Chickens in the Garden

People who don’t have chickens, but want them, often have this bucolic fantasy of a small flock of hens cheerfully clucking in their gardens. Did you know that hens cheerfully cluck in order to announce that they’ve found something to eat? Luckily for us gardeners, they love the bad bugs, especially grubs. When one hen finds something, they all come running over to see. However, it’s rather like the 1849 gold rush. A mass of undisciplined miners. Soon, everyone is digging. Dirt is flying. Then, they move on. To continue this analogy, what’s left are piles of slag, or, in the case of my garden, lovely mulch that was carefully spread around the perennials is now strewn across the grass.

Chickens also like to take dust baths. They find nice, loose dirt (of course, the best is right where you planted the basil) and they make a hollow, kick it up to make it even looser and lay down and luxuriate. I’ve got 11 big fat hens, but when I let them loose in the garden, it might as well have been a dozen warthogs for all of the damage they can do.

There is such a deer overpopulation problem that gardeners here in the northeast purchase plants that deer don’t eat. Perhaps those of us with hens need to do the same to discourage the chickens. I have a delicate, native nodding onion. It flowers briefly, but is the prettiest thing. I won’t see the flowers this year. The hens decided that they like onion.

My vegetable garden is fenced off. And I probably shouldn’t let them in the yard. But it is so satisfying to see them cheerfully clucking…

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