Hens in the vegetable patch

by Pippa Greenwood

Some months ago we took the plunge and bought some hens. The original, elderly hens we've had for years are lovely but they don’t lay eggs anymore.

Hens pecking in the vegetable gardenSome months ago we took the plunge and bought some hens. The original, elderly hens we’ve had for years are lovely but they don’t lay eggs anymore. Our new ones are very tame and always seem to be wandering around under my feet!

Lately I’ve been putting our hens to good use in the vegetable garden. I now regularly march them out of their run to the plot, where they scrabble around and polish off a lot of grubs, including slugs. It's great for them as they get a change of scenery and lots of exciting things to eat, including the remains of the chard and straggly brassicas.

My hens also make a fair amount of fresh fertiliser, which I allow to rot down for at least six months, before returning to the vegetable plot.

They can get in the way though. Forking the soil over with the hens in the plot is a slow process - one likes to hitch a ride on the fork's tines! But I’m hoping I notice a reduction in the number of garden pests this year. The recent cold weather will have helped kill off a few bugs, but I've told the hens I'm taking them back on the plot the minute I see the first of this year’s slug and snail eggs!

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Gardeners' World Web User 22/01/2009 at 18:45

great to hear you march your hens out into your veg plot.... yes i agree with you but what will you don in the spring as we have done the same to find that they will eat all you young seedlings and anything else thay take a fancy to, let me know.. do you do what we do put them in a lovely enclosed run for the summer although i do have to say they do keep the snakes at bay....especially the little vipers..

Gardeners' World Web User 23/01/2009 at 02:34

I had the same experiences but just built a 5 foot by 3 foot chicken tractor that I can put anywhere I want my hens to work for me. They clean up but aren't able to eat my new lettuces before I do.

Gardeners' World Web User 23/01/2009 at 12:59

Great, this is what I call useful - plenty of hints for me too!! The hens are lucky in that they have a huge run with lots of undergrowth and I'm hoping that when the veg patch is too full of veg, things will be growing better in their run ! Interesting about the snakes we have a huge grass snake which lives and moves through the run, never seen them do anything but make lots of laoud 'announcements' when they see it though! PG

Gardeners' World Web User 25/01/2009 at 17:54

Lovely to hear your hen stories as I absolutely love hens but alas cant have any of my own. As you say they can ruin a garden and I haven't a spare patch of ground as my garden is small. I would love them to roam free rather than be shut in although they would be put to bed at night to save them from foxes!

Gardeners' World Web User 27/01/2009 at 19:34

Hi All, Bonsoir, New to the GW site, Just 1 question at the moment im sure there will be plenty more... where oh where on the site is the instructions on how to build the coldframe, it looked like a metal or strong plastic frame work.Shown on TV before Christmas. Merci.

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