5 top plants to grow when you keep pet chickens January 16, 2015

It’s seed catalog time! If you garden, you’re probably already being tempted by all the things you can order… but you have to do extra thinking when deciding what plants to grow when you keep pet chickens.

Easy Does It rose: plants to grow when you keep pet chickens

My eyes drink these colors

There are some good steps to take to combine chickens and gardening–you definitely want to think ahead. Chickens want to eat your landscaping, and what they don’t eat, they will scratch up!  So, while you’re using our special trick to keep your chickens from scratching out and scattering your mulch, you’ll also want to plan what you’ll be growing in your beds.

I thought I’d share my top favorites. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so please share yours in the comments!

5 top plants to grow when you keep pet chickens

1. Roses.

Chickens are better at trampling down small plants than shrubs–and roses are just my favorite. 20 years ago, roses used to be a pain to grow, for sure. They need sun, plenty of water, good drainage and fertile soil (hello composted chicken poo!). Old varieties can be susceptible to black spot, powdery mildew, mosaic and other problems. But if you choose the right varieties, roses can be less trouble than many other garden plants, and far more rewarding.

Varieties? Consider the Knockout. Some people hate the knockout roses, and although I disagree, I understand where they’re coming from. Knockouts are not individually beautiful roses, and not really good as a cut flower. But they’re profuse bloomers and easy care—and they’re stunning en masse.


But Easy Does It is profuse, too!

That said, my favorite rose right now is not knockout (although I may add some this year). My favorite is called Easy Does It (pictured above, too). It has lovely coral-mango-pink fragrant blooms, and this variety bloomed non-stop for me from a month after I planted it, until after several frosts. I cannot believe how well it performed! It doesn’t last in the vase, either, but they are gorgeous on the bush.

2. Forsythia.

Another shrub. Sure, it only blooms in the spring–but what blooms! The whole bush is yellow. Blooming branches can be forced in late winter, too, to give you a little bit of cheer on those dreary days. In summer, it’s a lovely background for other plants (like roses). Just be sure to be prepared for some surprises!

forsythia: plants to grow when you keep pet chickens

There’s nothing cheerier than forsythia in the early spring

Other shrubs to consider for interest in other seasons: Witch Hazel, Burning Bush, Rose of Sharon.

3. Herbs (especially woody herbs).

Chickens don’t tend to eat woody perennial herbs: lavender, oregano, marjoram, thyme and the like. They may taste them from time to time, but herbs tend tough and can withstand a little grazing. In addition, herbs like mint may get trampled… but they are tough to kill, and will just keep coming back. Just take care to contain the mint, because it LOVES to escape!

mint: plants to grow when you keep pet chickens

I love it when the mint escapes into my julep

4. Spider Flower (and other tall, sturdy perennials).

Tall perennials, once established, tend to do very well with pet chickens. Spider flower, or cleome, looks like some sort of alien flower.It gets taller and taller, and reseeds itself freely… and my chickens rarely bother it.

spider plant, cleome: plants to grow when you keep pet chickens

Also called cleome. These have the benefit of attarcting hummingbirds, and being deer resistant… although the fragrance is on the unpleasant side.

Another sturdy perennial that’s great–if you can find it!–is mullein.

mullein: plants to grow when you keep pet chickens

Of all the plants to grow when you keep pet chickens, mullein is one of my surprise favorites. It comes in many colors, and makes a lovely cottage garden bed

5. Peonies.

Peonies remind me of my grandma; she always had peonies in the spring. They are heavily fragrant, and my chickens don’t seem to be able to do anything to them.

peony: plants to grow when you keep pet chickens

Peonies are great cut flowers

Look how beautiful they are in the morning light!

peonies - plants to grow when you keep pet chickens

They come in many colors, and are extraordinarily low maintenance

One final warning, though: remember that all flocks are different. Not only is the behavior of each breed different, but each chicken has her own quirks and personality and tastes. Furthermore, chickens that have a small run and little to forage are more likely to bother landscape plants. If they’re the only green edible around, you can bet the flock will be at them! On the other hand, if they have a large green area with lots of things to eat and scratch, they will be less focused on your plantings. For all those reasons. It will take some experimentation to find out what works best for your flock.

One Comments
sweetsouthern February 26th, 2015

I love your blog. I referred to it so much before starting my chickens. This has been our first hard winter but we are making it okay hoping for Spring temps soon. I am putting in a box garden this Spring and found this article very helpful as I pick my plants and plan the layout.

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