Safe Wild Plants for Your Free Range Chickens
This list of safe wild plants for your free range chickens will help reduce your feed bill and give your flock variety in their diet.
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If you’re thinking about raising a flock of free-range chickens this year, you already probably know the work that goes into keeping the birds happy and healthy. Free-ranging chickens are a great undertaking for a committed animal lover. They are fun to watch, come in a variety of characteristics and personalities, and are a sound investment when it comes to building a self-sustaining homestead.
If you are serious about keeping your chickens safe, though, you need to know what plants your free-range chickens are free to eat. Unlike other animals, which have evolved to identify harmful foods, a chicken will eat anything it can get its beak into. Green algae is the most toxic risk in the barnyard, which is why it is so important to maintain a fresh and clean water supply. Furthermore, any insecticide will pose a risk to your birds. They should be kept out of gardens or other areas where insecticides are used. Potato sprouts, rhubarb leaves, black nightshade, corn cockle, and meadow buttercups are also dangerous as well as some fungi.
There are, however, many plants that chickens can benefit from. Chicken-safe flowers include begonias, day lilies, marigolds, orchids, petunias, thistles, violets, and zinnias. Many free-range flock owners lament their inability to keep flower beds because they become literal salad-bars for their chickens. Chickens love the taste of flowers and are especially fond of dandelions and sunflowers.
Hostas and Yuccas make for yummy foliage treats for your chickens and are totally safe for them to eat. If you have an herb garden, you should expect to share any mint, lavender, catnip, oregano, or rosemary you may grow. Not only are these herbs as delicious for free ranging chickens as they are for people, they are completely safe for your flock.
Shrubs and vines aren’t off limits, either, when it comes to the smorgasbord of foods your free-range flock will help themselves to. Completely chicken-safe options included dogwood, fig, bamboo, lilac, juniper, grape ivy, rose, Swedish ivy, and Virginia creeper. You will, however, want to keep them safeguarded from any thick ivy where snakes or other predators may be lurking. The beds of ivy and shrubs make ideal places for animals to lay in wait for their prey.
Finally, there are many safe trees that your chickens will also enjoy free ranging from. You may find your flock hanging out around elm trees, eucalyptus trees, magnolias, pines, sassafras, willow, and palm. Chickens are especially fond of crab apple trees. They love to eat both the blossoms and the apples, themselves, once they fall from the trees. Because the apple blossoms also attract caterpillars, bees, and butterflies, they also serve as bait for more protein-rich dietary options. In short, a crab apple tree makes the perfect buffet!
Of course, it is always wise to get a second opinion from a veterinarian in your area who specializes in poultry. Toxicity of plants varies greatly from one species to the next and only a localized expert will know exactly what you need to be watchful for on your homestead.
Click here to read about an assortment of safe wild plants for your free range chickens: