I think most chicken owners reach the point where they’re curious about the best plants to grow around chickens. Maybe they’re tired of the ground scratched bare or they want to grow plants to feed their chickens.
Whatever the reason (and there are many!), this guide will help you decide on what plants to grow for your chickens.
Best Herbs to Grow for Chickens
- Basil – a nutritious and fragrant herb enjoyed by both chickens and people for eating. High in xanthophyll, which helps produce orange yolks. Can be fed to chickens or added to nest boxes.
- Lavender – a perennial herb that repels pests. Add sprigs to nest boxes or leaves and flowers to dust bathing areas. Edible, but not a favorite food for most chickens.
- Mint – a spreading perennial herb that is tasty and repels pests and rodents. You can add this to nest boxes, plant around the coop and run, or feed it to your chickens.
- Oregano – a perennial herb that chickens like to eat. Add to nest boxes, plant around, or feed to your chickens.
- Calendula – a perennial flower that can be fed to chickens to darken yolk color, infused into oils to make healing skin balms, or planted around the coop to repel insects. If feeding, sprinkle the petals into the food. If infusing, use the entire flower head.
- Thyme – a spreading perennial that is great for repelling pests. It can also be added to chicken feed or nest boxes.
- Dill – an annual herb that chickens love to eat. High in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory.
- Parsley – a biennial herb that our chickens love eating. Parsley is high in vitamins A, B, C, E, K, and minerals like calcium.
- Sage – A perennial herb that is good for chickens to eat. High in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory. You can add it to nest boxes too.
- Bee Balm – a perennial flower that can be fed to chickens or added to nest boxes. For nest boxes, use the petals or flower heads. For feeding, the leaves, stem, and flowers can be given.
- Rosemary – a perennial herb that is great for repelling insects. It’s good for chickens to eat and great for adding to nest boxes.
- Lemon Balm – a spreading perennial that repels rodents and smells great. Plant around the coop, spread in nest boxes, and add leaves to the chicken feed.
- Yarrow – a perennial flower that is safe for chickens to eat, but not a favorite. Make yarrow into a poultice to stop bleeding, steep into a tea, or infuse into oil.
Perennial Plants for Chicken Forage
- Mulberries – a heavy-bearing fruit tree with high-protein leaves. The berries are a favorite of all birds.
- Blackberries and Other Berries – I consider my blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries too valuable to share with the chickens. However, living in western Oregon means we have blackberries. LOTS of blackberries. Our chickens love eating blackberries and will forage for them when they’re ripe.
- Apples – Our chickens aren’t excited by apples unless they’ve gone mushy and are attracting bugs. Oh yum!
- Pears – like apples, our chickens prefer these mushy and gross.
- Plums – another fruit preferred mushy. Incidentally, I know of a rooster (not mine!) that enjoyed eating fermented plums – he would become drunk and fall over when crowing.
- Cherries – we have lots of wild cherry trees that the chickens seek out when the fruit starts to drop. They all seem to instinctively know how to pit the cherries before eating.
- Roses – Edible leaves, flowers, and hips. Can be fed to chickens, infused into oils, or added to nest boxes. Climbing roses can be grown to shade the coop and run.
- Figs – can be fed as an occasional treat… if you’re willing to share.
- Hawthorn – a small, shrubby tree that was commonly grown to form hedgerows (living fences) in much of England starting in the 15th century. Chickens like the small hawthorn berries that the trees produce each year.
Annual Plants to Grow For Chickens
- Alfalfa – an excellent source of protein, calcium, and xanthophylls. You can grow alfalfa as fodder or a forage crop.
- Clover – an easy-to-grow and spreading plant that is high in nutrients like calcium and niacin.
- Marigolds – most marigolds aren’t edible, but their scent does act as an insect repellant. You can plant these around your coop and run to deter bugs. If you’re interested in edible marigolds, look for Tagetes tenuifolia.
- Pumpkins/Winter Squash – squash is a nutrient-dense veggie you can grow for your chickens. My chickens won’t touch them until they’re starting to get soft and moldy and insist that I split them open for them. My geese will eat them without them being split.
- Sunflowers – Both the petals and seeds are edible. Of the two, the seeds are more nutritious for chickens.
- Nasturtium – While safe for chickens to eat, mine aren’t too enthusiastic about it. They are good in your salad too!
- Corn – a nutrient-dense treat for chickens. They’ll eat it right off the cob or the dried and cracked kernels.
- Sorghum – a common component of chicken scratch. My chickens prefer eating the grains off the seed head rather than from the commercial scratch.
- Millet – another nutritious grain loved by all birds. You can buy a special seed for this or simply plant a birdseed mix.
- Oats, Barley, and Wheat – more favorite grains that chickens love. Can be fed as fodder or grown for seeds.
- Rye Grass – typically grown for fodder.
- Cosmos – not a plant that chickens eat. However, mine love hiding and dust bathing under the cosmos. The plants can grow from 3ft – 5ft and have ample space to hide underneath their ferny leaves.
Medicinal Plants for Chickens
Use with caution! The plants listed below can be toxic.
Only allow access to these plants if the chickens have access to lots and lots of other fresh, nutritious plants. As long as they have access to other non-toxic plants they will only consume enough of the toxic plants to medicate themselves.
Giving toxic plants to chickens who don’t have access to much variety of other plants can result in them eating too much and overdosing.
- Comfrey – commonly used for infusing into oils for treating wounds and skin issues (aka use externally). Livestock and poultry can eat the leaves in limited amounts.
- Tansy (Tanecetum vulgare) – can be used to expel worms when fed and repels external pests when planted around the coop and run. It’s toxic if the wrong dosage is given.
- Wormwood – can be used to expel worms and repel external pests when planted around the coop and run. Toxic if the wrong dosage is given.
- Rue – excellent external pest repellant. Dry and powder the leaves to sprinkle into dust baths or to dust chickens to help prevent lice and mites. Toxic if too much is consumed.
- Foxglove – contains digitalis which has been used to fix heart problems. Can also cause serious heart problems, including death. My flock of geese once ate a number of baby foxgloves when doing garden clean-up one fall – and yes, they’re all fine! However, you should consider it toxic.
Wild Plants You Can Forage
- Cleavers – also known as goosegrass. My geese love these, but they’re also very nutritious for chickens. They’re also edible for people.
- Dandelions – this common garden weed is a tasty treat for chickens. You can use the leaves in salad, the flowers to make honey-flavored jelly, and the roots to make a coffee substitute.
- Stinging Nettle – young nettle leaves are extra nutritious and can be fed to chickens. Also good cooked.
- Herb Robert – a strongly scented relative of geraniums. This weed makes a good insect repellant, has edible leaves, and a lot of medicinal qualities when used as a poultice or tea.
- Chickweed – a favorite weed of chickens. Also edible for people.
- Lambs Quarters – another favorite weed for chickens and people.
- Purslane – hey look! another tasty weed for chickens and people.
- Hairy Bittercress – edible for chickens and people (but rather bitter!).