We always have to keep our chickens locked up quite a bit more than normal while our vegetable garden is young. Most of the time we prefer to let the girls have a lot of “free ranging.”
But most of the time we try and keep the chickens away from the vegetable garden, because they like to eat tender young greens, and generally trample over everything on their way. But our chickens do have one important garden job: grub duty. As I turned the soil in our front yard beds last week, I had my boys break up and clods and look for white grubs.
They are the sick-looking younger (larval/pupae? I’m not really an entomologist–just a beekeeper) versions of the noisy summer cicada. They eat the roots of grass–it that’s what they’re under– and make brown, dead areas, and their juicy presence attracts moles. So as the boys searched for the little grubs, we collect them and then take them round back for the chickens.
Chickens LOVE grubs. It’s like a chicken fiesta when we toss them the little curled up grubs!
So we remember on the occasion we need to buy supplemental eggs, and don’t spend any extra money on “vegetarian diet”-fed chicken eggs, because that isn’t really doing the chickens a favor. And we also try and support keepers of free-range chickens–because that is worth an extra buck.
We’ve been coming to realize that the way we feel best about keeping chickens for our benefit, while allowing them to live life as they were created to, is not for us to fence them in, but for us to fence our garden in!