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Weeds 101: A Nutritious, FREE Treat for your Backyard Chickens


Chickens love weeds....so do ducks



As an added bonus, most backyard weeds are extremely nutritious and contain tons of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Winter weeds are especially good healthy treats when grass and other greens are scarce.


Certain weeds like pennycress and alfalfa contain the compounds that make your egg yolks bright orange, and some - like chickweed, henbit and fat hen - were originally so named because chickens loved them so much. Chickweed is also a natural pain reliever.  

Clover is one of the most nutritiously complete weeds you could feed your chickens and other livestock. Yarrow is common almost everywhere and while the chickens probably won't eat it, it has lots of antibacterial properties and hanging yarrow in the coop can help clear their respiratory systems. 

But if your husband is anything like mine, our lawn is his pride and joy. 

Every weekend spring through fall, he is out there on weekends riding around on his John Deere cutting the grass or fertilizing or spraying weeds. Weeds are the bane of his existence.  He sprays and pulls and cuts, trying to obliterate them all. I am a bit different.  

To me, if it's green, its fine. A lawn full of dandelions, clover and other weeds is okay by me. It's more natural (we live in the country after all) and the bunnies love the clover. I don't like using pesticides or herbicides at all anywhere. 

 However, we have managed to compromise. The front lawn is his to mow, pamper and keep weed-free. Out back stays natural and full of weeds. If you can choose a spot in your yard to let the weeds grow untreated and unmolested, your chickens will love you for it.  

(Update: since moving to Maine, we leave our entire property pesticide-free and live a far more natural livestyle! Yay!)

 

SAFE WEEDS
Here are some of the more common weeds that grow like crazy in many parts of the country.  They are all perfectly safe to feed to your chickens in unlimited amounts.

 
Beautyberry (callicarpa)
 
Bee Balm


Bitter Cress (Shotweed)

Burweed

Catchweed Bedstraw


Catsear

Chickweed

Clover

Dandelion

Evening Primrose

Fat Hen

Hawkweed

Mousear Chickweed

Mugwort

Nettles

Oxalis (Yellow Wood Sorrel)

Plantain

Purple Deadnettle

Purple Deadnettle (earlier in the season)

Purslane

Shiny Cudweed

Shotweed

Smartweed (Heart's Ease/Lady's Thumb)

Wild Carrot (Queen Anne's Lace)

Wild Carolina Geranium

Wild Strawberry

Wild Violets

Yarrow

WARNING - TOXIC WEED !!!

There are long lists of toxic plants and weeds to avoid, but for the most part, chickens will know what they can eat and what they can't.

Most of the common 'yard' weeds are fine, except for this one: the Buttercup (Ranunculus spp). It causes mouth and stomach irritation and can be toxic in large enough amounts, so avoid letting your chickens near any wild buttercup.


AVOID TOXIC BUTTERCUP

But other than the buttercup, give a handful of  (untreated with pesticides or herbicides) weeds to your chickens and see which ones they like.


We are lucky since we have tons of all of these weeds growing out back in our pasture. This winter has been so mild that the weeds are growing like crazy....much to my husband's consternation, but to my and the girls' delight!


~weed identification provided by the Virginia Extension Service and Chick-Weed Gardening Services~

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