Four important considerations when pairing garden plants with poultry.

Kate Richards Chicken Coop Exterior
© Kate E. Richards/

Providing opportunity to forage or at least search for insects within some foliage is important for every chicken’s health and wellbeing. Free-ranging aside, there are many ways to implement plants into your flock’s routine—even containers and a rotation of select potted plants will provide nourishment and entertainment inside their run. Here avid gardener, homegrown cocktail crafter, and wrangler of chickens Kate Richards breaks down four important considerations when pairing garden plants with poultry.

Forage Zone

Kate Richards Chicken Coop Marigolds Raised Bed
Raised beds can keep your chickens from feasting on your veggie garden.

© Kate E. Richards/

When it comes to a surrounding garden, a foraging area is ideal to include around your coop, especially if you aren’t wanting the chooks to treat your own veggie garden like their own private salad bar. Where the space for two completely separate growing areas isn’t realistic in most urban or suburban areas, she suggests incorporating garden structures and hardscaping such as tall raised beds, protective cloches, fencing, and edging into the mix. The more obstacles your chickens have, the less widespread damage they’ll be able to inflict upon your own garden.

No Tox Life

When it comes to choosing plants that your chickens will be interacting with, it’s important to choose varieties that aren’t toxic to the birds. Chickens will inevitably sample a little bit of everything at one point or another, so Kate advises presenting them with plenty of good nibbling choices vs. other toxic tastes. That being said, be sure to double-check any plants you have or are planning to add to the garden and their health compatibility; even common garden plants such as tomato greens, avocados, and raw beans are deadly to chickens in large quantities.

Protected from Digging

Kate Richards Chicken Coop Garden
Wire cages and trellises will protect fragile plants.

© Kate E. Richards/

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It’s important to select plants that are resilient and naturally durable. The most damaging thing chickens do to your garden is digging and kicking repeatedly. Kate suggests protecting seedlings with wire cages and trellises or even surrounding fragile plants with hardy herbs, such as rosemary or lavender to create a natural protective barrier.

Herbaceous Hubs

Chicken in Garden
Choose your plants wisely.

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Aromatic herbs, such as lavender, mint, and rosemary are not only easy to grow and nice for chickens to nibble on, but they also help deter various pests around the coop while providing medicinal benefits for your flock. Kate likes to incorporate pineapple sage due to its large size and showy red blooms. Her chickens love to dust-bathe under it and the plant is strong enough to stand up to the abuse. 

Other herb favorites include African blue basil, marigolds, and nasturtiums which all aid in fighting disease while improving egg production, proving that the mindful selection of plants can be beneficial to your overall garden, wildlife habitat, and chicken flock’s health.