April 11, 2014

You Can Have Flowers AND Chickens!

What you can grow that your backyard chickens won't trample, eat or use as monkey bars:

My favorite of all plants is the Butterfly Bush.  Easy to grow, gorgeous and towards the end of the summer hundreds and hundreds of butterflies are attracted to them. Lots of bees also. I've never seen one of my chickens catch a butterfly but they run around in circles watching them = free entertainment!

Just getting started!

About 3 - 4 ft tall.
Butterflies by the hundreds!
They don't seem to care for the leaves or blooms but they love the  shade and cover the bushes provide. When I first planted them I covered the ground around the base with mulch. I know, crazy, huh? But I was a newbie chicken keeper and just wasn't thinking about what they would do to the mulch. To keep them from scratching down to the roots and doing damage, I encircled the plants with chicken wire. Once they were established enough, I took the wire away. They go under them for shade or for a safe place and may scratch a little then but they loose interest fast…on to bigger, more daring feats.
Sneaky Julie!

I have a large herb garden and most of the things I grow they really love! I have learned the trick is to plant everything close and lush. I temporarily put chicken wire around the bed till everything gets growing well, then remove it. They may nibble around the perimeter but that seems to keep them happy and out of the middle. Lemon Basil is their absolute favorite. They will leave them looking like they've been mowed down in a matter of minutes. To solve this problem I just plant lemon basil in containers. I can easily move them around so they get proper sun but our little flockers can't get to them!
No room for playing in the flower beds!
Calendula and Marigolds are also beautiful and fairly safe from the flockers once they (the plants) get growing. They need to be dead-headed frequently so I am always cutting and picking and drying. I will toss a handful of herbs and flowers to the chickens as a treat and they love it! Freezing these herbs in water-filled ice cube trays is another way to help the chicken stay hydrated in the heat! The nesting boxes all get freshened frequently with handfuls of dry herbs and flowers. I'm not sure but I think they appreciate this gesture!

All the help you need!
 And best of all, at the end of the growing season, they clean up the bed for me.  No leftover plant stems and vines, no weeds, just lovely, rich, turned and tilled and fertilized soil!
Who could ask for anything more?

For more ideas and tips to help with your chickens follow us at Community Chickens!

Happy Greening!