Our flock of four hens never ceases to amaze us, specifically the quartet's industriousness. For example, Elaine and I never rake leaves, preferring to let them rot into the soil. The one exception is the big piles that gather at our garage doors. We typically rake those and deposit them into the woods.
However, several weeks ago, we decided to deposit the leaves in the chicken run, where our girls were delighted to constantly sift and scratch through them. The two piles we placed there were soon "flattened out" and now shredded leaves are scattered throughout the run. By spring, we will be able to gather up the leafy debris, mixed in with manure, and either put the mass into the compost bin or perhaps a corner of our fenced garden for further decomposition.
Ruby, Little Spotty (shown below at work scratching), Tallulah, and Dot are also doing a superior job at "tilling" our garden this winter, which lies adjacent to the chicken run. Already they have eradicated a particularly stubborn line of weeds at the upper end of the garden. They have also thoroughly scratched the spaces where the tomato plants grew this past summer, no doubt consuming many harmful pests that otherwise would have overwintered and returned to plague our vegetables.
And, of course, there are the droppings from our hens. Last fall, every time we cleaned the henhouse, we dumped the straw and droppings into the garden. Later, I worked in the "litter" into the soil. I am convinced this extra organic matter was a major reason why Elaine and I enjoyed the best garden we have had in many years.