Edible vines for humans for chicken/duck pen?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Fawkes, Jan 26, 2012.

  1. Fawkes

    Fawkes Songster

    May 8, 2011
    Does anyone know of non-toxic plants? I want a fast growing vine with edible fruit (for humans) to grow on my chain link duck pen. It's partly for providing extra shade for the ducks but also because I plan on growing fruit vines anyway, so this'll save space. There will be a trellis as a separator to keep them from eating very many leaves.

    I think blackberry plants are non-toxic so I'll probably do a section with blackberries but I want some variety.

    I've considered...muscadine grapes, kiwi fruit, kiwano melon, cantaloupe/melon, passion fruit (but i think the leaves/flowers are toxic?), but I have no idea what plants are safe. There is so little info online about whether these leaves/flowers are toxic.

    While the fruit vines are growing in I could do veggies that vine like bean plants, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, etc but again, I'm not sure which plants are safe.

  2. joan1708

    joan1708 Songster

    May 14, 2011
    DFW - mid cities, Tx
    where do you live? what kind of soil? sun or shade? drainage? Have to pick something that grows in your area. check out you local extension agent site for ideas.
  3. Fawkes

    Fawkes Songster

    May 8, 2011
    Oh, I forgot to say, I'm in zone 9a of Florida and the plants would be in full sun with good drainage. The soil is mostly sand, like most Florida soil, so I would use compost.
  4. Gallo del Cielo

    Gallo del Cielo La Gallina Resort & Spa

    May 6, 2010
    My Coop
    I have grape vines that grow up through and over the chicken run. It provides leafy forage for most of the year and spectacular shade. With your climate I would also suggest growing Chayote (AKA, Merliton, vegetable squash). It would be perennial in your zone, it grows shockingly fast and the leaves/vines and squashes are edible to humans and chickens.

  5. I agree with your choice of muscadines, but I'm not sure if kiwi will do well there (in your climate, anyway). Cantaloupe and melon might be cumbersome with the fruit (what if one starts to grow between the trellis and the fence?), and they are prone to fungal infections in the Florida climate. I, too, have wondered about passion fruit vines. Some references say they are toxic, while others say they are safe. I think the problem is that there are so many species of passion flowers, while only a few produce edible fruit, and "passion flower" and "passion fruit" species get confused.I have a book called Florida's Best Fruiting Plants that you might want to get for yourself (I'm planning on moving to south Florida in a few years), and it does not list any danger about the plant (other than it being possibly invasive). There are other species with the "leaves may cause irritation" or "leaves are toxic" notes, so I'm thinking that the edible-fruit species are ok.

    While they don't provide edible fruit, you should also consider nasturtium (leaves and flowers are edible) or a climbing rose (non-toxic, ducks may find fallen petals a real treat, and they are a decorative cover). Look for Climbing Chinas or Teas (not Hybrid Teas), Tea-Noisettes, Lady Banks, or some of the climbing Hybrid Musk roses to fit your purpose in your climate. The links I provided give general information to the classes of roses I mentioned, but there are many other sources for roses that fall into those classes. Oh, and check the HelpMeFind website for looking up specific named roses -- here is the page for one that you might really like, "Secret Garden Musk Climber")

    For your climate, and considering the root knot nematode issue, it might be best to make a raised bed around the duck pen where you want to plant, or keeping the plants in large containers. If you go the raised-bed route, go about two feet in height, and lay down sheets of cardboard directly on the ground inside the raised bed to kill the grass underneath. Then add lots of organic matter (even unfinished compost left to finish in here). The nematodes prefer loose sandy soil, and they have a harder time in very rich organic soil. You can also plant a row of marigolds to edge the front of the planting -- they drive off root knot nematodes in the soil where they are planted.

  6. tweetysvoice

    tweetysvoice Songster

    Dec 30, 2011
    Lawrence, KS
    My Coop
    I would be afraid that the chicks would eat the vines as they are growing (Even if planted on the outside, I can see them picking at them through the fence).. Anyone have this issue? If not, then this is a great idea!
  7. You could use a solid barrier to protect leaves at the height the ducks can reach, then remove it once the plants have climbed up higher. This could be almost anything -- particle board, shower curtains, old sheets, plexiglass, etc. Just attach it along the perimeter between the ducks and the plants, and remove when no longer necessary. If you build raised beds or use containers that are tall enough, the beginning of growth might already start high enough to be out of reach.

    I am years away from it (just about to finish my bachelor's, then have about six years of graduate school ahead of me before I can think about buying a home), but I like to do some pre-planning as motivation. While I wasn't thinking about duck pens, I do anticipate building outdoor planted aviaries for cage-bird species, and I like the idea of using vines to cover the outside of the enclosures. I'm thinking of a picture-frame model, with the "picture" being the floorplan of the aviary, and the "frame" being a perimeter of a raised bed, which will perform two functions. First, having a wall around the outside of the aviary would deter burrowing pests from gaining entry into the aviary. Second, the raised bed would allow a deeper layer of good soil (Florida soil is typically very sandy, and in the area in which I'm interested, is a thin layer on a bed of limestone). To help combat root knot nematodes, a raised bed can more easily be maintained with compost and manure than trying to mix it into soil at ground level. And to prevent plants from spreading to where I don't want them, the raised bed would provide a barrier to root-runners (passion flowers are notorious for spreading, especially in Florida and other warm regions).

    Since my interest was more in providing decorative cover, I looked into plants that would work for this function. Muscadines and passion flowers get big and leafy, but they also fruit (I'd just let the birds inside eat whatever was produced). Climbing roses have the added benefits of thorns (most of them, anyway...there are some that are thornless) to deter predators from trying to get through the aviary wire, and also attract aphids, which many of the species I'm interested in love to eat. And since I love roses anyway, I couldn't think of a better way to display some of the beautiful old climbers and ramblers than having them draped across aviaries.


  8. Oh, another plant to consider that grows really well in Florida is Malabar spinach. The leaves are edible and resemble spinach in taste and texture, and in Florida, will probably be perennial. You'd have to keep up a barrier at the base, though, since the ducks will probably love eating it. A big plus for the plant is that its most active growth occurs during the peak of summer heat, which is when many other Florida crops are on sabbatical.

  9. Fawkes

    Fawkes Songster

    May 8, 2011
    Thanks! I've been wanting to grow chayote, I'm glad it's safe for ducks/chickens. I think I'll do chayote, muscadine grapes, and blackberries. Right now the pen is only 10x10 (and 6ft high) but later on I plan on extending it to 10x30/10x40 and then I'll have some more space for more plants and more ducks/chickens! :D

    Do muscadines have seeds and if they do would they be safe for the birds in case they got a hold of a grape? If the seeds are toxic I can just not allow the plants to grow on the top of the pen or through the chain link, that way no grapes will be within their reach.

    I don't think I'll take the risk with passion fruit on the pen then, I'll just make a trellis/lattice fence for them somewhere else.

    Malabar spinach is another one I've been planning on as I've been researching lately on tropical veggies.

    I actually like eating flowers, lol. I have a rose bush and I eat the petals, as well as giving some to my rabbits and parrots (my ducks are very picky). I have a veerrry long list of edible plants I want to grow, I'll have to add nasturtiums and marigolds to it- I looked them up and they sound tasty! That's neat that marigolds drive off nematodes, I'll have to remember that.

    the first 4 ft or so of the pen has wire (to protect the ducks from raccoons, since coons can reach through chain link) and then with the lattice fencing as well it should keep the plants safe enough from the ducks. The ones I'll be growing are pretty fast growing so I imagine it won't matter if the plants grow within reach of them once they are established.
  10. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ng045




    So based on the above information, if you plant directly into the ground, consider a cover crop of french marigolds for a season before planting your desired plants.

    Muscadines do have seeds, and they are not toxic -- they are actually beneficial, as are grape seeds.

    If you want to add nasturtiums, be aware that many of the newer varieties are "bush" type, bred to be compact for smaller gardens. Most of the "climbing" types are older, but can be found, such as "Jewel of Africa" or "Climbing Mixed" from Thompson-Morgan Seeds. If you aren't sure, look at the "mature height" on the seed packet. If it's measured in inches, it's a "bush" type. If it's measured in feet, it's a "climbing" type.


    ETA -- I just remembered another species I had on my "list" of possible safe vines -- hops (Humulus lupulus).
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2012

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