For individuals who take care of free range chickens, using garden waste as food for your chickens can be a great idea in theory, but offering plants as food for your chickens requires some significant thought on your part. Unfortunately not all garden plants that are human friendly and edible are suitable snacks for your flock. The truth in the matter is that there are an abundance of seemingly harmful flowers, vegetables and plants that can be common in your backyard but are incredibly poisonous and toxic to your chickens.
Luckily for free range chicken owners, chickens who have free roam of your backyard will often (and naturally) avoid any plants, vegetables, or flowers that are dangerous to them, and will usually consume the ones that they know are safe. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that your flock won’t try nibbling on something that they shouldn’t.
But you needn’t worry. A small nibble is very unlikely to cause any real damage, but it is always worth keeping an eye on your flock just in case. However, it can become a significant danger when potentially poisonous or toxic plants are available to your chickens when their usual food or snack isn’t. If their normal, safe and healthy food is unavailable or incredibly limited, chickens will typically begin to even eat dangerous and toxic plants out of pure boredom or when they have no other choice.
It can be a recommended and useful idea to place temporary fencing or wire mesh around flowers, vegetables or plants that may be known to harm your flock.
There are unfortunately potentially hundreds of flowers, vegetables and plants that can be toxic or incredibly life threatening to chickens. It is incredibly useful to know and identify some of the plant life that you may commonly discover in your backyard. Here are just a few that you may need to watch out for:
Lily of the Valley
St Johns Wort
Holly – berries
Mistletoe – berries
Horse Chestnut – conkers
Yew – berries
Wisteria – seeds
Privet – berries
Honeysuckle – berries
It is important to keep in mind that this is not a fully exhaustive list of possible fauna danger to your chickens. If at any point you feel unsure about any particular plants in your backyard it is always worth to check them out. This can be done by visiting various internet websites that can offer full and further guidance.
Remember, any harmful plants will not mean that it will immediately be fatal to your flock. Symptoms of poison or toxins within a chicken can range from poor egg quality and quantity, hemorrhaging, visceral gout, diarrhea, internal congestion, convulsions, kidney failure and even rapid heartbeat. Nevertheless these symptoms all depend entirely on the birds overall health, size and age, along with how much harmful substances it has eaten. Toxins that are consumed can typically shorten a chickens lifespan considerably or lessen the birds quality of life.