Plant a chicken garden and you will be a happy smallholder with happy chickens.

The advantages of having a chicken garden are clear. Chickens are omnivorous. This means that they eat seeds, plants, fruit, grains and insects. You probably feed them a well-balanced commercial chicken food in the form of meal or pellets.

You can have a fenced off portion of your garden where they are allowed to range, and where you have planted a select variety of vegetables and herbs. Here they will have access to a good variety of food, so in this way you are supplementing their diet. This mean you will need less bought food.

Their time in their chicken patch will be stimulating for them, as they will be exploring the area, looking for tasty things to eat. A stimulated chicken is a happy chicken and will be part of a happier flock.

A greater variety of food means healthier chickens and more, as well as tastier, eggs.

The herbs not only add to the variety, but some of them act as natural dewormers and help in the fight against external parasites.

The plants also provide shade and protection from the wind and rain.

You can also harvest some of the vegetables for your own table.

Vegetables to plant

Many of the plants that we eat are good for us to plant in a chicken garden. However some families of vegetables should be planted with caution or not at all.

Curcubits are good news: pumpkins, Hubbard and gem squashes, butternuts, marrows, cucumbers and melons. The broad leaves will encourage insect life underneath, which the hens will love. You will need to keep an eye on the vegetables though and as soon as they are ripe you’ll need to pick them if you want to eat them yourself or if you want to store them for winter. Some of them can be left for the fowls to eat in situ.

plant a chicken garden
Chickens love pottering about in a garden.

Legumes such as green beans and peas are nutritious. Make sure that the hens do not have access to dry uncooked beans however, as these are poisonous to them. they may eat the leaves as well if they want to.

If you are growing mealies you can give whole cobs to your poultry to peck. It is preferable to peel off the leaves though as the fibres might cause digestion problems.

The umbellifer family includes carrots, celery, parsnips and fennel. Chicken enjoy the green parts of these vegetables, as well as the root vegetables.

When you plant a chicken garden, other vegetables to include are lettuce and sunflowers.

Vegetables to plant with caution or not at all

For various reasons do not plant much from the brassica family (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnips, radish) or from the chenopodiaceae family (Swiss chard, spinach, beetroot.)

Do not plant any of the solanaceae or nightshade family (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers). The plants and their produce contain solanine, which is poisonous for poultry.

Onions and rhubarb are also problematic.

Herbs to plant in a chicken garden

Different herbs are grown for different reasons. Oregano is one of the best and mint, lavender and basil are great favourites. You can also try parsley, comfrey, chamomile, dill, lemon balm, rosemary, sage and thyme. Nasturtiums are also good for them.

Fruits

We know chicken enjoy strawberries. If other berries grow in your area you can try blueberries, raspberries and gooseberries.

And if weeds come up in your chicken garden, there are many that they will eat as well.

If you do not want to dedicate a whole garden to your chickens, you can still grow all these plants and feed them to your flock or strew them (in the case of the herbs) in their nesting boxes and dust baths.

To read more about poultry click here.

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