Swiss Chard if there's nothing else growing.
"The rule of no realm is mine. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, these are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail in my task if anything that passes through this night can still grow fairer or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I too am a steward. Did you not know?" Gandolf
I used small rocks and concrete rubble to keep them from bothering my strawberries. The rocks also served as part of the mulch. If they can’t scratch the ground they don’t do much damage. I usually kept the chickens out when the berries were fruiting. They eat some berries but not a lot. They had a lot of space to roam though.