If you’re a fellow homesteader, you probably already grow a garden, but have you considered growing one just for your chickens?
Why grow a chicken garden?
There are plenty of reasons to take the time to plant a chicken garden, it’s good for you, your family, the planet, and your flock!
Growing a chicken garden may seem silly at first, but in fact it can help to mimic a chicken’s natural diet, vastly improve the health of your flock, create better tasting eggs, and save you some money!
1. Save money on chicken feed
Many people get chickens for the fun of raising backyard livestock and the “free eggs.” Then they realize those eggs are not free, they come with the cost of chicken food, bedding, coop, and healthcare.
There are, however, plenty of ways to cut down on the cost of raising chickens, we’ve gone over lots of them in this post.
One of the best ways to cut down on chicken feed is to grow some of it yourself!
If you only have time to care for a few plants in your chicken garden, growing heavy hitters like squash, tomatoes, and sunflowers will provide a lot of nutritious bulk to your chickens diet without much effort.
These three plants tend to grow like weeds with the right amount of sunlight, and can produce plenty of crops for you and your flock.
2. Make healthy food for your flock
Chickens are omnivores, which means they naturally enjoy a varied diet full of vegetables, grains, fruits, seeds, and meat. Growing a chicken garden will allow you to feed your chickens a rich diet that’s similar to those their ancestors and wild cousins eat.
Chickens in the wild certainly don’t survive on chicken pellets, and to get your flock to optimum health and wellness it’s important to mimic their natural diet as much as possible.
This varied diet provides your flock with all the vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber they need to be their best selves. When you really think about just how many different types of food chickens can eat, it seems silly to just feed them boring old chicken pellets.
Growing a variety of fruits, grains, vegetables, and herbs will improve the health of your chickens, leading to more eggs and a longer life with less health issues.
This tasty diet not only benefits your chickens, it benefits you and your family! Chickens that eat diets rich in vitamins, minerals, and Omega-3 fatty acids produce eggs that are healthier and tastier. It’s a win-win situation!
3. It can feed your family too!
Your chickens aren’t the only ones who can reap the benefits of a backyard garden, your family can of course eat from it too!
The majority of the garden crops we mention below would be enjoyed by people just as much as by chickens.
We grow our backyard garden for the benefit of all the creatures on our property. We cook and eat what we can from the garden, but all scraps from the garden go to the rabbits and chickens.
We always grow extra of every crop, so when we’ve had our fill, anything still left in the garden goes to the chickens.
4. There are plenty of uses for herbs in the chicken coop
Grow herbs in your chicken garden and you’ll find endless uses for them around the chicken coop.
Herbs are an excellent health booster for your chickens, whether they’re fed to your flock or scattered around the coop.
Mint is great for improving your chickens eggs and respiratory health.
Basil is a wonderful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune booster for your chickens.
Oregano is the ultimate herb to grow for your chickens, as it can help them fight parasites and infection.
We scatter herbs, both dried and fresh, in the nesting boxes as well as the dust bath. We feed the herbs fresh to the chickens when they’re growing abundantly!
5. Chickens help with garden pest control
There’s no denying it, chickens love eating bugs, and what do bugs love eating? Garden plants!
This cycle of life can be used to your advantage. Bugs are an excellent source of protein for your flock. When you find them eating from your garden, simply pick them off and feed them to the birds.
Our chickens work hard in their own garden, providing fertilizer, helping to till the soil with their scratching, and eating the pests like insects and weed seeds. Growing a chicken garden, or letting your chickens help in your garden, can be beneficial to both you and them!
Plants to grow in your chicken garden:
- Swiss Chard
- Bok Choy
- Beet Greens
- Butternut squash
- Acorn squash
- Summer squash
- Lemon Balm
Grain / Seeds:
Tips for your chicken garden:
Don’t ever feed your chickens veggies or fruits that have mildew or mold. If you wouldn’t eat it, your chickens shouldn’t either. Mold and mildew can cause health complications for your flock.
Don’t feed dried beans to your chickens. If you grow beans in the garden, be sure to cook them before feeding them to your flock.
Plant a separate perennial garden for more convenient growing! Perennials come back year after year with very little help from you, and are a great way to supplement your chicken feed.
Leafy greens and cabbage can be placed in a veggie ball for some high quality chicken entertainment. Keeping your chickens entertained will help cut down on bullying and destructive behavior.
Don’t let the chickens into a garden that’s just getting started. I know it can be tempting to release your flock into the garden, but if the garden is just beginning, the seedlings and sprouts are too fragile and will get stomped, dug, or eaten by hungry chickens.
You can quite safely let your chickens into a more established garden, or let them into a spent garden to help eat weed seeds, insects, and leave some fertilizer behind!
Get creative and have fun!
There’s no perfect way to grow a chicken garden, just get to digging in the dirt and planting some seeds.
Even if all you grow is weeds (there’s lots of weeds that chickens love to eat) and your garden gets overtaken by bugs, your chickens will still be thrilled, and you’ll still save some money on feeding them!
Meredith Skyer is a writer, artist, and homesteader residing in Western New York with her husband and menagerie of farm critters.
She has spent the last 12 years learning and implementing a myriad of homesteading skills, specializing in growing food and animal husbandry. Her biggest passion is working in conjunction with the natural world to harvest healthy, organic food from her own backyard.
Meredith is a freelance writer and founder of Backyard Chicken Project, a place for crazy chicken people to gather, learn, and share in their love of chickens. She also contributes articles to Mother Earth News Online, From Scratch Magazine, and Grit.
Meredith works from her woodland homestead where she spends her days writing, creating animal-inspired art, and chasing after her flock of chickens.
You can visit her at www.backyardchickenproject.com