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 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.
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.
Asian stir fry greens
Chickens love berries! Why not keep them busy with picking their own fruit?
Strawberries- check out “everbearing” varieties that produce fruit all season long
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:
Oyster Cracker’ exploring the chicken garden last year. Photo Credit
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.