Posted on 25 June 2008 by

Chickens: Multi-Purpose Tomato Garden Assistants


By Kira Hamman

I know what you’re thinking: I don’t need chickens.

I can’t keep chickens where I live. My spouse would not be pleased. My neighbors would not be pleased. I have enough to take care of.

Well, you’re going to have to do better than that.

Tomatoes may love carrots, or basil, or garlic, or whatever, but tomato gardeners love chickens. If you have tomatoes, then you have tomato pests, and chickens are just the ticket to organic pest removal.

Furthermore, chickens love to eat tomatoes. Although this means that you’ll have to keep yours staked off the ground if you get chickens, it also means that they’ll turn overripe or fallen fruits into fabulous organic fertilizer for you.

So let’s deal with these objections in order:

I don’t need chickens. Oh, but of course you do! Chickens provide eggs, of course, and even people who don’t eat grocery store eggs will probably happily eat the eggs of content, well-cared-for backyard hens. But chickens also provide excellent pest control and high-quality organic fertilizer, which they till into the soil themselves. Not bad for the price of a bag of feed once in a while!

I can’t keep chickens where I live. This is probably not true. OK, if you have some kind of homeowners’ association or if you live in Washington, D.C. then it might be, but most cities and towns allow people to keep a few hens in their backyards. A partial list of municipal codes governing chickens is at The City Chicken, and if your town is not there then you can probably find your city’s codes online.

My spouse would not be pleased. I’m not going to presume that I understand your spouse better than you do, but in my experience spouses are generally pretty easy to convert once they hear about the free, fresh eggs (see above) and the minimal amount of work (see below).

My neighbors would not be pleased. I’ll bet a dozen eggs once in a while would go a long way toward swaying them. Many people are anti-chicken because they think chickens smell bad, but this is not true. Chicken poop smells bad, but if you keep your coop clean then this is not an issue. The poop on the ground quickly gets tilled in (see above), so that doesn’t smell either.

I have enough to take care of. OK, this one is probably true, but here’s the thing: chickens are very little work. The only thing they really need every day is fresh water. You can get a large feeder that only needs to be filled every couple of days, and you’ll only need to muck out their bedding about once a week. Other than those things, all you do is collect the eggs and enjoy the amusing antics!

Let’s put it this way: chickens are less work than a dog, and when’s the last time your dog eradicated your hornworms for you?

9 Responses to “Chickens: Multi-Purpose Tomato Garden Assistants”

  1. deb Says:

    I am sending this on to MM, I don’t expect to change his mind. We will keep trying.

  2. Nancy Bond Says:

    I good friend of ours raises free range chickens, and he doesn’t have a slug or a bug on his property. 🙂 The eggs and meat are a bonus. He lives in a much more rural area than we do — I wonder how my apartment bldg manager would take to a lawn full of free-rangers?! Hee!

  3. Anthony Says:

    I’d love to have chickens but besides convincing my wife, I also would worry about raccoons eating them. I’d have to build a chicken coop like Fort Knox to keep the predators out.

  4. our friend Ben Says:

    Yes! Yes!!!! Great post, Kira!!!! We have six chickens in our Pullet Palace, and we get as many incredible, luscious eggs as we and our friends and neighbors can eat, tons of fantastic fertilizer, and instant composters par excellence. As long as you keep a layer of straw, shredded paper, shredded leaves, or what-have-you in your chickens’ enclosure, it won’t smell (and the carbon-rich material will work with the nitrogen-rich chicken droppings to create an ideal organic fertilizer). As long as you keep only hens–no roosters–the neighbors won’t be bothered by the noise, and you’ll still get tons of eggs (just no chicks). We have kenneling panels as fencing around and over our chicken yard, and no varmints–hawks, raccoons, random dogs, etc.–have ever gotten in and harmed our flock. We toss weeds, hornworms and other pests, and imperfect or overripe produce to the chickens, and they love them. Chickens are fun and super low-maintenance. And they love tomatoes!!!

  5. Jim Says:

    Love this blog. I totally aggree, sinse my wife insisted on having chickens we are thier biggest fans. They are fun critters, have alot of personality and give us wonderful eggs every day!

  6. Ryan Says:

    “…when is the last time you’re dog eradicated your hornworms for you?”

    Hah! My old springer spaniel actually did pick some hornworms off of my tomatoes when I was living in Louisiana about 11 year ago. Not a bad idea, I hadn’t even thought about chickens.

  7. Keeping Chickens Says:

    My family and I recently became the proud ‘parents’ of 4 Isa Brown / Isa Warren chickens. We got them as point of layers, so they’re about 19 weeks old now and haven’t yet started producing eggs.

    Our neighbours already have chickens, so there was no problem with convincing them it was a good idea!

    It seems to be getting pretty fashionable here in the UK to keep chickens. Plus I suppose it’s economical to keep a pet that gives something back – due to the rising food prices and credit crunch that we’re constantly reading about in the newspapers.

    We’ve been surprised at how friendly our chickens are. They follow you round the garden and if you’re doing any work in the garden, they’re at your feet scratching about.

    Another plus point for us is that the chickens keep the garden pests down – slugs now have a number one enemy!

    Anyhow, we have a blog with a few photos on of our chickens. Check here Keeping Chickens.

    It’s a little ‘laurel and hardy’ at the moment – we’re learning to be good chicken keepers through reading and ‘trial and error’.

    Thanks for a great article and if you’re reading this, take the chicken keeping plunge, it’s worth it!

    Keeping Chickens

  8. Tomato Casual »  Fall in the Tomato Garden Says:

    […] my best efforts, and the best efforts of the four hens I have not yet confined to the pasture, the Japanese beetles have had their way with the chard and […]

  9. Urban Garden Casual »  Chickens Return to Roost in the Urban Garden Says:

    […] Chicken farming is on the rise in cities. […]

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