Will chickens kill my grass and ruin my lawn?
Chickens love to forage and scratch about and will eat the grass as well and if you keep hens in your garden then some of that scratching will be on your grass. Lawns will suffer to some extent but it can be managed.
You can see a bare patch of ground in the header image above despite most of the grass being green and lush.
Below: Spot the grass the chickens have been on. Chickens have been kept on the right hand side.
Most backyard flock keepers are rightly concerned about what damage,if any, they will cause to your lawn. It is one of things that most poultry keepers learn to put up with, poop on the porch and bare patches in the lawn!
With an established lawn chickens shouldn’t cause too much damage if you allow it to rest occasionally and keep them off it in winter if you suffer wet weather. They will enhance your backyard and provide you with fresh eggs.
Your feathered friends can help you by dining on insects and bugs in the lawn and you will need to mow the grass less with chickens.
Will chickens kill your grass?
Chickens will ruin grass if there is not enough room for them or they are kept on the same spot all the time. Chickens have a habit of producing hard packed ground where they stand around.
Below: Chickens can kill lawns and leave bare patches.
Chickens are more likely to kill grass if you live in a very dry or wet part of the country.
Problematic ground for keeping chickens on includes:
- Very dry ground. The grass won't grow back well in dry conditions.
- Very wet ground. Chickens have a habit of making wet ground into mud baths.
- Clay soil. The water doesn't drain and clay soil gets easily compacted so nothing grows.
- Ground that can't be rested. The code of practice states that ground that chickens are kept on should be rested after a maximum of 9 months.
Whether your flock will kill your lawn depends how much area you have and how many chickens you keep on that spot and how long they are allowed out to wander. They will eat some grass and of course scratch for bugs.
Chickens scratch up holes in which to dust bathe and providing a good sized dust bath in an easily accessible place will help save your lawn.
If you are proud of your flat pristine and green grass then take steps to keep your feathered demolition crew off the grass, they will destroy a lawn given the chance.
How do you stop chickens from destroying my grass?
You can use a few methods to save your grass, chicken tractors that confine them to a small spot but is moved on a regular basis or electric netting to confine them to their paddock.
- Use a sturdy variety of grass.
- Grow barley or wheat sprouts for the days when you need to keep them off the grass.
- Grow fodder to help provide greens for the flock.
- Provide a dust bath that's big enough and in an accessible spot so they don't need to make their own.
- Use a chicken tractor.
- Plan to keep them in their for two days a week to rest the grass.
- Keep the grass a bit longer, short grass may dry out quicker and longer grass will be more resilient to chickens.
- Don't try and keep too many chickens in too small a space.
- Divide the garden up with something like an electric fence.
Below: Movable runs help keep lawns in good condition.
Below: Grow wheat or barley sprouts to replace grass in times of shortage.
Read more about dealing with mud in chickens runs.
Does chickens poop kill grass?
Probably not. Too much will but the average flock in a back garden will not poop enough to kill grass.
Their droppings are higher in potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus than any other type of manure and saves buying it from the local nursery. Their excrement is high in nitrogen lots of it from many chickens can burn the grass in high concentrations, but in low concentrations it is like nitrogen fertiliser.
However, the likelihood is that with a wide and random distribution of droppings on your lawn, it will not burn the leaves or harm the turf.
Will chickens eat grass?
Yes, chickens like greenery and grass is good for them. Mine like to pluck the fresh green growing tips off the plant.
Below: Chickens eating grass.
Expecting your chickens to mow the lawn is probably a bit much. They will eat it and wear it down but it will still need levelling up from time to time.
Meat chickens benefit from time on pasture just as egg laying birds do.
Below: Broilers or meat chickens benefit from green grass as well.
Below: Guinea fowl eat more grass then chickens do.
Do chickens need grass?
Not necessarily but they do need greens in their diet, modern chicken feed often contains quite large amounts of dried alfalfa.
Yes, modern domestic chickens eat grass. They do not, however, survive exclusively on grass. Chickens are omnivorous and happily eat grass, vegetables, fruit, insects, and the occasional mouse or snake if they can kill one.
Below: Chickens picking through and eating grass. They tend to nip off the young growing shoots.
Chickens will eat the tender young shoots of grass and if allowed to, will totally denude a grass field over time.
Do chickens prefer grass or dirt?
They neither prefer one nor the other, they like and need both.
I have some big trees on my land and one of the favourite chicken rooting spots is in the leaf litter under the trees. It's the variety of
Do chickens like grass clippings?
Chicken love grass clippings. Your flock will happily scratch through the pile of clippings for bugs and will eat some of them. Never give clippings from lawns that have been treated with any chemicals.
You can give your grass clippings to the chickens. The only exception is if the grass has been artificially fertilised or treated with chemicals or lawn colours.
A pile of fresh lawn cuttings will keep chickens amused for a few hours. They will eat some of it and scratch through the rest.
Do chickens like tall grass?
Chickens like a grazing height of 3” – 5”. That sort of grass height suits their size. In my fields there is quite a lot of long grass and my hens like the longer stuff as it has more insects and bugs.
Below: This is a video of one of my white leghorns scratching about in long grass looking for bugs rather than eating it.
Really tall or fibrous grass should be avoided at all costs as it can lead to crop problems like impaction. They don't normally choose to eat long grass, preferring if they can to nibble the fresh growing tips.
Can you use artificial grass for chickens?
No I would not, they will peck at the plastic tips of the grass all the time and end up getting frustrated and the chicken poop won't wash in with the rain like it would on a real lawn. Chickens need real greenery in their diet.
I have seen it used as a sort of a mat outside the pop hole from the coop to stop the mud getting around.
Below: Plastic grass and chickens.
Artificial lawn or plastic grass may look nicer than brown and bare patches but it is not good for poultry.
Commercial egg producers use a Gray version of artificial grass for caged hens to scratch on to simulate real grass and I know people who use it in nesting boxes.
A big negative that people don't think about is that chickens will destroy gardens and flower beds. They will peck holes in the veggies, eat the herbs down to the ground, and scratch out the seedlings. They see mulch as their personal playground. And if you have neighbours, they will also visit your neighbours and destroy their garden.
Will chickens eat grass seed?
Yes. Chickens will eat anything, mine eat grass and thistle seeds while they are roaming over my 4 acres of land.
I have tried to seed their pen to give them some grazing as it had been all eaten up. They not only eat the seeds, they scratch around so much that there is no chance for any stray seed to germinate and grow.
There is a hidden problem this in that grass seed may have been chemically treated so wild and natural grass seed is fine but keep them away from the bought seeds.
If you want to grow grass in any type of area chickens have access to, cover it with hardware cloth raised just a few centimetres off the ground. It does not have to be high from the ground, but can’t be touching or the dirt will still be exposed through the holes. Bend the edges one or two holes worth so the cloth is not on the ground or rest it on wooden batons.
Yes, chickens will eat anything. If you are concerned for the grass seed, keep the chickens away from it.
So yes they will. You'll have to lock them up or put a fence around the area you want to seed. Sorry but chickens are master defoliators.
What about pesticides, herbicides and fungicides?
Lawn fertiliser, miracle grow, Roundup and chemical fertilisers and treatments are not safe for chickens and should never be used where chickens are kept.
Synthetic fertilisers, pesticides or fungicides should never be used where chickens will range. They contain chemicals that are harmful to the birds whether they are eaten or absorbed through contact.
Backyard chickens will reduce your need for pesticides. In fact, you may never need to use a lawn pesticide after you establish your flock. Chickens are amazing bug-eaters. It’s also one of their more amusing activities to watch. One hen finds a bug or worm, any other hen who sees her will rush to her in hopes of stealing it away should she drop it and an amusing comedy chase nearly always follows. The antics of chickens are part of the joy of raising a backyard flock.
Never use chemical herbicides where your flock will range.
Pulling weeds by hand might seem to be a chore, but it is the most effective way if the problem is small. Used properly, vinegar can be effective if a patch of weeds must be treated, but the fastest way to deal with an unruly patch is to locate the chicken tractor right on top of the area and let the flock at them!
So Can chickens and grass lawns get along? Yes, as long as both are managed organically with a bit of give and take and some planning. In fact, they can be mutually beneficial if we work it right.
We just have to know the needs of each and meet them without sacrificing the needs of the other.While they love the grassed area, they haven't destroyed it at all. The areas under trees, next to bushes, plants and near the stream have been scratched up! We just restrict access to these areas, clean them up, let the grass and plants rejuvenate and let them back in - but, the lovely grassed area is still intact 2 years later.
Chickens are great animals to have, but a good fence is your friend for many reasons. They poop by the back door. If you leave the back door open they come and poop in the house.