This poses a bit of a problem because, as I mentioned, our backyard is on a hill. Plus, it I'm not in love with the idea of 1/6 of my yard being a giant dirt patch. So, we planted some bushes over the last several months.
The key to their survival is that they must be enclosed in a circle of fencing. If not, they are immediately defoliated, dug up and destroyed by the hens. In fact, we went away for a couple of days several months ago, and while we were gone the fencing circles around some small rosemary plants were knocked off. When we got back, there was no sign of those bushes--not even a stick or a root ball.
We also noticed that some plants are tastier to chickens than others. They don't seem interested in eating sage leaves. That's good news, because there are many lovely varieties of sage, and most require very little water to thrive. So, they are a perfect choice for our chicken landscape.
At the moment, the whole area looks pretty scrubby. Most low-water-use plants start off pretty slowly, and we're at the start of summer, so it should look that way for a while. But, I expect in another year they'll bush out and fill in the space.
This coming Fall I also want to plant a small tree, maybe a Crepe Myrtle, to add a little extra attraction and some additional shade to the space. Just because it's a chicken free range zone doesn't mean it can't be kind of pretty.
In positive chicken landscaping news, the Vanilla Trumpet Vine I planted a few years ago on one side of the run has really filled in. It's covering a good part of two sides of the run and bloomed really nicely last month. So, that worked out well.
When I originally got it five years ago, I thought the vine would have purple flowers for some reason. It turns out they are kind of a creamy white--vanilla-colored, I guess, which makes sense. They smell good, too.