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How I Solved Two Problems at Once with Chickens

This summer was so hot that our garden suffered. I suffered too. It got so hot that I often didn’t feel like doing chores like weeding. As a result, the weeds took control of the garden to the point where I stopped trying to pull them. I decided I would wait until cooler weather when the growth slowed down and I felt like getting out there and cleaning it up. Meanwhile, our chickens were confined to their coop and run because of my concerns about predators. As much as I would like to let the chickens free range, I don’t let them out of the run because we have a lot of predators.

I struggled with both of these issues until I was studying permaculture one day and read this principle as stated by one of the fathers of permaculture, Bill Mollison: “The problem is the solution.” Other ways of saying this include: “Turn problems in solutions” or “Within the problem lies the solution.” That sounds all cosmic and philosophical but what does it really mean to me? I had two problems to solve. Maybe instead of trying to solve the problems independently, there was a way to solve both problems at the same time. My garden was full of weeds and I didn’t feel like cleaning it up. Right next to it was a flock of hungry chickens confined to a run and eagerly staring through the wire at all those weeds. The weeds were just waiting to be turned into compost and fertilizer, and the chickens were begging to get to work. In the words of the famous philosopher, Homer Simpson: “DOH!”

Our garden has a four foot fence around it that keeps most animals out. It also contains some established plants like kiwi that could serve as cover from aerial predators. I decided to give it a try and let the chickens into the garden. I built a new door on the side of their run that could be closed and locked to control when I wanted them to have access. I made a couple of fence modifications to tie the garden fence into the side of the run. Then I let the flock loose on the weeds. They were in heaven. It was like a buffet for chickens. Short weeds, tall weeds, you name it and we had it. Plenty of fresh ground to scratch for bugs and seeds. My little function-stacking miracles looked so happy to get busy doing what they love to do.

Door from Chicken Run to Garden

Door from Chicken Run to Garden


Chickens Eating Weeds in the Garden

Chickens Eating Weeds in the Garden


Chickens Cleaning Up Garden Beds

Chickens Cleaning Up Garden Beds

My plan is to allow them to free range in the garden this time of year so they can clean up the weeds and do some winter garden bed preparation. It is to be determined how much access they will get in the spring. I don’t want them eating our vegetables. In the future I might use some netting inside the garden to control where they can go and possibly do some paddock shifting so they don’t devastate an entire area.

So far I have only allowed them into the garden while I’m home. I think there is sufficient cover in the garden for the chickens to protect themselves from most predators. The four foot high fence will keep others out. We have had several coyote sightings during the day lately, so I’m not comfortable letting them out when I’m not around. Maybe I’ll work up to that.

This has several benefits. The chickens get access to supplemental food sources which will reduce our feed costs. The garden gets a lot of its weeds cleaned up, weed seeds removed, and beds fertilized. I get a break from the work of pulling weeds. It seems so simple now that I realize the chickens were begging me to put them to work. All I have to do is open the door and the they do their thing. I can hear Bill Mollison now – “The problem IS the solution.” DOH!

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