When I added a chicken run to the yard, it added more garden space for me! In today’s post, I’m sharing the best plants to grow along a chicken run that are safe for them to eat.
We live on just under a third of an acre. Our backyard is used by all, and that includes children and neighbors.
I originally choose the lot we’re on now because I pictured being able to play catch with our future children. And although we still want room for kids to play, we also want room to homestead.
The truth is, we were starting to run out of useable space to add more plants to the yard. I didn’t want to stick another garden in the middle of the yard. It would make mowing around it difficult and it would be most likely in the way of the kids too.
Then we started raising chickens and with that came building a coop and a run for them. We had to build the coop where it is (in the middle of the yard) because it met the county’s requirements of keeping our chicken structure 25 feet away from the property line.
Luckily with the garden and coop, the kids have plenty of space to still run around. And I am fortunate because now that space surrounding the coop and run can become more gardening space!
Benefits of Plants Around the Chicken Run
- It’s just good to look at!
- If you choose taller plants, they provide shade to the chickens in the heat of summer.
- The plants you grow can provide extra nutrition and food for the chickens.
- Promotes the chickens to forage which is essential to their well-being.
- Keeps your chickens safer from predators. The cover will make it harder for predators to spot them.
And that’s it! Of course, this certainly isn’t necessary. But if you’ve got the energy and the means to do it, it’s a win-win for everyone!
Safe Plants You Can Grow Around Your Chicken Run
The following suggestions are generally safe for chickens. Of course, with everything, we want to feed it to them with moderation. Chickens need a varied diet of protein, calcium, and other nutrients. The following plants are not a food that will supply all the nutrients that are essential for chickens. The list of plants you can grow, but be cautious of overfeeding on certain plants as it can cause other issues.
Around our run, the chickens will only be able to forage the nasturtium on their own because we’ll be using the fencing to train the plant up. I’m confident that the nasturtium will cause no issues.
Otherwise, they shouldn’t be able to forage for the rest as it’ll be too far away from them to be able to reach. With those plants, I will feed it to them with my supervision.
And if you choose to spray your yard with pesticides or other chemicals, I would not advise feeding any of your plants to the chickens and the toxins aren’t safe for chickens.
Another thing I would caution is feeding chicks that are too young.
- Bee Balm: Aids in the digestive tract and respiratory health. Antiseptic and antibacterial.
- Borage: Don’t overfeed as it can cause digestive issues. Packed with essential fatty acids that help give chickens glossy feathers. Anti-inflammatory.
- Chamomile: Rich in flavonoids that reduce stress. Stimulates the production of gastric juices helping with digestion. Do not feed too much.
- Calendula: A great color aid for egg yolks, beaks, and feat. Also anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and an antioxidant.
- Echinacea: Provides powerful antioxidants to help fight illnesses like avian flu or Marek’s disease.
- Goldenseal: Too much can be toxic, so feed in moderation. Anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal.
- Hyssop: Immune booster. Large doses may cause digestive issues.
- Lovage: Has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and can promote respiratory health.
- Marigold: Contain compounds that can help keep away insects and parasites. Antioxidants can boost their immune system. Can help create that bright orange yolk.
- Nasturtium: A natural antibiotic. Great source of essential vitamins.
- Petunia: They are listed as safe for consumption, but as far as the nutritional benefits, I couldn’t find any reliable sources.
- Sunflowers: Full of vitamins and minerals. Chickens can eat petals, stems, stalk, and seeds of the plant!
- Tarragon: Great for stimulating their appetite.
- Violet: Rich in Vitamin C. Stimulates appetite which is important during molting or egg-laying seasons. Use sparingly as it contains oxalic acid which can bind calcium.
- Zinnia: Chickens can eat zinnia flowers, but only in small quantities. Chickens should never eat more than 30% of their total diet from zinnias, as they’re not a very good source for chickens.
Herbs (Most herbs should be used sparingly)
- Basil: Immunity booster. Boosts respiratory health.
- Bee Balm: Boosts respiratory and digestive health. Antiseptic and antibacterial.
- Comfrey: Debatable within the chicken community. It has nutritional benefit but has the potential to cause liver damage. Use sparingly!
- Dandelion: Excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K and other important vitamins and minerals
- Fennel: Beneficial for the hens’ reproductive system. A potent laying stimulator. Helps chickens in the hot months as well.
- Lemongrass: Great source of Vitamin C and antioxidants. Cut the leaves into small pieces so the birds won’t choke on them.
- Lovage: Promotes digestion, boosts the immune system, and aids in respiratory health.
- Marjoram: Potent laying stimulant. Anti-inflammatory and help chickens detox.
- Mint: Not as nutritionally beneficials as some other herbs mentioned, mint is useful in the heat of the summer. It does have an innate ability to lower body temperatures when consumed. You can even infuse their waterer with mint.
- Oregano: Great for sick chickens. It’s antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and is rich in nutrients and antioxidants.
- Parsley: A multivitamin for your chickens. It also promotes healthy blood vessel development and stimulates egg-laying.
- Plantain: Immunity booster. Contains Vitamin A & C. Also contains iron and magnesium.
- Rosemary: Rich in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory compounds. Helps with pain relief in chickens, healing wounds, and promoting respiratory health. Also can be used to repel insects.
- Sage: Combats common chicken diseases. Rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Known to be anti-parasitic and promotes egg-laying.
- Tarragon: Packed with antioxidants. It contains thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin A, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Keeps bones strong and adds flavor to eggs.
- Thyme: Anti-bacterial. Boosts respiratory health. Supports healthy mucus membranes. Add to nesting boxes for a high-quality insect repellent.
- White Clover: We have clover in our grazing boxes for the chickens. It’s highly nutritious. Can be used as a detoxifier and stimulates the liver and digestive system. Be sure your clover doesn’t get moldy, which generally occurs more when clover is being baled up in hay. Under normal grazing, there shouldn’t be any issues.
- Beets: Beets contain vitamins A & C, magnesium, potassium, and folate. It has the potential to turn their poop into a bright, pinkish, red color .
- Broccoli: Anti-inflammatory, increases immune health, and improves and strengthens heart.
- Cabbage: High water content is good for feeding in the summer. Improves digestion, aids in heart health, and can reduce inflammation.
- Carrots: Great for eye health and immune health. Contains Vitamins A, K, and C. Also great for bone growth and strength.
- Corn: Found in most chicken feed because they love corn! Has vitamins E and C, and potassium. Improves and maintains eye health.
- Cucumber: Enjoyable to chickens for their fresh taste, high water content, and crisp texture. Great to feed during the summer.
- Kale: Because of its strong flavor, some chickens may not enjoy it. But it’s nutrients are beneficial to maintaining and strengthening their body.
- Lettuce: May aid in supporting and increasing eye health. Also great for warmer days as it provides water.
- Peas: Great source of protein. Peas can often be found in chicken feed. Can reduce the risk of certain diseases and reduce inflammation.
- Pumpkin: Great for a treat every so often. They love it! Full of Vitamin E, thiamine, niacin, vitamin B6 and iron. Also a good source of dietary fiber, zinc, protein, and healthy fats.
- Spinach: Full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Strengthens immune system, good for eye health, oral health, and boosting hydration in summer months.
- Squash: Aid in gut health, immune health, and is high in antioxidants.
- Apples: Rich in minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and pectin acids. Don’t feed them the core.
- Berries: Have fun with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blacberries, cherries, mulberries, and red currants. Again, feed in moderation as they contain a lot of sugar. But they are a great source of essential nutrients for your birds. Stay away from black currants, gooseberries, mountain-ash berries, and elderberries.
- Fig Tree: Again, because it’s a fruit, be sure to give in moderation because of sugar content. Otherwise, it’s a great source of essential vitamins and minerals.
- Grapes: Also, feed in moderation because of the sugar content. Cut the grapes into smaller pieces as it’s easy to choke on. But they are such a fun treat on a hot day.
- Watermelon: A great fruit to feed in the summer because it will provide your birds with hydration and essential nutrients.
Keep in mind, there are many other plants in existence that I couldn’t possibly name. Each climate is different lending itself to a variety of different plants. Again, this could be wrong on my part to say, and I’m sure there will be debate, (which I’m okay with as I’m learning and would like the dialogue) but my assumption is that chickens should know instinctively what is good or not good for them.
Whenever I pick weeds, I will throw some into their run. Then, I simply pay attention to what they constantly gravitate to and ones they pick out. That way I personally know what’s good for them and what they prefer.
What Plants We Choose for the Chickens
- Nasturium: This edible viney plant will grow up the wall and top of the chicken run. It will add beauty, shade, and a snack for the chickens.
- Calendula: This edible flowery herb is great food for the chickens, but I like to use this as well for making calendula salve (a natural neosporin).
- Marigold: This is an edible flower for the chickens and will provide bright orange yolks for the eggs!
- Sunflowers: The chickens can eat the sunflower seeds. They’re also tall and will provide shade in the chicken run.