Are you interested in growing a garden for your chickens? There are many reasons this can be a good idea. And there are several ways to go about providing fresh produce for your flock. Learn how to grow a chicken garden in your own backyard to provide fresh food for your birds.
Why Grow a Garden for Your Chickens?
First, lets look at why you might want to grow a garden for your chickens. One of the best reasons is that your chickens will be healthier.
When growing a chicken garden, you can plant herbs that will be useful in the coop as well as support ones that support their immune systems. Having the ability to scratch and peck is good for your chickens and keeps them from picking on one another.
Another benefit to growing a chicken garden is that you will save money on food. While you still need to provide your chickens with a nutritionally balanced feed, supplementing with herbs and vegetables can lower your feed bill.
A third reason that your might want to garden with your chickens is that they provide pest control. Even if your flock is not allowed to roam freely in your own garden, (more on that later) they can still help control pests on your property by eating bugs and worms before they ever get to your vegetables.
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3 Ways to Grow a Garden for Your Chickens
There are 3 ways you can provide a garden for your chickens. Let’s look at the benefits and downsides to each type of chicken garden so you can make the best decision for your flock.
Allow Your Chickens Access to Your Garden
The most obvious way to garden with chickens is to just let your chickens into your own garden. However, I don’t really recommend this option, at least not during the growing season.
Remember, chickens are destructive. They will eat a bite of a tomato here and a bite of a squash there, with no regard to the fact that you were planning on eating those same vegetables for supper.
There are also some plants you most likely grow in your garden that can be toxic to chickens, especially in large quantities.
Plants from the nightshade family like tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants contain solanine that can be harmful to your chickens if they ingest too much. Generally, chickens will avoid these plants because they usually taste bad to them, but it is something you should be aware of if allowing your chickens into your garden.
Please note that tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants aren’t toxic, just the plants themselves. And raw or green potatoes should never be fed to your flock anyway. Read “9 Foods You Should Never Feed Your Chickens” for more information on what to avoid feeding your flock.
If you do want to use this method, you can wait and just allow your chickens into your garden at the end of the growing season. Before letting them in, go ahead and pull any of the toxic plants listed above.
Letting in the garden in the off-season is a good way for them to help remove bugs and worms that might try to overwinter in your garden. However, they will still dig in the soft ground and scatter mulch everywhere.
If you are planting fall crops, they may dig those up or eat them too so either fence them off or look at other options for a chicken garden.
Grow a Garden of Vegetables FOR Your Chickens
Another option is to grow a garden of vegetables that your chickens enjoy. This can be an entirely separate garden or it can be part of your own vegetable garden.
You can plant some vegetables and herbs that you plan to feed directly to your flock. These crops can be harvested and tossed into the chicken run to provide nutritious treats for your flock.
This will allow you to grow some plants and herbs for your chickens even if it’s something you don’t enjoy. For instance, my chickens love kale, however, my family does not. But I grow some every year to provide the chickens some fresh greens during the winter.
Grow a Garden for Your Chickens to Enjoy
The third option is to grow a true chicken garden. This is a garden that you allow your chickens to roam in freely.
If you choose to go this route, you need to locate the garden near the coop and run so your chickens have easy access to it. Grow plants that chickens enjoy eating. (See the list below.) You need to be sure you don’t include any plants that may be toxic for your chickens.
This is also a good place to grow plants that chickens like but that you wouldn’t grow in your own garden like clover and dandelions.
When growing a garden for your chickens there are several things you need to consider. You will need to keep your flock out of the garden until the plants are established. Chickens love to eat fresh tender seedlings.
They will dust bathe in your newly tilled soil. They love to scratch and send mulch flying all over the garden. If you add new plants to your chicken garden, you should fence them off until they are well established.
If you plan to free-range your flock in the garden for long periods of time, bigger is definitely better. A small garden is fine if they will have limited access. But if your chickens will be in the garden often, they will have the area back to bare dirt in no time unless they have plenty of room.
No matter what type of chicken garden your choose, don’t stop feeding your flock a well balanced feed. A chicken garden is not likely to meet the nutritional needs of your flock.
Plants to Include in a Chicken Garden
There are many wonderful plants you can include in a chicken garden. From herbs to fruits and vegetables, you can provide your flock with additional nutrition by growing some of these plants.
Herbs to Plant in a Chicken Garden
Vegetables to Grow in a Chicken Garden
- brussels sprouts
- winter squash
Fruits to Grow for Your Chickens
Plants to Avoid in a Chicken Garden
This list of plants to avoid in a chicken garden is NOT all-inclusive. I highly recommend doing your own research before adding any plants to your garden that are not listed in the section above.
- Avoid planting beans that are going to be dried.
A Few Things to Remember When Growing a Chicken Garden
No matter what type of chicken garden you choose to grow, be sure that you don’t use any chemical sprays on it. Research carefully before even using organic sprays as well. You won’t likely have much a bug problem in your chicken garden if the chickens are allowed to visit regularly.
Don’t stop providing your chickens a well-balanced chicken feed. They still need the extra protein that purchased feed provides.
Finally, be sure to provide water for your flock in the chicken garden. Chickens need access to water at all times. So whether you put in a chicken waterer, add a small pond, or just place a bucket full of water in the garden, ensure they have enough to drink no matter where they are.
Have you ever considered growing a garden for your chickens? Which kind would you choose?