You can have a gorgeous garden, even with free range chickens! Learn how to make a DIY garden cloche, plus other great ideas to protect your garden plants and keep both your garden and your chickens happy!
Creating a garden that both you and your chickens can enjoy tends to be a challenge from time to time! Spring can be especially problematic, due to the tiny fragile seedlings that are popping up!
My free-range velociraptors (err… chickens) rampage my garden several times a day, leaving a path of destruction behind! During most seasons, I welcome their scratching and bug scavenging. But when I plant a bunch of seeds and tender plant starts, those chickens better leave my garden alone!
But of course, they don’t. Because they’re chickens. And chickens are kind of jerks. If there’s a tiny baby plant that I just lovingly planted, you can bet that it will be the first thing they destroy! Yes, I could fence off the garden or keep them locked in their run, but chickens provide a lot of benefits around our homestead which is why I enjoy letting them free-range.
Through the years, we’ve learned a lot about how to garden with – or maybe despite – chickens! I’ve lost a couple plants and a lot of seeds due to their scratching, but we’ve finally found a few ways to keep both the chickens and the garden happy!
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Gardening with Chickens: How to Protect your Garden Plants
Garden Fences to Protect Raised Beds:
One way to protect your garden from chickens is to instal garden fencing. We use a couple rolls of welded wire garden fence (3ftx50ft) to line our raised garden beds. We roll them up in the fall so that the chickens can scratch and work the compost into the garden beds over the off-season. Then we roll them back out every Spring when we begin planting.
We actually cut the fencing in half length-wise so the fence is 1.5 feet tall (in addition to the 2-ft raised bed). In hindsight, I wouldn’t do that again. It made the wire go much farther, which was great. And at the time, we only had adorable little bantam chickens who couldn’t jump it.
But over the last few years, we added some athletic full-sized chickens to our flock. And that little fence isn’t stopping them anymore! So the fence does still help discourage them somewhat, but I wish I had left it taller.
Wire Fencing to Cover Seeds & Sprouting Plants:
The best way that I’ve found to protect sown seeds and sprouting plants is to cover them with sections of wire fence. This works especially well for seeds/plants that are sown in rows, like radishes and corn. The fencing panels will help protect them until they are well-rooted, at which time you can remove the fencing.
This year, we re-did a lot of fencing when we changed the layout of our goat pasture. As a result, we had a big roll of salvaged welded wire fencing that was bent and broken.
I cut the fencing into smaller sections to fit into the garden spaces where I planted seeds. I bend the fencing just a bit to give it a curve before I lay it over the garden soil. The curved shape helps discourage the chickens from walking on it and it also gives the plants some extra growing space. I plan to save all these panels and reuse them each year in my garden.
Garden Cloches to Protect Young Plants:
Garden cloches are amazing! I use them to cover and protect plants that I direct seed individually (rather than in rows), like cabbage and broccoli. Cloches are also a great way to protect young plants that you transplant into your garden while they take root. You can also shape them to fit over pots to protect potted flowers and plants from chickens and wild birds!
After looking at the price for commercially-made cloches, I decided to construct my own to save money. Luckily, they are incredibly easy to make using chicken wire! And since rolls of chicken wire are very affordable, you can make tons of cloches for a fraction fo the price of store-bought ones!
How to Make a DIY Garden Cloche:
To make your own DIY Garden Cloche, you will need:
- Chicken wire (I bought a 3 ft x 25 ft roll for under $20 at Lowes)
- Pliers/Wire Cutters
- Landscape Fabric Stakes or Heavy Gauge Wire
- Start by rolling out a section of your your chicken wire on a flat surface.
- Cut the wire using your wire cutters. You can make the cloches as big or small as you need. I made mine by cutting the wire into 2.5 ft x 1.5 ft squares. To do this, I cut the wire lengthwise (so that I had a 3 ft x 2.5 ft square) and then I cut that section in half again. If you remember elementary school, I cut it “hot-dog” style then “hamburger” style ?
- Form the wire into a cylinder shape.
- Overlap the cut edges so that they are offset (as seen in the picture).
- Twist the loose ends of the cut wire to secure them together (as seen below).
- Once the wire ends are twisted together, decide which of the open ends will be the top and which will be the bottom. I prefer to use the solid wire side as the bottom.
- On the top, cut 4-5 vertical slits into the wire. The slits should be about 1/4 to 1/3 of the length of the wire cylinder.
- Fold the cut slits down so that they overlap and form the top of the cloche. If needed, you can twist the loose ends of the cut wire over the other wire so that the wire flaps stay in place.
- Place the finished cloche over your plant or seeds and secure it by using 2-3 landscape fabric stakes. Alternatively, you can use a piece of heavy gauge wire, folded in half, as a stake.