Growing Chicken Treats = Red Elderberry

This is one plant that I absolutely love to have around just for my chickens. Sambucus racemosa is a Pacific Northwest native shrub and is super easy to grow, thriving in all kinds of growing conditions (sun or shade, dry or moist soil, etc).  Every bird within a mile radius knows when the elderberry fruit is ripe and comes for it.  Most farmers will tell you that it will grow in pastures because livestock won’t eat it…because the stems and leaves are toxic and most animals know better than to eat it. It can actually become weedy, but it is easy to control and I don’t hesitate to cut it down entirely and let it regrow if it gets too big for the space it volunteered  to grow in.  The Sambucus genus’ edibililty factor varies from species to species.  The red berries are edible if cooked but not nearly as sweet as other species and varieties- see these for sale: purple, blue golden etc..  Another benefit for this plant: the large white clusters of flowers are frequented by hummingbirds and butterflies!

Chickens find shelter and food under the elderberry shrub

I let several red elderberry shrubs grow in the larger animal’s sacrifice area behind the barn where the chickens have been hanging out when the fruit is ripe.  This is a treat they can’t always reach so I give them a hand.

and our little call duck needs some too!

Do you have a plant that you love to grow just for your chickens?


  1. Such cute videos! I have a few of these planted in the native area of my garden. Good to know that they will be popular with my chickens once I get them. So far the shrubs are young, so there was no sign of either flowers or fruit this year, just lots of green growth, but next year, hopefully I’ll get some fruit!

  2. They need goat friends to pull & shake the berries down for them! Although on livestock toxic lists, goats eat red elderberry branches in moderation without ill effects and leave the berries for the birds! I’m @GoatGuild on Twitter for more farm friends examples.

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