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Spring Greens for Your Flock (And You!)

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  1. mymilliefleur
    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:

    • Henbit
    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.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Henbit and Chickweed, (left) and Henbits look alike Purple Dead Nettle (right)
    • Pig weed
    Pig weed is an annual in the amaranth family, and grows almost everywhere in the continental
    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.
    [​IMG]
    Spiny pigweed
    • Clover
    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.
    [​IMG]
    Red clover blossom
    • Curly dock, aka Yellow dock
    This hardy perennial is around most of the year. It is a distant relative of sorrel and rhubarb.
    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.
    [​IMG]
    Yellow or Curly Dock
    • Chickweed
    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.
    [​IMG]
    Chickweed
    • Violets
    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.
    [​IMG]
    A clump of wild purple violets
    • Dandelions
    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.
    [​IMG]
    Dandelions and White Clover
    • Plantain
    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.
    [​IMG]
    A fine patch of Broad leaf, or Common Plantain
    • Pepper weed, aka Field penny cress
    This is another spring ''weed'' that is both good for your flock and you. The young leaves are
    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
    tonic.
    [​IMG]
    Pepper weed flowers
    • Chicory
    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.
    [​IMG]
    Chicory flower
    • Lambs quarters aka Fat Hen Weed
    Lambs quarters comes up in the late spring, and gets to be up to 3 feet tall in the summer.
    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.
    [​IMG]
    A young lambs quarter plant
    • Wood sorrel
    Wood sorrel is another great weed for your flock and your table. It has a sour tangy taste, and
    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.
    [​IMG]
    Yellow Wood Sorrel
    • Purslane
    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.
    [​IMG]
    Purslane
    • Sheep's sorrel
    Sheep sorrel (or lambs sorrel) is a tart and tangy perennial and likes to grow in dry, rocky, and
    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.
    [​IMG]
    Lambs or Sheeps Sorrel
    • What about poisonous plants?
    You may be worried about accidentally feeding your flock or eating a poisonous plant. Believe it
    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!
    [​IMG]
    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!

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Comments

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  1. jheasley
    Thank you very much! Love this information!
  2. MamaKitty913
    mymilliefleur you have a wonderful gift with the written word, I enjoy all your articles and stories. Thank you for the information and sharing your love of all things chicken lol :
  3. vchicks
    Really well done! So informative. I have tried many of your suggestions and found them very palatable
  4. Quilting Hen
    What a great article. I have so many of these growing around my property. I especially like the photos you shared; it makes it so much easier to identify them. Thank you so much.
  5. mymilliefleur
  6. Skyfeathers
    Great article, I especially appreciate the photos!
  7. jheasley
    great article
  8. mymilliefleur
    @ScouterJoe, though poison ivy can be very irritating to us humans, it will not hurt your flock. In fact, I have heard of many people using chickens (as well as other farm animals such as cattle, goats and sheep) to clear out areas that are overgrown with poison ivy. It will not harm them to eat it either. Just be careful of petting an animal that has been eating poison ivy as they may have the oils from the ivy on their feathers.
  9. SamVern
    Great article!
  10. ScouterJoe
    I have poison ivy growing in many places. I'm afraid to let the chicken get to close. Will they leave it alone?

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