How to Turn Berry Patches into Chicken-Friendly Edible Areas
Nothing tastes like fresh blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries out of the garden. Hopefully, you have a spot in your chicken garden to grow some of these delectable berries. Berries can come in many forms and can be integrated throughout your chicken garden.
Your chickens love these berries as much as your family and friends do. You may have to net, temporarily fence, or change chicken runs or zones when the berries are ripe!
Planning your berry patch
Berries are a good shrub to have in a chicken garden, because they are great food for chickens, these shrubs often provide shelter and protection with their thorny canes and can be grown as barrier hedges. Many types of berries grow in an upright form and can be trained over arbors, fences, and trellises. Most berries take full sun, but some varieties will take part shade.
Chickens can free-range amongst the berry patch for most of the year. When it is ripe berry season, you can choose to net your berry shrubs from your chickens, or graze them in another run or zone. Chickens if allowed to, will eat berries they can reach, and berries that have fallen on the ground.
Strawberries, are low to the ground and are best protected within your fenced vegetable garden, and not given access to your chickens. Alpine strawberries, also low to the ground, used as ground cover should be left for your chickens only, avoiding fresh manure exposure, and potential illness.
Examples of berries in the chicken garden
Here is a short list of berries to consider growing in your garden for yourself, and your chickens:
Alpine strawberry: Fragaria spp. Perennial plants. Zones 4–11. Surprising ground cover for difficult-to-maintain areas. Prefer morning sun or partial shade. Doesn’t tolerate being walked on. Can be used in potted containers.
Blueberries: Vaccinium spp. Deciduous shrubs. Zones 3–10, vary by species. A wonderful addition to any garden. Blueberry fruit is high in antioxidants. Some varieties are four-season interest. They like full sun. Depending on variety, can be used in many forms such as a shrub border, hedge, screen, groundcover, and in a container. Like to be kept moist and in acidic soil.
Brambleberry (blackberry and raspberry): Rubus spp. Deciduous bushy or tall vining plants. Blackberry: Zones 5–9. Raspberry: Zones 3–10. They like full sun. Canes are biennial, which means they have a two-year life. Fruit is delightful and can be used fresh from the garden in many ways. They can be considered a barrier hedge, because stems can be prickly. The trailing types can be trained over structures.
Cranberry and lingonberry: Vaccinium spp. Cranberry: Evergreen shrubs or vines. Zones 3–7. Lingonberry: Evergreen shrubs. Zones 2–7. Both need full sun. Plants require a lot of moisture. Cranberries are harvested in fall, and lingonberries in mid-summer to fall. Both of these plants make wonderful ornamental groundcovers. Ideal garden conditions for these shrubs are cool climate, with moist acidic well-drained soil. Chickens love berries from these plants.
Currant (gooseberry): Ribes spp. Deciduous shrubs. Zones 3–8. They like sun. Nice size shrub between three and six feet tall. Most currant shrubs are thornless. Gooseberries are thorny and can be used as an informal barrier hedge. They can also be groomed upright as focal plant or sprawled over a structure. Harvesting can be time consuming, so why not let your chickens enjoy them?
Strawberry: Fragaria spp. Perennial plants. Zones 4–11. Many varieties available. Full sun. Appreciate mulching with straw to keep berries off soil. Choose day-neutral varieties that peak in early summer, and continue to produce fruit into the fall.
Strawberry plants need to be replenished every three years. Plant in rows or a container like a strawberry pot. Best to plant these strawberries within the enclosure of a vegetable garden, or fenced off from your chickens.