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


(return to top)

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.


(return to top)

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.


(return to top)

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


(return to top)

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.


(return to top)

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.


(return to top)

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.

* Indicated the best chicken plants

Drops in a Bucket Blog

 »Read all blog posts...

Sign up for the Newsletter

Upcoming Events

  1. Hands-On Tree Care, Pruning & Mulching Workshop Saturday, February 22, 2020

    February 22 @ 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
  2. Water Harvesting Certification Course – Tucson, AZ

    March 8 - March 15
  3. Agroforestry conference, March 17 to 19, 2020 – Tucson, Arizona

    March 17 - March 18
  4. 2020 Rocky Mountain Natural Building Conference – Moab, Utah

    March 26 - March 28

Umbrella Newsletter

The Umbrella: Winter 2019/2020

THE UMBRELLA: A catch-all of resources, events, media, and more from Brad Lancaster   Rain Planting E-BOOK now available! Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1, 3rd Edition now available in E-BOOK format Plant the Rain gifts Get holidays gifts that spread the word and practice on how we can make the world a […]

 »Read all newsletters...

Like what this website offers?

Donations are greatly appreciated as they enable us to continuously update this expansive resource and generate new content. Thanks!