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Posted on Mon, Oct 18, 2010 : 4:38 p.m.

Backyard chickens: eliminating the need for lawn bags

By Corinna Borden

Borden - Chicken eating tomato plants

Chickens eat garden waste and those nutrients go into their eggs.

Corinna Borden | Contributor

'Tis the season of lawn bags.

Bags made of paper, emblazoned with the name of the hardware store of choice (or smaller ones from the grocery store) line the curbs of my neighborhood. They are filled to the brim with orange leaves, cucumber vines, yellowed potato leaves or tomato plants. As Ed Vielmetti reminded us, our first frost is imminent and garden preparations are necessary.

According to the A2 City Chickens website, there are 34 chicken permits in the city of Ann Arbor. I believe that as the number of backyard chicken permits increase the number of lawn bags will decrease — because backyard chickens are your lawn bags.

I am a big fan of the Ann Arbor recycling and compost program. It is well organized, comprehensive and a boon to the community, as the EPA tells us: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Hearing that advice my brain immediately qualifies them into first, second, and third levels of importance. Hence, reduce is the top priority.

So let us do a list of pros and cons of lawn bags vs. backyard chickens when it comes to garden waste.

Lawn bags

  • Paper bags need to be made from trees (or post consumer waste), transported, and purchased.
  • Garden waste is collected.
  • You need two people to effectively cram garden waste into bags.
  • A diesel truck idles around the neighborhood picking up the bags.
  • Garden waste is composted at Recycle Ann Arbor.

Backyard chickens

  • Chickens need to be fed, housed, and watered.
  • Garden waste is hurled over the fence into their run.

Reducing the need to collect and transport garden waste is another boon of having chickens. As an extra bonus you can categorize their favorite treats; so far watermelon and squash rinds are winning over tomato vines in my yard.

Corinna wrote a book about many things, works with the Westside Farmers Market, and spoils her backyard chickens.



Tue, Oct 19, 2010 : 6:35 a.m.

@Silverwings: our chickens keep our garden and backyard bug population very low. They are easy on bees, hard mosquitoes. Ours are on sand, we toss most garden waste in a bit at a time, the eat it, what they don't eat right away, rake it up and compost it. No lawn bags here - and very little skeeter spray needed too. Our chickens have been a fabulous addition to our back yard however, we live in Ypsilanti where you can just get the permit and not go through all the overly controlled and contorted baloney that Ann Arbor requires. No problems so far. @ BrianR: our chickens don't eat the woody stuff. We have very little but I would imagine that a yard bag of woody stuff is still vast improvement over the 5 - 10 bags we see our neighbors using.

Jim Pryce

Tue, Oct 19, 2010 : 6:26 a.m.

Our chickens are cutting back on the amount of yard waste. They love grass clippings. They are also very entertaining to watch. I live in Superior Township so I'm able to have more than just a few. The excess eggs I'm able to sell to co-workers & I have a couple of buyers who stop by when I have my egg sign out by the road. I'm tired though of replacing my sign as clowns steal them. What the hell is someone going to do with an "Eggs for sale" sign


Tue, Oct 19, 2010 : 6:02 a.m.

Our chicks love grass, weeds and insects but lawn bag contents...not. Better idea- compost the lawn debris, use it for your garden. Let the chicks feast on the bugs, use their *oop to heat up the compost and enjoy the veggie's and eggs. The natural cycle works better than cutting down trees so leaves can be thrown out with the trash...

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Tue, Oct 19, 2010 : 1:09 a.m.

@actionjackson -- I've got 14 bags of leaves from Oak and Hickory I'll be glad to drop by.... if you can deliver, my garden woudl thank you termendously! how to contact?

Hans Masing

Mon, Oct 18, 2010 : 6:08 p.m.

Our chickens eat a fairly broad selection of table scraps and food waste - they also enjoy eating long grass and weeds fresh from the lawn. However, they aren't so fond of dried leaves, large garden stalks, or sticks. We'll keep on using lawn bags for those. :-)

Blue Dog

Mon, Oct 18, 2010 : 5:50 p.m.

Do chickens also eat leaves? That's whats going in my lawn bags... *not snarky, just curious*


Mon, Oct 18, 2010 : 5:48 p.m.

I've got 14 bags of leaves from Oak and Hickory I'll be glad to drop by.


Mon, Oct 18, 2010 : 4:41 p.m.

Sheesh, not to mention the other pests that are attracted by slinging trash around your yard. This is crazy.


Mon, Oct 18, 2010 : 4:21 p.m.

Hmmm, do backyard chickens eat rose bush prunings? How about the woody stalks of chelone and Siberian Iris and other such herbaceous perennials? And what about that watermelon rind? Did they eat ALL of that, too?