Gardening with Free-Range Chickens For Dummies
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You may want to grow grains for your chickens and yourself as a food source. Grains need space, a pasture, or an available fallow chicken zone. Grains need time to reach maturity before harvesting, threshing, and storing them. Another option is to let chickens free-range after the grain has reached maturity.

Grains vary with growing requirements and harvest needs. Grain stalks and plant parts can also be used for chicken bedding, composting, and mulch.

If you are planning on growing grains and harvesting them for your consumption. Harvest your grains first, and then graze your chickens after.

This also goes for the seed-producing plants we list in the next section. Harvest for yourself first, and then free-range your chickens.

Grains aren’t always the most sustainable crops, and can take a lot of nitrogen out of the soil. Consider growing grain crops alternately with legumes and cover crops like alfalfa, annual rye, birdsfoot broadleaf trefoil, buckwheat, clovers, kale, and mustard to replenish nutrients.

  • Barley: Hordeum vulgare. Cool-season, full-sun annual. This grain can be used as a cover crop, too. Chickens can eat barley whole without processing. Barley, in a culinary use, can be used in soups and as a pilaf.

  • Corn: Zea mays. Warm-season, full-sun annual. Easy to grow, but requires a lot of water, and can be prone to pests in a home garden. Fresh summer corn is a treat for you and your chickens.

  • Oats: Avena nuda. Cool-season, full-sun annual. The hull-less variety is easier for threshing. Soak oats in water to soften them before giving to chickens. Chickens also enjoy warm oatmeal on cool mornings.

  • Rye: Secale cereale. Cool-season, full-sun annual. A hardy plant that tolerates poor soil and thrives in pastures. Chickens like free-ranging in rye. Rye berries, as a culinary grain, can be ground for flour and baking uses or boiled to soften and add to cereals and salads.

  • Wheat: Triticum spp. Full-sun annual. Easy to grow, but harvesting is time-consuming. Wheat is a good forage crop for chickens. Wheat spring blooms attract beneficial insects. Wheat grass is young wheat plants that can be grown for chickens in garden flats, if space is a problem. Wheat grass is popular juiced. Wheat berries are nutritious, and as a culinary grain can be ground for flour, or cooked whole like rye.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Bonnie Jo Manion has been featured in national garden magazines with her gardens, organic practices, chickens, and designs. Follow Bonnie at Rob Ludlow is the owner of, a top source on chicken raising, and the coauthor of Raising Chickens For Dummies.

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