Supplementing chicken feed with plants is great for your chickens and your pocket too! The amazing thing is that you can actually grow some of these plants right in your backyard garden (or even plant them their own garden!). Take a look at some of these plants that you can grow to help supplement your chicken feed.
Gardening With Chickens
If you have free-range chickens and you have a garden, then you already know chickens love to eat plants. If you have chickens, then you’re already aware of how costly feed can be. Why not supplement their feed cost with growing plants just for chicken feed? Besides, the healthier your chickens eat, the healthier your beautiful fresh eggs will be.
When we lived by the coast we had a small plot of land. Our tiny yard was divided into two sections our side and the chicken’s side. I planted a variety of fresh herbs and vegetables just for them. They loved their forage time and pecking at the vegetables in their garden. By doing this, they never felt the need to roam over to our side and mess with our garden. That is until I removed the fence at the end of the season when I actually wanted them in there. Chickens are great at tilling the land and adding fertilizer.
If you are just considering getting chickens we have the perfect article for you to read, Adding Backyard Chickens- What You Need To Know Before You Buy.
Top 10 Plants To Grow For Chicken Feed
When you feed your chicken’s nutritious food, such as fresh herbs, vegetables, flowers, and grains, you help build their immune system. A healthy immune system can defend itself against sickness and disease. In addition to growing a garden to feed your chickens, they will love access to your compost pile. Your chickens can eat the worms in your compost pile and till it for you all at the same time.
1. Sweet Corn
Sweet Corn is a delicacy your chicken will love. When growing them, ensure that there is enough space between rows if you want the plants to thrive. You can also add them to your dish occasionally. They are a perfect addition to your chicken’s food during the cold season. Corn or scratch, adds extra calories and carbs your chickens need during the winter. Just make sure corn isn’t their main meal, just a snack.
2. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower Seeds pack a lot of nutrients and they are healthy for your chickens and people alike. BOSS or Black Oil Sunflower Seeds are a great source of protein for your chickens. However, buying them from a store can really add to your chicken feed bill. Sunflowers are so easy to grow, not to mention beautiful to look at. For growing tips, you can read this article How To Grow Sunflowers For Chicken Feed.
You might have seen chicken devouring pumpkins during Halloween. They love the seeds and these seeds are said to be natural wormers. You can provide for them by planting some pumpkins. If you are looking to harvest during Halloween season, plant them around somewhere in July. Because the vines will take up a lot of space in your garden, make sure you give them enough spacing during planting. I have the perfect article about growing pumpkins I know you’ll enjoy. How To Grow, Harvest, Store, and Use Pumpkins
4. Mint There are very many varieties of mint. You have probably come across some in the mall. The varieties include spearmint, peppermint among others. What they all have in common is the great scent that also doubles as an insect repellant. This is a plant that is a perennial plant for chicken feed and will come back year after year.
Like the pumpkins, cucumber seeds are also natural wormers. As these plants can take considerable space and love to climb, keep that in consideration when planting them. Chickens will scratch through the vines and enjoy pecking at the cucumbers. Not only are they a healthy treat, but the cucumbers will help keep your flock hydrated during the summer heat.
6. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes grow all summer long and each plant produces multiple nutritious leaves for your chickens. Once the leaves are no longer green, it’s time for your chickens to scratch for their harvest of yummy sweet potatoes. To be honest, sweet potatoes are my favorite plant to grow for chicken feed, we grow them for our pigstoo! If you would like to add sweet potatoes to your chicken garden, you can follow our article How To Grow Sweet Potatoes In 5 Easy Steps.
This edible flower which slightly resembles the sunflower is highly nutritious and it helps strengthen the yolk, making it bright yellow in color. The flower is also eaten by human beings and can be a great addition to salads, both in nutritional content and in visually appealing aspects. I wrote this article about Edible Flowers for Common Sense Home that lists more flowers you and your chickens will enjoy feasting on.
Alfafa seeds Highly nutritious and well-loved by the chicken. They pack a lot of vitamins and other nutrients such as magnesium, calcium, and Iron. You can grow this as a cover crop and have your chickens harvest it before it goes to seed and the seed heads spread.
Kale is the perfect cold-weather crop plant to grow for chicken feed. There is no specific variety of choices here. Other forms of leafy greens such as lettuce, cabbages, and spinach as also a delicacy to the chicken. Very little else is growing during this season and kale, as well as other leafy greens, add a lot of vitamins and minerals. Kale will continue to grow as long as the chickens don’t scratch up the roots and only eat the leaves.
The name was coined after the love chicken has towards this weed. Although this is a fairly perennial plant, it can be hard to spot because of the ‘weed’ status attributed to it. It can survive harsh climatic conditions including cold weather and it grows pretty fast. It has a sweet and mild smell. Just create a space for the weed to spread and let your chicken do justice to it.
Planning Your Chicken Garden
Our chickens have always been trained to go in their coop at night or any time we needed to lock them up. We built a huge chicken run so even if they were locked up, they had plenty of space. If you would like to learn more about building your own chicken coop, you can check out our instructions Building A Chicken Coop: Everything You’ll need.
During planting season I would keep them in their coop and run for a couple of weeks so the plants could get established. In addition to keeping them locked up for a little bit, you can try fencing off sections you are trying to grow. The same premise as rotational grazing, you are moving your flock to different sections of your yard so they always have fresh forage during the growing season and the land doesn’t get overworked. I like to include plants that are growing during every season so they always have something to forage on.