Chickens and Beekeeping: The Symbiotic Relationship Between These Two Animals
By Amelia Quinn
Author Bio: Hello, I'm Amelia Quinn. I grew up on a farm, caring for animals and crops. Now, I'm eager to connect with fellow farmers and learn from our community. Let's grow together!
You want to keep bees to produce honey, but you’re also considering raising backyard chickens for meat and chicken eggs. On the surface, these two might seem like odd companions, potentially more of a headache than a harmonious pairing. Bees sting; chickens peck. But what if I told you that chickens and bees can actually form a beneficial relationship that can alleviate many common pain points in both beekeeping and chicken-keeping?
In this article, I will discuss the symbiotic relationship between chickens and bees. Let’s understand how these two unlikely partners can not only coexist but also flourish together.
Can Chicken and Bees Be Kept Together?
Absolutely! Chickens and bees can be kept together, and they can even help each other out. Chickens eat live bugs, ants and beetles that might bother honey bees. On the flip side, bees generally keep to themselves and won't bother the chickens. Plus, the bees will pollinate plants, leading to more food for the chickens. It's like a little team working together in your backyard.
Benefits of Keeping Bees and Chickens Together
Natural Pest Control
Chickens are known for their voracious appetite for insects, which can be a problem around bee hives. Ants, small hive beetles, and other pests that might attempt to infiltrate a beehive can become a tasty snack for a free-ranging chicken. This means healthier bees and higher honey yields for beekeepers.
Cleaner Bee Environment
Chickens love to scratch the ground, turning over soil and organic matter for food. This behavior can help clean up any dead bees or debris around the hive area, preventing potential breeding grounds for pests and diseases.
Raising both backyard chickens and bees allows homesteaders to maximize the use of space and resources. For instance, beeswax, a by-product of beekeeping, can be used in salves and balms that can be applied to chicken's combs and wattles in cold weather, acting as a protective layer.
Increased Garden Yield
Bees play a pivotal role in pollinating flowers, including those of fruit and vegetable plants. With a thriving bee colony, you'll likely see an increase in your garden's yield. Meanwhile, chickens can help in preparing garden beds by eating pests and naturally fertilizing the soil with their droppings.
Natural Hive Cleaning
Chickens won't typically bother live bees, but they do enjoy consuming bee larvae and wax on occasion. This can be useful when beekeepers clean hives or during honey extraction processes, as chickens can help reduce waste.
By keeping chickens and bees, you are contributing to the biodiversity of your environment. This symbiotic relationship can attract other beneficial creatures, like birds and butterflies, which further enhance the ecosystem's health.
Do Chickens Eat Bees?
Yes, chickens do eat bees, but usually, they aren't on a chicken's favorite snack list. Chickens are curious creatures and will peck at anything that looks interesting or moves. So, if a bee is buzzing around and comes too close, a chicken might snatch it up for a quick bite.
But don't worry too much. Chickens typically don't go hunting for bees. If you're keeping bees and raise chickens together, it's a good idea to give the bees their space so the chickens don't hang around the hive entrance or bee yard looking for easy treats.
Important Things to Consider
Distance Between Coop and Hives
Think of the chicken coop and hives as separate homes in a neighborhood. Just as neighbors appreciate a bit of distance for privacy, chickens and bees benefit from some separation. This space minimizes disturbances and decreases the chances of the two mingling when they shouldn't.
For bees, water isn't just for drinking – it's crucial for cooling their hives. They'll seek out the nearest water source, which could be where your chickens drink. To avoid unfortunate bee drownings and to ensure your chickens can drink without disturbances, it's best to provide a water source for the bees closer to their hives than the chicken's waterer.
Free-range chickens are adventurous by nature. Their exploratory habits might take them near beehives during their quest for food. Though chickens aren't particularly interested in bees, allocating a generous area of chicken yard for them to forage can reduce any unintended close encounters between the two.
Concerning foraging, if you want to protect your garden from foraging chickens while giving them space to explore, metal raised garden beds can be a clever solution. These durable beds offer an ideal solution for growing your favorite plants and vegetables, creating a well-rounded and productive outdoor environment that benefits both your flock and your gardening endeavors.
Keeping hives slightly raised (a foot or two off the ground) can prevent chickens from easily accessing the bees' entrance and reduces the likelihood of chickens eating bees as they come and go.
Like any creature, bees have days when they're more irritable. Situations like regular hive inspections or disturbances can make them more aggressive, especially the guard bees. When handling bees, it's a good idea to ensure chickens aren't too close, shielding them from any potential stings from agitated bees.
Feed and Attractants
Some chicken feeds might contain ingredients that attract bees. Monitor this and consider switching feeds if bees swarm the chicken feed regularly. You can also check for plants as chicken feed alternatives.
Protection for Bees
Chickens, driven by curiosity, can sometimes be like toddlers – putting everything in their mouths! This includes bees, especially if they find them wandering on the ground. It's not a daily menu item for them, but they might peck at bees out of curiosity. To protect bees, consider creating barriers like fences around the hives or ensuring the grounds near the hives are not enticing for chickens.
Weather and Seasonal Behavior
During extreme temperatures, both chickens and bees may act out of the ordinary. For instance, bees might become more aggressive in very hot weather, and chickens might stay closer to the coop in cold conditions. By understanding and anticipating these seasonal behavioral shifts, you can implement measures to ensure that you raise chickens and bees well and remain comfortable and harmonious throughout the year.
Chickens and bees prove that seemingly unlikely partners can create a harmonious rhythm together. By understanding and respecting their unique behaviors and needs, we can foster a space where both thrive. This special relationship between chickens and bees showcases the beautiful balance of nature, reminding us that with care and insight, we can cultivate diverse ecosystems right in our own backyards.