Poultry in the garden

gardengalrn(5KS)August 25, 2008

I have my laying flock of chickens and they will stay put in their coop and run. I observe them with their treats and would surmise that they would eat my tomatoes off the plant and other veggies as well since they adore them. We have a MASSIVE bug problem here, mainly grasshoppers and stink bugs. They have devastated my garden. It makes me sick to think about it as I planted a large garden in hopes to can a lot as well as eating fresh. The grasshoppers have eaten everything, even my ornamentals and flowers. We are getting some guineas in the spring to help with this problem and wondered if they would be as destructive as the chickens? I'm guessing they would be. Then someone mentioned keeping a couple of ducks in the garden and they thought they wouldn't be as bad. I don't know about the birds but I know that I didn't get any beans and very limited tomatoes after planting enough for a 3rd world country. I'll be taking other measures as well for pest control but was curious what other's experiences were. Lori

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marlingardener

Lori,
We have seven free-range hens who have access to our vegetable gardens and flower beds. The only damage we have had is that they dig dusting pits in the flower beds and uncover roots. I solved that by putting chicken wire doughnuts around the base of the plant on the ground, so when they dig, they hit wire and stop. They go into the vegetable garden and eat bugs and scratch around, but they haven't eaten any of the produce. However, when we plant the fall garden and have young tender plants coming up, I am going to fence the ladies in until the plants are big enough to hold their own.
We were told that turkeys are good grasshopper removers, and quieter than guinea hens. Since it is all I can do to keep my eye on our hens, we really don't want turkeys! Next spring when the first 'hopper appears, we are going to use Nolo bait,which is not lethal to anything except 'hoppers and crickets.
Sorry about your garden disappointment. We all go through it, but that doesn't make your loss any the less. But, there is always next year!

    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 7:39AM
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gardengalrn(5KS)

I'll keep researching it; looks like people have had good and bad experiences with any types of birds in the garden. I wanted to ask you about Nolo bait? I have never heard of it. Lori

    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 10:07PM
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marlingardener

Lori,
Nolo bait is actually a parasite/virus or something similar that causes grasshoppers to die. The hopper ingests the bait, it works on its digestive system and the hopper is a goner. Since hoppers are cannibalistic (I hope you aren't reading this around mealtime) other hoppers eat the dead ones and pick up the disease/parasite, whatever. The best thing is that Nolo only works on hoppers and crickets, leaving beneficials and pollinators, and domestic animals safe. Tempo is another hopper killer, but it is toxic to bees, butterflies, pets, and almost everything else that moves.
Down side--Nolo has a shelf life of 90 days, so you have to use it up. Also, it is not a "belly-up" insecticide. It works over a period of a week or two, and two applications about two weeks apart is recommended for infestations. When you see the first grasshopper is the time to spread the bait, and then again in two weeks or so. You can get more information by doing a search on Nolo bait. I am ordering mine over the internet, because no one around here stocks it early enough to be effective. I must admit, after I saw what the little buggers did to my roses last year, I really enjoyed killing them this year!

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 7:50AM
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thomashton

My chickens did a number on my garden last year. Totally ate a large pumpkin down to the rind in one day. Came home from work and had an orange bowl attached to a vine. Tomatoes and summer squash were devoured with great zeal as well. Keep them out of the garden.

Guineas are a different story. They will only eat bugs and leave the plants alone. You have to put up with the noise though. And it's a lot of noise. I do though. I have 5 and really like them, but they are a pain. You have to like crazy personalities like theirs.

As for geese, a lot of people (breeders included), say that "weeder" geese won't touch strawberry and other plants and you can let them go freely in your garden. I tried this and the geese went crazy in my strawberries. I think it was mostly because they were after the sandy soil the berries grow in but they sure caused a mess.

All in all, birds and gardens don't mix. Guineas are the only ones I trust and they have their (noise) problems.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 2:20PM
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lfrj(7)

We're overrun this year with cabbage worms, and battling the usual slugs. The worms have demolished all of our collards and I've been babying our broccoli along. Thinking the bonanza of worms would be a feast for the chickens, I tried on two seperate occasions to allow a hen or two inside. They went right for the broccoli - and not just picking at the leaves to rid them of worms...but devoured the whole leaf as fast as possible (as if they never had opportunity to free range - EVER). I sent our muscovy troop in for the slugs and they made a B-line for the broccoli too! The runner ducks are better - usually face down in the dirt - but I have hard time herding them in and out. They're very high drama! (sigh) Maybe Guineas are the answer, but I hardly need more noise makers.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 7:54PM
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claraserena(4)

Our chickens are totally free-range, dawn to dusk, The first couple of years we let them into the garden. Yes they did eat lots of tomatoes (often just a peck or two per tomato) and zucchini and broccoli leaves and cabbage leaves but we had more than enough so that wasn't a big problem. We even got a bonus: a couple of melon plants we had not planted thanks to the melon scraps we had given the chickens.
The problem was that they really messed up the raised beds, tossing dirt into the paths--lots of repair work after that. But we have let them in during the winter when beds are frozen and snow covered and they peck away at what is left of plants and maybe some bugs.
What kind of noise do Guineas hens make?

    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 9:30AM
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henhilton(8)

My hens only get access to the garden when there's nothing I really want left in there! Even so, they dig up my well-mulched asparagus bed. I tend to figure I probably needed to re-mulch the bed anyway! :-)

I've had good luck spraying garlic-pepper tea on the garden to reduce grasshopper damage. If the hoppers are REALLY thick, then I'll let the chickens in the garden just before dark, so they have time to chase the vermin around and gobble them up, but not enough time before they head off to bed to get bored and start on the veggies.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 1:13PM
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spogarden

henhilton what a great idea. my garden is fenced in an attempt to keep the rabbits out, (not working) and the chickens are somewhat tame, so getting them back out of the garden might not be too hard. Is your coop next to the garden? How many do you put out there and how high is your fence? I am new to chickens, have 6 and decided they are kinda fun

    Bookmark   August 29, 2008 at 3:07AM
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henhilton(8)

Our garden is wildlife-fenced, too. We put a strand of barbed wire along the very bottom, and used small-gauge fencing for the bottom run, but then we discovered the need for a flap on the gate to cover the gap there before it was truly rabbit-tight! The chicken yard is right next to the garden, and we cut a little chicken door in the fencing that can be wired shut, so we just open the door and let the birds in when we want to. Then they return to their house to roost when it starts getting dark. Our fence is 6' tall, and so far the rooster is the only one who has flown over it. Then he just gets all upset at being separated from his wives, but can't seem to remember how he got there! lol We have 10 RIR hens and the Silver Spangled Hamburg roo.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2008 at 6:15PM
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calliope(6)

s for geese, a lot of people (breeders included), say that "weeder" geese won't touch strawberry and other plants and you can let them go freely in your garden.

LOLOL. That's what I thought too, until I started raising them. I had a couple and they were free ranged until nightfall. They roamed the garden freely until I noticed my tomatoes were getting annihilated just as they were ripening. I was blaming it on a groundhog, and my husband insisted the geese were doing it. I defended them staunchly until one day I saw the goose running from the garden with her breast covered in bright red. I thought she was bleeding and had been attacked until I saw all the seeds clinging to her feathers. rofl! Tomato seeds, of course.

They went to a new home with an elderly couple who had a lake and all their geese had died of old age. I miss those quirkly little birds, but not enough to loose my garden.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2008 at 4:00PM
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