How to Prepare an Edible Garden for Chickens
Edibles come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors! These edible layers can be a major part of a layered landscape and a key component in your chicken garden.
Edible landscaping, with co-mingling herbs and vegetables within ornamental gardens, is exploding in popularity today. Be very careful. If you’re practicing this trend, always remember to use food-safe products and practices. Doing so is critically important with free-ranging chickens.
Thanks to visionary landscape designers articulating their garden designs, the edible landscape trend is continuing to escalate. People are now aware how beautiful edibles can be in a landscape. It touches people who have limited space to garden and would rather plant edibles that give them food and beauty, rather than solely ornamental landscape.
Small is the new big, with small gardening spaces, container gardening, vertical gardening that takes advantage of tall narrow spaces, and many new small by spry dwarf plants coming available.
Edible landscaping is actually not a new concept. It has been around since the Romans incorporated beauty and function in their landscapes. The olive tree is the number one symbol of this concept providing serene beauty of the tree, and olives and olive oil for nourishment.
Preparing edibles for chickens
Not all edibles can be foraged by chickens; some need to be prepared and served up by their human caretakers. Make sure you know what edibles to feed to your chickens and how to prepare these edibles for your chickens.
Some edibles, such as pomegranates and passion fruit, have tough skins; crack and open them to the seeds before you give them to chickens. Round fruits — such as melons, cantaloupe, and apples — are simply better cut up for chickens to access and eat more easily. Chickens can better consume peeled root edibles, like carrots, rather than trying to eat them whole.
Some edibles have toxic or poisonous qualities to chickens. Although tomatoes are an edible fruit that chickens love, their leaves are toxic to them. Raw potato skins contain solanine and are poisonous to chickens. Rhubarb leaves are toxic to chickens. Avocado skins and pits are toxic to chickens.
Foraging for edibles
Chickens are very good at foraging and seeking their natural diet within their environment. Chickens will eat just about any edible that is available to them. Chickens have favorite foods, just like children. In time, you will come to know which foods these are.
On the flip side, chickens have an innate ability to sense what is good for them and what might be potentially toxic or poisonous. Chickens can live in gardens and environments that have plants with potential toxic qualities. Chickens usually will leave toxic plants alone, meaning not eating them. However, there is always the exception to the rule.
Chickens love tender succulent greens. You can choose to grow these in your vegetable garden for yourself, and hand feed them to your chickens, or plant them amongst your various chicken runs or zones for your chickens to graze on.
Your lawn is an edible green, perfect for chickens, and rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Make sure you are maintaining an organic lawn for your chickens and not using chemicals which could be harmful to your chickens.
You can plant all sorts of greens, mixing them with your ornamental plants in your garden, runs, or zones such as lettuces, New Zealand spinach, Swiss chard, and arugula. Swiss chard Bright Lights is a highly ornamental Swiss chard, and chickens like Swiss chard. Arugula is another favorite of chickens and self sows in the garden.
Low growing edibles such as those just mentioned, planted for your free-ranging chickens, should not be eaten for human consumption. Low growing edibles could come into contact with fresh chicken manure, which could make you potentially very ill.