As organic gardeners, we want our gardens to look great without resorting to chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. But raise your hand if you’re like me, and the sight of snails on your hostas and beetles on your squash makes you go from 0 to 10 in no time flat? Fortunately, there’s a secret weapon in the war on pests, and it comes in the form of 4-legged, 2-legged, or winged garden helpers. Many animals, including our pets, are some of the greatest allies we have in natural pest control — here’s a quick rundown of the animals you can put on your payroll.
6 Animals for Natural Pest Control
Chickens: Chickens are some of the best foragers around, using their feet to scratch the earth and gobble up critters. From grasshoppers to beetles and slugs, chickens take their job very seriously. Because of their scratching, however, I don’t let my chickens run loose in my garden — but any pest that I spot gets picked up and thrown into the chicken yard over the fence.
Ducks: Ducks are similar to chickens in their pest control prowess, but because they are not scratchers, many people also allow their ducks into their garden areas as well. One type of duck, the Indian Runner, is renowned for its ability to chase down bugs and other pests, so keep that in mind the next time you’re out duck shopping.
Guinea Fowl: Guinea fowl are like chickens and ducks x10. They are superb at tick reduction — as well as beetles, fleas, grasshoppers, crickets, and snakes. An added benefit? They don’t tear up the garden. These animals need space to roam in order to do their job properly, however, so make sure you give them access to full freedom within your property.
Dogs: My larger dog, a livestock guardian mix, is an excellent ratter around the chicken coop and wood pile. My husband knocks them out of the roof eaves, and Ever goes to town on them. Her preference is to play with them until they are dead, so if your dog is like mine, plan to pick up and dispose of lifeless rats after the fact. Other dog breeds that are known for their rodent-control abilities include most of the terriers (the aptly-named Rat terrier, and Cairn, Yorkshire, Norfolk, Jack Russell, and West Highland White terriers), dachshunds, miniature schnauzers, and German pinschers.
Cats: Felines are well known for their ability as mousers, so if you have a chicken coop, a compost pile, or a barn, you likely have cats around to help keep things under control. And you probably already know that cats are considered a delicacy by some dogs, so if you plan to have both, make sure your dog is trained to leave Kitty alone.
Birds/Owls/Bats: Now, of course, these wild creatures aren’t really our pets, but they do a fabulous job at staying on top of the mosquito, rodent, and pesky bug populations. The flip side of the coin is also true, though — these same winged friends may also peck your tomatoes or try to carry off your 3-pound dog, so while you can attract them with feeders and housing, remember to take proper precautions to protect plants and other small pets.