Gardening with Free-Range Chickens For Dummies
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If you allow your chickens to have free range to forage, be sure to acquaint yourself with the more common ornamentals and edibles that are mildly toxic or poisonous to chickens. You’ll find a variety of plants that fall into these categories.

Always err on the side of caution; if you suspect a plant is poisonous to your chickens, rid it from your garden. Many plants have toxic properties that act as a type of innate defense to help the plants survive.

Poisonous ornamental plants

Even though many ornamental plants are mildly toxic or poisonous to chickens, chickens are highly unlikely to eat them while free-ranging. Although sheep, goats, and other livestock animals will eat toxic plants, chickens rarely do.

When chickens eat something poisonous, it’s usually because someone unintentionally fed them something poisonous or underfed them while they were confined and exposed to something poisonous.

The following are some of the more common ornamental plants potentially toxic, yet unlikely that chickens would freely eat these.

  • Azalea: Rhododendron spp.

  • Boxwood: Buxus spp.

  • Buttercup family: Ranunculaceae. This family includes anemone, clematis, delphinium, and ranunculus

  • Cherry laurel: Prunus laurocerasus

  • Daffodil: Narcissus spp.

  • Daphne: Daphne spp.

  • Foxglove: Digitalis spp.

  • Honeysuckle: Lonicera spp.

  • Hydrangea: Hydrangea spp.

  • Ivy: Hedera spp.

  • Jasmine: Jasminum spp.

  • Lantana: Lantana spp.

  • Lily of the valley: Convallaria majalis

  • Mexican poppy: Argemone mexicana

  • Monkshood: Aconitum napellus

  • Mountain laurel: Kalmia latifolia

  • Oleander: Nerium oleander

  • Rhododendron: Rhododendron spp.

  • Sweet pea: Lathyrus spp.

  • Tobacco: Nicotiana spp.

  • Tulip: Tulipa

  • Wisteria: Wisteria spp.

  • Yew: Taxus spp.

Poisonous edible plants

The following list contains suggestions for edibles to avoid with hand-feeding and free-ranging chickens:
  • Avocado skin and pits contain persin, which is toxic to chickens.

  • Avoid citrus juice and skins.

  • Don’t give chickens any edible containing salt, sugar, coffee, or liquor.

  • Uncooked raw or dried beans contain hemaglutin, which is poisonous to chickens.

  • Raw green potato skins contain solanine, which is poisonous to chickens.

  • Onions are a poor food to give to chickens because onions flavor eggs. Large quantities of onions can be harmful to chickens, affecting their red blood cells, causing hemolytic anemia or Heinz anemia.

  • Avoid feeding or free-ranging chickens specific unshelled nuts of walnuts (Juglans spp.), black walnuts (Juglans nigrs), hazelnuts (Corylus), and pecans (Carya illinoinensis).

  • Don’t give your chickens leaves of rhubarb, potato, or tomato plants.

Deadly poisonous plants found in pastures

These plants are not only extremely poisonous to poultry, but also to many other types of livestock and humans. This is not an inclusive list, and be aware that these plants can be found in other areas besides pastures, such as meadows, wilderness areas, and sometimes in gardens as volunteers. These are the types of plants you absolutely should never expose your chickens to:
  • Black locust: Robinia pseudoacacia

  • Bladderpod: Glottidium vasicarium

  • Death Camas: Zigadenus spp.

  • Castor bean: Ricinus communis

  • European black nightshade: Solanum nigrum

  • Corn cockle: Agrostemma githago

  • Horsenettle: Datura stramonium

  • Milkweed: Asclepias tuberosa, and other varieties

  • Mushrooms: Amanita spp. Death Cap, Destroying Angel, Panther Cap. Extremely deadly and poisonous if ingested.

  • Jimsonweed: Datura stramonium

  • Poison hemlock: Conium maculatum

  • Pokeberry: Phytolacca americana

  • Rosary pea: Arbus precatorius

  • Water Hemlock: Cicuta spp.

  • White snakeroot: Ageratina altissima

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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