When deciding our chickens would free-range in our fully fenced backyard I knew the landscaping was about to change in good ways and bad. Yes, chickens are good at keeping unwanted pests away, suppling fertilizer and controlling weeds, but they also love to eat prized plants, scratch up the lawn and wreak havoc on vegetable gardens.
For those of you who are thinking about getting backyard chickens and plan to allow them to free-range, I will give you a glimpse of my backyard to show you what you may be getting yourself into. Here is evidence that I have free-range chickens:
Exhibit #1 Dust Bathing Holes
Exhibit #2 Sad looking Grasses
Exhibit #3 Scratched Lawn
Exhibit #4 Scattered Playground Chips
Exhibit #5 Trampled Ferns
Exhibit #6 Feathers Feathers Feathers!
Of course you can avoid the look of a rustic backyard by keeping your chickens contained full-time in a large run. To keep the damage to a minimum one could also do a combination of containment and free-range. If you do plan on free-ranging your chickens I strongly suggest reading the book, Free-Range Chicken Gardens by Jessi Bloom. It offers great tips on how to create a beautiful landscape that incorporates chickens.
I know our backyard is far from perfect because we chose to free-range our chickens, but nothing beats looking out the kitchen window every day and seeing my feathered ladies happily roaming free.