You love your chickens and your lawn, but even more, you love watching your chickens enjoy your lawn. However, you absolutely hate weeds and pests! You want a beautiful lawn and you want to kill every tick that moves. There are many products available to rid your lovely lawn of unsightly weeds, and the insects that do damage to your garden, but do they go hand-in-hand with your precious flock?
To be frank, herbicides and pesticides aren’t good for anyone or anything. They are built to kill…and the ingredients used in these types of products can cause damage to humans, animals, plants, and even gardens that they are not intended for. Many of these toxic products are non-selective about what they attack, and an unknowing chicken can accidentally consume the chemicals that were not meant for them.
What are Herbicides
Herbicides are a mixture of chemicals that are designed to attack plants, most of the time they are produced without a specific plant in mind. This means they will kill any plant they are applied to. This is called “non-selective” like the John Deer brand “Prosecutor”. There are other types that are selective herbicides that are used for certain types of plants and weeds. A common type of herbicide is Roundup, which many people use to spray weeds that grow in undesirable places, like the cracks in a sidewalk. So they work quite well, and one drop of a herbicide on a plant you didn’t intend to attack can easily kill it off. Now, imagine what these chemicals could potentially do to your chickens.
Chickens love vegetation, and they aren’t picky about which kinds…as you may already know after finding your hens in your garden or flower bed. Your flock will taste test many things, and unlike some animals, they don’t always know what they should or should not eat. Since chickens are omnivores, everything is always on the menu, and you have very little control over what your free-range chickens decide to devour.
Treated plants are not always the only target that is affected by herbicides. Nearby plants or plants that are downhill from the treated vegetation may be affected if there is water runoff. Additionally, when spraying in a windy environment, herbicides can travel to other unintended plants and animals.
Pay attention to the instructions and warnings on your herbicide application labels or to the disclaimer your lawn service company provides you. The label alone is enough for me to know it is not safe for my flock nor the eggs they will produce.
Typically no one is allowed on the lawn for 24-48 hours after a weed n feed application. For dry application of herbicides like the popular “Weed n Feed” found at big box stores, suggest application prior to rain. The issue here is that rain causes run off and the herbicide may go where you do not want it to go. That means the local drainage ditch, the low spots in your yard that puddle, and areas your flock wanders and frees ranges, including your chicken coop and chicken run, are all areas of concentration for run off.
The active ingredient in most of these herbicides is glyphosate. There has been so much recent publicity involving glyphosate and the effects it has on humans, animals, both short and long term. Don’t believe me? The cat is out of the bag, the producer of RoundUp, Monsanto, just settled a lawsuit for links to cancer. Glyphosate is the most used agricultural chemical ever and it has been found in pretty much ALL foods at your local grocery store. It is the active ingredient in RoundUp.
The Harm Herbicides Can Cause:
There are three main chemicals in herbicides.
- Glyphosate – effects: under study, lawsuits, WHO classified it as “probably carcinogenic in humans”
- Chlorophenoxy – effects: oral consumption effects include vomitting, diarrhea, gastrointestinal haemorrhage, abdominal pain, and acutely followed by coma, convulsions, and more.
- Dinitrophenol – effects: in small animals causes deformations, mutations, eye defects, neural malformations, now BANNED IN USA.
Believe it or not, some components of herbicides contain elements that can actually make them taste even better to animals that might eat them, which in turn, causes them to be consumed even more than untreated plants.
If certain types herbicides are used correctly, and under controlled circumstances, they may not cause problems for your chickens. However, some issues that can occur are signs of fatigue, illness, strange behavior, and even death. Be sure to read the labels of your herbicides before treating your plants. Remember, whatever your chicken eats will be passed on to you through eggs or even the meat you consume.
Safe Alternatives To Herbicides
Unfortunately, there aren’t many easy ways to eliminate unwanted plant growth that does not include a prepackaged product filled with chemicals. Some people use vinegar, hot water, or other natural methods to attempt to kill weeds. However, the safest method is to either hand pull, use a weed-eater, or better yet, get some goats!
Chickens are actually good weed-eaters in their own right, but a goat was built to eat weeds. They love to forage on the growths that no one else wants, so if you have space, add a goat to your farm or free range area if your local ordinances allow and watch them go to work. Or, rent a goat!
The bottom line is this. There needs to be a balance in our lives between having perfect lawns, the pride that comes with it, or perhaps the pressure we feel to keep a perfect lawn, and a healthy safe environment for our families and our animals. We have become so used to eating the “perfect looking” vegetable and fruit from market that we forgot that this is actually not the norm. Anyone who has a garden knows this. But, the demand created the space, and now virtually all our produce is sprayer with either herbicide or pesticide or a cocktail.
What Are Pesticides
Pesticides are typically poisonous chemicals that are used to kill unwanted pests, insects, or rodents. Considering the fact that the purpose of pesticides is to kill a living creature, it is safe to assume that they are dangerous for your chickens, and those dangers are probably passed on to the eggs and meat they provide to you.
Pesticides can be purchased in the form of bug sprays, foggers, mouse bait, or other types of toxic elements. If you hire an exterminator, it is a good idea to ask how your pets should be handled during the application of pesticides and the hours, or weeks, after. It can be a guessing game regarding what is safe for your chickens and what is toxic. Even if the bottle says it’s safe for your dog, it doesn’t mean it’s ok for your chickens.
The Harm Pesticides Can Cause
Pesticides, depending upon the type being used, can cause your chickens to become ill or even die. They are toxic. Additionally, if they consume anything that has been treated by the pesticide, including insects or rodents, they can pass the toxic chemical to you through eggs and meat, just like the consumption of herbicides. Remember, if they kill bugs, they most likely will have a negative affect on you and the wildlife around you.
Safe Alternative To Pesticides:
As bleak as this all sounds for those with weed and pest problems, there is an upside to the pesticide dilemma. One of the safest alternatives to pesticides is, drum roll—because this will make you giddy…chickens!
Why of course chickens are the best alternative— they love to eat insects, mice, frogs, and they love to find them where you usually don’t want to see them (like under your hedges beside your house, for example). Not only do your chooks help control the insect population, but the protein they consume from eating pests is passed through their eggs making them nutrient-rich, and mighty tasty for you!
If you must use either pesticides or herbicides, always read labels, and do your best to keep your chickens confined, and far from, the treated plants and pests. If you have access to an exterminator or a chemist, ask questions because you don’t want your flock getting sick, dying, and passing toxic chemicals on to you and your family through their eggs or meat.
When it’s all said and done, consider what is most important: is it a weedless crack that you might be able to easily pull yourself, or the ease of a herbicide that could be toxic to your farm animals and your family? Also, consider the fact that many herbicides are not longterm treatments, and you will probably find yourself retreating in a month or so anyway.
As far as pests go, opt for more chickens. Maybe a barn cat or two for larger rodents. Before pesticides and herbicides, farmers relied on what they had to take care of unwanted pests on the homestead, and you can use your resources to keep everyone safe as well. So go ahead, add a few new breeds to your flock!