No sense in paying full price to feed your backyard chickens! Here are over 25 plants to grow in a chicken garden for free chicken feed!
We love finding creative ways to reduce the cost takes to feed our flock and feed our chickens for free! As a side perk, these new ideas often keep hens from becoming bored, diversify their diet, and increase the nutritional value of their eggs.
One of my favorite clever ways to get backyard chickens to work for their own feed is to plant a chicken garden!
What’s a Chicken Garden?
A chicken garden is not the same as letting the chickens in your own garden.
That can work, but often chickens can wreak havoc in the vegetable garden. While they scratch through the top layers looking for bugs, seedlings get uprooted.
My chickens always take a few bites out of every single unripe tomato, leaving the rest to rot on the vine. Which means there are none left for me. They dust bathe in the freshly hilled potatoes, scattering the soil right back out into the path.
Sadly, chickens can destroy all your hard work in the garden pretty easily.
Enter the Chicken Garden.
When you set aside a little garden plot and plant it just for your hens, everybody wins. The chickens get to do what they love to do. And you get to keep all your prized heirloom tomatoes for yourself.
You can specially design permaculture-style rotational gardens and chicken runs or simplify and till up a new plot the chickens will be able to access.
Either way, be sure to choose easy-to-grow plants that chickens love. You don’t want to choose crops that will require too much work from you. (Kinda defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?)
Whether it’s annual vegetables, cereal crops, perennials, shrubs, trees, or even weeds, there are over 25 plants to grow in your chicken garden for free chicken feed!
Grow a Chicken Garden: Plant These for Free Chicken Feed
Annual Vegetables to Grow in a Chicken Garden
While chickens will love to devour many annual vegetables you may typically grow in your garden, some are too much work to bother with only to feed them to the chickens. Especially when there are easier options to grow.
Many of these crops, like lettuce and kale for example will easily re-seed! Try interplanting your garden paths with clover. Chickens love clover too!
- Swiss Chard
- Butternut Squash
- Tomatoes (Perhaps choose the pear or cherry varieties so the chickens don’t hollow out a crater and leave the rest of the tomato to rot on the vine.)
- Sunflowers (While the taller ones yield more seed, maybe shorter varieties would be a better option if you have a flourishing songbird population. The goldfinches clean out our sunflowers long before they’re ready to harvest.)
- Cabbage, or other brassicas (Chickens will eat these, but I love to plant cabbage in the chicken garden as a trap crop for cabbage worms. Then the chickens also get a protein treat!)
Grow Grain for Your Chickens
Cereal crops could provide your hens with the greens they love. Or, later in the season, they will go nuts over the tasty seed at the top of the stems.
Plant Some Once-and-Done Perennials
Perennials are an easy choice for a chicken garden, plant them once and they keep on producing year after year, with very little effort from you!
Perennial brambles and fruiting plants are a great source of food for your chickens. For some of the taller plants, you may be able even glean some fruit for yourself!
Self Seeding Plants
While self seeders are technically not perennials, they do behave in the same way, in that they come back year after year and you don’t have to provide the seeds or starter plants.
Our absolute favorite self-sowing veggie is kale, we planted it in our garden once years ago and it still pops up every spring and produces tons of green goodness for us and for the chickens.
Here are some other options for self seeding vegetables to put in your chicken garden
Trees & Shrubs for the Chicken Garden
Plant taller trees and shrubs in your chicken garden to provide shelter, shade, and food!
Fruit trees give and give in so many ways, not only to you and your chickens, but to the ecosystem too. Trees provide food and shelter for local wildlife, so you’re doing a lot of good by adding some to your property.
Here are some of our favorite trees and shrubs for the chicken garden
- Crabapple Tree
- Siberian Pea Shrub
- Mulberry Tree
Hopefully by now these ideas have you already dreaming up your chicken garden design! It won’t be long before your happy hens will be enjoying garden-fresh goodness too. They’ll be filling your harvest basket full of eggs and your feed bill will reflect the savings!
What will you plant in your chicken garden?