Free Range 'Coop Service' for Confined Chickens

  1. GPS1504
    Since predators can be a problem for some of us, free ranging our chickens becomes difficult. We do not want our chickens to fall victim to attack by predator from the ground or the sky, so sometimes the only alternative is to pen them up. This is an unfortunate but necessary way of life at times, especially when you take into account the benefits of free ranging. When you consider that research has shown free range eggs to contain more nutrition and also less cholesterol, not being able to free range extends from being a bummer for your chickens to becoming a bummer for you as well.

    In this situation, what are you to do to give your chickens the delicious free range snacks they love and deserve? Sure, you can build or purchase a chicken tractor, but that takes money not all of us have to spend. Facing the reality that you cannot buy or build a fix is not the end of the world, however. What you can do is forage for your chickens and bring back to them the fruits of your labor.


    Grass, weeds, and edible flowers that are growing around your yard are items desirous to your chickens. If given the choice, they would gleefully consume those items. There is no sense in letting predators stand in the way of that when you can collect those items for your chickens and deliver them via the chicken equivalent of room service: coop service. This will keep your chickens both healthy and happy while still giving them the excitement of receiving beneficial goodies, not the mention keeping your feed bill down. Where you live and the current season will determine what you are able to find and feed to your chickens.

    Examples of safe weed options are:
    • Beautyberry
    • Bitter Cress
    • Burweed
    • Catchweed Bedstraw
    • Catsear
    • Chickweed
    • Clover
    • Evening Primrose
    • Fat Hen
    • Hawkweed
    • Mousear Chickweed
    • Mugwort
    • Nettles
    • Oxalis
    • Plantain
    • Purple Deadnettle
    • Purslane
    • Shiny Cudweed
    • Shotweed
    • Smartweed
    • Wild Carrot
    • Wild Carolina Geranium
    • Wild Strawberry
    • Wild Violets
    • Yarrow

    Examples of safe flowers are:
    • Apple Blossoms
    • Bee Balm
    • Calendula
    • Carnations
    • Chrysanthemums
    • Citrus Blossoms
    • Dandelions
    • Echinacea
    • Eldberberry Blossoms
    • Geraniums
    • Hibiscus
    • Hollyhock
    • Impatiens
    • Lavender
    • Lilac
    • Marigolds
    • Nasturtium
    • Pansy
    • Pea Blossoms
    • Peony
    • Phlox
    • Roses/Rose Hips
    • Snap Dragon
    • Squash Blossoms
    • Sunflowers (seeds)
    • Violets

    Flowers and weeds to avoid:

    • Azaleas
    • Black Nightshade
    • Buttercup
    • Castor Bean
    • Clematis
    • Corn Cockle
    • Foxglove
    • Henbane
    • Honeysuckle
    • Irises
    • Lily of the Valley
    • Oleander
    • Privet
    • Rhododendron
    • St. John\'s Wort
    • Sweet Pea
    • Trumpet Vine
    • Vetch

    It is key to be able to identify what type of foliage with which you are faced. If in doubt, do not bring it to your chickens. In general, chickens will not eat something toxic, but it is best not to tempt fate. There are also many other potentially toxic plants than those listed here, so be sure to research what grows in your local area. For your efforts and a healthy, green meal your chickens will surely thank you!

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