Nasturtiums are wonderful, easy to grow annuals that your chickens will love. Officially known to those in science to be in the family of Tropaeolum, this entire plant is edible, even the beautiful golden yellow, burnt orange and blazing red blossoms. The plant has a slightly peppery taste as it is a relative to watercress. These plants have long been used by people to attract beneficial bugs to their gardens and also ward off unwanted pests, such as squash bugs, cucumber beetles and some caterpillars. High in vitamin C, even their seeds, when pickled, are likened to capers.
There are many varieties. Planting climbing varieties along the outside edges of the run, they will gracefully climb up the hardware cloth or chicken wire around your run. As they climb, they offer tasty snacks for the girls. They also offer some welcome shade and some protection from the elements as they form a blanket of beautiful leaves and flowers.
My girls have been sampling them this Spring and cannot get enough. It truly is a frenzy. They twist and tilt their heads in all directions, even upside down, to get a nibble of the leaves and flowers. They jockey for the best position, especially when I push the leaves into the run. As expected, the girls at the top of the pecking order are the ones involved as I near the coop. Tilly, Oyster Cracker and Sunshine are all there. There was also a surprise; Dottie Speckles. Yes, apparently, she has surpassed all of the Silkies in the pecking order and is now one of the big girls! She too, timidly got in on the action and the other three could have cared less. In fact, although they noticed her little beak between theirs, they did not seem to mind.
This weekend, head over to your local garden center. It's not too late to plant them, and your girls will love you for it!
Yes, did you notice that the two best friends, my Buff Orpingtons, made a heart with their faces?