Chicken Versus Landscape Plants: Can They Coexist?
Hello, I have a client with a pet chicken who freely roams the backyard of the property. The owners would like to install more plants in the landscaped areas. Plants that have lived include Fatsia japonica and Hydrangea quercifolia. They are mature (about 4-5' tall). What plants would survive the chicken in a "moonlight garden" of mostly white flowering plants? There are three small children, so are any of your suggested plants poisonous? And when new plants get planted, should they be protected with fencing, netting, or other chicken-resistant structures to give them an opportunity to thrive? Thank you for your help! Susan Johnson
Washington County Oregon
Chickens don't typically consume ornamental plants. They will consume tender young plants on occasion but they are not seeking them out. Chickens are looking for insects, earthworms, other small "animals" and seeds. There is nothing that I know of that is of particular concern, the research has not been done to know what to avoid. I may be a good idea to avoid plants that are known to be toxic to other livestock species, but these may or may not be problematic for chickens and they are typically not grown as ornamentals.
Chickens are hard on plants because of the high nitrogen content of their manure and their scratching to find insects and seeds. It would be best to fence chickens away from any young plants and vegetable gardens, they can damage these. I don't know enough about ornamental plants to make any suggestions, sorry.