30 Easy to Grow Chicken Resistant Plants

30 Easy to Grow Chicken Resistant Plants

I started keeping chickens in early 2009 and quickly learned, they can damage a beautiful yard in a short period of time. Hens enjoy spending their days scratching, nibbling, digging, and dust bathing anywhere they have access to. My gardening methods and plants had to adapt to the hens’ behaviors and I had figure out which plants chickens don’t eat. Back then, there was almost no information out on the internet about successful gardening with chickens. I didn’t want to keep my hens cooped up all day and I wanted the benefits that came with free ranging.

Plenty of the plants on my Chicken Resistant Plant list are the easiest for gardeners in Southern California to grow, and as an added benefit, some are drought tolerant. This is an important feature due to the current local water restrictions.  This list is based on my personal experience over a couple of growing seasons with a small backyard flock, and feedback from fellow chicken keepers. Please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this post about what your chickens like or don’t like to eat.

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chicken garden
Chickens will eat the yard until nothing is left if all you plant is what they like. Start planting some of what they don’t eat, too.

Important Considerations with free range chickens

  • Different chickens have different tastes.  Someone else’s hens might develop a taste for things like nasturtiums, while others leave it alone.  Experiment and never buy a ton of anything to start with.  I will leave a newly purchased potted plant where the hens can nibble.   If they ignore it, in the ground it goes the following week, and if it does well, I can buy more later.
  • Hungry chickens will eventually eat almost any plants if there is nothing else to forage around or no other good food source.  Check toxicity levels before planting anything.  Chickens don’t normally bother poisonous plants unless they have nothing else to choose from, but also try not to plant stuff that is DEADLY like foxglove or oleander. I wrote a separate post about poisonous plants and toxicity. I generally keep a mix of fast growing annuals they can munch on with chicken proof shrubs and medium sized perennial plants. I also have a desert tortoise that I have to be careful not to poison.

Tips to Reduce Chicken Damage to the Garden

  • I always give my chickens lots yummy treats and constant access to their feeder and waterer.  I have a large number of grape vines and a modest amount of grass in the backyard that my hens munch so they are never at loss for green stuff when they are free roaming. Plus the hens happily clean up fallen fruit, as long as its not citrus.
  • Temporarily fence them out with chicken wire or other portable fencing until young plants are more established
  • Fence off the vegetable garden. Chickens love the buffet in veggie patch.
  • Plant more fruit trees, shrubs, and woody perennials to provide “bones” to the garden so it doesn’t look bare.
  • If your climate is dramatically different that Southern California zone 10b, consider trying plants that your local cooperative extension recommends as deer proof plants for your area.

List of 30 Plants Chickens Won’t East

  1. Agapanthus
  2. Amercrinum
  3. Anenome
  4. Asperagas Fern
  5. Bearded Iris
  6. Calla lily
  7. Camellia
  8. Citrus
  9. Clivia
  10. Cuphea llavea
  11. Erysimum / Wallflower
  12. Freesia
  13. Four O’clock 
  14. Foxtail Fern
  15. Gazania
  16. Heliotrope
  17. lavender
  18. Lambs Ears
  19. Lantana (a number of comments below mention their chickens DO like this plant)
  20. Limonium
  21. Milkweed
  22. Nandina Domestica/ Heavenly Bamboo
  23. Nastrutium
  24. Osteospurmum
  25. Penstamon
  26. Pittosporum
  27. Salvia
  28. Sansaveria / Mother in Law’s Tounge
  29. Sedum 
  30. Yarrow

Update from Summer 2021

When I was first starting out with chickens, I wish there were more resources on keeping them in an urban setting with ornamental plantings and fruit trees like mine. There were no lists of which plants chickens don’t eat. Because of that fact, before I started this blog, I made a similar, more rudimentary page at Backyardchickens.com about Plants Chickens Don’t Eat and it was based on what I had learned on my own. I did it to help other newbies out. My user name there was Gardenerd.

12 years into chicken keeping, we still have a little flock and the garden is actually much lovelier than it was before having chickens. It took work and patience. A beautiful garden with chickens takes more than just avoiding plants that chickens like to eat and only growing plants chickens don’t eat. I often post about my gardening vs chickens and have more suggestions in other posts.

For Christmas a few years ago, I was given the perfect gift from the kids, a book titled Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard. I enjoyed reading and learning tips from other gardeners and their suggestions and seeing how they incorporate chickens into their yards. I highly recommend it to fellow gardeners that want to keep a pretty yard and still have pet chickens. I just wish it was published before I got my chickens all those years ago.

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32 thoughts on “30 Easy to Grow Chicken Resistant Plants

  1. Thank you for posting this list! I have not found a comprehensive list on the internet. I’m looking for a ground cover to go in between flagstone and they’ve eaten the few of plants I’ve tried except the Red Mahogany Sedum, they leave that alone. I will try lantana and peppermint and see if I like it for my purpose (AND if the girls don’t eat it).

  2. Thanks for the list! Our chickens eat yarrow and peck at sedum ruthlessly and sometimes have a few bites of rosemary. But they do stay clear of lavender, sage, marjoram, roses, salvia, passionfruit vines, bougainvillea, sansaveria, pineapple, bird of paradise, Sphaeralcea incana, and calla.

  3. I have found the the chickens do not care for thicker or leathery leaved plants. Cyclamen, Kalanchoe, Agapanthus, Canna, most ferns and Muhly Grass

  4. I have started giving them a few handfuls of mixed greens every morning,,,, what else can I add to distract them from my plants?

    1. I am sorry to hear you are having problems with them eating your plants.

      Other than my various tips mentioned in my post, if you are not on a tight budget or water restrictions, my motion activated sprinker does keep chickens and similar sized critters out of an small sections of yard at a time. I only have one, but multiple ones could cover a larger area. I mainly use mine near the grape vines, just before ripening, to keep raccoons away. It works with the chickens too. The one I use is called a “yard enforcer.” But there are lots of different types on the market often called scarecrows.

      Best wishes with your chickens and garden. -Lianne

  5. I’ve read that iris are toxic to chickens, but I see them on your list. Does that just mean that chickens typically do NOT eat them? Thanks.

  6. Thanks for all the info. Great website. I live in Inglewood so have more heat and less fog than you and am looking into which grapes to grow. FYI your photo listed as Amaryllis belladonna is something different. A belladonna has only leaves in the spring, which die down in early summer and then only a flower stalk in late summer – hence the name Naked Ladies. What you have may be Amercrinum which is a cross of A belladonna and a Crinum Lily or possibly Lycoris or a pink Crinum Lily. If you want some belladonnas just let me know and I also have Crinums and Hymenocallis if you want any.

  7. Thanks for giving me some breeds to start looking at. She was part of a backyard flock of “mutts” that an old guy had bred for generations to meet his needs so I thought she was one-of-a-kind. After looking at some pictures the closest I could get was Sumatran due to her sheen and tail shape, but her head is more like your Black Australorp. I’ll look up the Black Japanese and Black Olde English also. She’s such a great bird–voracious forager and wonderful layer. I feel like she truly earns her keep by being so low maintenance. The only downside is that she’s extremely skittish but maybe that’d be different if I’d had her as a chick.

  8. Can you please tell me about the black chicken in the Pittosporum picture? I have a bantam-sized hen that looks exactly like your black chicken whose origin I know nothing about (she was a gift). She’s a fabulous layer, almost every single day, of small white eggs. Her feathers have a slight greenish sheen in the sunlight and her tail is more upright and full than that of your bird. I’d love to know what breed she is as I’d like to have more.

    Also, this is a great list…thanks so much for including pictures as a long list of plant names becomes hard to remember.

    1. Sarah,

      The chicken by the pittosporum is a large fowl Black Australorp. I am not sure if they come in bantam, but most large breeds have bantam counterparts. Maybe your chicken is a Black Japanese or a Black Olde English. Have you looked at images of those to see if that is what you have? Olde English are very popular.

  9. Something that I have found useful in protecting newly planted plants until they get established is, to cut off the ends of a can of bulk corn, pizza sauce etc. and place this over the plant. The cans I use say 6lbs. 10oz. on them (I have a large family). If you don’t have a large family I’ve heard that you can get these at restaurants that discard them, if you’re willing to ask.

    Hope this helps,

  10. My chickens dug my (pretty steep) hill area pretty bad. I would like to plant some low maintenance, drought tolerant flowering plants. Would Heather be a good choice?

    I’d like some advise on this.

    Lisa in Seattle

    1. I wish I could offer advice, but I have never grown heather, only false heather, which isn’t actually a heather. My suggestion, based on my SoCal climate would be Lantana, as long as there other edible plants for chickens to munch. , they will likely leave lantana alone since it is on the toxic plant list. Maybe inquire at seattle tilth if they have a good suggestion or your local cooperative extension.

  11. I have read the only thing toxic on a lantana plant is the green berries. Lantana is used medicinally in many parts of the world. The ripe berries being black are used by migratory birds. Not an expert just what I read.

  12. My flock decimated my Lantanas with five acres to roam freely. They came upstairs on my deck to do so. Twenty (or less) chickens ate 17 big plants (not in bloom) I must have been lucky because they never showed ill effects.

  13. Hi, just wanted to mention I had 5 pots of beautiful Begonias. The chickens and roosters began to eat away all the flowers. When those were gone, they ate the plants down to the dirt. Next year my Begonia pots will go inside my screened porch and only come out for some sun when the chickens are in their pens! They also went after the Impatiens for awhile, but later left them alone. I do not know why. They have acres of ground to wander in, but always return to the gardens.

  14. Hi there,

    Very interesting and great to ‘hopefully’ have such a variety of plants and flowers for our chicken run. We only have two chickens but they munch everything…!
    Thanks for putting all this info up. It has helped me a lot.

    Africa Wild Trails Ltd

  15. Love your blog. I live in Az and wanting to landscape my backyard to accomodate my chickens. Your blog has given me some great ideas. Your backyard is beautiful and tha gives me hope.

  16. I’m so happy to find you. I live in NW Michigan. Love my chickens and love my gardens. Now I have a better idea of how to keep all living happily ever-after.

  17. What about vegetable plants?? I was thinking of growing potatoes and possibly parsnips and carrots in the small paddock where my chickens live. Would this work??

    1. Generally, chickens go after most vegetable plants, and few plants survive in a small enclosed chicken run. Chickens might scratch up carrot or parsnips seedlings before they could get established. Herbs like sage, mint, rosemary, or bay laurel, might work.

      I would not recommend trying potatoes in a small paddock. If potato plants are one of the few green things they have regular access to, there is a very good chance they will eat the leaves. Potatoes (like tomatoes) contain poison in the stems and leaves. Potato plants are in the Solanaceae family (nightshade) and have a toxin, called solanine, in the green parts which cause gastrointestinal and neurological damage. The poisonous plants I have in my yard are left alone by the chickens because there are lots of other edible green things the chickens can forage on. Please see my post on poisonous plants for more links to toxic plants https://hanburyhouse.com/poisonous-plants/

      1. Our chickens have taken over the vegetable patch, and have nibbled away at the mint and rosemary!!

    1. Be careful, all parts of Lantana are toxic. If they really like it, it might be a good idea to either fence it off or remove it. Lantana can cause a variety of health problems, including lethargy, weakness and collapse of the circulatory system.

I would love to know what you think about this.

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