Best shrubs for free ranging chickens?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Stephine, Feb 2, 2017.

  1. Stephine

    Stephine Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi!
    I was going to plant a few buddleias davidii (butterfly bush) on the chicken meadow to give them better cover from sun and hawks but just now read that they are invasive here and not a safe choice if you are close to nature preserves which we are. Argh. I don't know if they are actually illegal, so I am not actually completely against getting them, yet, but I wonder what would be good alternatives? I am looking for something that gets big and has a wide canopy with low hanging branches for the chickens to hide under. Thanks!
     
  2. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

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    Check on your state thread, and with your local plant people. Something not seriously toxic, good to look at, and easy to care for where you live. Native plants if possible. Fruiting small trees or shrubs are great too. I'm in Michigan, so have no idea about your area. Mary
     
  3. Stephine

    Stephine Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks Mary! I am just not sure what that would be -that's why I was asking. I need names :eek:)
     
  4. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

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    Lilacs are good. Any hearty shrub that provides cover, roosts and can withstand constant digging under it for dust baths will do. Trying to find a strong enough shrub that won't die from the chicken attention will be hard enough let alone one that fruits for them. You'll need to fence around the shrub for first year or two until it's established. Think big root system- why lilacs work well.
     
  5. dheltzel

    dheltzel Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    If the soil is damp most of the time, try pussy willows, otherwise, try forsythia. Both are easily propagated (makes them cheap to buy, or you can grow your own). Neither are invasive and are easily controlled with a brushhog if they get out of hand. Buddleias will seed and spread that way, though they aren't invasive in the area I live in.

    But I second the suggestion to investigate local plants, especially those beneficial to wildlife, because they will have fruits or seeds that the chickens may eat also. If you want local advice, see if you can find any nature preservation groups. Even national ones should be able to give you advice about bird friendly shrubs.
     
  6. Stephine

    Stephine Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you!
    Yes, forgot to mention we need something drought resistant as we are in Sonoma (but that can also take a thorough soaking as with the constant rain we have beenhaving this winter everything is mud). Lilacs might work (and be so lovely) - I will read more about them. And will look into forsythia, thiugh I think we have the wrong climate here for them. I keep coming back to buggleia - they are so robust... :eek:(
     
  7. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You might also consider the tall, upright ornamental grasses, if they grow in your area. They also provide an overhead canopy of shade and cover and tend to be heavy feeders of nitrogen, so will help with the accumulation of droppings around them.

    A second option is to look around at native plants that exist in your area. Look at what is successful and what is acceptable to you.
     
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  8. dheltzel

    dheltzel Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    That is a good idea! I wonder if the native prairie grasses like big bluestems would grow in that area. Certainly no issues about them naturalizing and becoming a problem, since they were here long before anything else at the garden centers.
     
  9. Stephine

    Stephine Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks! I think grasses are not the answer here - the native ones are not tall or have foxtails/stickers I definitely want to avoid, plus we have to mow everything down to 4 inches max because of fire danger in the summer. A good idea for a different, probably cooler, wetter place though!
    Native shrubs here are manzanita (fire! and not that pretty in a garden), ceanothus (not enough of a crown to offer shelter for chickens underneath) and coyote bush and similar chaparral-y things. Maybe some kind of Malvae? I'll keep looking...
     
  10. Stephine

    Stephine Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Update: I found some seedless buddleia varieties that are very pretty and won't spread. Problem solved. Yay!
     

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