Gardening with Free-Range Chickens For Dummies
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Each layer of your chicken garden offers a chance to grow beautiful edibles. Take advantage of the different heights of plants to provide a stunning layered landscape and a multitude of good eats for your chickens.

Tallest layer

The tallest layer, also referred to as overstory, is the uppermost layer of foliage or canopy in a chicken garden. Examples include large trees like fig, macadamia, and persimmon trees. Chickens generally don’t harm these trees, and appreciate the shelter and protection they provide them.

Mid layer

Not all edible trees are tall and part of the overstory. Examples of mid-sized trees are fruit trees such as apple, pear, and peach. These trees require sun and should be planted just outside the edge of the overstory canopy.

Many edible trees come in standard and dwarf sizes. Consider buying a dwarf-sized edible tree if you have a small space, you aren’t feeding a large family, and you have limited time for garden chores. Some dwarf-sized edible trees are excellent candidates for containers and pots placed on a patio or in a courtyard. Always research your trees for size at maturity, optimum zones, and specific requirements before buying.

Shrub layer

Shrubs are a foundation in a chicken garden, because chickens like to spend time under these since they provide shade and protection, and they can provide food in the form of fruit, seeds, and berries. Generally, chickens don’t harm mature shrubs. Some trees can be grown as shrubs, like the pomegranate and pineapple guava. More examples of shrubs are blueberry bushes and gooseberry bushes.

Climbing vines

Climbing vines can be annuals or perennials. They require some type of support or structure, such as a small tree, an arbor, a fence, or poles. Climbing indeterminate tomato vines is an example of an annual vine. Grape and kiwi are examples of perennial vines. Chickens enjoy these fruits.

Perennials, herbs, vegetables, and annuals layer

Chickens enjoy eating edibles from this layer of the garden immensely. You can intersperse this layer throughout the entire chicken garden.

All kinds of greens can be planted such as lettuce, mustard, spinach, kale, and Swiss chard. Some herb choices are bronze fennel, lavender, nasturtium, and parsley. Berry buses are great too, some examples are blackberries and raspberries.

Groundcover layer

The groundcover layer of a chicken garden can fill in as a substitute for a lawn or a lawn-like area. Groundcovers can prevent soil erosion, suppress weeds, and thrive in hard-to-plant areas. Groundcovers can be beautiful, and smell wonderful as you step on them. Many groundcovers are edible, and some are chicken-resistant, such as rosemary (trailing type) and sweet woodruff. Not all edible groundcovers are able to withstand being walked on.

A good example of edible ground cover is alpine strawberries, low bush blueberry, and cranberry bushes. Please keep in mind you must have suitable conditions to grow these.

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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