Anyone who keeps chickens will want their birds to be in the best health and to have the happiest possible life, and if your flock is allowed to range free, part of ensuring this happens will involve choosing the right plants for where you let them forage.
Many plants have great benefits for chickens – but there are also a few you need to avoid – so to help you understand which ones to plant and which ones to pull up, in this post, we have all the info you need about the best chicken-friendly plants.
Why do plants matter to Chickens?
Before we talk about which plants to add to your chicken run, let’s take a brief moment to think about why plants matter.
When keeping chickens, choosing the right plants to grow alongside where they roam and forage is important for several reasons.
First, like us, chickens need a varied and balanced diet to stay healthy, and allowing them to peck at a range of plants can help ensure they get it.
It’s far better to let them eat natural plants rather than relying solely on store-bought chicken feed, and it will also give them something to do, keeping them happier and helping them get some exercise too.
Second, many plants also have powerful medicinal or pest-repelling properties, so choosing the right blend of species will help reduce disease in your flock while protecting them from pests and parasites.
Finally, many people keep chickens for eggs – and free-ranging chickens that have access to a variety of healthy foods will produce eggs of a superior quality.
According to CoolChickenBreeds, If you choose the right plants for your chicken run, you can look forward to eggs with better flavor, brighter yolks and thicker shells, and you will also indirectly benefit from the same health-giving properties the chickens are receiving directly from the plants they consume.
So with all this in mind, now let’s have a look at some of the plants to consider if you want your chickens to enjoy these kinds of benefits.
Some of the best plants to grow near your chickens
Many kinds of herbs are ideal plants to grow around chickens for a variety of reasons.
Some, like rosemary or thyme can help keep insect pests away – while mint is effective at repelling rodents. Thyme is also known to have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties and can help boost your chickens’ immune systems too.
Other herbs also bring health benefits to chickens. For example, sage promotes overall chicken wellbeing while helping reduce the possibility of salmonella, and oregano helps reduce the occurrence of a range of chicken diseases.
Fennel is another great herb for overall chicken health and helps aids the immune system. Basil also helps kill bacteria.
Lavender might be a beautiful, pleasant-smelling flower – but it also has the added benefit of being a powerful insect repellent since bugs don’t share humans’ appreciation of the scent.
This means growing lavender near chickens is a popular option for chicken keepers who want to keep their flock free of pests and parasites.
Lemongrass is another plant with strong insect-repelling properties. Mosquitoes especially hate it – which is great news for chicken keepers since it will help protect chickens from avian pox, a nasty disease that is known to be transmitted by mosquitoes.
Easy to grow and among the most popular plants to place around chickens, nasturtium has several beneficial properties – as well as adding a striking touch of color to your chicken run.
Chickens love pecking at nasturtium, even consuming the edible flowers – and these plants are known to have antiseptic and antibacterial properties, helping to keep your flock healthy.
Furthermore, they also serve as a natural dewormer, so they can help rid your chickens of any parasites they may have picked up.
Wormwood is among the most powerful plants to use for repelling external parasites that make their homes in your chickens’ plumages.
Other flying insects hate this plant too, so planting wormwood is an effective way to reduce flying pests that are otherwise attracted to chickens and their coops.
Sunflowers can be a bright and colorful addition to your yard or chicken run, but they serve a practical purpose too.
If you plant several together, they will provide some much-needed shade during the hottest months of the year, and if you let the seeds develop and then drop out naturally, your birds will love pecking them up, providing a valuable supplement to their diet.
A distinctive plant that produces impressive spire-shaped flowers that stand up to ten inches tall, amaranth also produces grains that chickens can feed on. Chickens also like to eat the leaves of this plant, helping to ensure they receive a healthy and balanced diet.
Cucumber plants have several beneficial qualities for chickens, and due to their hardy nature, they are a recommended option if you are looking for the kind of plant that will do well around chickens while also helping the chickens to thrive.
Chickens enjoy pecking at the leaves and vines of cucumber plants – and when they find a cucumber, they will happily work away at it for several days.
However, they might not let them develop fully if they are given unrestricted access to the plant, so you might need to devise a way of keeping them away until the cucumbers grow.
Since cucumbers have a high water content, they help your chickens stay hydrated and cool during summer, and the seeds are also thought to have deworming properties.
Finally, the vines can also provide a habitat for all kinds of bugs that chickens love to eat, providing them with extra protein too.
Most people don’t think much of having dandelions in their lawn, but anyone with chickens would do well to let them grow since chickens love to peck at them.
This means if you just give up on the never-ending battle of trying to eradicate them and just leave them to the chickens, you’ll find your flock keeps them largely under control while gaining valuable nutrition from them in the process.
Peas are one of the few plants that mature in early spring, providing your chickens with something to eat at a time of year when other options are limited. Peas are rich in niacin too, so this will help your chickens develop strong bones.
11. White clover
White clover is a great option to plant in your chicken run for several options. First, it’s extremely tough and durable – it can even stand being walked on by humans – so once it’s there, you won’t have to do anything to look after it.
Second, it can help make an area look more attractive, especially if your run has an unpleasant patch that needs hiding.
Finally, chickens can eat the flowers, which are high in protein – and they might also find a few bugs hiding among the foliage, giving them yet another source of protein in their diet.
If you have enough space, planting a small area of corn where your chickens can roam has several advantages.
During the hottest part of the year, the tall plants will give them plenty of shade, and they’ll love pecking about on the floor among the stalks.
Of course, chickens love to eat corn too, so as the plants mature, you can use the fresh corn as nutritious feed.
Even better, if you have any surplus, you can dry the corn and then use it as feed at times of the year when little else is growing, helping you maintain healthy nutrition for your birds all while reducing your feed bill at the same time.
Plants like blackberries or raspberries are another option that can provide several benefits to your birds.
Once they’re established, they require very little work and will just continue to grow, producing fruit for you to feed to your chickens – and you can also eat some yourself if you have enough left over.
Since fruits like these are usually too expensive for most people to buy just to give to chickens, growing your own may be one of the only ways of ensuring your birds have access to this kind of occasional tasty treat.
Since the bushes are quite large, they also provide shade for your chickens – and chickens love foraging underneath them too since they may find all kinds of tasty insects or other morsels hidden there.
Plants to avoid to Chickens
Just as there are beneficial plants to chickens, there are also those you need to avoid.
Daffodils, foxgloves, honeysuckle, hydrangea, rhododendrons and tulips are among the common flowers found in people’s gardens that are not suitable for growing around chickens.
You should also avoid growing tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and chilis since they are members of the nightshade family and are toxic to chickens.
Other nightshade plants should also be avoided, as should poison ivy – although most people wouldn’t think of allowing poison ivy to grow near their birds anyway!
Something else you might not think of is oak trees since the acorns are poisonous to chickens.
Finally, you might choose to avoid onions or garlic. These plants are not toxic to chickens, but they can give the eggs a strange and unappetizing flavor.
A variety of plants brings a variety of benefits
Since different plants all have different benefits to chickens, the best approach is to install a wide variety of species in the area where your chickens forage.
This way, they will enjoy a wide a varied diet, they will benefit from the medicinal properties of certain plants and they will also be able to live in a pest-free environment due to the bug-repelling nature of plants like lavender and lemongrass.