Anyone who keeps chickens or other backyard fowl could probably give you a long list of the benefits they provide – fresh eggs and meat, bug control, and someone to eat all your cutting board scraps, to name a few. When you think of chickens and gardens, your first thought might be how to keep my chickens out of my garden, but your flock has more to offer your next harvest than you may think! Check out these great ways your backyard chickens can help out with your garden.
Eggshells have so many benefits for your garden, you’ll regret ever throwing them away!
- Deter slugs and snails by surrounding your garden with a row of crushed eggshells. The sharp edges will irritate their soft bodies and convince them to turn around. This is a great and cheap alternative to pesticides.
- Certain vegetables and flowers need calcium added to the soil in order to grow strong and healthy. Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are only a few of the plants that will thrive when you add calcium to the soil. Eggshells provide the perfect boost. You can grind them into your soil or fertilizer before use, or pulverize the shells into a powder using your blender and add the powder to your watering can.
- The calcium in eggshells raises the pH level of the soil, which can affect the sweetness of fruits and vegetables or alter the colors of some flowers.
- Crush eggshells into your soil to prevent blossom rot, a common problem in vegetables such as tomatoes and squashes.
- Because of the nutrients they offer, eggshells make great seed starters! Fill an empty eggshell with potting soil and add your seeds. When you’re ready you can plant the shells directly into the ground. The shells are naturally biodegradable, and they’ll provide your plants with nutrition while they grow. No more trips to the garden center for seed pods!
Make Use of Bird Droppings
If you keep any sort of backyard birds, you’ll soon find out just how plentiful their droppings are. Put them to good use in your garden and make your flock work for you. Chicken droppings are high in nitrogen, a vital nutrient for soil, so much so that chicken droppings are considered one of the best fertilizers out there. Next time you clean out your coop, simply add the contents to your compost pile.
Speaking of Compost…
Chickens are known for scratching at the ground in order to look for food, and if you give them access to your compost pile, they’ll help to break down any food scraps, which turns those scraps into useful compost more quickly and keeps the bugs away. All of that scratching in your yard is also an easy way to aerate your lawn, allowing it to grow in fuller and healthier.
Chickens are a Natural Pesticide
Chickens who have room to roam your yard or garden will spend their days eating bugs, keeping pest levels down without the need for spraying pesticides that might hurt your pets or your lawn. In addition to saving your plants, chickens who consume more insects lay eggs that contain more protein.
If you have farm animals such as horses or goats, chickens who are free to roam do a great job of breaking down the messes they leave behind in your pastures, saving you the trouble of having to clean up after them and fertilizing your pastures at the same time. This helps to keep flies from reproducing so rapidly and may save a few pairs of boots.
Now, it’s true that you still might not want to give your flock free range of your garden. They’ll eat your berries, fruits, and those zucchini you were really looking forward to (sigh..) as a side dish to all those bugs, so be sure to put up some protective fencing around your produce. A covered chicken run is a great way to allow your hens to wander around in pre-determined areas, letting them cover more ground while still keeping your future meals safe.
Are your chickens helpful gardeners?