Homestead Hack: Protect Plants From Free-Range Hens

by Texas Homesteader

One day I saw that our free-range hens had been in the planted beds scratching the mulch and in the process scratching & eating my plants. Gggrrrrr… Let’s see, what can I do to protect these seedlings as they grow?

Say it with me kids – use what you’ve got! Check out the Homestead Hack I used to successfully protect my seedlings from our free-range hens.

Protect Your Plants From Free-Range Hens. Check out the Homestead Hack I used successfully. Use what you've got! #TexasHomesteader

You see, I started heirloom seeds indoors this winter so I’d have seedlings to plant outside when the weather warmed enough. I was thrilled that I finally got some sage and basil to sprout since I was not successful sprouting them last year.

So I tenderly planted those herb seedlings and some veggie plants in my edible landscape. Then I eagerly anticipated harvesting fresh herbs soon. Aaaahhhh… the dreams of a gardener!

But then I saw the damage my free-range hens caused. They can’t help it, I know it’s their natural instinct to scratch around in the dirt. But after all that work getting those seedlings in the ground, my heart just sank.

Plants Damaged By Free-Range Hens

After I recovered from the initial frustration of this sabotage attempt by the hens, I inspected the plants themselves. “Hummm, not too bad”, I thought to myself. Maybe I could save them.

Why yes I’m the eternal optimist, why do you ask? HA!

Of course I realize that unless you fence off your planted areas you’re not going to keep free range hens out of the beds. But I didn’t want a fortress fence around my plantings. It just wasn’t the landscape look I was after.

So I thought maybe there might be a way to protect the plants themselves. Some way to discourage the chickens from scratching young seedlings right out of the ground. But how to protect them?

I looked around and saw some bare twigs from a large shrub that is struggling with all the water we’ve received this spring.

Then I had a light-bulb moment! I thought “Now THAT will work!”

So I broke off some of the branchier branches and pushed them deep into the soil next to my seedling. I went all the way around the seedling, using about three twigs for each group of plants.

My hope was that the branches of these twigs would fortify the plant and keep it from being uprooted. Plus since I got the branchier branches, the twig stuck out from the seedling too, keeping the chickens from getting on top of the seedling and trampling it. 

Then I sat back to see if this would successfully keep the hens from not only scratching up my plants but also snacking them down to the ground as well.

Protect Your Plants From Free-Range Hens. Check out the Homestead Hack I used successfully. Use what you've got! #TexasHomesteader

It worked beautifully. Then hens did still visit the beds and scratch around, but they no longer scratched around my seedlings. And they didn’t care to get close enough to them to eat the leaves either.

Then as the plants grew the twigs were hidden through their foliage. So even if the hens snack on a bit of the plant, they’re not able to snack it to the ground.

Plus, since it’s just twigs, there’s no plastic supports to buy and remove at the end of the season. The twigs look more natural that something I may have bought to do the job too.

So once again we’ve solved a problem without resorting to buying something to do the job for us nor causing any environmental harm. Mother Nature – the best place to shop!


This post categorized in  

Chicken-Care Posts

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11 thoughts on “Homestead Hack: Protect Plants From Free-Range Hens

  1. Rosie (@greenrosielife)

    Perfect timing for this post – I have some Cavolo Nero Seedlings that the pigeons are attacking – this simple method with stop them!

    My July Going Green Linky is currently open if you fancy joining in 🙂

  2. nancy

    Great idea! For our smaller veggies I bought one roll of “rabbit fencing” and cut it down. I made quite a few small tomato-type round cages around them. Once veggies are bigger you can remove and roll them up for next year. Works great and we’ve used for several years.

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I use this trick when I’m planting seedling trees in our yard Nancy. In the past the bunnies munch them right down to the ground overnight. This keeps the trees protected until they’re large enough to fend for themselves. LOL ~TxH~

  3. Lisa M

    Great idea! I can never get sage to grow so I would be guarding it with my life! Glad it worked for you.

    Thanks for linking up with Green Thumb Thursday. I hope to see you back this week!


  4. Jendi

    I like the way you could leave it because the plant hid the twigs as it grew – and no fencing required! I hope your herbs grow very well for you.

  5. Erlene

    Very clever to use twigs to protect your plants. I would’ve never thought of that. Glad it’s protecting your plants 🙂

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I was really hoping it work work Erlene and it worked beautifully. I’ve learned to stop & think outside the box before attempting to solve a problem here at the ranch and almost always there’s a simple inexpensive fix. ~TxH~

  6. mm

    I don’t have free range chickens but this is great to remember because we are thinking about doing this next year. Thanks!

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I was hopeful it would work and it DID. I hate to have to run out & buy something to solve a problem – it’s not only a financial consideration but especially (for me) an environmental one. This worked great & the twigs were hidden in no time by the growing foliage. Worked great. ~TxH~

  7. ColleenB.

    Always a great idea to use what is handy as well as being available.
    Here’s just a couple other suggestions in case some may want to go a different route.
    You could make a chicken wire structure, use a tomato cage or a couple of stakes, just wrap the chicken wire around a small plant and it will discourage the chickens. Can make into ring form or Teepee form to go over your herb plants. The chicken wire forms are especially helpful when planting young seedlings.
    You could also but a ring of bricks or larger stones around the base of a plant can discourage scratching.
    Or you might consider planting herbs in containers or in a window box. Less chance for the chickens to scratch in a planter or window boxes

    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Now I’m battling grasshoppers Colleen. OMGosh I hope they don’t get as bad as they were last year – plague of biblical proportions! They’re attacking plants & eating them to the stem, but so far they’re concentrating on my garlic and mint. I understand the mint, but GARLIC??! ~TxH~


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