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    The natural secret to a high-yield, pest-free garden this year

    Gardening is one of America’s favorite pastimes – an impressive 35 percent of U.S. households are growing food at home or in a community garden, according to the National Gardening Association. That means 42 million households are currently planning their annual gardens and researching how to make this year better than the last. Fortunately, the trick to growing healthier plants with fewer pests and bigger yields might be simpler than you think.

    “Garden enthusiasts will be amazed by the effectiveness of the natural fertilizer and weed control they get from raising chickens,” says Michael Diedrich, director at Tractor Supply Company. “For families who want to explore ways to grow their own food and be better stewards of their resources, raising chickens and growing a garden together is a great option.”

    Winning over Americans who don’t raise chickens might be as simple helping them learn the benefits of keeping a flock. Nearly one in five people would be more likely to raise chickens if they knew more about it, according to a national Tractor Supply survey. Interest with parents is even higher, as 27 percent would consider raising chickens with their families if they had more information on the hobby.

    With so many people already gardening and interest in backyard chickens gaining steam, it’s no wonder that more people are researching the benefits of chickens for their vegetable and flower beds. Chickens are known as nature’s gardeners after all. Here are the top reasons raising chickens will take your garden to a whole new level.

    1. Effective natural fertilizer
    Chicken droppings are a highly effective, 100 percent natural fertilizer. A byproduct of raising chickens, the droppings can then be mixed in with your compost pile to make what some people call “black gold” – a fertilizing mixture that plants thrive on.

    2. Compost turning made simple
    Every compost pile needs to be turned to properly decompose. If you have chickens, you will labor less because they will do much of the necessary turning for you while rooting for food and bugs.

    3. Eat unwanted bugs and weeds
    Chickens love to forage and they eat the bugs that can be harmful to plants, which is great news for gardeners. They are great at weeding out unwanted plant species from a garden bed before you plant, such as dandelion, prickly lettuce and purslane. But watch your flock around your vegetables though because they will happily eat those as well.

    4. Gasoline-free tillers
    Chickens have a natural tendency to dig and scratch, which is great for preparing a garden bed for planting. After the growing season, they will also happily till your garden and help clean out old plants, which prevents the buildup of disease and harmful bugs.

    Right now is the ideal time to start a backyard flock. Not only is it the start of the gardening season, but it’s also “Chick Days” – a time each spring when baby chicks and ducklings and the tools needed to care for poultry are sold at most Tractor Supply stores. If you’d like to learn more about raising backyard chickens, visit the Know How Central section on

    “The health of the food and flowers in your garden is tied to the health of your soil,” says Diedrich. “Whether in modest yards or wide open rural spaces, raising chickens can revitalize your garden and give plants a natural boost. Plus, let’s not forget about the fun of collecting farm-fresh eggs every day, too.”

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