That may sound contradictory, but really, chickens can do all kinds of work in the garden. They do love to eat almost anything green that you don't want them to eat and they will the first chance they get. They also like to scratch. Ugh? Can it be that they actually help in the garden in some way? Do you think chickens scratching in the garden sounds like a good idea to you?
Let me explain. We are not giving the chickens (and any other poultry we may have), free range of the gardens all year long. But, spring time, before plant, is a perfect opportunity to put our chickens to work for us. Like I said, chickens like to eat almost anything green. Any weeds that are coming up will be great fresh greens for them. They eat the weeds and we get chemical free weed control.
They also like to eat bugs. They may like this better than the greens. Letting the chickens in the gardens in the spring is a great way to control bad bugs in the garden. If there are any bugs, or their larvae, in the garden, the chickens are sure to find them. They get a tasty meal and we get chemical free pest control!
We do not till our gardens. Tilling ruins the very important ecosystem of the soil and disturbs all the organisms, micro and otherwise, that live their. If they aren't killed in the process they then have to go about rebuild their "homes". This takes time so instead of working with our plants, helping them to reach nutrients they other wise would not be able to (go glomolin!), aerating the soil, breaking down organic matter and more, they are stuck trying to rebuild their world. Because I can't say it any better let me provide you with the following from Oregon State extension service.
A single teaspoon (1 gram) of rich garden soil can hold up to one billion bacteria, several yards of fungal filaments, several thousand protozoa, and scores of nematodes, according to Kathy Merrifield, a retired nematologist at Oregon State University. Most of these creatures are exceedingly small; earthworms and millipedes are giants, in comparison. Each has a role in the secret life of soil.
Bacteria make up the largest group in the soil jungle, and they are as diverse as they are numerous. Some kinds of bacteria are responsible for converting atmospheric nitrogen to plant-available forms, a process known as nitrogen fixation. Actinomycetes, with cells like bacteria and filaments like fungi, are thought to contribute chemicals that give newly tilled soil its earthy aroma.
Mycorrhizae are fungi that form a relationship with plant roots and increase their ability to take up nutrients from the soil. These filaments, along with root hairs and other binding substances produced by bacteria and fungi, help hold soil particles together and keep soil from eroding.
Protozoa are single-celled, mostly motile organisms that feed on bacteria and other tiny organisms as well as each other. There may be thousands of them living in that teaspoon of soil. Protozoa release nitrogen, making it available to plants. As much as 80 percent of the nitrogen in plants can come from bacteria-eating protozoa.
Nematodes, simple roundworms, have evolved several feeding strategies. In temperate soils, some eat bacteria while others eat fungi or soil algae. Some nematodes attack plants, piercing plant cells and sucking out the contents. Some nematodes eat other nematodes or other small invertebrates.
Earthworms, giants of the soil jungle, mix and aggregate soil particles, creating deep channels that help aerate the soil and provide channels for growing roots. They shred and bury plant residue that stimulates microbial activity and increases the soil's capacity to retain moisture. Earthworms consume tiny soil organisms and excrete even more microorganisms in their castings.
The base of the soil food web is organic matter, material derived from living stuff that provides a source of energy stored as fixed carbon. Nutrients are "served" along with fixed carbon as carbon is converted to energy. Chemical fertilizers supply specific nutrients directly to plants, but they do not replace the other kinds of food that bacteria and fungi need. Soils with more organic matter tend to have more life. Mulching with compost, cover cropping and no-till farming practices tend to increase organic matter and thus increase the number and diversity of microorganisms in soil. http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/secret-life-soil-0
*We. of course DO NOT use any chemicals!
Who would want to mess up any part of that! God created it to work so perfectly together. Everything has it's job and they all work together in harmony balancing each other out.
Now, back to the chickens. In the spring and sometimes in the fall, we allow them to scratch in the garden. This exposes any weed seeds, then they eat them. They expose bugs, larvae, and eggs, and then they eat them. This greatly reduces the bad bug population in the garden. One type of bad bug, the cut worm, dwell just under the surface of the soil then come out at night and eat right through the stems of seedlings and young transplants. This could be devastating. Chickens are just one way we combat this issue. And all the while they are fertilizing for us out their back end. The chickens act of scratching also helps break down any organic matter that was left from last years garden. Oh, those chickens, aren't they great! They are organic "insecticide" and "fertilizer" all in one feathered package. Thank you chickens!
Happy, healthy, clean eating to all!
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Hello, I'm Jaci. I love wandering around in my gardens admiring God's creation. I'm passionate about whole foods and clean eating. I look forward to sharing my farming and homestead adventures and helping you reach your gardening goals! If you have any questions then don't be shy, I'd love to hear from you. Send me a message and I will be glad to help!