I put some of my chickens to work today. My garden is just sitting, waiting for me to start planting this coming weekend when I have time. I want to get all the plants in at once. I decided to put a few chickens in there today, to scratch around and get any bugs out, and also to eat some of the grass that is at the fence line.
I chose to use some of my adult hens because I figured they may be more efficient, and also I didn’t want to cause any kind of anxiety issues with the teenager chickens. I thought that taking them out and then putting them back in the coop later may cause them unneeded anxiety, but that my adults would be able to handle it since they’re top of the pecking order. We put four hens in the garden in the morning before I left for work, with a little shelter made out of large flower pots and a piece of wood, in case they needed to get out of the sun.
My ladies did a good job – my garden seemed quite picked over; I could tell that they had scratched most of it up. I had made a pushed-down “trail” going through the middle, which will be my pathway, and that was completely gone by the time I got home. I could tell the grass at the fence line was a lot smaller as well.
The garden space is right next to our dog run. At first the hens were very scared when Atat ran out to see what they were doing. Downey was interested but not as playful as Atat. Atat ran up and started running up and down the fence line, and the chickens ran away back and forth from him, and then finally bundled up in the corner for awhile, till he went back inside.
My husband said it got better later during the day – when the dogs would come out they would just quietly watch the chickens pecking around in the dirt. The chickens relaxed a little when they figured out the dogs couldn’t get to them.
When I got home from work I put the ladies back in their own coop/run. I noticed that the pecking order in the coop was a little different before the hens were put back. Moving four hens to the garden gave the teenagers an advantage against the hens. Six teens to five hens – my teenagers seem a little more aggressive, which I take as a positive sign; they’ve been so scared of the hens until now – I saw one of my teens run up and peck a hen, instead of cowering when she walked by, which is what they usually do. The pecking order will shift a bit for awhile I bet, until they all get used to each other and figure out their places. That will probably be just in time for me to introduce the babies into the flock.