Anyone who has chickens knows how destructive they are. I love my chickens but I don't want them destroying the hundreds of dollars worth of landscaping plants and pine mulch I've invested in and planted in the past year. I had to come up with a solution to the problem that specifically addressed the digging issue. I didn't mind them being in my landscaping (free organic fertilizer and insect control), I just wanted to stop them from dust bathing in it.
Fencing was out of the question. I want to be able to see my plants and I want an open feel to the planted areas. I live in the country and don't want to feel any kind of boundary around the house. I had my fill of fences in the city. I priced the automatic sprinklers that turn on as soon as movement is sensed, but these were beyond what I was willing to pay for chicken control. And who wants to stare at one of those ugly inflatable "eyeballs" with the little mirrors glued to them that are supposed to scare off birds?
I spent a lot of time watching the chickens trying to understand what attracted them to my planted areas and what might deter them. In war the saying is "Know thine enemy". (Well, we're not exactly at war, but I did sick Derek on the chooks with a super soaker once.) I spent a lot of time considering my options and weighing the pros and cons.
Then it dawned on me at work this week whilst I sat and watch thousands of feet of conveyor belt go by...BIRD NETTING. DuPont Bird Netting, to be specific. I already had a long roll of it on hand to cover the chicken run in preparation for the raptor migration this fall. I had lots of it left and it seemed to be the best choice.
This stuff is a godsend.
It's durable--I can walk on it and not tear it. The chickens can scratch it and not tear it.
It is UV resistant.
It's flexible and easy to cut into shapes for each area of my landscaping. I had very little waste!
It stops the digging--the chickens can try all they like but they don't accomplish anything with their scratching. The net keeps their feet from moving when they try to scratch just like cement shoes!
It's practically invisible--I can walk around the house and not notice it at all!
It's cheap--I bought a huge roll for $7 at Lowe's.
I have peace of mind! I want to be able to enjoy my birds, not spend my time shooing them away with a broom.
It does take some time to cut the netting to size but I was able to do it on my own. I also had to cut small holes to push my existing plants through. Fortunately I don't have any large plants yet since I just planted them this spring. I simply gathered the plants together in my hand and gently fed them up through the netting. It would have been easier to handle if I had removed my rings beforehand. Bird netting catches everything it can snag. Anchor pins are a MUST. Without them the chickens will be able to scratch up the edges and still dig a hole. The anchor pins keep the netting snug to the ground. I made my own anchor pins by bending 6" lengths of heavy guage wire into a "U" shape. I anchored the netting about every 8" and only in the areas it needed it.
After just one day of having the bird netting down on my planted beds the chickens are giving up. GIVING UP!!! They walk around the house looking for an area to dig into and when they see the bird netting they don't even try! They have learned that the netting is impossible to scratch away. This also means that they spend less time dust bathing in my flowerbeds and more time foraging for free food on the Twelve Acres. The more they forage, the less I spend on layer feed! I can leave them out to free range the whole day instead of making them wait until I have time to sit and watch them. Again, more foraging = less layer feed, not to mention the happy chook factor.
And now excuse me while I do my victory dance!