To honour flockdown being lifted and our hens being allowed out to free-range again, we’ve put together our top tips on creating a hen-friendly garden for both you and your feathered friends.
Because, just as many people can’t imagine their lives without a cat or dog, we can’t imagine a garden without a flock of chickens running around.
So how do you create a hen-friendly garden which also looks great? After all, chickens are known for destroying prized petunias given half the chance, so here we take a look at the best ways to strike the perfect balance.
Keep your hens in a fixed run
As any hen keeper will know, Avian Influenza kept birds inside for many months; however, we do actually recommend keeping hens in a fixed run when unsupervised to protect them from predators.
This has the added benefit of keeping them away from your precious planted areas. You can add some greenery around and inside their run if you wish so they don’t miss out on all the action.
Climbers such as clematis and honeysuckle can be planted at the base of the fence to grow up alongside it, and fruit trees and bushes can go inside the run if there’s room. This creates areas of interest as well as shade for your hens and they may even get a tasty treat if they’re lucky.
Thankfully, now our hens are allowed out again, we can start to think of more creative ways of gardening which will benefit our hens across the rest of the garden too.
Hen-friendly garden plants
You won’t be surprised to learn there are lots of plants that hens like to eat! Herbs are especially tasty to hens and some of them come with added benefits too.
These include comfrey, as a source of protein and calcium; rosemary, which helps to repel nasty insects; thyme, which is good for their respiratory system; sage, which is an antioxidant; and lavender, which can be calming.
Social influencer Lucy Hutchings, whose Instagram account @shegrowsveg has amassed 168,000 followers, gave us her top veg recommendation for hens.
“When I got together with my partner Mike I had a tiny garden, but we carved out a whole corner and created an enclosure and got chickens quite early on,” she said. “I keep experimenting with what crops you can grow which will supplement their diet. Chard is a great one because it is easy to grow through most of the year and they love it.”
Aside from herbs and chard, hens do like to nibble on grass, so if you’re letting them free range around a small garden just know that it may not stay green for too long!
Be aware of dangerous plants
A word of warning if your hens are free ranging, is to be aware of potentially dangerous plants such as ivy, foxgloves, delphiniums, hyacinth and rhododendrons.
Luckily, hens are quite good at staying away from things that are bad for them, but if your hens show interest then it’s not worth the risk and there are so many other plants to enjoy.
Aside from that, with a bit of careful planning, you can create a hen-friendly garden which works for your plants and your hens. Ex-commercial hens in particular make a wonderful addition to any garden, bringing joy and entertainment daily through their inquisitive, endearing and life-enriching qualities.
So, get your gardening gloves out this weekend and spend a bit of time pottering and planting with your hens.