Want to cut down on your chicken feed bill? Try growing a chicken garden full of their favorite snacks! Here’s how we planted a super fast and easy chicken garden using the chaos gardening method!
For years, the chickens have created chaos in my perfectly planned and planted vegetable garden! I have even developed a plethora of tricks to protect my garden produce from the free ranging destructive godzilla-wannabes!
But, now that we have a formal, fenced garden area and a larger property, the chickens generally leave my garden alone. So this is what heaven feels like! And, since they’ve been such good little chickens, I decided to reward them for their self-restraint!
I created a very special garden for my chickens: a chaos garden!
Yup, after years of them creating chaos in my garden, I figured a chaos garden of their own was a perfect solution! What could be more fitting than giving them their own jungle garden where they can scratch, peck and generally destroy it to their little heart’s content?!
So, what is chaos gardening?
Chaos gardening a method of unplanned seed sowing. It’s basically a way of sowing your seeds without any formal method or planning. Which means, that it’s fast – super fast! – to get the garden prepared and planted!
You literally just mix all the seeds together, broadcast them into a prepared garden bed, rake them over, water and wait!
The results can be kind of messy since this is entirely unplanned. Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend this for a garden that is highly visible or highly visited. But, for a chicken garden or even a garden in the compost-rich back corner of a pasture, it might be a perfect! You can also thin and trim the plants as they grow to help control the chaos a bit if you want!
Chaos gardening also a great way to use up old seeds that may or may not still be viable, half empty seed packs, or unlabeled/misplaced seeds. You can, of course, also use this method with new and/or known seeds. In our case, we did a bit of both, using some old/unlabeled seeds along with seeds for plants that we knew would be favorite food sources for the chickens.
Tell me more about this chicken garden…
Our chicken garden is a specially planted garden that the chickens will be allowed to access and eat/destroy as they please. Honestly, we have enough chickens now that our feed bill could use a bit of a break! Growing them some produce is a perfect solution!
Our chicken garden is located between our two barns – an ideal chicken access location for our free range birds! We already had a nicely fenced area that was used as a chicken run. However, since the birds now free range, the run is empty and unused.
This old chicken run is already fenced, making it an ideal spot to create the garden! We can keep the chickens out (for the most part) while the garden is getting established since small seedlings are easily destroyed by a chicken’s scratching. Once the plants are more mature, we can open the gate and let the chickens come in and feast! If the chickens decide to be extra persistent and start jumping the fence, we can also cover the soil with fencing wire until the plants mature. (More ideas on how to protect your young plants here!)
I’m so excited to watch this chaotically-planted garden grow and be enjoyed by the chickens!
What to plant in a chicken garden!
Chickens are pretty adventurous diners who like a variety of food sources! If your chickens aren’t used to having natural forage, it might take them some time to adapt to a more “wild” diet! Luckily, you can always help them with any leftovers from the garden and enjoy them yourself!
Here are some great crops to consider planting in your chicken garden:
Summer squashes provide extra food for summer eating. A lot of the varieties are particular abundant and the chickens will eat them right off the vine! Ours especially love zucchini and cucumber!
It’s not summertime without melons! Your chickens will love them as much as you do! Plus, feeding melons is a great way to keep your flock hydrated on a hot summer day! Our chickens particularly love watermelon and will devour it as fast as I do!
Winter squashes can be stored for several months after the harvest and provide a source of fresh feed even in the middle of winter! We threw in a lot of winter squash seeds including pumpkins!
Greens are a popular option for chicken gardens! If you let the plants bolt (flower and go to seed), they will happily replant themselves! You won’t even need to seed them next year – they will just pop up as soon as the weather is right! Our chickens aren’t huge fans of greens, but I did throw in some kale seeds since they do enjoy pecking at the kale and it’s a frost-hardy crop that will survive well into early winter!
Flowers make a great addition to a chicken garden! Sunflowers are obviously a go-to crop since they produce edible seeds. But, calendula is another plant that I love to grow for my chickens! The edible petals can be spread on the chicken’s feed – although my chickens will eat them straight off the plant! Plus, they are full of beta carotin which helps develop those gorgeous dark orange yolks!
If you have a long enough season (100 days on average), corn is a great treat for chickens! They love to eat it fresh, but you can also dry it! I often dry ears of corn, use them as fall decor in the house and then feed them to the chickens as a special treat in winter!
Grain crops like wheat, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat and millet are great forage crops! They are actually incredibly easy to grow and the tall stalks (much like corn and sunflowers) can be used as trellises for climbing squash and cucumbers!
You can grow yummy snacks like beets, carrots, radishes and more for your chickens – plus, they can enjoy the greens as well as the roots!
Peas & Green Beans:
Peas and beans are a great protein-rich treat! Our chickens love snap peas and green beans! But, be sure to grow green bean varieties rather than drying beans, which are unsafe for chickens unless they are cooked.
Herbs aren’t just healthy for us – they’re great for chickens too! I always have mint by my chicken coop (here are some of the reasons why!) along with oregano, thyme, lavender and more! Comfry is another wonderful plant – but I have to keep mine semi-fenced so the chickens can only reach the larger leaves or they will absolutely devour the whole thing! Luckily, it grows back quickly and is super hardy!
If you are interested in including some more permanent plants in your chicken garden, there are many perennials that will provide a delicious meal! Berry canes and bushes, fruit bearing trees, and even perennial herbs are all great options!
I put this item last because it comes with a warning. The greens and flowers of tomato plants contain solanine, which is toxic to animals and people in high enough levels. But, my chickens LOVE tomatoes! They steal them all the time from my garden and haven’t disturbed the greens over the years. I‘m pretty confident that my chickens will be fine with some tomato plants so I also planted my remaining 5 tomato starts in the chicken garden.
How We Created Our Chicken Garden:
Pick a Spot:
Picking out the perfect spot was the first step! We wanted the garden out of the direct line of site because it’s probably going to get pretty unruly if all (or even most!) of those seeds grow!
Our chicken run that extends from our old barn (but isn’t used anymore since all the chickens free-range) was a perfect spot! It’s close to the chicken coops and is already fenced. This was a big bonus because it will make it easy to keep the chickens out while the seeds germinate. (Alternately, if you don’t want to fence your chicken garden, you can lay wire over the soil to discourage the chickens – example pictures in this post!)
Prepare the Soil:
Next, it was time to prepare the planting bed! We decided to use about half of the chicken run for the garden. This area had sparse grass and some weeds. We hand-pulled the weeds and most of the clumps of grass.
Next, we hauled in several wheelbarrow-fulls of compost. We are lucky to have an abundant amount of horse poo which means endless amounts of compost! The compost will feed the plants and provide plenty of nutrition for the growing season!
We covered the entire space with about 6 inches of compost. Then, we topped it with about 3-4 inches of garden soil (we get a big truckload every year to have on hand for projects like this!). We raked it over to smooth out the soil and watered it deeply. Easy-peasy!
Broadcast the Seeds:
Then, it was time to plant! Seriously the fastest garden prep ever! We went through our seed bins and created a mixture that included sunflowers, calendula, winter squash, summer squash, melons and greens. I mixed them all together and then broadcasted them over the planting bed in as even of manner as possible. We raked the soil one more time to cover the seeds and watered them in. I also plopped in some old leftover tomato seedlings that had definitely seen better days! If they survive – great! If not, no worries!
Water & Wait:
Now we are just watering and waiting! Each morning, I spray the garden bed with water to keep it moist while the seeds germinate. I think I will grab a few of my old drip hoses and lay them in the bed as well. This will make watering much easier once the jungle of plants starts to grow!
I’m really excited to see what happens to our chicken garden! Using the chaos method made it incredibly easy and fast to create this garden space! And, since it’s for the chickens, it really doesn’t need to be perfect.
This is definitely the fastest, cheapest and least stressful garden I’ve ever created! It was such a fun experiment and I can’t wait to see the results! I will post some updates along with photos as the season goes on so be sure to bookmark or pin this post on Pinterest so you can see the progress!