After several breakouts, we finally found a great way to keep our chickens contained without having to set up any fencing in our garden.
This year my wife has added a vegetable garden very close to where our chickens roam free. Initially, she had set up a small makeshift fence in order to keep them out. As mentioned in an earlier article, three feet (90 cm) fencing is generally enough, but only if you’re okay with the occasional escapee.
But as we also have baby chicks, they tend to find their way through the fence, which causes one particular mother hen to jump the fence – leaving a trail of devastation in our poor vegetable garden.
The two obvious solutions would have been to either set up a taller fence that the mother hen couldn’t jump or one with smaller holes that the chicks couldn’t get through. But we really wanted a simple solution that didn’t make our vegetable garden look like Fort Knox. So I spent some time looking for a way to keep our chickens out without using a fence at all.
There are a few ways to keep chickens our of your garden without fencing: The easiest method is setting up scarecrow sprinklers. Less aesthetically pleasing methods involve netting and even pinwheels. If you have sufficient space, keeping the coop far away from your garden may be your best solution.
Provided your garden has access to running water, scarecrow sprinklers are generally the easiest and unobtrusive solution.
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What is a Scarecrow sprinkler?
A scarecrow sprinkler (like this one) is an ordinary sprinkler that is activated by a movement sensor. When an animal (or person) enters the sensor’s field of vision, it will spray a short burst of water, scaring the intruder away.
This little invention works very well against chickens. Even if they get used to the sprinkler and it loses its element of surprise, they will continue to stay out of its reach, as they dislike getting wet.
Since the scarecrow sprinkler only is active for a very short time, water use is minimal.
Another benefit is that this little tool also is very effective against most other animals that may not be deterred by a chicken fence. Such as cats, pigeons, and deer. But beware that waterfowl may get used to the surprise and end up enjoying the water.
The scarecrow sprinkler linked above is powered by batteries, and it can run thousands of activation cycles using just four AA batteries. The only drawback is that you need a source of running water.
If water is not available, here are a few other ways of keeping your chickens out of the garden:
Keep the Chickens Far Away From the Garden
The obvious solution is to keep your garden at least a few hundred feet away from the chicken coop. Distance is how people used to keep free-ranging chickens out of the vegetables.
If you have enough land, this may simply be the best solution. Instead, keep your coop far from your vegetables and very close to your fruit trees, where the chickens can also easier protect themselves against hawks.
Having chickens under your fruit trees will also let them keep the area clean of rotten fruit as well as and pests such as the fruit fly larvae. As well as fertilize your trees with very nutrient-rich chicken poop.
PVC Hoops and Netting
Instead of keeping your chickens out of the garden, you can also elect to keep just the vulnerable plants safe from the chickens.
All you need are PVC pipes and some netting: Bend the pipes into hoops, stick them into the ground, and attach the netting.
While this may not look beautiful, it’s an affordable solution, and it keeps most other animals out as well. If you also keep ducks, this solution may well be preferable to the scarecrow sprinkler.
Although I haven’t tried this myself, I have been told that setting up pinwheels (not the ham and cheese kind – I’m pretty sure that won’t work) around the garden perimeter will keep chickens away.
Personally, I prefer a more “natural” looking garden composed of greens and as little synthetic material as possible, but if you enjoy the look, it may be worth a try.
What Else Can You Do to Keep Chickens Out of the Garden?
Chickens enter your vegetable garden or flower bed for any of the following three reasons:
As you are probably well aware, delicious-looking stuff like strawberries or red currant is a huge chicken magnet. It doesn’t matter if they are well fed; they will always go for tasty snacks like that.
So, if you keep a strawberry patch, expect to be extra vigilant. Not only against chickens but wild birds and other animals as well.
Chickens are cautious but curious. If something looks different and exciting, they will check it out, especially if there is nothing else of interest around.
Chickens need a dry place to dust bath, as it keeps them healthy and clean. The dust removes parasites like lice and mites as well as an excess of the oils that makes their feathers water repellent.
As your vegetable garden likely has a lot of nice, dry dirt patches without grass and weeds, they will want to go there and mess up your newly sprouted seeds.
So What To do?
Give your chickens what they want and need, and you will have a much easier time keeping them out of your garden.
If they have sufficient space, interesting foods, a dry place to dust bath, and places to hide and explore, they will be much less likely to look for alternatives.
As long as you combine a chicken friendly environment with any of the deterrents mentioned, you should have no issues keeping them from looting your vegetable garden or rose bed without building a fence.
A Final Note
Consider for how long you want to keep your chickens out. They will do a lot of damage to young plants, but bigger crops may benefit from having chickens around, as they keep the area free of bugs and some weeds. Besides, their poop will add valuable nutrition to the soil.
If you only need to keep your chickens out of the garden for a couple of months, building a fence is unnecessary. Instead, use a tool like a scarecrow sprinkler or make your own PVC hoops and remove it following harvest or when the plants are large enough to no longer be in danger from your chickens.