Ducks Gardening

Top 10 Garden Plants For Chickens and Ducks

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Do you have chickens or ducks? If so and you love your flock as much as we do, your birds are likely spoiled rotten. And completely ungrateful…

Video: Svetlana enjoying a good head massage from The Tyrant, her favorite human slave. It’s important for your flock’s health, longevity, and egg production to make sure they have optimal nutrition. In addition to their primary food, we like to give our ducks plenty of fresh garden goodies throughout the year, which is one of many reasons that we maintain a large organic garden/edible landscape. Over the years, we’ve learned what garden treats our ducks do and don’t like. Now, we’re always sure to grow their favorite varieties to keep them spoiled with fresh organic produce every season of the year. These fruits and veggies are also some of our favorites as well – so when our ducks aren’t looking, we’ll steal food from the garden. (Shh, don’t tell them.)


Top 10 Garden Plants For Chickens and Ducks

If you’re a gardener (or aspiring gardener) with spoiled fowl, you might want to grow the 10 seed varieties we mention below and even consider getting all of them in a single 10-pack bundle straight from our USDA certified organic heirloom seed company (GrowJourney) – purchase link here and at the bottom of the article. Depending on where you live, the dates/months that you’ll grow and harvest these varieties will vary, but you can just follow the instructions on our seed packets to get great results.

Based on the preferences of our Welsh Harlequin ducks combined with feedback from other gardeners we know who raise ducks and chickens, here are the Top 10 garden plants for chickens and ducks (in no particular order): *note: growing info below is based on our temperate climate region, Zone 7B

 1. Vitamin Greens 

If you think you can't have an edible garden because of shade, think again. There are probably as many edible plants that will grow in shade as will grow in full sun and some edible plants can tolerate both. This is a spot that gets at most 4 hours of direct sun but it's full of edible plants you may be familiar with. Front to back: borage, vitamin greens/vitaminna, lettuce, kale, cilantro, strawberry spinach. They're

If you think you can’t have an edible garden because of shade, think again. There are probably as many edible plants that will grow in shade as will grow in full sun and some edible plants can tolerate both. This is a spot that gets at most 4 hours of direct sun but it’s full of edible plants you may be familiar with. Front to back: borage, vitamin greens/vitaminna, lettuce, kale, cilantro, strawberry spinach. They’re “trimmed” next to the fencing since this bed is primarily intended to provide our ducks with some forage during the day: they can reach their fat little heads in, but not too far. :)

  • season: fall, winter, spring
  • light: full sun-part shade
  • description & growing notes: Vitamin greens are a relatively unknown green here in the US but are hugely popular in certain regions of Asia. They’re closely related to bok choy, offering a similar taste – just a bit sweeter, and they have smaller ribs. Delicious raw or in a stir fry.

 2. Chicory 

Chicory (front and back) growing under low tunnels during the winter at Tyrant Farms.

Chicory (front and back) growing under low tunnels during the winter at Tyrant Farms.

  • season: spring and fall
  • light: full sun-part shade
  • description & growing notes: There are tons of varieties of chicory, and they come in all different sizes, shapes, colors, and flavors. Our ducks like it all, except for some of the perennial varieties that get really bitter in the hot summer months. The variety listed has been their favorite among the ~15 or more varieties they’ve “sampled.” It’s tall upright frilly leaves are easy to harvest as a cut-and-come-again veggie and the taste is really pleasant (for humans too).

 3. Lettuce 

A beautiful patch of young lettuce.

A beautiful patch of young lettuce.

  • season: spring and fall
  • light: full sun-part shade
  • description & growing notes: Did you know that in duck heaven, the clouds are made of lettuce? At least that’s what our ducks tell us… They seriously love the stuff, and it’s hard to pick their favorite here… but this is one of ours that they will more than willingly eat by the bowl full.

 4. Kale 

Our ducks love every type of kale we've ever grown.

Our ducks love every type of kale we’ve ever grown.

  • season: fall, winter spring for us (summers too hot)
  • light: full sun-part shade
  • description & growing notes: Our girls aren’t too picky about which kale they’ll eat, but for some reason they seem to prefer extra frilly-leafed varieties. Perhaps it’s fun for them to grab and rip the frilly leaves versus the flat leaves (like Lacinato).

 5. Mâche 

Mache goes from a tiny, low-growing green to a bush of tiny white flowers very quickly in the spring. It's edible at every stage. Beneficial/predatory insects will LOVE you for growing it - as will your poultry.

Mache goes from a tiny, low-growing green to a bush of tiny white flowers very quickly in the spring (you can see it flowering in large clumps in this photo). It’s edible at every stage. Beneficial/predatory insects will LOVE you for growing it – as will your poultry.

  • season: fall, winter, spring
  • light: full sun-part shade
  • description & growing notes: Another incredibly cold-hardy green, we’ve had mâche survive uncovered down into the single digits. It stays small throughout the winter and then doubles in size nearly every week in the late winter/early spring where we live until it starts producing tiny flowers and seed pods. The greens are delicious – they taste almost nutty.

 6. Austrian Winter Peas (the greens, not the pods) 

  • season: fall, winter, spring
  • light: full sun-part shade
  • description & growing notes: Peas aren’t just a spring plant if you know the right varieties. Austrian winter peas are the cold-hardiest variety we grow, surviving uncovered to around 10°F. The peas from the mature spring pods make a killer dried pea for soup, but they’re not as good as snap peas for eating raw. Their real magic is in the delicious edible shoots/leaves, which taste every bit as good – if not better – than sugar snap peas. They’re very high in protein, and as you might have guessed, our ducks LOVE them. These also make a great nitrogen-fixing cover crop. If you want to learn more about how to grow  & harvest Austrian winter peas, you’ll enjoy this article.

 7. Calendula 

Calendula Flower

Calendula Flower

  • season: fall and spring (can grow in winter under low tunnels)
  • light: full sun-part shade
  • description & growing notes: We love edible flowers. We especially love when those edible flowers have proven medicinal benefits for our ducks and make their egg yolks a deep golden orange. Each night, our girls get bowls of water with mixed greens in them – during calendula season, we mix in calendula petals. In human food, calendula flowers are often used as a saffron substitute or the petals are added to make salads more visually interesting. The leaves are edible to people too, but they’re not as tasty as other garden greens (eat them when they’re young and tender if you’re going to eat them).

 8. Tomatoes 

  • season: summer
  • light: full sun (smaller-fruited currant and cherry tomatoes can actually grow in part shade, although they won’t produce as much fruit.
  • description & growing notes: We have no idea why, but tomatoes are probably our girls absolute favorite food. If we were the only thing standing between our ducks and a sacrificial tomato, we’d be seriously worried for our health. We love ‘Matt’s Wild Cherry’ tomatoes for a few reasons: they’re incredibly robust and need no care; they’re the perfect size for a greedy duck bill to gulp down whole; they readily reseed and come back in the same spot year after year; and they’re an absolutely delicious tomato for duck slaves (aka humans) to enjoy by the handful as well.

 9. Sunberries 

Yum! Sunberries.

Yum! Sunberries.

  • season: summer
  • light: produce most fruit in full sun, but tolerate part shade
  • description & growing notes: A relatively unknown fruit attributed to the famous plant breeder, Luther Burbank, sunberries (aka wonderberries) are related to tomatoes and ground cherries, but taste more like a mild blueberry. The 2-3′ tall plants form prolific clusters of berries that ripen black. Ducks, chickens, and children and adult humans are all happier when sunberries are ripe.

 10. Ground Cherries 

Ground cherries: you just warmed a duck or chicken's heart.

Ground cherries: you just warmed a duck or chicken’s heart.

  • season: summer
  • light: full sun for best fruit production and flavor
  • description & growing notes: This strange little husked fruit blew our minds when we first ate it many years ago–it tastes like a cross between a pineapple and a tomato. It’s a staple in our summer garden every year. As it turns out, our ducks love them to, especially Svetlana the flock matriarch who could eat her body weight in ground cherries if we let her.

BONUS

 *Chickweed 

See the long stems with tiny green leaves and tiny white flowers? That's chickweed (Stellaria media) - your ducks and chickens will love you for growing it, and it probably already grows as a

See the long stems with tiny green leaves and tiny white flowers? That’s chickweed (Stellaria media) – your ducks and chickens will love you for growing it, and it probably already grows as a “weed” all around you in the late winter/early spring.

  • season: fall, winter, spring
  • light: grows well but will go to seed earlier in full sun; thrives in part shade
  • description & growing notes: This delightful “weed” grows abundantly in the winter and spring throughout the US. The flavor is sweet and mild and most similar to corn silk (yes, the frills that stick up out of the top of a corn husk). It was brought over by early European settlers since its one of the earliest greens to produce, and has since naturalized all over North America. It’s one of the most cold-hardy greens you can grow – we’ve had it live uncovered through 10°F. It grows crazy fast in the spring and our ducks will absolutely gorge themselves on it. Yes, the reason it’s called “chickweed” is that chickens do indeed love it too. Once you know what chickweed looks like, you’ll probably see it everywhere during its growing season.

 Buy Our 10-Pack Chicken & Duck Seed Bundle! 

Want to keep your whole flock happy and healthy (both human and fowl)? Buy our 10-pack seed bundle containing all 10 seeds varieties listed above. All seeds are 100% USDA certified organic and provided via GrowJourney, our seed company. Price: $30 | shipping is FREE for all US residents (please contact us if you’re shipping to Canada).

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*Note: Chickweed seeds, the bonus #11 plant on the list above, are not included since it is probably already growing wild in your yard – if you do want to buy chickweed seeds, you can get it here; just keep in mind that it needs cool/cold weather to germinate.

KIGI,

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