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How To Keep Chickens Off The Porch And Out Of The Garden (Tips and Tricks)
Keeping free-range chickens is arguably one of the best aspects of backyard farming. The chickens are happy, healthy, and provide loads of entertainment as they flock excitedly from one end of the property to the other hunting bugs and grubs. On sunny days, you can watch them lazing in the sunshine, digging their dust bath areas in the warm soft soil. You can almost hear them sigh with contentment.
There are downsides. If you’ve ever made the mistake of throwing your girls a treat from your front porch, you can probably guess where this is going. Or, its spring and you just laid down bags upon bags of mulch in your flower beds. If you are plagued with chicken poop on your porch or had every hard-laid bag of mulch redistributed onto your lawn, there are solutions for keeping chickens off your porch and out of your gardens.
Tips For Keeping Chickens Off The Porch
1. Coop Proximity
It’s best to lock your chickens in a coop during the evening to provide shelter, give them a safe place to roost, and to protect them from predators. Providing nesting boxes gives them a secure place to lay their eggs and makes the eggs much easier to collect. If you are fortunate enough to be able to let them out and free-range during the day, place the coop as far away from your home as the property allows. While it may be convenient to have it close to the house, you will have a much easier time persuading the girls to stay off your porch and out of your gardens.
Chicken experts say that your hens need 10 square feet of space per bird to forage. That means if you have 10 chickens, they need 100 square feet of space away from your home. They are not going to stay in this square area as they love to roam when they have that option. You can be sure that when you plant tender young plants in your garden or sow a row of seeds, they will find them and eat them if detected. Having your coop as far as possible from your living areas is the first step in keeping them segregated from your garden.
2. Routine Feeding Area
Depending on the variety of chickens you are raising, some breeds will be more aloof while others will actually seek out the attention of humans. This will be multiplied exponentially if they find out you have, or are, a source of food. The trick is to get your chickens to associate food with an area instead of a person.
When feeding treats or their main meal, keep a routine to the feeding and only feed in or near the coop. If they learn this is their designated area to eat, they will be more inclined to hang out there area as they are extremely food-driven birds.
In order to really keep their attention on the coop as a source of food, find ways to suspend treats and inventive ways to make them work for their food. This will aid in keeping the flock local and help prevent them from wandering too far away in search of snacks. Self-feeders are great and should always be kept full of food.
3. Porch Problems
Free-range chickens are notorious for their desire to hang out on porches. Never leave dog or cat food on dishes on your porch because that will quickly become a lure and your entire flock will be fighting over that delicious snack. Once they have a taste for it they will be back.
Another attraction for chickens is bird food. When you hang food out for your wild birds they often leave a mess dropping seeds and chafe. Be sure there are no feeders close to your house that may present a temptation to your seed-seeking hens.
While chickens don’t have huge brains, they do figure out that humans provide food. They will try and test the boundaries of your porch area to scout out possible meals from humans. If you find them hanging around the front door, or perching on the porch rails and benches, you need to discourage this behavior as soon as it occurs. It might seem cute that they came to visit you, but it will get old quickly when you have to scrape chicken poop off the bottom of your shoes every time you walk into the house.
4. Automated Predators/Animals
There are several methods used to discourage porch behavior that don’t include running out the door screaming like an angry banshee with your broom in hand. This traditional method may not be enough to deter the behavior. Some of the success stories include the following deterrents:
- Mechanized animals that move automatically to scare the birds
- Animated natural predators that make sounds when approached
- Motion-activated sprinkler system or manual set to go off several times a day
5. Spray bottle or Garden Hose
If you are able to keep a spray bottle handy, or even a garden hose, you can gently douse the chickens when they come near the porch. I’ve tried this method frequently with success. Especially once my hens learned how to escape their coop. They would always make a B-line for the porch to investigate the cat food situation.
But with a spray bottle, I could easily defend my porch until I had a chance to capture them and put them back in the coop area.
How To Prevent Chickens From Perching on Porches
Your girls may be good at staying away during the day, but you may find piles of poo where they have been perching on the porch at night. The main reason for this is that your porch may provide a higher perch than they have in their coop. Chickens will always seek the highest perching option as it offers safety and a better vantage point.
One recommendation is to build a movable perch higher than your porch. Place it close to the house. Allow the chickens to get comfortable on it then slowly move it away from the house and toward the coop.
You can also provide deterrents on the rails they like to perch upon. Hang plants or string a line across the middle using tall nails to hold the string above the rail. You may have seen this tactic at the beach or shore to keep seagulls from perching on rails. It works for chickens as well.
Animals have been used with some success to keep chickens away from the house. Adding a rooster to the flock if you don’t already have one may work as roosters can be protective and keep the flock close to their home. Guard dogs have been used by tying them to the porch or training them to keep the chickens away. The dog method may fail miserably if your dog is not well trained and ends up hurting or killing the chickens.
Garden Blues | How To Keep Chickens Out Of The Garden
One of the most popular topics among free-range chicken owners is how to keep chickens from destroying flower and vegetable gardens. Once the ladies get a taste for young Hosta shoots or ripe tomatoes, you have a real problem on your hands.
They’re also notorious for waiting for the moment you leave after covering all your beds with mulch and digging through to find the insects. This effectively transfers all your mulch out of the beds and onto the lawn. There is nothing more aggravating.
Here are some tips for protecting your gardens.
- Perimeter fencing is the most effective way to protect a garden. You can build one with any wire. The easiest to install is chicken wire or an electric fence. If you build a more solid fence, even if you clip their wings, the fence still needs to be 4 or 5 ft. tall.
- Raised garden beds work well if you cover them with wire cloth or chicken wire. The best part about this type of fencing is that you can easily take it down after the garden is done for the season and let the chickens eat the insects and fertilize the area.
- Protect your mulch by placing chicken wire or wire cloth over the mulch and beds. This will prevent the birds from digging into the mulch. You can also place flat stones fairly close to one another on the mulch and around the plants. This will prevent the birds from relocating the mulch.
- You can try using strong-smelling herbs and spices to deter your chickens from gardens and porches. Some find this works and other personal accounts say the odors had no effect on keeping chickens away. The theory is the strong-smelling spices repel the chickens and discomfort is caused when they walk over the spices.
The downside to the spices is that they need to be reapplied several times a day if it is very windy and after it rains, snows or there is heavy dew. For some ideas on repelling chickens using spices, check out the YouTube video on How to Repel Chickens.
Keep in mind when starting a garden that well-established plants will survive much better than seeds or seedlings when you have chickens roaming about. If the hens do get through your fencing, an established plant will probably not be dug up or destroyed whereas small sprouts will be decimated.
For many winters, I’ve fenced my chickens in the garden area itself where I also happen to have perennial plants growing. These plants are very well established and are many years old. But when they begin to grow in the spring, the chickens devour them as fast as they can grow. Eventually I move the hens back to their coop area, and I’ve never had a problem with those older established plants growing and thriving.
Consistency Is Key
The key to success with any system you use is consistency. Whether you are running out the door and spraying the intruders, or setting up a mechanical system, you have to consistently use the deterrent every day for at least a week. If you are not 100% consistent, the birds will not be trained to stay away. Consistency is necessary to break the habit.
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