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Gardening with Backyard Chickens

gardening with chickens
Plant containers full of edibles. This container is filled with lettuce, pansies and sugar snap peas.

One of my favorite things in the world is watching my chickens explore their surroundings when they are out during supervised free-ranging. Chickens left unsupervised can devastate gardens and landscaping in mere minutes, especially gardens with new tender plantings. I’ve picked up many tips over the years and today I’d like to share them with you that have made life much easier with the girls and their appetite for exploration and delicious goodies. Gardening with chickens when done correctly, is a wonderful experience.

 Gardening with Chickens Rules

I must preface this, that chickens have some behaviors you should realize:
1. Chickens will explore everywhere and if you have a prized plant, you should make a cage with chicken wire to keep it safe.
2. Chickens will try most everything.
3. Tastes and preferences for plants vary between flocks.
4. In general, chickens know when to avoid plants that will make them sick, ill or kill them. However, there are exceptions-always!
5. Chickens should ALWAYS have access to grit for proper digestion.
Raspberry bushes and nasturtium are planted on a trellis aside the coop.

Gardening with Chickens Tips

Plant a chicken safe garden in the coop and run’s vicinity.
I have found that if chickens are content with offerings near their coop they tend to not journey as far in their quest for goodies. Near the coop we have planted grass and an edible chicken garden. Everything here is safe and chicken friendly. When they consume an entire plant, I pop it out and add a new one. I usually always have some waiting in the wings. Wood chips are also a great mulch. They are easier to rake back into position after the chickens scratch in them, keep weeds controlled, help soil to retain water, and prevent erosion.
Early in the season, rainbow swiss chard shows its array of colors.
Mix it Up
Variety is the spice of life, so plant a garden that combines perennials, herbs and veggies. I love to see gardens that have not only lovely blooms but interesting foliage. Some of my favorite combinations in the garden are dill, rainbow swiss chard, coneflowers and lavender.
A newly planted garden for the girls.
Give it Time
Until the plants mature, you should consider fencing off areas of new plantings until they mature in size and take root in the soil. During this delicate time, accompany the girls during free ranging and shoo them away from tender plantings as necessary. Chickens also love dining on grass. Keep the chicken accessible grass mowed to a few inches. Long grasses tend to get caught in chickens’ crops.

Safe Plantings for Gardening with Chickens

Herbs:
Herbs can be beneficial to chickens in a number of ways. When ingested, herbs have nutritional and some medicinal values. Some help to ward off common chicken pests such as mites and lice. They can also be dried and added to to the nesting boxes to help with laying and pest control.
HGTV-MCaughey-lavenderingardenwp
Basil
Borage
Oregano
Wormwood
Lavender
Mint
Catnip
Dill
Sage
Thyme
Bay leaves
Chamomile
Fennel
Parsley
Rosemary
Tarragon
Marjoram
Cilantro
Chives
Bee Balm
Lemon Balm
 
 
Vegetables:
Every year we plant a vegetable garden. We also plant vegetables just for the chickens near their coop. Near the coop we only plant vegetables that entirely edible to chickens. For example, I avoid planting tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant near the coop. Although the fruits from those plants are safe for chickens, ingesting their leaves will make them very ill.
 Tilly's nest- broccoliwp
Spinach
Lettuce
Cabbage
Bok choy
Swiss chard
Arugula
Asian stir fry greens
Kale
Beets
Corn
Carrots
Cauliflower
Turnips
Radishes
Broccoli
Asparagus
Celery
Garlic
Peppers
Cucumbers
Squash
Pumpkins
Zucchini
Tilly's Nest- raspberrieswp
Berries:
Chickens love berries! Why not keep them busy with picking their own fruit?
Strawberries- check out “everbearing” varieties that produce fruit all season long
Blueberries
Blackberries
Gooseberries
Raspberries
Vines:
Allowing vines to climb on the run is a great way to provide shade to your flock and treats as well. Some vines that are chicken friendly include:
Nasturtium
Grapes
Hops
Roses
Honeysuckle
Oyster Cracker’ exploring the chicken garden last year. Photo Credit
Garden Plantings:
Sunflower
Hosta
Marigolds
Black Eyed Susans
Daisies
Coneflowers
Bachelor Button’s
Violets
Petunia
Thistle
Ferns
Hens and Chicks
Roses
Butterfly Bush
Lilac
Coral Bells
Coleus
Jacob’s Ladder
Impatiens
Mosses
Zinnia
Pansies
Begonias
Scabiosa
Day lilies

Disclaimer: There are many other variables when gardening that can make your flock ill including the use of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, contaminated soil, crop issues that result from eating food other than chicken feed, the exposure to native plants, mushrooms, and the like. Variety and moderation is always important to consider when supplementing your flock’s diet. Tilly’s Nest cannot be held accountable for any harm, injuries or death that come to your flock from free-ranging in your planted and natural landscape or ingesting foods other than chicken feed.

 

Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest

  • Love your party. Thanks for hosting. Please come and show off at our party. We would love to have you. http://loulougirls.blogspot.com/
    Happy Wednesday! Lou Lou Girls

  • Thanks for hosting! I am sharing "Food Rules from a Fourth Grader," written almost completely by my son after he read the young reader's edition of the Omnivore's Dilemma. I am really very proud of him! 🙂

  • I'm back to share a picture post from Thousand Words Thursday — a visit to a friend's homestead! 🙂

  • The coop came out so beautiful as I knew it would. You have such a way. Love it!!

  • Pingback: Chicken Coop Tour with Edible landscaping + Chicken Art Giveaway - Tilly's Nest()

  • Sharon Rowley Johanson

    Hi Melissa, I’m wondering about composting chicken litter and how long it takes for the ammonia to break down. I’ve been told that it takes about 3 years, but I trust your advice the most. I’m considering composting my kitchen waste separately from the chicken litter so I have good compost for our veggie gardens a lot sooner. Anything you can share on the subject of composting I will very much appreciate.

    • If you keep the compost separate you can add the manure to the garden in about 3-6 months time. I find that pine shavings and chicken droppings work best. Straw takes forever to break down. I apply the compost directly to my gardens in the last fall when nothing is growing. It cures over winter and is ready for planting in the spring. 3 years is wrong. I bet the were thinking months. I do have a post about composting. Try searching for it in the search box at the top of the website.