chicken-proof plants?

meliflora(z7 WA)August 16, 2004

Does any one know of any chicken-proof plants? I need to find some plants for a lawn bed that the chickens will not destroy. I've heard that they don't bother lavender, true geraniums, plumbago, roses, and conifers. Any truth to this? Any other suggestions? Thanks a bunch for your help.

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I have 6 chickens who get to forage in my yard regularly. Iwould say about 20% o fthe time. First off, any plant that is recently planted seem sto be a target. THe chickens LOVE to go explore/rake over areas of hte garden I have recently worked...since it stirs up the bugs and worms. SO if you have transplanted stuff wyou will wnat ot keep the chickens away from those areas for a few weeks until the plants are established.

They love getting into my raised beds and "grooming" my veggies..the tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries, lettuces, basil, etc. I compromise and try to keep them penned up or at least away from the veggies until they are bigger and can tolerate a little grazing. I have permanently netted my strawberries since it was not fun finding chicken poop there.

They also zero in on edible landscaping incorported into flower beds (Rumex, chard, beries).

IT seems any plant that is well rooted and mature can tolerate chickens scratching sroud its base, along as they have a large area and you can allow them to move around freely and not linger in on e area for too long.
It also helps to provide them a dust wallow outsid eof their coop in a shaded area...otherwise they will contrive to create their own somewhere you do't want them.

I love my living garden art. I have a Silver lace wyandotte, buff orp, rhode island red, auracaunas, cochin)

Good luck,

    Bookmark   August 20, 2004 at 10:06AM
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Oh I forgot to mention it seems easiest to let them out in late afternoon or early evening a few hours before sunset because then they put themselves away at dusk, rather than let them out at dawn and then they have all day to roam the yard. Have you ever tried to round up cickens? Pretty funny actually!


    Bookmark   August 20, 2004 at 10:09AM
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Bethany_Z5(Rural Z5)

They will munch on lush established plants. They will devour hostas and like plants and their constant scrathing ruins any nice wood chip mulching you might have. I have 10 arces and they have alot of woods, fields and lawn area that provides plenty of grass and bugs but they almost always head straight for the flower beds and vegetable garden.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2004 at 8:17AM
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meliflora(z7 WA)

I appreciate the help from gardeners who have experience with chickens. I've had such a hard time finding information on this topic. Thank you. Thank you.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2004 at 12:17PM
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You can build them a chicken tractor, which is a pen you can move about the property. You control where they scratch and forage and fertilize.


    Bookmark   September 3, 2004 at 12:31AM
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chickens need time, to watch and learn about them.
it took me about 2 years 'till i understood how to live with them in harmony

i belive that chicken tractor is maybe nice for work,
but it's not a nice way to keeep and raise chiks.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2004 at 8:48AM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

That's a very nice site, Retreatgal!

I've been letting my chickens loose in the garden area for the last few days, as there's not much for them to harm now. So, where were they today when I looked out the sliding glass door? Right outside, staring in!


    Bookmark   November 10, 2004 at 10:09PM
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sandy0225(z5 Indiana)

I found making a strange noise and throwing rocks at them works well. Then later on you can just make the noise with no rocks and they still run! It works with my cat, too...

    Bookmark   November 17, 2004 at 2:43PM
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Oh, sandy0225, that's funny. D'ya think it would work for my kids, too? ha ha ha

meliflora: my chickens eat everything -- potted or planted in the ground -- they can access, except my regular geranium plant (although that's a *little* battered) and canna.


    Bookmark   November 24, 2004 at 10:10PM
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Oh! One note about the sounds that move us ... when I go outside with *any* food for them (feed or kitchen scraps) I consistently call out "baaaak bok bok baaaak" (add your own emphasis), and it also works when I don't have food. So, if I peek out the window and see them somewhere they shouldn't be (like they found the pot of chives I accidently left on the porch table) I can call out to them and they drop whatever they're up to and run toward me.

They are such funny girls when they run like that!

    Bookmark   November 24, 2004 at 10:13PM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

Chickens drove me crazy when I let them free-roam. I kept them also in a chicken tractor. Then I switched to ducks because they are quieter, I like the eggs better, and they don't scratch as much so they don't tear up my lawn as much. They get moved onto fresh grass a couple of times each day. One Permaculture idea I saw was to have 2 fenced areas and a house in between, and let them work over one area one year and grow vegetables in the other, then switch the next year.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2004 at 5:22AM
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AmandaAlna(z4 ME)

I've kept 4-6 mixed hens for the past 4 years and they've had free range of the back yard (about 1/4 acre fenced in for the dogs). Of the 22 acres we own, about 3 of them are tree-less, so I can afford to experiment with the plants I offer to the chickens. (All the good plants live outside the fence!) Well, as you can imagine, the hens loved this little agreement. There was quite a number of my plantings that they just couldn't get enough of. Cherry tomatoes, strawberries, parsley, iris, and hosta were some of these. On the other hand, there was quite a number that they left alone: sedum, mint, basil, lavender, cumin, rosemary, thyme, and (amusingly enough) hens and chicks. Anything succulent or with a strong herbal fragrance was left alone. Anything with red fruit or that tasted somewhat like green grass was devoured within the hour. I'm not sure if one gardener's experience with one flock of hens is enough to proove these findings, but I've had luck with this formula since I figured it out: If it's smelly, plant it; if it tastes like grass, don't!

When they weren't eating the plants, my hens were scratching them to death. So, I mulched around the more delicate roots with large rough gravel. It's uncomfortable on their little tootsies so they tend to give up before they start. Also, I picked a dry, off-spotlight area of the yard and let them go at it. I stir it up once in a while and toss out a rotten package of pine mulch. They love it. I might add to their fun next year with a fast-growing grass-flavored ground cover. Since I took away all their favorite potted-on-the-deck snacks, they just wander around on the deck with a blank look on their faces. Besides, I need to step up my garden defense since my husband just ordered 26 MORE HENS! Oh boy...

    Bookmark   December 10, 2004 at 8:38AM
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I'm with Hemnancy, switch to ducks, better eggs, better layers, way less destructive and you can say goodbye to slugs, snails and ear wigs. If you are stuck on chickens you might try the five toed varieties. Supposedly the fifth toe makes them a bit awkward and less likely to scratch...supposedly!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2005 at 9:39AM
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kevarose(Kangaroo Valley)

My hens (about 10 - rhode ir, isa browns, silkie bantams, wine dot) and 10 indian runner and khaki campbell ducks free range all day every day - I have 2 ponies and a horse and they spend a lot of time scratching in the manure and eat a lot of worms - they also spend a lot of time in my rose and herb gardens and if there is anything 'new", like the new bearded iris rhizomes, I just put 3 little stakes around it. The 3 Isa Browns are BRAZEN and now can escape out to the front 2 acres and explore there - ignoring dogs and the like. I adore them and love to listen to their "conversations" and some of the hens are quite tame now. The eggs are simply divine - scramble a half dozen and you will not be able to eat for 8 hours or more (I have a small B&B and the guests love the eggs and tolerate the chooks wandering around the pool and whereever). Life without chooks would be a bit sad I think - I sure could never eat a store-bought egg after these mega-meals full of protein and goodies. I say chooks and ducks - oi! oi! oi! as the Aussie call goes.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2005 at 4:24AM
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I love to free range my 35ish fancy bantams but they are so destructive to the garden beds. I would love to find a natural chicken repellent to discourage thier attraction to the area. Any suggestions or experience is welcome. I am considering adding a few runner ducks to the flock. thanks

    Bookmark   March 26, 2006 at 2:50AM
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We just fenced in our garden area to keep the chooks out. Last year, I was lucky if I got to the ripe tomatoes first. They didn't touch em til they were ripe--and then--look out! And they loved the leaves of my pepper plants. Oh, did I mention the cukes and squash and melons? Hence the fence around the WHOLE garden area this year. I love to free range, but we have chicken tractors as well. And if they spy a way into the they go for the picking season!=) Chooks, gotta love 'em. Oh, about herbs: mine like basil.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 12:43AM
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In a garden that I care for on the Mendocino coast of California, last fall, a young chicken flock completely destroyed the beds that were not fenced off. I was surprised at what they had devastated. Prickly pear cactus, irises, lemon balm. They were all plants that the deer would not touch. I walked around picking up all the bulbs that had been scratched up and noted what the chickens had left alone. Seeing a theme developing I added a few plants of my own peppermint, chives, garlic. As I was replanting their favorite bed (I was 2/3 the way finished) the chickens were released for their daily outing and made a bee-line for it. I had placed large rocks and bricks around the transplants. I watched with some fascination as the chickens descended upon the bed, walking on the plants and rocks trying to peck here and there and soon leaving. One old hen remained, she turned a malevolent eye towards me, as if to say, "This was a really good spot and you ruined it!" She evenly left also. The beds have come back, better than ever, and the bulbs bloomed. The chickens really did a nice job leveling everything out, eating all the bugs and killing the weeds. The beds are now composed of forget-me-nots, irises, daffodils, red hot poker, woolly lambs ears, lemon balm, crown-of-jewels, bells of Ireland, garlic, chives, mints, potato vine, and some sages. Over the winter, I filled the voids between the replants with pruning from plants that the chickens found most distasteful. The real trick is armouring the bed with rocks around new transplants, or pieces of heavy wood. These can be moved as plants become larger. I hope this helps. Oh, by the way, the chickens are all fine and have found other foraging spots.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 5:44PM
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About 60 stray chickens (and roosters) roam my neighborhood. I've contacted every agency in the county for help in eliminating the problem. They tell me that it is the owner's responsibility but no one will confess. The sheriff's office said that they belong to me when they are on my property and I can kill them by any means I choose, short of shooting a gun because this is a totally residential area of small lots. I have very little grass because of shade trees and I am losing that due to 60+ chickens. I saw new baby chicks yesterday. Even the aligator farm won't come get them HELP! What can I do?

    Bookmark   October 23, 2007 at 8:28AM
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buffburd(z5 NY)


Sounds like you could use a few of the stray cats that live around my neighborhood. I'm sure they'd be glad to help out with your problem.


    Bookmark   November 23, 2007 at 11:13AM
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Well, if you can do whatever when they come on your property. Look into getting some live traps. Coop em up and do whatever (sell them to the gator farm? They probably just don't want to spend the time trying to round them up.)

    Bookmark   November 24, 2007 at 2:45PM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

There really aren't any chicken-proof plants, because although they they will eat some, it's their BIG FEET that do so much of the damage.

I got a heavy breed of hen (Buff Orpingtons) so I could fence off areas with low fences (2 ft). The heavy chickens don't fly much or very high, and I can just step over a short fence and don't have to make a gate.


    Bookmark   December 8, 2007 at 12:39AM
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drasaid(zone 8)

Wormwood! That stuff is poisonous! They also catch and kill smaller snakes, which after really only halfway killing they devour (you can see the snake wiggling in the craw. Bleah.)
I have put stuff in pots, higher than they can jump. Anything they can get to they will eat or turn over (some bigger rocks they have rolled away. Fabric is a joke; they just peck and ravel it away.)
I move the pots and they eat the bugs under them. They are fond of coffee grinds for rolling in; if you get some from Starbucks toss them where you would prefer the birds to dust bathe. They come away smelling nice and they have made a hole where you want, not where they choose.
All the help I can give, sorry.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2007 at 3:10PM
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Mine have munched all till bare except for snapdragons and cyclamen. I had lavendar in pots and they dug those up in an effort to scratch for yummy bugs. I placed large rocks in the pots all around the base of the plants and so far that has worked.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 8:56PM
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My neighbors have free roaming chickens and we have lived here for 3 years and they constantly come in my yard and dig stuff up. I didn't say anything for 3 years but did so the other day. My husband is furious, he has been reseeding the lawn and they just eat the seed right up, and I have my flower gardens in the front looking real nice and don't want them in there. But when I said something to my neighbors which are great people, she said Oh, I can't see how you can complain when you were feeding them, I said yea I was throwing bread out the back door to keep them out of the front yard where we just put in grass seed, that kinda erked me. Regardless if I were to throw food out there or not they would be here. I can't even put bird feed in my feeders or there right there scratching up what falls. I don't think it's right that they just let them come in my yard and destroy things and they see them over here and just do nothing.Am I wrong?I like a nice yard and garden. Now we are getting ready to do the whole back yard and I sure as hell don't feel like chasing chickens all day. I turn the hose on and every time they come here I squirt them and they run, but who feels like looking out for chickens all day, like I have nothing better to do. Is there any new ideas out there besides a fence to keep them away. I saw those things that you put on a tree that senses when some kinda animal walks near it, it will make a high pitched noise, does anyone no if they would work on chickens? I don't no, i'm just very upset because my husband does all this work for nothing and grass seed isn't cheap, oh and the neighbors gave us a big bag of grass seed and told me to give it to my husband and maybe that would make him happy., I thought that was just ignorant like I had no businees complaining. Well i guess now they won't talk to us and no more free eggs. I don't care about the free eggs, i just want them to do something about them always over here, i was up at 6:30 this morning squirting chickens. Is there a law against chickens roaming all over? Sorry to all you chicken lovers, I don't mean to be a you Know what, I like them too but I like my yard to look nice also. Thankyou, for any suggestions. And don't say to move. LOL.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 7:22AM
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I feel for you. Our chickens free-range the neighborhood, but we give eggs to appease. The neighbors comment that they are fun to watch, and beg for eggs. When chickens eat seeds, they poop out some seeds which grow amazing plants, pre-fertilized, as it were. When we started free-ranging our hens, there was not a plant, not even a weed in the whole neighborhood. Dry, acid sandy soil, so no one gardened. I had to put a chicken wire fence around our garden. I also found that when I plant a flower out in the open, I put 3 brick bats around the flower until it gets established, then the hens will not bother. After some years of hen poop, things are growing like crazy, except for the neighbors who have dogs fenced in and do not get the poop. I feel bad for you.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 4:33PM
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Denny, you might want to try the scarecrow sprinkler. It has a motion detector and will spray water when it is triggered.

Here is a link that might be useful: Scarecrow Sprinkler

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 5:07PM
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No chicken proof plants really, but you can control the amount of time on lawn or pasture. Scratching combined with their droppings will destruct anything growing if kept on the same ground for more than a few days depending on size of area & density of chickens.

When the kids were young we let the chickens and ducks free range in our fenced... part grass part woodland backyard with mostly native plantings with a few hardy perennials around a fir tree. No cultivated beds or precious plants. Containers on the deck & we disliked stepping on droppings, so we blocked access with a piece of plywood. I didn't attempt to grow plants for chickens or keep chickens from plants as they couldn't do much damage to forest underbrush and actually kept the weeds down where now I hand pull them.

Length of time varied from 30-60 min. prior to sunset to all day depending on the weather conditions & seasons. Wet weather & winter meant no ranging. Dry weather & spring growing grass meant longer times.

If the grass wasn't growing back fast enough to keep up with their scratching ways we would reduce time, reseed, & rake smooth. Chickens loved the swingset worn areas for dust baths, so that became mud in rain.

Duration also dependent on the breeds kept & numbers of chickens. Featherlegged bantams scratched less than the clean legged production hens.

Now, ten + years later still raising chickens, ducks, rabbits, & doves, but they stay in their pens most of the time. The outside chicken run has about 6" of pea gravel to control drainage, but does build up some mud over time in wet weather as they have tilled the pea gravel with their droppings. Our rainy climate washes away a lot of the manure from the gravel, so it's not really used in our gardens other than when we remove some of the muddy parts.

Ducks are in raised pens to keep raccoons out. Young chicks have a separate chick pen with outside run some years & other years are inside their own coop, but herded outside to a movable 6x6 net covered chain link dog kennel during part of the day. Frequency determined by grass durability & weather dependent. Wet weather = mud on our soils in part sun conditions.

Swingset & free ranging are long gone now as I've taken over the backyard now. Paver patio, 3 portable fountains, large containers, one raised bed, 6x8 greenhouse wood chip paths, large mixed island beds & a much smaller lawn.

Not really permaculture because we bring in purchased feed & bedding and then when soiled haul the bedding + manure from pens to the garden for composting.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 8:16PM
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I found this site while searching for chicken-proof plants. I'm still smiling after reading your posts. We have 17 hens who are allowed into our fenced back yard for 2-3 hours before sunset. Needless to say, they are eating most hostas are "cut" back for the winter. The pansies were gone long ago, etc. We live on an acre. Chickens were my husband's idea, but I've become the chicken lady. Really enjoy them. Love their soothing sounds and their funny ways. Appreciate the stories and hints!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2011 at 3:00PM
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Hi...don't know if anyone is still reading this thread, but we found that there is NO PLANT that stands up to chickens. Liriope comes the closest, helleborus, ginger, arum, and daffodils are not eaten, but the earth is scratched up all around them so roots/bulbs are exposed and sometimes even dug up. We have a yard that used to contain hundreds of plant varieties, and a lovely green lawn (maintained mostly as wide paths and visual break from all the various landscape/garden areas) as well. The yard and gardens used to provoke constant compliments and constant "Oh my gosh you guys have a botanical garden here"! comments, but since the arrival of the chickens the lawn is GONE,not a single blade of grass remains, and only a hundred or less plants survived (and would now be gone as well, if we hadn't eventually relegated the chickens to the back part of the yard). Even there, they have pulled so much of the soil down the hill, we have an extra 2-3 ft. at the bottom that must be continually carted back up the hill, only to have it drug down again within a month or so. So far, terracing has had no effect. After 2 years of attempting to return the small lawn areas to its glorious green, we are giving up and considering making it all liriope with paths meandering through it. Our bottom line...NO chickens in the yard/garden, unless you want to end up with hardpan, barren, brown, and dead above the soil. A chicken tractor might work if you move it often enough. The chickens are MUCH less fun when you realize they have ruined years (oh...only 25-30 yrs.) of plant collecting, gardening, etc. We will be getting rid of ours unless the egg laying becomes much more prolific this year with our 'out with the old, in with the new' plans. At this point, it costs twice as much to house and feed them as we can hope to make by selling the eggs. Forget the romantic notions of having fun little chickens run everywhere throughout lawn and garden all day. It just is not possible...sorry...

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 3:34PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

lkakk, Make chicken soup or sell them to the local feed store.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 7:29PM
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I have to laugh a little ruefully here. I feel all of your pain. From the woman who has chickens roaming her yard (I'd be so angry!!) to the woman who had a gorgeous filled out garden that was destroyed.

I learned my lesson when I got six chickens in September. Everything was in full bloom. They decimated all of it. ALL of it! Winter came, and I just let everything go brown and barren and let them go at it.

But this spring, I yearned for flowers: So quite simply, I don't range them as much. I planted a tropical garden around the pool, a gothic garden with blacks whites and reds against the fence; then I stopped letting them free-range out of my sight. I sit at the pool with a hose. They get near my plants: I spray. Not on them, just behind them, in the direction they should run! My husband built a large enclosed pen around their coop.

Some notes: Chickens do not touch violets, which is a nice ground cover. They have trouble finishing off ferns, which are prolific. I can have small trees, bushes, some herbs, verbena and geraneums.

They DESTROY impatiens and petunias. I put some up high and planted some in the ground near a statue: my daughter forgot to them back in the pen one day and they decimated the ground flowers.

BUT: get this: where I have sprayed chicken poop off the patio into the beds, the plants that survive are amazing; lush and huge because of year round fertilizing.

And our compost this year was 2 feet of black loam that my shovel literally sank into; compared to nearly none before I got chickens.

When I let them free range, the eggs were dark orange.

I love to watch them.

I took them behind the fence to a spent vegetable bed and they went to town: loving it. Now that its planted out, I "chickensit" them back there.

So basically, they are ranged less, so the eggs aren't as orange as they were; but I've had minimal plant damage.

I still enjoy keeping them, I just keep them with more limits than before. The compost more than pays off; and they are my pets; adorable and funny. Like a dog that chews up your couch; they can be frustrating. But they give back in better ways, in my humble opinion.

Happy gardening/chickenkeeping and good luck everyone!

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 5:44PM
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