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Chicken keeping seems to increase in popularity every year. When I first started keeping chickens, very few people kept them in their back yards at home. These days keeping a small flock at home has become commonplace.
When I give poultry talks around the country, one of the most common questions I get is Will chickens destroy my lawn?
Chickens are notorious for scratching around and they will quickly destroy any sections of lawn. Not only will chickens scratch your lawn looking for bugs, grubs, and seeds, but they will also eat the grass and make areas of bare earth where they will have ‘dust baths’.
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Will Chickens Destroy Your Lawn?
Simple answer, Yes! Chickens spend a vast amount of their day scratching around looking for things to eat.
If you have ever sat and watched a chicken, they tend to do a scratch, scratch, look motion whereby they scratch with one leg, then the other, then step back and look at the spot they just scratched to see if there is anything tasty to eat.
All this scratching soon takes its toll on your lawn. Within a few days of the flock moving onto a grassed area, bare patches will begin to form. To make matters worse, the chickens will use these bare patches as dust baths, destroying more of the lawn in the process.
Chickens will destroy the lawn particularly quickly where the ground is;
- Very dry and dusty – The chickens will quickly scratch the grass and make dust baths that result in surprisingly deep hollows.
- Very Wet – When chickens are kept on ground which is wet, they quickly turn the whole are into a mud bath!
- Where they ground can’t be rested – If the lawn has chickens on it day in and day out with out an opportunity to rest, it won’t have a chance to recover.
- Where the lawn are is very small – Needless to say, the smaller the lawn area the chickens have access to, the quicker they will destroy it.
Will Chickens Actually Kill Grass?
Grass is extremely resilient. It can take quite a beating, and still grow back, providing it is given the opportunity to recover.
Chickens will kill the grass when they are kept on the same ground for weeks without the lawn having an opportunity to rest and recover.
Do Chickens eat Grass?
Chickens will eat grass. Grass offers an important addition to a chicken’s diet and brings them some vitamins and minerals they may not get from other parts of their diet.
Typically, chickens will pull the grass up but only eat the newest, freshest tips.
Although chickens will eat grass, do not confuse them with cows! Chickens can not be put out to pasture and be expected to survive eating grass. It is extremely important chickens are given a balanced, commercially prepared diet. I have had good luck feeding my chickens this organic chicken food that I order directly from Amazon.com.
It has been said that birds raised for meat taste better when they have had access to fresh pasture. This isn’t something I have noticed over the years, but I mainly raise my birds for eggs anyway.
How To Prevent Chickens Destroying Your Lawn
There are a number of steps you can take to protect your lawn from your chickens, or at least minimize the amount of damage they will cause.
Move the chickens frequently
If you can keep your chickens contained within a pen when they are on your lawn, and then move that pen around the lawn on a regular basis, your chickens will cause minimal damage in a particular section, before being moved on. Hopefully, the grass will have time to recover between grazing.
A chicken pen like this one on Amazon is large, but if you have the space, makes an ideal way to contain your chickens in a relatively small area.
I would recommend moving the chickens every few days, or at least every week, just so the ground doesn’t become too damaged.
Only keep a small number of birds
Needless to say, the more birds you have on a given patch of lawn, the quicker they will destroy it.
If you only keep 2 or 3 birds, they will have less opportunity to cause damage than if you keep half a dozen birds in the same space. Keeping fewer birds also allows you to keep your chickens in a smaller space, making it easier to move the birds around.
Keep your chickens in a Chicken Tractor
For many years now, backyard chicken keepers have been keeping their birds in Chicken Tractors. Chicken Tractors are small coops that are raised up on legs with an enclosed run below. The whole setup has wheels, meaning it can be easily moved around your yard.
The one in the picture above, which is reasonably priced on Amazon.com, is one of the most popular types and I have used something very similar many times in the past.
Using a Chicken Tractor makes it really simple to move chickens around your yard and reduces the chances your lawn will be destroyed. Using a Chicken Tractor also reduces the chance your chickens will refuse to go into their coop at night after you have relocated them.
Allow the grass to grow longer before moving the chickens on to it.
The longer the grass is, the more scratching and scraping it can take before it becomes a bare patch of earth.
Even if you keep your grass long, you will probably still need to move the chickens around frequently and give the grass periods of rest so it can rejuvenate.
Does Chicken Poop Destroy Your Lawn?
No, chicken poop doesn’t destroy your lawn. In fact, chicken poops are little dollops of fertilizer that will add goodness back into the soil and help your lawn grown stronger.
Chicken poop is very high in nitrogen and grass needs lots of nitrogen to grow strong and stay green.
I have kept chickens in my back yard for many years, and if anything, the grass flourishes after they have pooped all over it rather than suffers.
Do Chickens Need To Have Access To Grass?
It is not essential that chickens have access to grass. Providing they are fed a well-balanced diet, they won’t miss having access to fresh grass.
If you don’t keep your chickens on grass, consider adding some fresh greens to their diet. I feed my chickens lots of lettuce left over from the kitchen, as well as peas, brocolli, cabbage leaves and cucumber.
If you don’t have access to a good supply of greens to add to their diet, consider using a chicken feed supplement, like HealthyCoat Kickin’ Chicken Feed. It helps ensure your chickens have a healthy immune system, good plumage, and strong eggs.
There is a hidden benefit to keeping chickens on grass, and that is all the bugs, beasties, and seeds they find scratching around in the grass that they wouldn’t otherwise find if kept on dirt.
What About Grass Clippings?
I have a number of chickens that live in fixed runs. The grass has long since died and disappeared and they now scratch around in the dirt looking for tasty treats to eat.
When I mow my lawn, I will normally tip the clippings into the runs so the chickens can scratch around in it looking for bugs and seeds. They really seem to enjoy it. Occasionally, I will chuck a handful of mixed corn into the clippings too. It keeps them occupied for hours!
Using Herbicides and Pesticides?
Neither herbicides nor pesticides should be used anywhere near chicken enclosures or areas where chickens might roam. Artificial fertilizers should also be avoided at all costs.
Not only can chickens ingest the herbicide and pesticide when they eat the grass or the bugs which have been affected by the sprays, but they can also absorb the harmful chemicals through their feet and the skin.
Ironically, but not using pesticides in areas around your chickens, you will inadvertently encourage bugs that your chickens will relish chasing and eating. Chickens are nature’s bug control (well, sort of!).
Can Chicken be Kept On Artificial Turf?
I have never tried keeping chickens on artificial turf, but I suspect it would be a disaster. I have no doubt the chickens would quickly pull all the plastic threads out. Even if the chickens didn’t eat them (which would probably prove fatal), they would make one heck of a mess.
My Final Thoughts
Be under no illusion, if you keep chickens in your backyard, and they have access to your lawn, or your garden in general for that matter, they will eventually destroy it.
Chickens are not malicious in nature, but they love scratching around, pulling up grass, weeds, and flowers. They will also happily peck holes in all your leafy vegetables.