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Training your chickens to be garden friendly

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default Training your chickens to be garden friendly

Post by Zoe on 30th March 2010, 10:35 am

Our chickens roam freely and there are places they are allowed to do all things chicken. Such as under the orchard trees for a good scratch, the lawn they are great moss scarifies (just widely throw out some wheat grain and they do the work!), paths and open land, and sand dust area for the dust bath etc. But there are areas they are not allowed…accept when they are invited. None of our 9 vegetable beds (300m sq) or same number but smaller areas of flower gardens are for their pleasure!

The girls are invited on to help when we are digging and one is extremely good to work with as she knows I’m not after what she wants and so waits until the forks it not dangerous to her before she collects her pray. If I work rhythmically we get along very well together. The top bird tends to be a bit pushy and has to have the fork get too close to comfort before she remembers there is a critter higher then her!

We also use the girls to scratch through the compost when we dump it on the beds. One lass is very good at this and will level it quite well. They know that this is acceptable and are happy to assist. This year I did see the lowest ranking bird looking for a different space to work in and walked towards another bed, say the neat rows of garlic and quickly side stepped away.

Once the beds are level and ready for planting the girls have to realize these are again out of bounds. If it does have thick compost on and I’m not around to remind them (they do look at me for permission first) I sprinkle wood ash over it as they will not scratch where this is. Then when it is level and seeded I put sticks marking the rows and this sign of lines seems to indicate to the chickens it is not to be touched and go elsewhere discussing as they go!

So how do we do it? Well basically we have hens at point of lay and we train them as you would any animal. I’m always amazed that some people can’t even keep the children and dogs off their flower and vegetable beds! You have to be around when they are out at first and as soon as they look to scratch on the bed use a good authoritive “NO” and when they are on the bed use “OFF”. Always use a consistent tone and reinforce your wish by running them off or swinging a stick in their direction. I use eye contact and can tell one bird off whilst the others know they are not in the wrong.

The other important thing I have noticed is there is a clear visual definition to the areas they not allowed. These have bare earth and occasional plants. Where they are allowed is total covering of primarily grasses or harder surface (but not open soil). They do get a little confused with dry earth which they may think could be used for a dust bath. When spotted I water this area and reinforce that they are unwelcome. They object of course but they learn.

I have one bird that does like to eat flowers but she doesn’t scratch. Basically hens are far more intelligent than we want to believe. We could not treat animals as badly as we do if we accepted their true qualities. We can enjoy having the girls around and they happily follow Wood Troll anywhere on the land.

And no we don't have a cockeral (they break up the harmony of the flock and contribute nothing!)


Zoe
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default Re: Training your chickens to be garden friendly

Post by Compostwoman on 30th March 2010, 11:03 am

I agree with you about the cockerel, and yes training chickens is possible! After all, they come when we call, to be fed, which is just training.

I find only certain birds really "push their luck" in the more forbidden areas..and yes, they have to be reminded who is boss...( that would be me...!)

We find they all follow us wherever we are working, which is nice..although I do have to shut them away when we are felling trees...as they tend to want to do "death dives" under the line of the falling tree....

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default Re: Training your chickens to be garden friendly

Post by WoodTrol on 31st March 2010, 8:08 pm

CW, I find that the chucks keep away from me when I'm chainsawing and doing things with large lumps of wood.... mind you my chainsaw is rather noisy with all 7.3 horses thrumming together.

As for one of my brumucks (in my local dialect, billhook to anyone else) thats another matter, I think they know that it is a thing they do not ever want to meet

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default Re: Training your chickens to be garden friendly

Post by Wilhelm Von Rhomboid on 31st March 2010, 8:16 pm

Our chooks, or some of them at least, seem to live only to figure ways of escaping their area and invading the main garden. They know enough to scarper back to the gate as soon as they see me emerge from the house but the only foolproof method I have ever found to deter them longterm from scratching out seedlings has been the use of the billhook, or a hands-on approach to similar effect.

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default Re: Training your chickens to be garden friendly

Post by Zoe on 4th April 2010, 7:22 pm

Good thing our chickens are trained. One flew over the stream today including a patch of brambles, some 10ft in length. I'm not sure we could contain them!

Zoe
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