When you have a stationary chicken coop, you may want to make it more enriching. The best way to do that is by growing plants in your chicken runs or chicken tractors. Plants in your run can be beneficial as well as more aesthetically pleasing. But to be successful in this, there are a few things that you will need to know. Things like which plants work best inside a chicken run, and what plants will serve what purposes.
Why Should You Grow Plants In Chicken Runs?
There are many benefits to growing plants in your chicken run. For starters, This is a great idea to ensure that your chicken flock is getting enough foraging. Foraging is essential to a chicken’s well-being. It helps to complete their nutritional intake and produces better eggs and meat. Chickens also have a strong instinct to forage. Without the ability to forage, your chickens will become stressed, and a stressed chicken won’t produce eggs.
Plants also help invite bugs into your vegetable garden, which is an essential part of foraging. Insects provide protein and give them a well-balanced diet. Most runs without plants have minimal opportunity for chickens to find bugs. Then you would have to worry about buying bugs to add to your chicken’s diet. But why do that when you can invite them in with plants.
But there are some other great reasons to grow plants in chicken runs, like being able to mask the farm smell from your home and neighbors. Chicken coops, no doubt, produce a lot of odors. If you plant flowers as cover crops that can be a good food source for your small flock to eat and they smell beautiful, it can give your chicken yard an oasis. Fragrant flowers can cover up the smell of feces in the compost pile, and they also use it as a natural fertilizer.
Plants also help cool the ground during hot summer months. If you have enough grass and ground cover, it can help cool your chickens and give them relief from the warm soil. This can be especially beneficial for people who live in southern areas that get hotter than usual. You will find that your chickens love to spend time in the fresh grass or shaded areas. Shading is accomplished with tall grass varieties or even small trees and bushes.
We mentioned above that plants can help bring bugs in, but they can also help repel pests and parasites too. If you have a terrible mosquito problem or even mice and rats, many plant varieties repel them and are safe for chickens to eat.
Plants and shrubs in your chicken coop can also provide more shelter for your chickens. If you have enough plants to cover the run, predators will be less likely to see your chickens from the outside. You could even plant small trees to protect your chickens from hawks and owls from above. Your chickens will feel more secure when not left out in the open.
And finally, growing plants in your chicken run looks nice. Keeping your chicken coop from being an eyesore can bring balance and serenity to your garden. Having happy chickens doesn’t mean that you have to give up a backyard oasis. Plant a few flowers and ivy to transform your runs into something beautiful. Your neighbors would probably love the view too!
How To Grow Plants In Chicken Runs
Growing plants in your chicken run can be a difficult task. And since all flocks are different, it might take a little trial and error to find the right balance. But we have a few tips to help set you up for success.
- The first step is to choose plants that are going to work for your purposes. If your sole purpose is to repel bugs but don’t plant anything that fends them off, it defeats the purpose.
- You will also want to choose a plant that is sturdy and reproduces fast. Chickens love to peck around at their favorite treats, so there is no guarantee that any plant will last longer than a week. But choosing a plant that is hard to kill will increase your chances.
- Before planting anything in your chicken run, you must make sure that they are not toxic to chickens. Chickens do a great job of staying away from poisonous plants, but it is better to be safer in this case. Since your chickens will have access to these plants all the time, it will increase the likelihood of them ingesting them.
- Next, you will want to make sure you have a wide variety. Having variety in your chicken’s diet will give you better eggs and better meat. A mixture can also be more aesthetically pleasing than planting only one type of plant everywhere. You can be as creative as you want when planting in a chicken run.
- Now that you have your ideal plants picked out, the best tip would be only to buy a few at a time. Since this is mostly experimental on what will survive in your run, it is best to try a few at a time. It would be a shame to spend money on several of the same types of plants to have it die off within a month. Once you have a good idea of what will thrive in your run, you can add more of what will last.
- So you have all your plants picked out, but how do you keep your chickens from ruining them? The best option is to use chicken wire mesh or hardware cloth around your young plants until they are large and established. This protection will help the roots spread into the ground and for young plants to get over the initial “shock” of being planted. For some plants, this means keeping them in cages until they are at least 2 feet tall.
Types Of Plants
Now comes the exciting part of finding the perfect plants for you. Listed below are a few plants that are a great addition for beginners. They are easy to take care of, and your chickens will love them.
Everyone loves the look and smell of sunflowers. They require such little effort to grow and can make your chicken run look fantastic. But beyond looks, chickens love sunflower seeds. This is also an easy way to save on chicken feed. They make a great treat with healthy fats and protein. Sunflowers also grow tall and can provide a lot of shade and protection from predators.
White clover is a favorite among chicken lovers, and for a good reason. Clover grows at a fast rate. It can withstand many weather conditions and is one of the first things to bloom in early spring. For this reason, many chicken owners plant clover patches all over for foraging opportunities. Clover can give your chickens a lot of vitamins and nutrients, but most importantly, it attracts bugs.
One of the best herbs for a chicken is sage. It smells incredible and works as a natural deodorizer in your chicken run. It is packed with antioxidants and is thought to fight off salmonella outbreaks. Chickens love to graze of sage as well as a few other herbs.
Roses not only make your garden look beautiful and smell great, but they also have practical uses too. Rose bushes can provide shade and protection from nosey animals. They can also be an excellent winter cover crop for chickens as well. Rose petals are high in vitamin C, which can give your chickens an immune boost. And during the fall, roses produce rose hips that chickens love to snack on. You can even harvest them and dry them out for winter treats.
Chickens love Calendula to snack on, and they have a lot of uses as well. These flowers can add a pop of color to your chicken runs and give it a pleasant smell. And the bright petals of the flower will give your egg yolks a vibrant and bold color as well.
Another herb that chickens love to eat is thyme. It has a great smell and is tasty for your free range chickens. These herbs are not only a great thing for masking smells but are also a natural antibacterial.
Comfrey is a beautiful flower that your flock of backyard chickens can’t get enough of. They are durable and grows quickly. They are also rich in vitamins and antioxidants that will complete your chicken’s diet. And since they grow up to 5 feet tall, they can be a natural barrier from predator’s eyes.
The Amaranth is a popular choice and comparable to cereal grains and contains a lot of health benefits. They also look unique and add a great pop of color to your backyard chicken garden.
Mint has a cooling effect when your feathered friends eat them, so they are nice to have around during the summer. They also are a natural insect repellent. Plus, they smell strong to mask any “barnyard” smells from your coop.
Most people don’t think to go around planting dandelions, but you should. Dandelions are high in calcium and overgrow. Your chickens can feast on these all spring and summer. Then you can harvest and dry some for the winter months.
Most berries are safe for chickens to eat. The bushes provide lots of shade as well as protection in the run. Berry bushes are a great option to attract insects as well since no one can resist a ripe berry.
If you are looking for a fast-growing natural dewormer, nasturtium is the way to go. These new plants require almost no work and reproduce fast. Chicken owners all over swear by these sturdy plants.
What Will You Grow?
Growing plants in your chicken run can be a fun and exciting experience for all. You will love the life and character it gives your backyard. And your chickens will love that you spoil them rotten. With a little trial and error, you will find the perfect combination of functionality and beauty.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!