Many people agree that the most humane way to raise chickens is to allow them to roam around outdoors, free of the confines imposed by constant caging. And lots of folks who keep and raise their own chickens agree with this philosophy-- allowing the critters to cluck around, even if they don’t live in a particularly rural area. It’s inevitable that wandering chickens will find their way to your yard, pecking and scratching around in your precious flower beds. If the neighbor isn’t especially astute about keeping his chickens at home, you’ll have to take matters into your own hands. But no matter what your local laws dictate, you’re not helpless; there are a few measures that you can take to save your plants while still abiding by ordinances.
Ask the offending chicken keeping neighbor nicely to come on over and repair the havoc her pets have wrought in your yard and flower beds. Suggest that she also pays to replace ruined plants or other property. Request that they clean the chicken poop off of your patio and driveway. If you make them feel guilty enough, maybe they’ll even offer you some fresh eggs.
Run out and squirt offending chickens with the garden hose. Be sure to use a nozzle attachment, so that the water will act as a non-lethal stinging weapon as well. Chickens hate being squirted with water. Yell and scream, flail your arms and generate the impression that you’re to be feared. This works very well, but may be more than just a little inconvenient for many. If you can afford it, motion sensor sprinklers will completely solve your problem, whether you’re home or not. Consider sending the kids out with an arsenal of squirt guns.
Cut strips of chicken wire to cover unplanted areas of your flower beds, then cover that with attractive mulch. Cover seeded beds in the same manner. The seedlings will grow right up and through the wire. The chickens will dig through the mulch, but won’t like the way the wire feels under their feet. They won’t be able to scratch and dig through the wire, so will eventually look elsewhere for easier, more rewarding pickings.
Make individual cages to surround specimen plants that chickens may be picking at or eating. Just form a cylinder from a length of 4-foot wire, and encircle the plant with the cage. You can cut a round piece from the wire to fashion a cover, too, if you wish. From a few feet away, the chicken wire is almost invisible.
Gather a pile of 2-foot long sticks. Poke 4 to 6 inches of each stick into the soil at about a 60-degree angle so that they’re pointing outward. Space them 1 to 2 inches apart, all the way around your flower bed. If you take your time and put a little effort into this, you can create an effective barrier that actually looks like a quaint, rustic little fence.
Cover susceptible flower beds with bird netting, which is tough and weather resistant. Bird netting is also a great way to keep wild birds out of your berry bushes.
Run a couple of strands of electric wire around your flower bed. One should be about 5 inches off the ground, the other about 12 inches up. Garden center employees can advise you how to properly install this very simple and inexpensive control measure for your particular circumstance. Typically it only takes getting zapped once or twice for even the dumbest chicken to get the picture. It’s an excellent deterrent for just about any other type of animal pest, as well.
Fence your entire flower bed with 3 to 4 feet of chicken wire. This is tall enough to keep the chickens out, but short enough for most adults to step over to care for the flowers. The materials are very cheap. All you need is the wire and some 6-foot bamboo poles for the corners. Simply wrap the wire around the poles, and secure it to them with wire ties.