We're not talking about purchasing some acreage and a tractor for you to grow wheat on. We're not talking about raiding feed silo doorways for spilled piles of grain (never do this). We're not even talking about raiding kind grocery stores for their day old produce and bread- which many grocery stores won't entertain by the way. No, we're talking about feeding your chickens a harvest from the landscape and reasonable space you already have. So how do you do it? What should you grow? Here is our list of fruiting plants that will feed your chickens for free.
You may have to think creatively and try growing things that you normally wouldn't grow in certain applications. For example, instead of filling a sunny spot with a ground cover of sedum, try growing a ground cover of strawberry plants. Strawberries are excellent ground cover plants. They are healthy, naturally disease resistant, and very hardy plants too. Their often semi-evergreen foliage is pleasing throughout the season. They form tight, dense mats which keep out weeds. And of course, they make white or pink flowers sometimes throughout the entire growing season, which then bear big, bright red fruit. A small established area of strawberries will yield a LOT of fruit, but thankfully strawberries store well in a number of ways. You can make a jam with them, freeze them whole or sliced or macerated, or even dehydrate them. Strawberries are excellent food for chickens, full of vitamins and minerals. And of course, they are a sweet and tangy, yet healthy treat! They're also good for you too.
We've mentioned the wonderful possibilities of the humble blueberry in the landscape before. Blueberries are quickly becoming popular in landscapes everywhere because of their beauty (and of course, delicious harvest). Blueberries, like strawberries, store well too. A hedge of blueberries will yield more blueberries than you can use in a short amount of time, so freezing them or canning them is necessary. Chickens absolutely love blueberries too, and blueberries are very good for chickens. Just as in humans, blueberries contain antioxidants and other good chemicals that help fight sickness and disease. The Sweetheart Blueberry is a great blueberry for hedges. It makes a great privacy screen too, as it grows to a good 5 to 6 feet tall at full maturity. Try planting some around your chicken coop too, for quick and easy access to this delicious bounty.
Raspberries are a treat for chickens just as much as they are a treat for people. They are one crop, along with blueberries and strawberries, that when grown at home make sense. Purchasing them from the grocery store means you're limited to expensive and sub-par fruit. And raspberries are especially good for you and your chickens. And again, grown at home will mean an overabundance of these wonderful fruit, so you have enough to feed your chickens free of charge for a while as you also store some for later use. Raspberries are easy to store, with freezing and canning. Add them to your chicken feed throughout the year for a boost in nutrition. Raspberries are best grown as naturalized hedges in full sun borders. Kept properly pruned and they can be attractive, especially as they flower and fruit. Some canes turn beautifully purple and blue in the winter months. Heritage Raspberry is a great cultivar to start with!
You'd be surprised how far a few plants of strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry can go in your chicken's feeding routine. And, best of all, the harvest is free! Don't forget to enjoy along with your chickens too.
Cheryl D. Jones, shares gardening tips and landscape ideas through her blog, newsletters and her nursery's website. Visit https://www.GreenwoodNursery.com/ for a full line of plants including shade trees, flowering shrubs, perennials, ornamental grasses and ground covers.
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