Chickens are naturally skilled foragers. They are usually instinctually smart about what is safe to eat. However, it’s important to be informed of the common plants and vegetables that are toxic to poultry for two reasons.
- If your chickens do become ill with no apparent cause, you may find that they have eaten a plant in your flower beds that is toxic to their system.
- Although your flock may instinctually know what not to eat, they also grow to trust their human caretakers and will probably accept any food offered up from your hand. It’s your responsibility to know what they can and cannot eat.
Common Ornamentals Toxic to Poultry
Free range chickens may taste some of these plants if they are planted in their chicken yard, but once they have tried it, they will usually leave them alone because the brain will naturally signal to them that the plant is toxic. It’s always a good idea to avoid planting these in your chicken yard when possible, but sometimes you have to work around your landscape and some flowerbed fencing can usually resolve the problem if you have an over zealous bird that just won’t leave the toxic plants alone.
Everyone loves to give their chickens treats, but you may be surprised at some of the things that are perfectly safe for people to eat and toxic to chickens. Keep this list in the kitchen drawer and double check before you give your chickens the leftovers when you are cleaning out the refrigerator.
People Food Toxic to Poultry
- Avocados | Avocado pits and peels contain persin. Persin is toxic and has been linked to myocardial necrosis. The soft inner portion of an avocado is safe for chicken consumption.
- Citrus Fruit | The meaty part of the fruit itself isn’t particularly dangerous. However, the peel of the fruit contains citrus oil. Citrus extract is a powerful nerve toxin and often used for flea prevention. Therefore, it is dangerous to allow your chickens to consume the skin of fruit. Additionally, it is very difficult for poultry to break down and can cause crop blockage.
- Uncooked Raw or Dried Beans | Uncooked beans contain hemagglutinin, a chemical known to cause agglutination of mammalian red blood cells and to disrupt cellular metabolism. This poisonous compound causes food poisoning in humans too. However, the toxin breaks down during the cooking process, making cooked beans safe to feed your chickens.
- Raw Potatoes | Similar to beans, cooked potatoes are safe to feed your chickens, but uncooked potatoes and potato skins will irritate your chicken’s digestive system. The high starch concentration in potatoes is difficult to digest. Potato skins contain a chemical called Solanine which is toxic to chickens.
- Onions | Onions contain sulfur compounds that, when broken down through digestion, create the conditions for anemia. Onions will also flavor the eggs (and not in a good way).
- Apple Seeds | Feeding the fleshy part of the apple to your birds is fine. However, the seeds contain cyanide and should be removed before consumption.
- Moldy Food | As a general rule, if you wouldn’t eat it then you shouldn’t feed it to your chickens. Moldy bread (and chicken feed for that matter) produces mycotoxins that cause mold poisoning.
- Salt, Sugar, Coffee and Liquor | Poultry biology systems are not designed to process these items.
Pasture land can be difficult to monitor for intruding vegetation, but the following are highly toxic to humans, pets, poultry and livestock. Eradicate them immediately if your free-range poultry have access to areas where these toxic pasture plants have taken root.
Pasture Plants Toxic to Poultry
Garden planning with your chicken flock in mind will allow you to plant varieties that work with Mother Nature, not against her. Who doesn’t love to see the bright yellow faces of daffodils signaling Spring? Or the fist sized blue flowers of the hydrangea on a warm summer evening? Both of these common ornamentals are on the toxic plant list for poultry (although I can personally tell you that my flock devoured my limelight hydrangea with no adverse side effect whatsoever). You don’t have to sacrifice a colorful garden in order to keep poultry.
Although there are lots of plants that are not safe for poultry, there are also lots of plants that are safe to have in the chicken yard. Some people like to plant flowers around their chicken coops to increase the beauty of the coop. Provided below is a list of chicken safe floral plants. These plants are safe and beautiful to plant around our chicken coops, and throughout your homestead.
Safe Flowering Plants for Poultry
Greenery and herbs can be a great way to add diversity and interest to your flower beds. Many of the herbs also make fantastic additions to your cooking dishes. Consider some of these chicken safe and unique foliage plants and herbs to compliment your homestead and gardens.
Safe Greenery & Herbs for the Chicken Yard
Safe Vines, Shrubs & Trees for the Chicken Yard
Vines, shrubs and trees are wonderful additions to the chicken yard because they not only provide shade from the sun and wind, but also offer cover and protection from flying predators.
It’s important to point out that the most toxic danger to your chickens that is in your garden may be the chemicals you use to keep those flower beds looking gloriously beautiful all season. No. No. No. to any pesticides or insecticides on the plants or the ground that your poultry will come in contact with. Choose natural products and remedies for garden problems that contain all-natural ingredients. Read the labels carefully on any store-bought products to make sure they are poultry safe and consult a poultry vet if you’re unsure.
This list is by no means conclusive but should provide you with a solid foundation to plan your garden in a way that coexists with your chickens.
- The Chicken Health Handbook A Complete Guide to Maximizing Flock Health and Dealing with Disease, 2nd edition by Gain Damerow
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