Many of us are taking this time at home as an opportunity to bring new pets into the family, and chickens have been one of the most popular new additions. Not only are chickens a great source of eggs, they also make fantastic pets for your family. But can your new chickens be friends with your existing lawn?
The short answer? Yes. The long answer is that it depends on how big your lawn is, what kind of grass you have, and how many chickens you have.
A harmonious relationship between your lawn and your chickens depends in large part on having the right kind of grass variety for your area – but of course, unless you are starting from scratch, you will need to work with what you have! Ultimately you will have to monitor your lawn to determine whether it is coping and what action may be required. For the best recommendation on what the best lawn variety for your area will be, contact our experienced turf advisors by calling 03 9730 1128 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Free lawn food
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. Chooks eat leaves, weeds, and grass clippings, and pests such as slugs and bugs. Their pecking and digging (in moderation!) can also aerate the soil.
Best of all, their manure acts 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? Chickens can definitely exacerbate this problem, but putting some wire mesh over these area to temporarily restrict access for your chickens can allow time for repair. Let’s look at some other options for controlling where your chickens roam.
Coop or free-range?
One of the simplest methods to control where your chickens roam is to fence off areas you do not want your chickens on or in. This 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 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 much 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 that is completely separate from your garden beds. The lawn inside will likely suffer and maybe even die, but the rest of your lawn 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 certain 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.
Chooks and lawn fertiliser
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 to not spread granular fertiliser where your chickens roam. If you do want to fertilise, you must make sure the granules have completely dissolved before you allow your chickens to return to these areas.
As long as you are conscious of the above information, your chickens and your lawn can become best mates. So get out there and make friends with some new chickens for the family!