How To Use Chickens To Control Garden Pests

[music] -[Curtis Smith] Welcome back to Southwest Yard and
Garden, I’m Curtis Smith. We’ve returned to the shaded garden of Master Gardener
Ron Jobe, to ask him about the integrated pest management procedures that he employs to reduce his use of pesticides here in his garden. Is this part of your
integrated pest management Ron? -[Ron Jobe] Yes Curtis, this is my main insect getter here. This is Rosey, and she has some companions that she comes out and cleans my garden out pretty good with it. -[Curtis] What’s her favorite food here? -[Ron] Well she’s good
on grasshoppers, the small squash bugs, aphids if they are low enough to the
ground, and a lot of other. She doesn’t discriminate, she’ll eat almost any
insect. -[Curtis] I think she also likes some of your tomatoes every once in a while. -[Ron] That’s very true. -[Curtis] She takes her salary out. -[Ron] That’s right. In this organic business ,you have to give a little, take a little, and make it come out right. -[Curtis] I remember a few years ago you had turkeys. And they were a little more efficient because they’d even eat the big squash bugs. -[Ron] Yeah, that’s right. Well I still put my turkeys out here, but I lost my real good one that took ahold of that. But I also have some other means here to keep my pesticide use down. I’ve got some bug lights. -[Curtis] I see them hanging. This is ultraviolet lights with the electric zapper. -[Ron] Also here, I have about four toads, and I have one that’s about this big around. He is a large one. I try to maintain everything that I can to keep the plants healthy. Keep the insect
population down. But when I’m pushed against the wall, then sometimes I have to revert to an insecticide. -[Curtis] Okay, and one of the principles of integrated pest management or IPM is to know the pest you need to deal with. What are the pests that are most common here in your garden? -[Ron] Well as anybody’s garden, I think
aphids is a real primary problem. Also I got the tomato hornworm, we get grasshoppers, cabbage loopers, any number of sucking insects. -[Curtis] So it’s a constant
job for these guys, and you get a benefit from that. In that, you don’t buy so much feed because they’re finding their own food. I noticed you’ve got
some eggs produced. -[Ron] Yes, they do pretty good at that. And this was a good setting hen too. She raises some young ones for me every year. -[Curtis] So there are a lot of benefits to this, and with the bug light. I know in the past I’ve seen that they’ve killed a lot of elm leaf beetle at night, and the chickens just love to come eat those
beetles. -[Ron] They do, and the toads come out at night. I come out here at night when
they’re on and the toads know where the– seem to know where the bug lights are.
Because when the bugs fall if they’re partially paralyzed or whatever they
scoop them up pretty quick. -[Curtis] So your integrated pest management actually is a
little bit of integrated farming. The animals and the plants together for a
synergistic effect. -[Ron] That’s right. It works for me. -[Curtis] Now do you have years where
it really does–you said sometimes you do have to go to the insecticide. There are
years where you just really get overwhelmed. -[Ron] Yeah, if you have an
infestation and it can’t be controlled. Same way like with aphids. If you got
the ladybugs there they’ll control them to an extent. But if it’s an epidemic why
they just–it’s kind of overwhelming for them. -[Curtis] Yeah I noticed one
thing, they’re not very discriminating. They’re going to eat a ladybug as well
as they’ll eat an aphid or a squash bug too won’t they? -[Ron] Yeah that’s true. But that’s why I
say you gotta weigh the good and the bad. And you got to give a little and take a
little. -[Curtis] And that’s why some people have a problem with the bug lights because it’s also indiscriminate. -[Ron] Right. -[Curtis] They’ll kill whatever comes by there. And the lacewings are one of our beneficials which are very much attracted to the bug light. So people need to be aware that there
are the positive and the negative aspects here. -[Ron] That’s very true. But I’ve
never seen a praying mantis or a ladybug in the trees and the bug lights. I’ve seen a lot of moth and flying insects in that area. -[Curtis] So at least for your setting and probably in a lot of situations, even though it kills some of the good guys, it’s getting a lot more bad guys than
good guys. Now does your integrated pest management procedure have anything to do to help you with your plant Disease Control? -[Ron] Well yeah, especially the plant diseases that are carried by the insects. It’s definitely controlled there. But the air borne and soil borne spores,
why, I doubt if it does much for that. Any little bit helps. -[Curtis] We like to consider that in integrated pest management, we’re also dealing with diseases and weeds. I’ve seen them eating some of the weeds out here, so we know that they’re also weed controllers. -[Ron] Oh yes. In the northwest when I was in forest service, they used weeder geese in their trees and they’re specially adapted for that. But these chickens do, they like the soft blades of the grass that grows and the Lamb’s Quarter and other palatable weeds. -[Curtis] Yeah once they get too
big. But you’ve got to be careful that your vegetables aren’t eaten by these
guys. The little vegetables are first starting while they’re still tender
because they’ll go after them too, won’t they? -[Ron] Yeah that’s true. But what I–you
have to kind of get a control on things, especially once the tomatoes get
ripe because you lose some of them. Once I harvest my tomatoes, I put all
my chickens, I have about fifteen of them, and I just herd them through here
like people herd sheep. I just run them back and forth and that’s why you hardly ever see a grasshopper in this garden. -[Curtis] Okay that’s one of the big
problems. Well Ron, thank you. Integrated pest management is a good way to manage
problems in the garden. -[Ron] That’s definitely true.

15 thoughts on “How To Use Chickens To Control Garden Pests

  1. How do you keep the chickens from eating the plants and veggies? My hens just love to eat anything and everything I plant, so I cannot let them in the garden.

  2. I turn my chickens out after tilling the garden in the spring to clean up any leftover larvae, and again throughout the fall/winter. I also turn them out in the garden once the plants are well established right after I have picked for the day. My chickens will NOT eat squash bugs.

  3. Our chickens will flat out TILL a garden for us so we don't let them out when the gardens are growing and producing. HOWEVER they free range as soon as our (and our neighbor's) garden's are harvested right through garden prep time in the spring. They are VIGOROUS about combing every square inch of ground for any sign of life and they'll eat anything they find!

  4. one chicken in the garden probably not a problem. a flock of chickens……….. good bye garden, theyll eat everything bugs and all.

  5. nice work fellas, I use natural insect control as well.  I never use toxic chemicals on my food/vegetables…down with monsanto, down with toxic chemicals.  People need to use their head like these fine men and get predators to the insects infesting their garden its a more sustainable ecocentric way to control our gardens

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