Chicken Yard Rehabilitation

By Emma O’Connell

As mentioned in my previous article, chickens that scratch up your garden and flowerbeds can really drive you nuts.  Which is why I decided to start keeping my chickens in a fenced chicken yard.  There, they can scratch, dig, roll around, and poop everywhere, and keep me from throwing various harmful objects at them when they get too close to the garden gate.  However, after one winter in their chicken yard, they had pecked away all the grass, palatable weeds, and most of the topsoil had washed down the hill to the lowest part of the fencerow.

Instead of building another fenced area or switching to chicken tractors, I decided to do some in-yard rehabilitation areas.    Using sunflower, okra, and corn stalks plus tomato vines, and various other stalky garden “refuse”, I made little piles of the stalks here and there in the chicken yard.

This is a simple, non-permanent, compostable, and free way to give your chickens some greens in their yard.  The grass and other weeds will sprout up through the stalks since the stalks are piled up (light can penetrate) instead of matted down.  Chickens don’t really like to walk on a big pile of stalks, so they will naturally avoid these areas, allowing the new growth to get a starting chance.  Once your green areas are reestablished, you can move your stalk pile to a new area, using the same materials or bringing in some new ones.

Another thing you can do is seed your rehabilitation areas with stuff you know chickens love to eat, such as clover.  In my chicken yard, all the top soil had washed down to the lowest point in the area, so I shoveled a little of this up first, threw it where I was going to build my stalk piles, threw a little seed on it, then built the stalk pile on top.

Another great thing about building chicken yard rehabilitation areas is that it is so easy to do, your kids or grandkids can have fun doing it for you.  Now that’s good Permaculture.


Emma O’Connell is the chief gardener at Redbuds of Rocheport MO, and is the founder of

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