Beekeeping is beginning to buzz and I am finding that many folks who keep chickens are beginning to consider keeping bees. Many consider chicken keeping the gateway into other homesteading adventures such as gardening and now seemingly, bees! When I first began considering keeping bees four years ago, it was important for me to research whether bees and chickens could co-exist. I spent an entire winter researching this question. Happily, I learned that they can.
Chickens will free-range near the bee hives. The bees do not bother them unless they are directly in front of the entrance. Then, guard bees will fly from the hive, buzz them, and let them know they are too close. Sometimes, the chickens will snack on dead bees around the hives. If you discover that the chickens are eating the live bees returning to the hive, then simply place a makeshift fence around your hives to keep the chickens a couple feet away.
Some people who live in bear country actually place the hives inside the chicken’s run for protection. The hive entrances are placed facing outwards into the yard. The bees could care less when the chickens hop up onto the hive and explore. When the hive needs to be inspected or honey harvested, the chickens are simply let out to free-range or locked in the coop until the beekeeper’s work is complete. If your chicken coop has a flat roof, often folks will even place hives on top. Although accessing them for maintenance can be a bit tricky.
Chickens are wonderful at cleaning up the areas around the hive, bee debris, and dead bees. They also eat live bugs and small hive beetles that can cause harm to the honeybees. When frames of old honeycomb are shared, chickens enjoy cleaning up the debris.
If you discover that honeybees are hanging around the waterers in your coop, simply remove them from their current location for six weeks. The bees will find another water source. They are also attracted to apple cider vinegar, so consider eliminating that from your waterers for a couple of days if you have bees buzzing around the chickens’ water sources. Also, if you discover bees in your chicken feed, read the feed labels. Some feed and supplements contain Anise Hyssop. Anise hyssop is a favorite herb of bees!
I love having the bees and the chickens living harmoniously in the yard and gardens. They are some of the best beneficial and rewarding “gardening accessories” that anyone can add to their own yards and landscape.