I hesitate to say that I outsmarted the chickens, not because you might laugh, but because I could still be proved wrong. If you've never owned chickens, you have no idea how challenging it can be to live in harmony with them. Their needs to scratch for dinner and dust themselves tend to be in direct conflict with my need to have nice flower gardens.
Chickens are drawn to freshly turned dirt like flies to carrion or ducks to water. They can't help themselves. When they see a newly planted flower bed, they're not thinking, "Oh, how beautiful!" They're thinking, "A new dust bath!" or "Buffet! Hey, kids, earthworms for dinner!" Then they scratch and twist and turn. The dirt goes flying and so do the spring bulbs that were planted five inches deep, as well as the new transplants.
Ever since putting up the new fence this summer, we've been wanting to create a nice flower garden to welcome visitors. We've been slowed down by the knowledge that the chickens would scratch it up, as they have scratched up all the other things we've planted that are within their reach. So, what to do? The answer seems so obvious now. It finally occurred to me that the common denominator in their scratching escapades is dirt. If they don't see the dirt, they won't scratch. Duh! So, we hid the dirt underneath rocks.
So far, it seems to be working. The chickens walk right past the new flower beds. I probably should have waited at least a couple weeks (instead of six days) to post this, but I'm so proud of the lovely little gardens that I wanted to share. There is one on each side of the gate, and the only thing I don't like is that I can't see them very well from the house. But they are lovely, and I smile every time I pull into our driveway. We'll have daffodils and tulips to greet us in the spring, and I'm hoping that between the mums, asters, coreopsis, and sedum, something will come back next summer.