Recycling Christmas Trees

REVISED! Only feed trees that you have cut yourself. Trees are often treated with colorants that are toxic to goats. Don’t risk it.

It’s that time of year when you, your friends and neighbors, are tossing out Christmas trees, In some towns they end up in the trash and are incinerated. Others go into the landfill. In our town they’re piled up at the DPW (Department of Public Works) where they’re eventually run through a chipping machine. I can barely make a dent in the mountain of discarded trees, but I do my small bit. Or, I should say that my animals do.

Steve filled the minivan with Christmas trees and brought them home.



I gave one to the goats. Delicious.

goats eating


It makes for an aromatic scratching post.

ear scatch


I put a tree into the run with the Ladies. Phoebe was the first to boldly check it out.

first one


Twiggy, of course, was next.

Twiggy next


The Gems hesitated at their pop-door. The tree was new and scary, and besides, there was snow on the ground.



But the tree was too enticing to resist.

pecking tree


It was interesting and tasty.



The trees provide diversion, get the hens outside and active, create a windbreak and give them something to peck at and eat. Once bare and used up, what’s left of trees will be tossed into the woods behind my house to become part of the forest floor. I haven’t solved the big picture problem of Christmas trees in landfills, but I’ve taken care of a small portion of it in my backyard.

Agatha and tree


  1. Plus on the forest floor they will provide cover for rabbits, song birds. It’s hard for a red tail or a cooper’s hawk to catch things in the middle of a pile of Christmas trees.

  2. When I first saw the tree in the hen yard I thought…Oh, the Golsons celebrate Chanuka and Christmas. Oh, one should never jump to conclusions! That’s a very good idea however.

  3. I have an artificial tree, but my outside wreaths were much loved by my chickens….I hung it from the rafters in the chicken shed….I’m glad to see that it’s ok…I wasn’t sure, but if our Terry Golson does it it must be ok…thanks
    Terry, I will be on the look out for some trees,..How about cedar tree branches?

  4. Hopefully this wont’ be too dumb a question but can you give any variety of christmas tree for Tonka to chew on as well ? Possibly the pine or spruce, I know no the entire tree, but maybe branches of it for him to play with or nibble on as well.

    • Unlike goats, horses don’t have rumens. They have quite sensitive tummies. In a natural environment with access to hundreds of acres and a wide variety of forage, horses do browse on brush and trees. But, in a confined area, they would overeat on the one thing, which would be bad for them.

  5. I’ve read that evergreen tree needles make excellent compost for acidic soil loving plants such as blueberries.

      • It’s an interesting debate, whether pine needles create a mulch that is more acidic than mulch from other materials. I’m interested in growing wintergreen, and I’d read that those do well in pine mulch…only problem is finding wintergreen for sale!

  6. I put our large tree into the run last week; the girls love it, and one even decided to lay under its still well-covered branches. I’m delighted to know you do this – nice to have confirmation that I’ve done the right thing!

  7. I never would have thought that chickens could eat pine needles. I thought they would be too prickly. Those goats really do eat anything don’t they!

    I love every photo on this post, just so cute.

  8. I particularly enjoyed the pictures of the hens gazing in awe into the tree! Such characters.
    I’ve always felt torn about Xmas trees- it’s nice to have a beautiful, fragrant tree in the house for a while, but then, there’s nothing sadder than an abandoned, dried Xmas tree. “My beer-drunk soul is sadder than all the dead Xmas trees in the world.” (Not sure where I heard that one!)
    Glad to see the trees being enjoyed by the goats & hens. (A much happier ending than The Little Fir Tree!)

  9. I love the photos as well…..and they got me curious as to question whether my free-ranging chickens would enjoy our old Christmas tree as well. So I dragged ours off the covered porch where it was hibernating and put it in our barn-like structure that the birds like to hang out in. I had hardly dropped it in place when the whole works of them were all over it.I have piles of fir branches in the yard, gathered after wind storms separated them from their trees. The chickens never showed any interest in them. But the tree all dry and new to them is a treasure!

  10. This may seem like a stupid question, but why have a pop door if you have a barn door?

    • Not a stupid question. Barn doors let in big drafts. The small pop door allows the hens to come and go, but the coop stays cozy. Also, if you’ve got goats, sheep, etc, the pop door keeps the other critters out of the chicken feed.

  11. Who would have thought chickens would like the Christmas tree. I will try this next year for sure!

  12. I would be careful that the trees arent covered in some type of fire retardant or chemical…both are poisonous to rabbits and deadly (and if she eats large quanities you’ll be seeing orange pee from her for awhile lol)

    • Interesting. I’ll have to look into that. There are many cut-your-own places around here, and many trees are local, don’t travel far and are fresh, so I just haven’t had that sort of thing on my radar. But you’re right. I do make sure I don’t get trees with tinsel left on them :)

  13. Great idea! Only thing to watch out for is that sometimes they spray the trees with a fire retardant, which may not be good for them.