Spring is here, and everything is starting to green up and grow. You've probably have noticed a
lot of plants and weeds coming up in your garden, lawn, and around your house. Your first urge
may be to bring out the pesticide sprayer, but these ''weeds'' are excellent for your flock, and
not only that, you can eat most of them your self! Here are a few common edible plants for
you and your flock:
Chickens, and other poultry love Henbit, hence it's name. This is one of the first plants of the
year to bloom, and an important source of nectar for humming birds, honey bees, and
butterfly's. It is in the mint family, but does not have any kind of minty taste. You probably
have this plant growing in your garden, lawn, or landscape. Henbit is very nutritious, high in iron,
and many other vitamins and minerals. The whole plant is edible, and a great spring green
for your flock. You can eat it in salads, soups, stir frys, etc. Purple dead nettle is often confused
with Henbit. Don't worry, it is also edible.
Henbit and Chickweed, (left) and Henbits look alike Purple Dead Nettle (right)
Pig weed is an annual in the amaranth family, and grows almost everywhere in the continental
- Pig weed
US. The two most common types of pig weed are the standard, tall, fuzzy spineless version,
and the bushy, smooth, spiny version, aka prickly amaranth. The leaves and seeds are both
edible and can be eaten by you and your flock. Pig weed is a good source of vitamins A, B6,
K, E, and C, folate and riboflavin, calcium, potassium, iron, copper, magnesium, phosphorus,
manganese, and protein, Hang whole plants in the run for your birds. The best way to prepare
pig weed for humans is to saute or steam it.
This hardy perennial, is a great plant for your flock to eat. It is high in protein, vitamins B and A,
calcium, potassium, niacin, and many other healthy vitamins and minerals.Tender white clover
can be eaten raw by humans, but it is best boiled. Red clover is considered a medicinal herb,
and is high in niacin, vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, potassium, and many other
healthy vitamins and minerals.
Red clover blossom
This hardy perennial is around most of the year. It is a distant relative of sorrel and rhubarb.
- Curly dock, aka Yellow dock
Dock is considered a medicinal herb. Your flock will eat the whole plant including the seeds,
just be careful not to feed large quantity's. You can eat it raw, but it really should be boiled
first. It's great in stir frys and egg dishes.
Yellow or Curly Dock
If you have Henbit, you probably have chickweed as well. This tender spring plant likes to
grow in shady, moist areas. It's high in vitamin B, and is good for digestion, and pain. My
chickens love this tender, nutritious plant and gobble up all that I give them. Chickweed is a
great thing to add to spring salads and stir frys.
Violets are a tough perennial, coming in many different variety's. Every part of the plant is edible.
Your flock will enjoy this tasty green high in vitamins A and C, and many other vitamins and
minerals. Violets are good for the immune system, and for inflammation. You can make tea and
salad from the leaves, and eat the flowers as a tasty snack.
A clump of wild purple violets
This hardy plant usually starts popping up in the late winter. You will probably want to bring out
the pesticide sprayer or hoe, but why kill this wonderful edible ''weed''? It is high in protein, and
vitamins A, C, E, K, D, and B complex, it also contains iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium,
zinc and iron, The entire plant is edible, and your flock can (and will) eat all of it including the
roots. Dandelions are a great thing to feed to young chicks, if you want to get them off to a good
start. The leaves are fantastic for salads too, and you can make jelly, tea, and wine with the flowers.
Dandelions and White Clover
The two most common kinds of plantain are English (narrow, dark green, and slightly fuzzy
leaves) and Common or Broad leaved plantain (wide, smooth, light green leaves). It is high in
vitamin A and calcium. It also provides a bit of vitamin C.Your flock will eat the whole plant, and
the seeds are a good snack for people, but the leathery leaves are to tough to eat, unless
young or boiled. If you get stung by a bee, chew up a plantain leaf, and put it on the sting. The
pain will be gone very quickly.
A fine patch of Broad leaf, or Common Plantain
This is another spring ''weed'' that is both good for your flock and you. The young leaves are
- Pepper weed, aka Field penny cress
good in salads, and said to have a mustardy taste. The round, flat, ''penny shaped'' seeds have
a peppery taste and make a good snack. It is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and a good spring
Pepper weed flowers
You've probably seen chicory plants growing along the road in the spring, with their purplish
blue flowers. In appearance chicory looks a lot like fuzzy dandelions when young, but grows
up to 5 feet tall. It is sometimes planted to help with erosion control. This strong-tasting plant
is really quite beneficial to have around, and is considered a medicinal herb. All parts of the
plant are edible, and is good for digestion, and the liver. Chicory roots can be cooked like
most vegetables and the leaves can be eaten cooked or raw.
Lambs quarters comes up in the late spring, and gets to be up to 3 feet tall in the summer.
- Lambs quarters aka Fat Hen Weed
This plant is a great tonic for your birds digestive system. It is high in protein, calcium, and
vitamins A, C, and B complex vitamins and iron. You can hang it in your run and let your birds
peck at it. The best way to eat this plant is to ether steam or saute it. It can be used as a
substitute for spinach.
A young lambs quarter plant
Wood sorrel is another great weed for your flock and your table. It has a sour tangy taste, and
- Wood sorrel
goes great in salads. Wood sorrel is a good source of vitamin C, but is high in oxalic acid and
should be used somewhat sparingly, don't worry though, your flock will have to eat a ton of it in
order for it to hurt them.
Yellow Wood Sorrel
Purslane is a tender succulent plant. It is a good source of omega-3, vitamins A, B, and C, as
well as minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, and iron. It likes to grow in dry,
sometimes rocky soil. It is good for your flock, and you can enjoy it in salads. Purslane is also
used as a thickener in Mexican food.
Sheep sorrel (or lambs sorrel) is a tart and tangy perennial and likes to grow in dry, rocky, and
- Sheep's sorrel
poor soils. You can recognize it in the late spring early summer by it's red seed heads. Your
flock will enjoy this tangy green, which is also good in salads, stews, and soups.
Lambs or Sheeps Sorrel
You may be worried about accidentally feeding your flock or eating a poisonous plant. Believe it
- What about poisonous plants?
or not though, there are not that many poisonous plants, the most common though is probably
buttercup, which is most commonly found in overgrazed or poorly managed pastures, but some
times grows in lawns, gardens, etc. Though this plant is very poisonous, your birds will not eat
it unless there is not anything else available. Even if your birds eat a few leaves, it will probably
not hurt them. This goes for most poisonous plants. If you are not sure if a plant is safe to eat
or not, look it up in your field guide (everyone should own one) and check before consuming.
Remember, Never eat or feed to your flock, weeds and plants that have been treated with any
kind of chemicals!
Chickens foraging on pasture
I hope after reading this you will decide to keep some of those ''weeds'' around. After weeding
the garden, throw those greens to your flock! You can keep some for dinner too. Keep in mind
the plants mentioned in this article are only a few of the dozens of edible plants that you and your
flock can enjoy, so get rid of the pesticide sprayer, put away the hoe and shovel, get your field
guide out and go find out whats growing in your yard.
Feel free to post in the comment section below if you have any questions.
Thanks for reading!