Designing a Chicken Garden: Must Have Plants Your Chickens Will Love
Updated: Apr 25, 2022
Chickens and gardens go together like peanut butter and jelly. Chickens help the garden by providing free fertilizer and keeping pests away. A good garden can nourish your chicken keeping them healthy, happy and all while cutting your feed costs. It's a win, win for everyone. With a little planning you can create a complimentary garden specifically for your chicken's needs.
Here are some tips for building a chicken friendly garden and a list of plants and their benefits.
Benefits of Growing a Chicken Garden
Many homesteaders agree that each element of your property should serve a purpose. This is especially true with the complimentary nature of chickens and gardens. When I was planning my chicken garden it was important that the plants had more than one benefit.
Provides Nutrient Diversity
The biggest and most obvious benefit of providing your flock with chicken-friendly plants is that they will be exposed to a greater number and variety of nutrients than if they were fed commercial chicken feed alone.
Supplementing your chicken feed with herbs, fruit and vegetables stretches your chicken feed longer so you won't have to buy it as often.
Decide how you are going to raise your chickens.
Are they going to be in a run? Will they have a chicken tunnel along a garden border? Will they have full lawn access and free range or will you use a chicken tractor?
Chickens will eat up and destroy gardens so you need to decide how you are going to prepare to keep them out of your lovely vegetable garden and flower beds. Our main vegetable garden is right outside the chicken coop and run area so I've decided that they will stay in the run throughout the growing season and let them have more access to the rest of the yard in the off season. We only have 6 chickens and the run is more than enough space for them to run and peck around. I planned a chicken garden outside the border of the coop and run that is just for the hens and not for our family to eat. I will be able to pick from there and toss it in the run for them to peck on.
There are hundreds of chicken friendly plants. Choose what is right for your property, your growing zone and how you are raising your chickens. Here are some of my favorites.
Need to replant your chicken run? White clover may be the perfect cover crop. It withstands foot traffic, is high in protein and supplements their feed.
I love this quote from Jessi Bloom's book.
“Consider growing an eco-friendly lawn, instead of the conventional, perfect lawn, to keep your hens and soil their healthiest. Ecological seed mixes, which you can get at your local retail nursery or feed store, contain a variety of plant types, many of which might be considered weeds to a gardener who prefers a perfect monocrop of grass blades, but are an excellent, diverse source of greens for chickens to forage. An eco-lawn requires less maintenance such as mowing, and requires fewer resources like water and fertilizers. Clover, one of the most important plants found in eco-seed mixes, fixes nitrogen naturally in the soil and eliminates the need for fertilizers.”
― Jessi Bloom, Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard
Nothing says summer on the farm than sunflowers and white washed chicken coops. This iconic look adds beauty to your yard and your chickens will love this nutritious treat. They are easy to grow and can be staked up with gardening twin against the chicken wire of the run. When they bloom you can let them dry and feed the seeds to your chickens.
Cucumbers are easy to grow and prolific. They provide hydration and the seeds can reduce the risk of intestinal worms. You might need to cut it in half so it's easier for them to peck. Flies hate cucumber. You can make cucumber water or spray cucumber water around the coop.
I just discovered this plant last year fall and the benefits for chickens. They are easy to grow from seed. There are bush variety and climbing variety. Nasturtiums are super easy to grow from seed, and the climbing kind will add beauty to your run and also give a little shade.
Chickens love the seeds and flowers and they also serve as a natural dewormer.
Garlic is great for the immune system and repels internal and external parasites. You can feed them the stalks to nibble on or mix minced garlic in their food. Ants hate garlic.
Herbs have many health benefits and also repel common pests. Here are some of my favorites to add to your chicken garden.
Thyme: Thyme is antibacterial and good for respiratory health.
Sage: Sage is an excellent herb for supporting the overall health of your chickens by providing antioxidants and preventing salmonella.
Oregano: Oregano is antibacterial, antimicrobial and helps prevent salmonella, avian flu, e.coli, and coccidiosis.
Wormwood: Wormwood is an anti parasitic. It's an excellent herb to grow to repel external parasites and common outdoor pests.
Rosemary: Rosemary also has medicinal benefits and produces a strong aroma that can keep insects away.
Lavender: Lavender is also a natural insect repellent. It adds beauty to your coop and gives a off a pleasant aroma that is calming for your chickens.
Mint: Mint helps keep mice away. It is also helpful to digestive health. Other herbs in the mint family are catmint, lemon balm, spearmint. They spread quickly and can easily take over a garden so planting in it's own designated space or a container is important.
Parsley: Parsley is a stimulant for egg laying hens. It also provides lots of vitamins and minerals.
Basil: Basil isn't just for pizza. It has antibacterial properties that help your chicken's health.
Chickens love berries. If you are willing to share your bounty of backyard grown berries with your chickens they will love you for it. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries are all good options. I plan on planting currant bushes along the run to provide some juicy treats for the fall months.
Leafy greens are fast and easy to grow. Add some romaine, salad mix to the garden. Kale, cabbage, spinach and mustard greens can help supplement your chicken feed well into for cooler months when grass is limited.
Pumpkin are also a great treat for chickens to eat into the fall season. zucchini and summer squashes are also excellent options. The seeds are a natural de-wormer and the flesh provides hydration, antioxidants and beta carotene.
Having a chicken garden will keep your hens healthy, happy egg layers while saving you money. Share in the comments your favorite chicken friendly plants to grow. Click here to watch a video of planting a chicken garden. https://youtu.be/ynUchNXyfoM