Chickens in the Garden: Organic Pest Control

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Illustration By Elayne Sears
Chickens love to scratch and peck. Set your birds to work hunting and munching insect pests in your garden.

Every week, we invite our Facebook fans to share their wisdom on a given topic. Invariably they post some great firsthand information. Here’s a sample confirming yet again what our readers have reported in the past — that chickens, ducks, turkeys and guineas all provide amazing organic pest control. (For more firsthand reader reports, visit the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Pest Patrol page.)  

• We moved to our new home four years ago in July and got 12 hens. The waves of grasshoppers jumping in the yard have never come back, and we have never seen a tick anywhere, despite living in the bush and having a couple of bad years of ticks in our area. The birds free range, but the garden is fenced off.Rebekah Massey 

 They definitely make a difference. Compared with our neighbors, we have far fewer insects. As an added bonus, we have all the eggs we can eat and plenty leftover to give away. As a side note, we had problems with weeds overtaking our pond. Instead of going the chemical route, we just got some ducks, and they have taken care of it.Alan Savoy 

 About the only thing they don’t eat around here is the Lubber grasshoppers. Everything else that crawls or slithers is pretty much fair game: snakes, frogs, bugs, worms and moths. They even chase the black flies when they are bored. Two of my hens love to de-flea the cats. It freaked me out at first, because I thought they were attacking the cats, but then I realized they were pecking the same spots the cats were scratching near, and the cats liked it! The kittens will actually go find a hen when they are itchy!Jessica Marnik 

 Free-range chickens definitely helped us with our tick control. We were pulling ticks off my son and husband every day before, but now only a couple ticks make it on them, and that’s usually after the boys have visited the woods.Tina Smalley 

 Our chickens are doing wonders as organic pest control. I haven’t seen a tick since we turned them out. But, oh my, do they love my flower beds.Greedith Butler 

 Since I’ve gotten chickens, my neighbors and I have noticed a great decrease in the number of insect pests. That said, chickens are vigorous diggers and scratchers. They’ll tear up any garden or planting area that has soft dirt or mulch. Our chickens first destroyed our yard, then they wandered over and did the same to our neighbors. Now we only let them out when we are gardening or mowing and can keep an eye on them.Suzanne Menear Lane 

 I have more than 30 chickens that have cut way back on the yard bugs, especially stink bugs. They also till up the garden and help with composting.Lisa DeSantis 

 Our neighbor’s free-range chickens patrol our yard, and those ladies seem to do a great job keeping the pests down. I think the mosquito population still has a leg up on them, though.Scout O’Brien Scott 

 I have definitely seen a drop in mosquitoes and grubs thanks to using my free-range poultry as my natural pest control method.Alexandra-Michael Hoxworth 

 Yes! In New York, before we got backyard chickens, we had to check the dogs for ticks often. After we got them, no more ticks!Elizabeth Rutherford Sinnott 

 Black widow spiders are common everywhere in the yard where the hens can’t reach, but they’re totally missing where my hard-working girls can get them.Sarah Sparklers  

 Our chickens have most definitely lowered the tick population here. Not so sure about the mosquitoes?—?we live right on a lake.Bear Lake Farm 

 Our flock of chickens is doing the best job?—?no more grasshoppers munching on the vegetables. All I need to do now is teach them how to dig deep and get the moles: Our cats can’t keep up!Ludmilla Parez 

 Guinea hens are the best tick control, and for scorpion control, bantam chickens just can’t be beat. I still like bats and purple martens for mosquitoes, though.Zemuly Ruth Sanders 

 This is purely anecdotal, but last summer Lyme disease was bad around here. My neighbors who live 1 mile away had bad ticks, and both their dog and my friend’s husband were infected. I only saw one tick the entire year, on the other hand, and it was early in the season (when my hens were still young). I haven’t seen one since that year, not even on my dogs whose commercial tick protection has lapsed.Brandis L. Roush  

 We raised free-range ducks. In summer, they spent most of their time happily eating insects, including those awful Japanese beetles. The cornfields around us were swarming with Japanese beetles that were attacking our fruit trees. My hubby put out a bag trap to lure them away from the trees. Every day he emptied it into the watering trough, and the ducks would run over for their crunchy, swimming snacks. My parents grew up raising guineas and chickens. They told me that guineas are not only great insect eaters, but they also go after mice.Judith Drayton  

 I have about 70 free-range birds (chickens, ducks and turkeys) patrolling my acreage for light edibles. They really do make a difference. My ducks are funny to watch chasing flying insects and keeping my 300 berry bushes free of aphids and stink bugs. The chickens are great at keeping tick, grub, mosquito and grasshopper populations down. These birds are the beneficial predators on my farm, getting the job done naturally and organically!Melissa Ehrman Johnson 

 We have a backyard that is in a low spot of the neighborhood. When it rains, the yard stays pretty damp, so we always had a lot of no-see-ums or midges. After adding six hens last year, I have definitely noticed a decline in pests. Thank goodness?—?I can’t stand those little bloodsuckers!Gabe Simpkins 

 We used to have about two dozen hens that free ranged our 3 acres. We hardly had any ticks, fleas, ants, spiders or mosquitoes, and we even caught them on several occasions eating small snakes.Rachele Ruth-Hardy Tycksen 

 I fenced in my quarter-acre raspberry patch and let the chickens run. They eat grasshoppers and pests that threaten the berries while fertilizing the patch. The berries protect the chicks from airborne attacks from magpies and crows! The chickens follow me as I pick the berries, and get any bugs I dislodge and berries I won’t use.Anna Clark 

 My one free-range hen loves to eat carpenter ants and termites. I think she eats enough of them to keep us from having a problem. She does not, however, eat mosquitoes.Lorena McGovern  

 I found a significant drop in insects. I raised Rhode Island Reds, while my friend raised Barred Rocks, in different pens but in the same barn. I suffer arachnophobia something fierce, so it was easy to notice that spiders were thinning out in population. We opened the back wall of the barn to let the hens free range and noticed we weren’t seeing nearly as many grasshoppers, and the ants weren’t as noticeable either. One can’t beat fowl for pest control!Thomas A. Reou 

 Yes! We’ve noticed that our moles have left our yard! (The chickens eat the grub worms that the moles feed on.) I love our chickens!Linda Johnson 

 Thanks to my chickens, along with barn swallows and small bug-eating bats, I have a greatly reduced insect population. My garden has hardly any insects that chew up my veggies.Stephanie Hanlon 

 I got guineas on my farm after finding ticks on my cat and goats. Since getting the birds, I haven’t seen another tick on my animals.Nancy Barnaby Farrell 

Read more: To learn how your backyard flock can be the best source of meat, eggs and fertilizer around, check out the article Chickens in the Garden: Eggs, Meat, Chicken Manure Fertilizer and More.

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