Let half a dozen adult hens have the run of the garden and they will take over completely, scratching up your best plants and making dust baths in the dahlias.
Spotting exactly where you dig and plant, they are always first in the queue for juicy morsels turned up by your trowel and selfishly snip the delicate beginnings of your seedlings before they have a chance to mature into something edible or pretty.
It may sound like a match made in hell but with some forethought, poultry can actually enhance your gardening efforts.
What are you looking for?
If gardening is about neat flowerbeds and a perfectly smooth lawn, then perhaps a discrete ark housing a couple of teeny tiny, sweet little light-on-their-webbed-feet Call ducks is all you can tolerate.
Move the ark daily so the lawn does not become poached and let the little ducks free whenever it is safe to do so. These little dears will soon understand which territory they are allowed to patrol, and can be kept off sensitive areas with low barrier. Use them as living garden ornaments as well as efficient natural sluggers. Ducks are bright and herdable, train them to return to their compound if you are suddenly called away from the garden with a splashy washing up bowl of clean water to play in. Who could resist?
If transforming the pests in your garden into free eggy food is your idea of fun, build yourself a ‘chicken tractor’- no mechanical parts needed. Build your chicken house and run to useful proportions. With a raised bed system for veg growing at four feet wide (1.23 metres in new money), plan the run for your hens to be the same and drag it (tract = draw) along. Any beds not in immediate use can be systematically ‘worked over’ by sharp-eyed chickens and manured along the way. Crafty growers devote a plot to chicken friendly grains and seeds allowing the birds to self-harvest at little cost. Lazy days ahead while the hens do the work just pick up the eggs as they go!
An orchard is the natural habitat of these ancestors of jungle fowl, safely scratching in a dappled shade heaven. Allow a handful of chickens to rake out the old grasses and balance the pests.
For mature orchards where quelling the grass has become a chore employ the grazing instincts of some geese to do the work.
Every gardening situation can be assessed with poultry keeping in mind, large or small.