12 Chicken-Friendly Plants to Grow Next To Coops

Chicken Friendly Plants

If you’ve had chickens for long, you probably have noticed that they eat all day long.

They peck and scratch at the soil and eat every last bit of our kitchen scraps and leftovers.

Letting your chickens free range, or giving them access to plenty of natural vegetation and/or rotating their grazing parameters, is the key to happy chickens and healthy eggs. While also being more cost effective than a diet consisting mostly of store bought chicken feed, giving your hens a diverse menu to choose from greatly increases the nutritional benefits of a single egg.

Here on our homestead we’ve recently reintroduced our hens to having free range of the yard and within a week we noticed a difference in the quality of the eggs they were laying. The shells were thicker, the yolk was brighter and the eggs were tastier (our chickens were happier too!).

Making sure your chickens are eating nutritiously is just as important as making sure we are eating nutritiously.  Giving your chickens access to highly nutritious plants can be an easy way for you to consume the benefits of the plants as well.

Before we get into highlighting specific plants individually, here is a full list.

List of Chicken Friendly Plants:

Herbs:

  • Comfrey
  • Fennel
  • Thyme
  • Lavender
  • Nasturtium
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Wormwood
  • Oregano
  • Chickweed
  • Dandelions
  • Nettles

Vegetables & Grains:

  • Amaranth
  • Plantain
  • Clover
  • Alfalfa
  • Sunflowers
  • Peas, Beans, & Legumes
  • Lentils
  • Squash
  • Rhubarb
  • Buckwheat
  • Garlic, Onions, Leeks (Alliums)
  • Asparagus

Fruit & Shrubs:

  • Most Fruit Trees & Canes
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries
  • Currants
  • Mulberries
  • Siberian Pea Shrub

Chickens Free Ranging on the Author's Homestead

Chickens Free Ranging on the Author’s Homestead

Healthy Herbs For Chickens

Having culinary and medicinal herbs right outside your chicken coop provides your chickens with easy access to these plants, while also making it convenient for you to add oregano or rosemary to your morning omelet.

Here is a list of herbs to plant in or around your chicken coop:

Comfrey: Symphytum officinale

Perennial plant rich in protein, potassium, and calcium. Beneficial to chickens for their general health and laying. [Buy]

Fennel: Foeniculum vulgare

Lacy pods of yellow flowers attract butterfly larvae and beneficial insects for chickens to eat. Their foliage and seeds are also good for general health. [Buy]

Thyme: Thymus Vulgaris

Aids in respiratory health and has antibacterial/antibiotic properties. [Buy]

Lavender: Lavandula species

Lavender is a natural insect repellent. Putting dried lavender in your chicken coop can have calming effects on the chickens as well as being a natural air freshener. [Buy]

Nasturtium: Tropaeolum majus

A great general plant for chicken health. It has antiseptic and antibiotic properties. Its seeds can be used as a natural chicken de-wormer. It also has insect repellent qualities. [Buy]

Rosemary: Rosmarinus officinalis

Aromatic scent repels insects. [Buy]

Sage: Salvia spp

A good herb for chickens’ general health. Acts as an antioxidant and can help prevent salmonella. [Buy]

Wormwood: Artemisia absinthium

Helps control external parasites and is a natural insect repellent. [Buy]

Oregano: Origanum vulgare

Can boost chickens immune systems and helps fight off e.coli, coccidiosis, salmonella, and avian flu. Oregano is being studied as a natural antibiotic on large scale poultry farms. [Buy]

To learn more about keeping your hens healthy with herbs, take a look at An Herb Garden For Chickens by Lisa Steele.

Naturally Growing Food For Chickens

Here are a few more plants that can be valuable to sow in your chicken area for extra protein and more calories. Many of these plants service multiple purposes in the garden, including cover cropping and soil improvement.

Siberian Pea Shrub: Caragana arborescens

This amazing plant is a premier permaculture plant and can be a homesteaders best friend. A perennial in the legume family that is high in protein and is also a nitrogen fixer for the soil.[Buy]

Amaranth: Amaranthus hypochondriacus

A beautiful addition to any garden, with bright colored seeds and lush broad leaves, your chickens will love having a grain supplement in the garden, that is also gorgeous to look at.

Plantain: Plantago lanceolata

The mature seeds of this plant can used by humans as a natural laxative and as a high protein and mineral source for animals. [Buy]

White Clover: Trifolium Repens

We’ve written about the benefits of white clover as a living mulch in the past. Our friend Kevin Fletcher of New Country Organics had this to add:

If you are looking for ground cover to use near chickens I would suggest White Clover. Clover is high in protein but can withstand traffic and stress very well. If you are looking to supplement their feed, Millet and Sunflowers growing beside the coop will provide extra treats. But you’ll have to protect them until they are at least two feet high.

Looking for more ideas? Try more grain-like plants like Clover, Alfalfa, Sunflowers, Peas, Lentils, and Buckwheat. You can also try more fruit trees and canes like Raspberries, Blueberries, and Mulberries. While many people consider them weeds, Chickweed, Dandelions, and Nettles are also decent additions as well.

Plants To Avoid Growing Near Chickens

Before you release your chickens into the abundance of your backyard or decide to plant a garden specifically for your chickens, there are a few plants you should know about.

Unlike other livestock animals, chickens have a keen sense in knowing what plants are poisonous and what plants are good for them. Luckily their intuition keeps them away from even trying the poisonous ones, but there are exceptions to everything. If you’re planting near a coop, you’ll want to make sure you’re not growing these plants nearby in case your hens are feeling hungry or pressured to eat something due to proximity (hopefully you have enough natural food to avoid that, of course).

In order to eliminate all chances of accidental toxicity, here is a list of common plants to be aware of:

  1. Daffodil: Narcissus spp.
  2. Daphne: Daphne spp.
  3. Foxglove: Digitalis spp.
  4. Honeysuckle: Lonicera spp.
  5. Hydrangea: Hydrangea spp.
  6. Nightshades: Solanaceae spp. Tomatoes, Potatoes, Eggplant, and other members of the Nightshade family.
  7. Rhododendron: Rhododendron spp.
  8. Tulip: Tulipa.

For a full list of potentially poisonous plants visit BackyardChickens.com.

Free Ranging Your Chickens Offers Additional Diet Variety

In permaculture philosophy each garden element has multiple functions. An example is bamboo that acts as a windbreak while also providing  food, shade and shelter.  Free range chickens can also serve multiple functions in the garden, providing your family with more than just eggs or meat.  Joel Salatin, known for his revolutionary and holistic methods of raising livestock in a sustainable and regenerative way, gives examples of how chickens can help us accomplish simple tasks in and around the garden.

Debug A Space

Chickens eat bugs at all levels of the bugs life (adult, larval and egg). Leave your chickens in a space where you have a bug problem and within a few hours you will have a pest free area and have fed your chickens an abundance of protein rich food!

Spread Mulch

Place chickens on top of a mulch pile and they will spread it for you within hours.

Till Soil

Leave chickens in an area long enough and they will till the ground for you. Make sure they have normal feed in addition to what is growing so they’re not forced to eat something that they don’t want to.

Fertilize

Put chickens out in a pasture or soon to be garden space and let them naturally fertilize the soil with their manure.

Assist in Composting

Leave chickens on your compost pile and as they scratch it looking for bugs and other food sources, they will be oxygenating the pile. And as they add manure to the pile they will be contributing the necessary nitrogen element to the composting process.

Here’s an awesome post that talks about how chickens can perform multiple functions in the garden and demonstrates the symbiotic relationship of gardening and animal raising.

Do you plant crops near your chickens to provide them with additional feed during the year? What do they love & what works best for you? Leave your comments below!

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Author: Marya Casey

Marya lives on 5 acres in Olympia Washington with her partner and his family. Together they grow and preserve food, raise animals, make medicine, keep bees and are currently working on a natural building project.

Comments
  1. Hi Marya Casey,
    Great thanks for your detailed information.,
    I am living in Bolu which is city bewtween Istanbul and Ankara and famous for poultry sector 33 % of Turkey. By the way I am assoc prof working on poultry. poultry science department. I have some books on halal food, natural nutrition and without detrimental i think teher are many suspicious addtives and some alternative life.

    Currently, think to establish a project, feddding the laying hens with some aromatic plants, maize and wheat, clean and cold water, some natiral environment for poultry and poultry houses for all groups.. I will observe some special effects, on both animal and eggs laid.

    secondly, growing some aromatic plants with my friends at faculty, and bee farming in the fields growing in.

    Using essential oils for repellent in bee units,

    and now, i am using juniper essential oils using diffuser in hatchery, i am waiting the oil will pass directly from the ppor of the eggs, and some beneficial effects on hatchin, chick quality, antioxidant effect, some histolohical changes, immun system etc

    for example , trying of dried olive leaves in feed free range of chicken .. it will probably cause pass of oleropein which is rich in also in olive and cause decrase serum level in human, but never forgor cholesterol is very important and NOBADY can cause decrease in egg cholesterol!, chick needs that cholesterol for embrionic development.

    anyway, that is for now,

    i want to meet and learn some from you also . Probably you know many things for free range that i i will try soon.

    my best

    • Excellent research…don’t worry about cholesterol. At least the kind you EAT. The only cholesterol to worry about is your own. Made by the liver no matter what it is you eat or if you eat a dozen eggs per day…you will have buildup in your heart arteries. Also, this is highly dependent on genetics. The family history is an excellent example of one’s future. One’s numbers can be perfect; blood pressure, HDL and LDL’S, and all the rest. If one has a family history and genetics that create cholesterol even though it doesn’t show up as being HIGH on one’s blood tests…heck the ONLY way to know is by angiogram.

  2. I love having chickens on our small farm but must point out that ‘chicken-friendly’ doesn’t mean the plants will survive the attention! As Kevin Fletcher suggested, some plants need to be pretty large/mature to withstand all the scratching and pecking!

    Also, in other blogs, some folks have problems with plants that are over-willing to naturalize! I’m thinking of putting sunchokes and comfrey along a fence so the poultry can control them from one side without threatening the other. What do you think?

  3. Thank you so much for the information and time. I appreciate your column. I am a new be to chickens. Get my first babies in May. Can’t wait! But want you to know that I am devouring all your information. Please don’t stop writing. Thanks again Amy

  4. So helpful and informative. Thank you. I’m in hot and windy west Texas. So good to know what plants are safe or unsafe.

  5. Pingback: Keeping Chickens In Winter • Nifty Homestead

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