Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond by Brad Lancaster

Tucson-Area Plants for Chickens

Mostly native, plus a few exotic plants also loved by chickens. All but the shortest plants provide shelter for the chickens in addition to food.

Compiled by Brad Lancaster 2004 – 2008


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Canyon Hackberry (Celtis reticulata):
Grows to 30 feet; winter deciduous; fruits October to November; chickens love the fruit and we can eat it too. Less drought hardy.

Mexican Elderberry (Sambucus mexicana):
Grows to 20 feet; summer deciduous; fruits May to October; chickens love the fruit and we can eat it too. Less drought hardy.

Texas Mulberry (Morus microphylla):
Grows from 3 to 26 feet; winter deciduous; fruits May to August; chickens love the fruit and we can eat it too. Less drought hardy.

Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutina):
Grows to 25 feet; semi-winter deciduos; fruits June to September; chickens eat the pods if ground and we can too.

Desert Ironwood (Olyna tesota):
Grows to 25 feet; evergreen; fruits May-July; chickens eat the seeds and we can too.


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Barberry (Berberis hematocarpa and B. trifoliate):
Grows to 6 or 12 feet; evergreen; fruits Feb-May; chickens love the fruit and we can eat them too. A great medicinal plant.

*Desert Hackberry (Celtis pallida):
Grows to 5 to 15 feet; semi-evergreen; fruits July-Sept; chickens eat the fruit and leaves.

*Wolfberry (Lycium fremontii):
Grows to 5 feet; drought deciduous; fruits year round with enough moisture; chickens love the fruit and leaves. We can eat the fruit too. Note: other wolfberries work well too, but this native variety has the largest fruits.

Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis):
Grows 3-16 feet; evergreen; fruiting time is variable; chickens reportedly eat the fruit (though I have not observed this).

Chiltepine (Capsicum aviculare):
Grows 2 to 10 feet; evergreen, but frost sensitive; fruits August to November; chickens love the fruit and I do too!

*Quail Brush (Atriplex lentiformis):
Grows to 8 feet; evergreen; very fast growing chicken shelter, chickens eat the leaves, and sometimes eat the seeds.

Greythorn (Ziziphus obtusifolia):
Evergreen, thorny, chickens eat the fruit when they can get to it. Great nesting habitat for native birds. Place along fencelines.


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Coyote Gourd (Cucurbita digitata):
Winter and drought deciduous; chickens eat the leaves.


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Hedgehog (Echinocereus engelmanii):
Evergreen; chickens love the fruit if you brush off the thorns first. We can eat the tasty fruit too.

Prickly pear (Opuntia engelmannii):
Evergreen; chickens eat the fruit and we can too.

Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantean):
Evergreen, fruits in June; chickens eat the fruit and seeds (once fruit has opened) and we can too.


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Chickens love to eat tansy mustard, Descurainia pinnata; sow thistle, Sonchus oleraceus; winter grasses; amaranth: Amaranthus palmeri and Amaranthus fimbriatus; red spiderling, Boerhavia coulteri; portulaca; and lambsquarters.


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Nopal (Opuntia ficus-indica):
Grows to 10 feet, evergreen; chickens eat the younger tender pads, fruit, and seeds — and we can too.

Fan palm (Washington filifera):
Grows to 60 feet; evergreen; fruits December – January; chickens eat the fruit and we can too.

Pomegranate (Punica granatum):
Grows to 12 feet; winter deciduous; fruits June to October; chickens love the seeds (but you usually have to open the fruit up for them so they can access the seed) and we can eat the fruit too.

I wouldn’t plant it, but chickens love to eat Bermuda grass and will weed it for you.

* The best chicken plants

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