Readers share how they use chickens for pest control around the homestead.
There are lots of grasshoppers around here, but my hens patrol the garden
perimeter fence and really reduce the numbers of insects in
the garden. Before I got the hens, some crops were totally
destroyed by the ‘hoppers. The hens also have helped
control scorpions — they peck off
the stinger and then work on the rest.
The chickens also have reduced the fire
ant population by eating the bugs and seeds the
ants would have sustained themselves on. I have no ticks
here, but the chickens have reduced one nasty pest that had
been around everywhere — termites.
— M. Wade
New Braunfels, Texas
We have a 40-acre horse farm. Unfortunately, where there
are horse barns there also are rats and mice. The horses leave bits of
grain on the ground after they eat, and some undigested
grain shows up in their manure. With all of this food, we
had a serious rat and mouse problem.
My grandfather set out rat poison, and a trip to the
veterinarian and $500 later, I found out that my Jack
Russell terrier really likes the taste of it. She is fine,
but I refuse to allow any more poison on our farm.
Instead, we got chickens for pest control. The birds accompany the horses
and clean up all the grains on the ground and in the
horses’ manure. Their careful gleaning eliminates the
source of food for the mice and rats, and now the pests
have all but disappeared.
The benefit I had not counted on when I added chickens to
our farm is that now we no longer have a
flea problem. The chickens also help
control flies and lawn
grubs. I love having the chickens. Not only do
they control unwanted pests, but they are fun to watch,
too. We have experimented with several different breeds,
but our favorites are Silkies and Barred Rocks.
— Tina Durborow
When we came to Cross Plains during a long drought, we
found that our windmill supplied plenty of water for a
garden, so we planted one. Next we knew, thousands of
grasshoppers came from every direction and
left us with bare stalks.
To beat the ‘hoppers, we built a chicken and turkey run
that surrounds our garden. The fencing is 5 feet high and
has occasional cross fencing to keep hawks from swooping in
and snatching up one of the chickens. Any grasshoppers that
approach the garden have to move into this “moat,” where
the chickens and turkeys quickly gobble them up.
We also let guineas loose in the garden (they don’t tend to
scratch as much or peck the vegetables the way chickens and
turkeys do). So far, this one-two punch is working well.
— Curt and Ginny Hoskins
Cross Plains, Texas
An outbreak of pillbugs (rolypoly bugs)
was eating us alive! Eating up all our tender little
lettuce plants, that is. The big greenhouse was filthy with
them. So was the hoophouse. Even the new midsized
greenhouse was infested with these little wriggling
They were everywhere. Big ones. Little ones. And lots of
in-between ones. We had to do something before they ate us
out of greenhouse and home. But what? We searched all our
books and files for nontoxic controls, to no avail. Old boo
ks said to use DDT, lindane or chlordane, all toxic
pesticides now banned in the United States. New books said
pillbugs usually feed mostly on dead organic matter, but
that wasn’t true in our greenhouses.
Finally I remembered a book about using portable coops to
let chickens feast in garden beds. Before we replanted the
lettuce beds, we penned a half-dozen hens in a bed. The
minute they spotted the first pillbug, garden soil flew,
hens’ feet became yellow blurs, and the chickens’ heads
bobbed up and down like runaway sewing machines.
After about an hour, things calmed down and the chickens
were napping on the freshly fluffed soil. There wasn’t a
pillbug to be found.
— George Devault
Have We Solved Your Pest Peeves?
If you have tales of pest control by chickens, ducks, geese or guineas, please send them to:
Poultry Pest Control
MOTHER EARTH NEWS
or e-mail letters @ motherearthnews.com.