Here’s a challenge: keeping your lawn looking green and luscious AND raising free-range chickens at the same time.
We all know free-range chickens have a tendency to scratch and dig up parts of your garden and lawn — it’s inevitable.
This is especially noticeable in winter when the grass doesn’t grow back as quickly.
So what is a proud house owner to do? A normal thought would be to use fertilizer, helping the lawn to return to its normal green glory.
But, if you own chickens you might want to think twice about what fertilizer you should use.
Here’s whether lawn fertilizer is harmful to chickens, which fertilizers are safe to use if you own chickens, and how chicken owners can best fertilize their lawn.
Is Lawn Fertilizer Safe For Chickens?
Literally millions of households use lawn fertilizer every year to keep their yard looking glamorous and glorious.
Of those households, a minor percentage of them also own chickens. This poses a very unique challenge, as the last thing you want is to cause any harm to your chooks with fertilizer.
So the question is: is lawn fertilizer actually safe for chickens or can it cause them harm?
The answer all comes down to which fertilizer you’re using, how much you’re using, and how you’re applying it.
As a rule of thumb, any synthetic lawn fertilizer should be avoided entirely as they are known to be toxic to chickens and other poultry.
Even organic fertilizers should be applied with caution, as some of these are still considered unhealthy for chickens if consume or come into direct contact with them.L
Luckily, there are some all-natural lawn fertilizers that chicken owners CAN use. When applied correctly these lawn fertilizers can be completely safe for your chickens, and can still show amazing results for your lawn!
Here’s everything in detail.
Avoid Using Synthetic Fertilizers Around Chickens!
Fertilizers contain amounts of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K) all of which play crucial roles in the lawn fertilization process.
In organic fertilizer, these compounds are provided by natural materials, but in synthetic fertilizers, these compounds are derived from chemicals.
These chemicals in this synthetic form are toxic to chickens and can have some pretty devastating effects on their health and wellbeing. These include eye and beak irritation, indigestion, lethargy, etc.
As we know, chickens and other poultry eat grass and dirt, so chickens can very easily consume some of the fertilizer by accident.
This is why it’s imperative to avoid using synthetic fertilizer on your lawn if you own chickens who share that space.
Which Fertilizers Are Safe To Use Around Chickens?
So you may be thinking since we know synthetic fertilizers can be harmful to chickens, what type of fertilizers are actually safe?
Well, although you should always take precautions when allowing chickens on recently fertilized lawn, there are a few types of fertilizer that are much safer for chickens to be exposed to than synthetic varieties.
These are those that are completely natural.
Organic Fertilizers Are Your Best Bet
You can kind of tell by the name that these types of fertilizers would be safer to use around chickens, right?
Meaning, made up of natural, nonsynthetic materials. Providing the same helpful chemicals, only in their natural forms. These organic fertilizers shouldn’t contain pesticides and weed killers either, which can be dangerous for chickens to consume.
This still doesn’t mean it’s healthy for chickens though. You should always take reasonable steps to ensure your chickens don’t eat or dust bathe in or around fresh fertilizer.
Keep your chickens off the lawn for as long as you can, and for at least 24 hours or as recommended by the specific fertilizer brand.
All Natural Compost
All natural compost is very similar to organic fertilizers. They are both made from fully natural materials providing the necessary fertilizing compounds.
The difference between natural compost and natural fertilizer is that natural compost is made to enhance the soil quality, whereas fertilizer is made to feed and enhance actual plants.
So, if you’re going to use compost in your garden or for your soil, make sure it’s natural compost rather than synthetic, as it’s simply safer to use around chickens.
As we know, chickens love to dust bath, often digging holes wherever there is sand or loose dirt when it suits them to do so. Even if you’ve used natural compost to bolster your soil, you should keep your chickens from getting too close until it’s set and mixed properly with the other soil.
How To Fertilize Your Lawn If You Own Chickens?
Although natural fertilizer is much safer to use around chickens than synthetic fertilizer, it’s clear you should take precautions when applying any fertilizer to your lawn.
So, whether it’s natural fertilizer or not here’s a precautionary strategy for fertilizing your lawn minimizing any risk of harm to your flock:
- Plan ahead. If your coop is housed on the grass you intend to fertilize, you’ll have to be prepared to move it or at least house your chickens in an alternative coop for the duration of the fertilization process.
- Apply your natural fertilizer as per the instructions on the product, some fertilizers are more fast-acting, and some are more of a slow release.
- Keep your chickens off your recently fertilized lawn for at least 24 hours and up to 72 hours.
- If your chickens are accidentally exposed or ingest fertilizer and are showing any signs of sickness, contact your local veterinarian or pet care professional for advice or treatment.
Note: be sure to thoroughly read the instructions on your fertilizer to ensure you’re applying the right dosage, therefore reducing any additional chance of harming your flock.
What Happens If Chickens Eat Fertilizer?
Just to be clear, if your chickens consume any small amount of fertilizer, or grass or dirt that has been recently treated with fertilizer, it doesn’t mean they’re always in danger.
Particularly if it’s a natural fertilizer, there is very little risk of your chickens actually dying. However, there are several afflictions that can come from exposure or ingestion of fertilizer. These range from mild skin, beak, or eye irritations, to lethargy, indigestion, or sickness.
This is why it’s crucial to keep your chickens off of recently fertilized lawn for at least 24 hours, and up to 72 hours depending on your chosen fertilizer.
If your chickens are showing any sickly behavior it’s best to contact your veterinarian for advice or treatment.
Do Chickens Fertilize The Lawn?
With all this talk about fertilizing lawns, it’s funny to note that chickens themselves are a natural fertilizer too.
Well, not exactly chickens, but their droppings.
Yup, a chicken’s droppings contain all these useful fertilizing chemicals, nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, and calcium. so their droppings can actually be used as a natural, ongoing lawn fertilizer.
This is great news because it’s pretty much impossible to stop them from doing their business all over your property anyway. After all, it’s not easy to potty train your chickens!
The Bottom Line
Before you use any fertilizer on your lawn or in your garden, you should always check whether it’s synthetic or organic.
Avoid synthetic fertilizers as much as possible, as they pose a greater risk to your chickens than anything natural.
However, you should always take precautionary measures and apply your fertilizer correctly, regardless of whether it’s natural or unnatural, compost or fertilizer.
Temporarily relocate your chickens, keep them off your recently fertilized lawn for a minimum of 24 hours, and don’t let them come in contact with the fertilizer directly.
Although these precautionary measures take a bit more effort, it’s essential to keep your chickens safe and healthy. Believe me, the extra effort is still better than raising chickens on artificial grass that’s for sure!