Chickens vs. Vegetable Beds, Round Two


In February I posted a picture of my modest collection of raised beds and asked for ideas about how to keep the chickens out of them.  Jessi Blum, author of Free Range Chicken Gardens, chimed in with some good advice.  I wanted the best of both worlds:  total chicken protection with very little effort on my part.

After some trial and error, I think I got pretty close.  This has been in place for over a month with no chicken invasions to date.  Here’s an overview (and by the way, these photos were taken earlier in the season):


And here’s a bit more detail:

In the asparagus bed, I just stretched the chicken wire across the top of the bed and put a couple of boards under the wire, but also on top of the bed, so the chickens could not actually just walk on the chicken wire and pick at the plants. I attached the chicken wire with U-shaped nails/staples. My hope is that the asparagus will grow through the gaps in the wire.  I chose wire with large enough gaps that I can actually squeeze my hands through.

In the potato bed (this was mostly just an accident) I tossed a cheap wooden trellis, to which a bit of chicken wire was attached, over the bed.  That seemed to be enough to keep the chickens out, so I left it.  It’s not even attached to the raised bed–it’s just sitting there.

In a bed where I have planted some squash (lower left in the photo above) I screwed a board into each corner, then stretched some aptly-named bird netting around the whole thing.  I affixed the bird netting to the boards with wire ties and anchored it in the ground with landscape staples (those big u-shaped bits of wire they use to keep landscape fabric down.)

In the other bed, I just rounded up some plastic green stakes (any sort of stake would have worked) and wrapped chicken wire around it.  In some cases, I attached the chicken wire with little u-shaped nails/staples, and in some cases I tried using eyelets that I screwed in, figuring that way I could pull the chicken wire off later.  And in some cases I really didn’t attach the chicken wire to the beds at all–I just wrapped it around the posts and the raised beds.

The straw bale garden (against the fence, at top in the above photo) just has a piece of chicken wire wrapped around it, anchored to the ground with landscape staples.  It’s attached to the chicken run, goes past one stake I put in the corner, and over to the fence itself.  I attached it to the fence with a couple of hook-and-eye things so that I could pull it away from the fence to get in there if I need to.

In every case, it’s still pretty easy to get at the beds.  The height of the chicken wire or netting is such that I can still reach in there to pull weeds, harvest, scatter seeds, etc.  I mean, I wouldn’t want to bend over all day like that, but I can pretty much reach in and do what I need to do.

So that’s it!  The photo collage below will give you a close-up of some of the things I was talking about.  Oh, and I do know what a fancier version of this would look like:  It would use solid wood stakes attached to the beds with hinges at the bottom so that they could drop down on the ground for easy access on one side, maybe using hooks and eyes to hold them closed when they are upright.  But I didn’t feel like going to even that much effort–and so far, this works!

Anybody else have chicken-proofing success stories they want to share?



  1. Sometimes the low-tech fix is the best one. Though I don’t have chickens (yet), I’ve certainly used the hodgepodge solution of boards and wires and pallet’s and chicken wire with great success to keep other beasties out of the garden.

  2. I haven’t had any problems with my chickens (yet), so I haven’t been in need of fences. I’ve been sowing sunflowers, peas and beans just for them right outside their house and planted other things they like in the opposite direction from MY crops 😉 this won’t work forever though, so thanks for the tip!

  3. Oh, you are just a better person than me, Amy. As soon as my chickens figured out how to flutter over a low fence into my vegetable garden, that was it–confined to quarters.

    Fortunately, their yard has recently more than doubled in size. My neighbor moved her fence and we lost a parking space. Our loss, the chickens’ gain. I am going to plant an apricot tree in there–and possibly two semi-dwarf pears–for interest.

  4. I don’t know much about chickens, but I have had 2 separate flocks over the years, with wildly-differing temperaments and eating habits, and I wonder how much individual and flock temperaments play into garden/chicken compatibility.

    Flock 1 (which included a mix of Auracanas, Rhodies and Buff Orpingtons) was wildly voracious and ate anything in site. They denuded their outdoor area in days. We called them the Velociraptors–I once saw one jump 2 feet off the ground to catch a moth in mid-air. Unfortunately, one Fall evening a pair of young cougars got all but one–Sister Hilaria–who was taken out by a neighbor’s dogs the next Spring (violence begets violence?).

    Flock 2 (a mix of Black Orpingtons and Rhodies) was so sedate, cautious and paranoid, we wondered about their little bird brains. All of the plants in the same outdoor area were left completely alone by them. We called them the Puritans–they reminded us of dour old Pilgrims. We have 1 of these left, a wily Rhodie named Hester Prynne, who after 6 years has earned the right to wander at will (she no longer lays eggs though). So far she’s leaving everything alone, except bugs and grasses, it looks like.

  5. The chicken-wire fencing solution is exactly what we did… with one small adjustment: we sunk PVC into the ground outside the boxes at every corner, and the chicken wire is anchored at every corner on rebar, which rests inside the PVC “locks”. This way, you can open and shut the boxes as needed for weeding (Hah!) and harvesting (far more likely).

    • I placed 1×1 wooden posts at the corners of my beds, drove screws partly into them at the top, middle and bottom, and then stretched green plastic fencing so it gets anchored by the screws. Each side is cut to fit, so I can easily take down one side at a time to get to the garden, and since it’s plastic, it is more flexible, and safer to work with. So far none of my hens have tried to go over it, so the beds are open over the tops.

      • Where do you get the green plastic fencing? I got some at a garage sale, but have never seen it at garden or home improvement stores around here.

  6. I had daytome free-range chickens and didn’t do anything to my gardens. They scratched around but weren’t that much of a problem. I do remember them jumping to reach the raspberries which was rather fun to watch. I wonder if you must planted an outside row of chicken lettuce in each bed if that would satisfy them, and look nice as well.

  7. My neighbor has chickens and they haven’t wandered over to my yard since the cats saw them and had fun chasing them. One lone one made it to my garden late last fall but most everything was harvested. With having 5 acres they could wander quite a bit before they discovered the veg garden.

  8. There’s a huge difference in how destructive chickens are depending on two things – age and breed. Some breeds don’t scratch as much. Cochins, with their feathered feet, and the little silkies and bantams don’t kick and spray dirt everywhere. My bantam White Leghorns watch me garden and wait for me to unearth bugs. Lazy hens. They will, however, eat seedlings and dust bathe where you don’t want them to. Then there are old hens. I have a flock of retired girls (aged from 3 to 7) and they just stroll around and peck a bit at the clover. No eggs, but no garden damage, either.
    The most destructive animal I ever let into my garden was my pet rabbit. I let her in, in the fall when I let the hens go after all of the bugs at the end of the growing season. Unbeknownst to me, she burrowed under the asparagus and ate all of the roots before I realized what she was up to. A 5 year established asparagus bed gone in two days!

  9. I put an assortment of broomsticks in the corners of my box. Then, I just loosely wrapped chicken wire around and stuck it over the sticks. I had to do this after they appropriated my potato boxes for scratching and dust baths. They can jump over, but they don’t. For a bed against the house, I use shelves from stove ovens and lean over the plants. The plants can grow thought the shelves and eventually the shelves are camouflaged. The hens lost another dust bath location, so now they just dig up the patio table area. It is treacherous to walk, but they don’t dig up flowers or food plants now. Hen are three RIR.

  10. I have ex-battery chickens who are gorgeous gals but particularly destructive. This year we’ve gone for fencing them into one third of the garden (the veg free bit) using this sort of fencing which is really easy to move round so that you can give each bit of garden a chicken-free rest. The beds we have are also pretty raised which means that even if they do escape they don’t tend to notice the veg straight away because it’s above their eye level.

    Great to read what other people have done too!

  11. If you have the room I think chickens do best in a pasture or orchard system, away from delicate annuals that are easily ravaged by chickens. At least this was the best system I have seen. Their orchard-pasture-free range area was sufficient for the flocks needs (i.e. proper stocking rate) that they never bothered the veggies.

  12. Since I live in the country with an old chicken house in back of the house next to a tractor shed sitting on sonotubes, the chickens mostly stay out of the garden in front of the house and. In this hot hot weather they barely come out into the light of day preferring to hide under the tractor shed where the dirt is cool and the bugs are plentiful.

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