Why are my hens eating my perennials, not lettuce?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by chickster88, Aug 8, 2008.

  1. chickster88

    chickster88 Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 27, 2008
    Hi,
    A first-timer here! I have 3 hens who just started laying their first eggs this week. Yay!

    On an unrelated note. My hens are DESTROYING my perennials, especially my rudebeckia and purple coneflower, which have similar thick, slightly hairy leaves. They eat them as much as they can, and I don't know why. They ignore the lettuce I offer them (sliced, washed romaine) as well as baby spinach and even mache lettuce. Also those organic baby green salad mix leaves. I don't know why they turn their beaks up at fresh, quality greens in favour of my plants.

    I have a small yard and they get to leave their indoor coop, and sand- covered outdoor run for several hours a day to forage in my small urban yard which is landscaped with pea gravel, lots of perennials and natural pavers. There wasn't any grass, but they could eat our neighbour's tall grass (which comes through the fence), and a few days ago we actually ripped out a small flower bed in a corner of our yard in order to lay a small grassy patch for them under a nicely shaded lilac bush. They are ignoring this grassy patch. It was designed for them to nibble and relax on! But they only want to eat my perennials!

    Why?

    Any ideas for how to deal with this?

    Their diet is chicken scratch and birdseed mix, fresh corn, cheese, sliced greens (which they ignore, as mentioned), green peas, sliced grapes and apples, and a couple times a week they also get live crickets and mealworms from the pet store, as well as whatever bugs they are foraging in our yard.

    For the most part they are very happy, friendly birds. But the flower thing is really bugging me! Advice please?
     
  2. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    Well. Looks like it's time to fence the plants in. Offer free choice layer for proper development and egg laying too as that will be good for them in the long run. Chances are those plants have some nutrient they are missing and are eating it to get it. Lettuce is pretty much crunchy water.
     
  3. chickster88

    chickster88 Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 27, 2008
    Oh wait, sorry, I made a mistake. They are eating a prepared layer mix from the feed store, not chicken scratch. I thought they were the same thing, and I see they are not. Sorry about that!

    So they've got constant access to the layer mix, mixed with bird seed (sunflower seeds, niger, millett mix), as well as all the treats!

    Are there nutrient-rich greens you could recommend? As I mentioned, they don't like fresh baby spinach, fresh baby salad greens (mix of baby lettuces with baby beet leaves) or mache.

    It's so frustrating!
     
  4. JennsPeeps

    JennsPeeps Rhymes with 'henn'

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    Jun 14, 2008
    South Puget Sound
    My girls prefer things that are still in the ground to plants that have been pulled up.

    I had to fence in my veggie garden b/c they figured out - after FRing for a month - that there were tasty things in there.
     
  5. chickster88

    chickster88 Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 27, 2008
    After some more research I think I am going to try making their lives a bit more "hardscrabble." (As hardscrabble as a pampered urban hen's life could be, in any case.) I think if I force them to work more for their food, they'll be preoccupied with that instead of my plants.

    I'm going to start throwing their birdseed in their run and under the shrubs they like to hang out under in my yard, instead of putting it in a bowl, and leaving the corn on the cobs instead of scraping it off for them.

    I'll start tying their fresh veggies up instead of dicing them into a bowl, too. Hope fully this will help.

    But if anyone has ideas re: healthy greens their birds love, please let me know! Thanks.
     

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