Whether you’re the owner of a well-maintained garden, veg patch or allotment, the benefits of adopting and keeping hens are never-ending. Seeing chickens free-range in gardens is a privilege for many across the UK and thousands of people enjoy the joy their hens bring every day.
But not only is keeping hens good for humans it also enriches your garden.
Although a little destructive at times, a chicken’s habit to scratch around and dustbathe in our flower beds is rather beneficial in the long run – and we wouldn’t have them any other way! So, we wanted to share these simple reasons why having hens can enrich your garden…
A helping hand
Did you know that one hen can till 50 square feet of soil in just 4-6 weeks? Okay, so that might be a bit slow for your liking if you want your hens to help out with the gardening, but trust us, it has its perks.
One of which is that their innate ability to scratch around, overturn and sunbathe in loose, dusty soil, means they are turning over the dirt with their feet, actively rototilling the soil, and airing it. They provide us with soil all broken up and ready for planting!
While your chickens wander around your garden, they will leave their manure behind. The manure is high in nitrogen, which means it’s great for composting and enriching your plants to help them to thrive! When they are exploring, it’s spread lightly enough that it won’t cause your plants any harm.
However, that’s not to say you should start cleaning out the hen house and adding all that manure directly onto your flower beds and veggies! Because it’s packed with so much nitrogen, it will burn your plants if too much is introduced into the soil. Collected chicken manure needs time to mellow out before using.
Tip: if you use wood shavings or sawdust as bedding material, the chicken manure and sawdust will combine. This will make cleaning the hen house easier, and it also creates the perfect compost addition. The manure is a green material in the world of composting and the sawdust is considered a “brown material” – meaning a source of carbon. Great for your plants once composted.
One thing that hens love to do is forage for tasty bugs. Allowing your hens to wander around the shrubs is a great pest management system, perfect for your prize veg and flowers to get a good chance to grow! While they will eat the good guys as well as the bad, we believe they balance out the ecosystem.
But do take precaution if you do let them forage around your prized greenery and produce, as your hens will likely find them just as tasty to peck at!
Tip: Avoid letting them near beds when you’ve freshly seeded or when young seedlings are in sight!
We also recommend avoiding letting your hens forage near any white potatoes (although sweet potatoes are safe) or anything from the Nightshade family of plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and aubergine. These plants won’t cause death, but they aren’t good for your hen’s health.
Eggs with benefits
As we’ve mentioned before, hens are natural foragers, and when they get the chance to do so, their eggs reap the benefits. And by association, so does your egg on toast for breakfast! Of course, this isn’t quite enriching your garden, but we couldn’t help but point out the benefits of letting your hens explore in your garden…
It’s true that chickens that get the chance to forage on bits of grass, bugs, worms and all sorts in your soil, producing a higher quality of egg that affects the shell quality, colour and taste. So not only do hens enrich your garden, they also enrich your life too.
If you would like to learn more about hens and how they can better your life and garden, take a look at some of our latest blog posts and information, or learn about how you can adopt your own flock of hens through our adoption page.