Chickens will eat most things you feed them. They love treats from the kitchen and love to wander around the garden in search of plants, bugs and juicy worms. However there are some plants and foods that can cause illness or be fatal to your hungry hens.
A group pf hens feeding in the garden
Below is a list of foods you should refrain from feeding your chickens.
- Plants that are part of the nightshade family - Members of the nightshade family include potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant. The latin name for these plants is Solanaceae. This is because they contain a compound called solanine. This is toxic to chickens. The compound can be broken down if the plants are cooked however. So any cooked potatoes or tomatoes are generally ok to give to your chickens. If you are worried, it is better to just not feed these plants to your chickens.
- Onions - Fed in large quantities onions can cause anemia or jaundice, and sometimes it can be fatal. This is because it contains thiosulphate which destroys red blood cells.
- Avocados - Avocados contain the toxin persin. This has been associated with myocardial necrosis, which is where the heart stops working.
- Apple seeds - The seeds contain cyanide which can kill your chickens. Any other part of the apple is fine, so when giving them apple ensure they are seed free.
- Citrus fruit - Citrus fruits probably won’t kill your chickens, however they do cause a drop in egg production. Fed in moderation is ok.
- Dried, raw beans - Uncooked beans contain hemaglutin which can be toxic to your chickens. Cooked beans are fine.
- Chocolate or sweet things - Chocolate contains toxin methylxanthines theobromine. Just like too much sugar is bad for humans, too much sugar can cause your chickens to be overweight leading to a drop in egg production.
- Salty foods - Chickens can suffer from salt poisoning, as they don’t naturally ingest a lot of salt.
- Mouldy food - Mouldy food should never be fed to chickens as the mould can cause illness and may be fatal. Overripe, wilted vegetables, or stale bread is all fine as long as mould is not present.
When feeding treats such as bread, cereals, and pasta be very sparing as these food have little nutritional value and can cause your chickens to be overweight. Dairy products and too much iceberg lettuce can cause diarrhea, so these should also be fed in moderation.
Toxic Garden Plants
There are many garden plants that are also toxic to your chickens. Your chickens will usually stay away from them by themselves as they don’t taste very nice to them. However it can be a good idea to make sure your chickens don’t have access to these plants. Below is a list of garden plants poisonous to your chickens.
- Bull Nettle
- Castor Bean
- Curly Dock
- Ground Ivy
- Horse Chestnut
- Horse Radish
- Laburnum (seed)
- Lily of the Valley
- Nightshade (Also called Deadly Nightshade)
- St. Johns Wort
- Water Hemlock
Other Things to Avoid in your Garden If Hens Are Free-Ranging
- Any pesticide, herbicide or turf-builder/lawn-improver. Some widely available lawn and weed treatments are lethal for chickens (and most other living things too!)
- Non-organic fertilizers.
- Any planted beds or borders that can be destroyed by the foraging birds. Anything you want protecting from the hens’ scratching and pecking habits will have to be off-limits or fenced off.