Landscaping our New Chicken Run

As excited as we were to move to Maine last summer and set down roots in New England again, I was sorry to leave our farm in Virginia. There were so many nice features that had taken years to build/raise/grow/create and leaving them behind was tough. One in particular was our landscaped chicken run.

As you know, it takes awhile to establish plants anywhere, but especially where there are chickens involved! Lots of plants bit the dust over the years as I experimented with different ways to chicken-proof them while they were growing, but little by little I had managed to create a veritable oasis for my flock to enjoy.

But now I am back to square one. Our run, which was covered in lush, green grass last August is now a barren, dirt-filled area. I am so happy that spring is finally here and I can get planting! In addition to having a blank slate, I had moved 900 miles north - from zone 7 to zone 5 - but fortunately I was easily able to adapt what I had found worked in Virginia to similar plants that would work equally as well in Maine.

From my years of trial and error I had a plan in place, so I reached out to Nature Hills Nursery who agreed to supply me with a variety of chicken-friendly plants that would be perfect for our new run. Planting bushes and shrubs in your run serves several purposes - the most important being providing your chickens shade and a wind block as well as a bit of a screen from the neighbors and any predators passing by. Benefits for you include adding a little eye candy to your backyard as you enjoy being outside with your chickens or peeking out the kitchen window as you prepare dinner or wash dishes.

Some of my favorites that I had incorporated into our run in Virginia included rosebushes, butterfly bushes and juniper bushes, so I went those all of those again - just making sure I chose cold-hardy varieties. I also added a few blueberry bushes to the lineup because after all, we're in Maine now!

So here's what I selected  from Nature Hills Nursery:

Butterfly Bushes

I'm partial to butterfly bushes in the run because not only do they grow incredibly fast and have beautiful flowers, their drooping branches provide a perfect place for my chickens to nap or relax out of the sun.  They aren't toxic to the chickens, but my chickens have never been interested in eating their leaves, so they're my first choice to plant right inside the run. Of course I did ring the base with stones to protect the roots and also caged the bushes. Until they get larger, it's a good idea to protect the plants.

I chose these three varieties:


I wanted some climbing rosebushes to plant outside the run along one side so they would climb up the side fencing and then across part of the top of the run to provide even better shade and also disguise some of the bare fencing. Chickens love to eat roses and will stand under the bushes waiting for the petals to drop. They will also eat the rose hips if you break them in half with your fingernail.

These are the rose varieties I chose:

William Baffin Climbing Rose


Since we're in Maine, I decided to plant some blueberries. The chickens love blueberries, so to protect the bushes, I opted to plant them on the outside of the run. They'll still provide a nice wind block and also shield the chickens from predators' prying eyes - and I'll be sure to share some berries with the chickens!

These two varieties of blueberries are what I chose:


Juniper, and other evergreen bushes, are a great choice for plants that can be planted right inside the run, because chickens leave them alone and they stay green year round for a bit of color. Again, I do ring the base with stones to protect the roots.

I chose these two juniper bushes:

Grey Owl Juniper

Plants from Nature Hills Nursery are shipped based on the planting window for your particular zone. All the plants I chose arrived in large containers and looked vibrant and healthy. I am really pleased with the quality of everything.  I got all the bushes planted and so far they all appear to be doing quite well.

I leave the stones around the base of all the plants for the life of the plant so the chickens can't scratch up the roots, but I remove the cages once the plant is about two feet tall. Even if the chickens eat the lower branches and leaves, the plant should still be fine at that point.

Stay tuned in the coming months for updated photos so you can see how the plants grow and mature and all integrate to provide shade and eye appeal to our new  chicken run! I think it will be well worth the wait to see these beautiful plants grow and bloom!

Disclosure: I was provided plants at no cost by Nature Hills Nursery, but all opinions are my own and I was not further compensated in any way by the Company.

And if your run (or yard!) needs a bit of landscaping done, visit Nature Hills Nursery for these and other beautiful plants. And you'll want to pick up a copy of my new book coming out later this year titled Gardening with Chickens (Voyageur Press) available now for pre-order on

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