I'm currently interning at a homestead out in the Kapoho area of the big island of Hawaii (zone 12A). I've got a nice garden space out front of my living area that is totally unused on account of the flock of 12 hens that free range in the area. Previous occupants have tried (unsuccessfully) fencing in tomatoes and other vegetables, but for crops like that we have another chicken-free garden area. I'm still determined to use the space however (seeing that square of empty soil every day is unbearable ) and so I’m trying to draw up a list of potential herbs or edibles that the chickens wouldn’t be interested in. It would be especially nice to get a perennial kitchen herb garden going; make the place more comfortable for future interns and all.
So far I've been planning on propagating mint, tropical thyme, and nasturtium (there is a trellis area for them to climb). I’ve also heard basil isn’t their favorite, so I was thinking of perennial (holy) basil. I’ve seen several bird pepper plants doing well around the chickens here too, so I might give them a go as well.
Does anyone else have recommendations for plants the chickens won’t touch, especially perennial herbs? I know it will be a challenge getting most plants going with the chickens scratching around, but I’m looking for things that, once established, won’t be so appetizing to the chickens, but will add variety to my and future intern’s diets.
Maybe focus on tree crops, or vines on high trellice. Although chickens can fly and perch in trees, and some breeds do so more than others, they don't usually forage on fruit up in the trees. In fact they are beneficial in orchards by cleaning up fallen fruit and it's content of insects....
Andrew, my chickens have access to our veg garden and the forest garden too.
I have a few fenced areas for lettuce, the cabbage family and seedlings and I protect newly planted veg with sticks/lattices and other bits and bobs that I remove when the crops are big enough to look after themselves.
Our 50 or so chickens free-range over a very big area and have a lot of choice - so be careful if you have a very small garden, just observe what they do and act accordingly.
Our chickens free range for only part of the day, they are a mixed flock of bantams, American Pit Game (only the hens free range) and misc. egg layers. Our yard looks like we are running a zoo since it is full of cages and pens which are designed to keep the chickens from tearing everything up. They even fly up into the peach tree and eat the peaches! I only remove the cages when things are too big and sturdy for them to destroy. They have been know to excavate six foot fruit trees to destruction. Forget keeping any kind of mulch on anything, that is like an invitation to attack to them and we actually used that behavior to disburse straw mulch around our Nanking cherry grove - just dumped whole bales and let the girls have at it. We are talking 7 acres of garden/food forest/orchard sort of things. We love 'em though so we work around it the best we can.
Irene, what kind of chickens are those? They are gorgeous!
I had good results in my new orchard with what I called "stick mulch"....basically chop and drop with a lot of branches in it, dumped all tangled up around each new tree. The chickens try, but they can't get down into it and move the whole pile and disturb the tree roots. I'm talking some sticks up to one and two inches thick, laid with branches interlocking. On a site being cleared from bush, and without a chipper, there is usually more such material than there are uses for. The other thing I've done is lay scraps of fencing, netting, etc. flat on the ground and secure them with pegs or rocks......
Also the solution may be much more of:
------- Growing your own chicken feed ----------
" Fencing chickens (and/or ducks) in the garden before the planting season largely eliminates the slug population for months.
"Weeder" geese rid certain crops (corn, grapes, onions, potatoes, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and asparagus) of weeds."
- Mother Earth News article