seems to be very little information in the literature about plants that
chickens particularly like on pasture. So I’ve taken to sitting
with our flock now and then and watching what they seem excited about
eating. Scratching through the soil for insects is preferred to
eating plant matter of any sort, but certain plants do get our hens
excited. I’ve talked about chickweed in the past, and I have to
say that chickweed still seems to be near the
top of our hens’ list, perhaps because the girls had been in the
tractor for so long without access to succulent greenery.
Tick-trefoil (Desmodium sp.) seeds are another
favorite. At this time of year, the triangular seed pods snag a
ride on my pants legs, and our hens will spend as long as I allow them
picking the cloth clean of hitchhikers. I’m not surprised that
tick-trefoil is preferred since the species is a legume with,
presumably, high protein seeds. Purdue’s
famine foods website
notes that people eat the seeds of one species of tick-trefoil in China
and the leaves of another species in Nigeria.
Morning glory (Ipomoeae
are mildly toxic, but our hens seem to like them in small quantities.
I’ve read that
Ring-necked Pheasant and Bobwhite will eat morning glory seeds too, so
I assume my girls aren’t poisoning themselves. The seeds are
quite large, so they probably give the hens a good dose of nutrition.
My goal is to manage the
forest pasture so that the chickens have a
wide variety of wild foods available at all times. I’ll keep you
posted as I notice other chicken favorites in different seasons.
waterer is perfect
for the forest pasture — we fill ours only every month or so.