Zinnias are great flowers to grow in a flower garden. Not only do they come in many pretty colors and varieties, they can handle heat, sunny locations, and will self seed, which means I don’t need to plant more seeds next year. They also grow several feet tall and make a great jungle area for my chickens to roam.
In general, chickens will not eat zinnias as the plants have a bitter taste. While a chicken might do a taste test on a leaf, they will not eat the entire plant or flowers. Chickens can damage zinnias by scratching or knocking over the stalks, so it’s best to keep your chickens out of the flowers beds.
Read on to learn more about how chickens interact with zinnias.
Chickens Will Not Eat Zinnias
Typically, chickens will not eat zinnias since the plants are said to have a bitter taste. Initially a chicken might taste a leaf but they will not eat the entire plant.
Chickens that free range will eat a variety of plants and insects. They will take one or two bites of something but if it doesn’t taste right to them they will not continue to eat the plant. This behavior will protect chickens from eating toxic plants since poisonous plants typically have a bitter taste.
In addition, when other chickens see that a plant has not been eaten by the more brave chickens in the flock, they will not attempt to eat the plant either. Chickens will mimic each other’s behaviors, which is why they will congregate around one chicken that is eating a treat instead finding their own treat to eat.
When chickens free range, they prefer to scratch the ground looking for insects and seeds. If they have access to your garden, chickens will choose to eat the plants and fruits that are sweet or fleshy, like peaches, berries, and tomatoes.
Chickens will also eat grass, but usually only eat the top part of the grass instead of the entire grass blade. They also love clover and dandelions.
In general, chickens enjoy the same fruits and vegetables as people, with a particular preference for juicy, fleshy foods like peaches, watermelons, berries, and tomatoes. They also enjoy greens like lettuce, Swiss chard, and leaves from sweet potato plants. Chickens require protein for their feathers, so they will also eat many of the insects and bugs found in your backyard. I wrote a post about The Natural Diet of Chickens were I go into this topic in more detail and I discuss how the diets of chickens has evolved as they have transitioned from living in jungles to being domesticated and living alongside humans.
Based on the types of foods that chickens prefer to eat, you can tell that zinnias do not fit the type of snack that a chicken is going to pick out from your yard.
However, if your chickens get hungry enough they might try to snack on your zinnias. Chickens that are malnourished are more likely to eat toxic plants. By ensuring your chickens have access to feed throughout the day, the risk of your chickens eating toxic plants should be minimized.
Chickens Can Damage Zinnias
While chickens will not eat zinnias, they can damage the plants.
When zinnias are seedlings, chickens can tear the plants out of the ground through their scratching. Chickens instinctively scratch the ground looking for insects, worms, seeds, and rocks to eat. Chickens don’t have teeth so they require grit, or rocks, to be eaten to help digest food in their gizzard.
Chickens can also walk on top of small plants, bending the stalks and crushing the flowers. When chickens are walking through a garden or flower bed looking for things to eat on the ground, they are not looking at where they are going or what they are stepping on. Their main focus will be on procuring food and watching out for predators.
Chickens still have an opportunity to damage zinnias once they are full-grown. When the chickens walk through the plants, they can knock over the stalks and bend them to the ground. The nice thing about zinnias, however, is that once they are knocked over they will continue to grow.
My chickens love to walk through the zinnias in my flower bed but they are able to damage the plants if they are given too much access to the bed. Their manure is great for fertilizer, however, their large feet and scratching will damage the plants. While I am not concerned about my chickens eating my zinnias, I do chase them out of the flower bed to prevent them from damaging the flowers.