Last summer, as an Intern on an organic farm I spent many hours in the potato field with other interns and WWOOFers searching for and squishing potato bugs. If those potatoes were priced to reflect the amount of man-hours that went into them they would be super expensive!
My question is: could chickens be confined to the potato field and used to control potato bugs? another type of poultry (that doesn't scratch so much)? Runner ducks or Guinea foul? Since potato leaves are poison are potato bugs? and would that affect poultry?
My chickens have had access to my garden before, much to my consternation. I've seen damage to the potato plants, but it was minor, where they have decimated other plants. The potato plants do not seem to be their top selection, which I attribute to flavor. I'm not able to say if this will keep the chickens away from the plants in a search for bugs.
I've grown large numbers of potatoes before. I find that spreading them out can prevent an infestation. 50 plants here, 50 over there, 50 behind the shed. I've done this with up to 600 potato plants and found it effective. Potato bugs got into 1 group of plants, but were not able to develop into an infestation in a limited environment. They did not appear at all in other groups.
Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
You may want to plant beans with your potatoes - potatoes discourage the bean beetle and the bean discourages the potatoes beetle. Also dead nettle & flax is a great companion to potatoes. Chickens can do so much damage, I keep them out of my garden.
We've been using chickens and ducks for decades to control potato bugs, June beetles, etc. As a child I was assigned to hand pick them. As a teenager I figured out a better way - poultry. The trick is to put the birds into the garden at the right time, when the pests emerge, and remove the chickens and ducks before they run out of juicy bugs to eat so they don't trample plants. Works around corn too. Don't put ducks near peas though!