Our lawn was not ever golf-course pristine or going to earn us special marks from our neighbors. We were lucky that prior residents had put in perennial shrubs that bloomed on time and without a lot of fertilizer or effort on our part. Our position halfway up a hill meant that our lawn would get soil and water from drainage patterns but was also destined to lose them as well.
We had a lawn service despite the postage-stamp nature of our lawn simply because my allergies were too hardcore to do the lawn work and J really wasn’t up to it.
All this changed when we got chickens. The nature of chickens is to love to scrabble in the turf, looking for bugs and worms and such, and unless we wanted a deep pit to China dug in any part of our lawn, we were going to have to practice “crop rotation” where the chickens could dig up only certain parts of the lawn at a time, and with luck the rest would grow back. J goes over the lawn with a mulching mower once in a while, but his real lawn maintenance is letting the chickens shorten and uproot the grass, pooping merrily on it as they go.
We know the chickens are good for the soil because their winter spot, under the deck no less, always sprouts a green layer of grass (possibly from their feed, possibly not) during the summer and that area used to be mostly dirt and gravel from the prior owners. To be clear, chicken poop on its own is not great fertilizer on its own – in fact, Seattle Tilth recommends you compost it first before putting into your garden or doing anything organized with it.
But you have to realize: we don’t care about having a picture perfect lawn. At any given point there’s a bare patch and a jungle thanks to the chickens, and while J beats back the strange vines and prickly shrubs we’ve sworn to get rid of, it’s really about ensuring the Japanese maple and the newly planted blueberry and rosemary bushes survive, and that’s that. Our lawn isn’t for anyone to try to keep up with – it’s the chicken’s playground. If you are in a planned unit development or just have anxiety attacks about what people think about your lawn you should
a) have a bigger acreage than we do, and keep the chickens way back where no one will see them, fenced in
b) keep the chickens under the deck/in one spot but be prepared for them to be sad a lot
c) find other medication to dispel the anxiety attacks and realize they have nothing to do with how good your lawn is, they are from something else 🙂
While chickens cost us a decent amount in feed and labor, it is pretty well made up for in that we don’t have a lawn guy in mowing the lawn at roughly 30+ dollars a go twice a month in the summer.
Oh yes – for those with acreage and green thumbs -remember that chickens are nature’s rototillers and if you want to keep your garden producing for human beings – you need to do some fancy fencing and keep the chickens OUT of the veggies and florals.