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Are Chickens Good For Your Lawn?
Thanks to their low-maintenance lifestyles and delicious eggs, chickens are no longer just farmyard animals. These days, people love building chicken coops on the grass of their suburban backyards. Maybe you’re considering doing the same. If you’re worried about backyard chickens ruining and destroying your lawn, let us assure you of quite the opposite.
Building a chook yard might be the best thing you can do for your lawn!
A harmonious relationship between your chickens and lawn largely depends on having the right grass variety for your area. But unless you are starting from scratch, you will need to work with what you have!
Chickens Love Eating Lawn Pests And Weeds
If you have a lush, thick lawn with no bare areas, then your chickens (provided there are not too many) and your lawn can thrive together. Chickens eat grass, weeds and lawn clippings, and chooks also eat lawn grubs, like slugs, snails and bugs. Their pecking and digging (in moderation!) can also aerate the soil.
Best of all, their manure acts as a free, nutrient-rich organic fertiliser. Beware, though: due to its high nitrogen content, fresh manure can burn your lawn if it’s too concentrated in any given area. Plus, the manure harbours pathogens that can be harmful to children, pets other than chickens, and fruit and veggies, so do your research before deciding to keep chickens in your yard and never apply fresh chook poo to your veggie patch – it must be composted first.
So what if you do have a few bare patches? Put some wire mesh over these areas to temporarily restrict access and allow time for regrowth.
Coop Or Free-Range?
If you have a large lawn, you can absolutely allow your chickens to roam freely. Their poop is wonderful for grass, and the roaming gives them plenty of enrichment and stimulation. However, you will also need a coop to provide them with a safe space to sleep at night. We also strongly recommend that you fence off areas in which you don’t want them to forage.
Fencing is especially important for your fruit and veggies. Not only do chickens pick at them, but their manure contains pathogens that can cause damage. If you are thinking of having your chickens roam free range, place some wire cages over these areas to prevent foraging damage and contamination.
Chickens like to dig holes and take dust baths, which, in the extreme, can leave your lawn looking like a chipping zone on a golf course! If you notice your chickens are digging at your lawn excessively, try constructing a box or area containing kitty litter or coarse sand. This is a great place for them to scratch about and have a dust bath, so they may be less inclined to use the lawn.
If free range is not for you, you can install a large coop to provide your feathered friends with a fixed home completely separate from your garden beds. The lawn inside will likely suffer and maybe even die, but the rest of your yard will be perfectly pristine.
Another alternative is to use a ‘chicken tractor’ (also known as a chicken mower). These movable pens, which often have a wire base, allow you to continually supply your chooks with fresh grass while also protecting your lawn from excess digging in any given area. When a particular area begins to look damaged, simply move the enclosure. Many chicken lovers love this approach, as it offers maximum control over the chickens’ access to the lawn.
Chicken Manure Is An Excellent Fertiliser For Grass
Chook manure is absolutely packed with nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorous, making it an unbeatable organic lawn fertiliser. While you can buy chicken poop for your lawn from your local nursery, having a couple of cute chooks clucking around your yard is a lot more fun.
To apply the chicken manure to your lawn, simply let the cluckers do their business. Regular watering will help the poop dissolve into the soil.
You do have to be careful using additional fertilisers on a lawn where chickens forage. Granular fertiliser and chickens do not mix, as the chickens can peck and pick at the granules buried in your lawn. The best idea is not to spread granular fertiliser where your chickens roam. If you want to fertilise, you must ensure the granules have completely dissolved before you allow your chickens to return to these areas.