Free Feed: Weeds! Yes...really!

I’m back, with more ideas on cutting your flock’s feed bill by using free chicken feed sources. Layer feed can get expensive so I try to cut costs as much as possible by finding various ways to feed my chickens, ducks and guinea fowl. We've talked about Garden Rejects and cooking damaged or dirty eggs as frugal feed sources for your chickens. This time we’re looking at weeds. Yes, really!

free chicken feed source

Not only are many weeds highly nutritious and completely edible, but it’s an awesome motivation to start weeding that garden! There are literally dozens of weeds that you could be feeding your chickens and they will love you for it. Here are a few that I feed to my chickens on a regular basis and they grow just about everywhere.

Weeds chickens can eat:

Smartweed: This one is pretty easy to spot because of it’s pretty pink seed like flowers. I’ve always called it Lady’s thumb, but its actually called smartweed and the chickens go nuts for it. This is another one that is extremely easy to pull, it comes out by the handfuls with very little effort. (upper left corner)

Bittercress: Bittercress is a favorite from chickens and foraging humans alike! It grows in a compact rosette form, with stems radiating out from the center. The leaves are shaped like kidney beans and grow in pairs on opposite sides of the stem.

It has a mild radish like flavor and is very easy to pull. I get tons of it growing wild in the garden and all across my lawn. (upper right corner)

Dandelion: Chickens enjoy all parts of the dandelion plant, from root to stem and on to the flower. They love it all. It’s easy to pick the Dandelion leaves, but the root is a bit tougher to harvest. You’ll have to pull a little dirt back and grab hold of the root itself to yank it all out. Dandelion loves to grow in the craziest places so take a look around, you probably have some growing somewhere! 

Dandelion greens that can be used for chicken feed

Chickweed: Considering it's name it's no wonder the chickens love it! Chickweed can grow very long (tall?) and sort of spread out, or can stay more compact if growing conditions aren't right. It has stringy, slightly hairy stems with oval leaves that grow opposite each other. Flowers are very small and white with deeply lobed petals, sort of daisy like. 

Just yank out the whole plant and put it in the chicken run. They'll eat the parts they like!

Clover: Clover is another of my chickens favorite treats. I just yank a few handfuls out of the ground and toss them into  the run and the chickens go nuts! I've fed them both red clover and white clover and they seem to like the white better...but they will eat both.

Feeding chickens for free: Weeds!

Lambs quarters: Also called fat hen. That name should be easy to remember, right? This plant has triangle shaped leaves with toothed edges that people like to claim looks like a gooses foot...but I don't think they've raised many geese! lol Lambs quarters has a center stem with the leaves growing out from it in various sizes and often has a red tinge at the base of each leaf. 

High in several different vitamins and minerals, but also high in oxalic acid, so feed in moderation.

Purslane: An annual succulent that grows in almost all climates. It is a trailing plant that grows in poor soil with thick, reddish colored stems and puffy feeling leaves. It grows low along the ground and spreads out in all directions. Can have tiny, yellow flowers.

Purslane is a nutrient dense foods for humans and poultry alike that has loads of antioxidants, minerals and Omega-3 fatty acids. 

If you’re lucky enough to have wild carrot or wild strawberry growing, the chickens will love that too. You can also grab a few handfuls of grass out of the bag next time you mow the lawn and throw that to the chickens and ducks. They will enjoy digging through it and picking out the stuff they like.

Of course if something is unfamiliar to you, take a minute to look it up before you toss it in the run. Just in case. Also, if anything has been sprayed with pesticides then it’s best to just skip it. Why take chances?

I have no better motivation for weeding the garden then those cute little fuzzy faces begging for treats. However, if you’re weeding to remove the weed from a garden, make sure you yank the whole root. 

If you’re weeding just to feed the chickens simply pull off the leaves and most will grow back shortly for a new treat. That way you’ll have a never ending supply of free treats! Happy weeding!

Thanks to Natural News for the recent mention of this article when it appeared in Backyard Poultry mag!

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  1. My chickens free-range and I have a backyard full of dandelions that they will not touch with a ten foot pole. Odd.

    In any case, thanks for linking up with the Clever Chicks and have a great week!

    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

    1. Ya know, my free range flock wont touch them either but if I throw them into any of the pens they go nuts for them!


    2. Must be a "grass is always greener" thing. LOL!

  2. Can't beat free! This is a great post for me to keep in mind as we hope to get chickens when we move.
    Thanks for sharing on The Maple Hill Hop!

  3. I've recently learned about poisonous hemlock which can be confused with wild carrot and is all over my yard. Yikes! And miner's lettuce that's edible for humans too. A weed I've seen all my life and just found out about. Chicken's love it and clover. Oh and nasturtium which we have a lot of as well, and the chickens get a bit of an entertainment/challenge with because of the big round leaves are kind of tough. Love this site. -Prunedale, CA

  4. Thank you so much for this info so will watch for the weeds next year as our growing season is almost over!