Apples are a fan-favorite fruit, with many hailing its nutritional benefits alongside its delicious flavor and crispy crunch! After all, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” But, as you may well know, oftentimes, our favorite human snacks don’t translate well when given to our precious animals. If you have your own flock of feathered friends, you might want to know whether or not your chickens can eat apples. In this article, we’ll outline not only the answer to this question but also highlight the other tasty fruits and vegetables you can share with your chickens!
You might be happy to hear this: Chickens can eat apples safely!
Is It Safe To Feed Chickens Apples?
There are actually a number of fruits and vegetables that are healthy for chickens to incorporate into their daily diet. However, they should definitely be given in moderation. Try to keep their fruit/vegetable consumption to under 10% of what they consume. Some important rules of thumb are to make sure you only give your chickens fresh apples you’re giving them are fresh (if you wouldn’t eat them, don’t give them to your chickens), and if you have smaller chicken breeds, be sure to cut up the apples into smaller and more easily consumed pieces.
Health Benefits of Apples For Chickens
There are a great deal of beneficial nutrients found in apples that make them a great treat for chickens to take a break from their usual feed. For instance, apples are a good source of dietary fiber, which can aid in digestion for chickens. Fiber helps the chickens maintain a healthy gut and can also assist in firming up any droppings that might be on the looser side. Apples also contain healthy minerals like vitamin C, potassium, and some B vitamins. Another benefit is their high water content and the natural “dental” properties that come alongside the crunching and crushing necessary to break these fruits down! Cornell University researchers even examined if feeding so-called “apple waste” from Empire apples offered any value to chickens, and the results are promising.
One cautionary nutritional element, though, is the amount of sugar found in apples (and several other chicken-safe fruits). Too much sugar in a chicken’s diet, especially on a consistent basis, can lead to several health issues down the line. That’s why, despite being a great occasional snack, you shouldn’t go crazy with the amount of apples you give to your chickens.
Don’t Make This Fatal Error
While we may be praising the act of letting your chickens eat apples, it’s important not to forget this key tip: Remove the apple seeds and stems! These parts of the apple contain something called amygdalin. Once this becomes ground or otherwise crushed, it can combine with the chicken’s digestive system and turn into the incredibly toxic substance hydrogen cyanide (HCN). As you probably know, chickens don’t usually discriminate when you give them a treat. They’ll eat those seeds without any knowledge that they’re harmful. That’s why it’s up to you to keep a close watch on them and remove the seeds before they cause issues!
If your chicken has accidentally consumed apple seeds, keep an eye. on them and see if they demonstrate some of these symptoms of cyanide poisoning:
- Excessive mouth-open panting
- Oxygen-deprived comb (blue or purple in color)
Ways To Prepare Apples For Your Chickens
While you can always opt for the traditional method of chopping them up and throwing them around the coop, there are also a number of more interesting and exciting ways to feed your chickens apples. Here are some of the most popular and intriguing methods.
Peanut Butter Apple Slices
Why not combine two special snacks for your chickens into one delicious treat? Peanut butter has a number of its own nutritional benefits, and if you take out the core and slice up an apple, you’ll come to find that filling it up with some peanut butter will make your flock go wild! And hey, if you have some spare left over, you and your chickens can share this snack at the same time.
Garlands of Apples
This one will soon be a staple chicken treat, as it is both creative and simple! Using some twine, you can string along chopped-up apples and hang the treats from the coop. The best part of this snack? it’s fully customizable! You can include a number of other chicken-safe treats on the garlands, anything from plain popcorn to cranberries. Just be sure to check the ingredients of anything you add to your garlands before giving it to your feathered friends.
Apples Stuffed With Goodies
This method of apple snacking involves using the apples as a sort of bowl that contains a number of other goodies for your chickens. Grind up some almonds, sunflower seeds, or another ingredient safe for your chickens, and then stuff up your apples with the mixture! The chickens will not only get something yummy to snack on but also a good workout as they chase each other around to get a peck at that delicious filling.
What Other Fruits and Vegetables Can Chickens Eat?
If you don’t have any apples lying around but still want to give your chickens a fruit or vegetable as a snack, do not worry: There are plenty of other selections to choose from! Here’s a list of some of the most highly preferred snacks for your flock:
- Leafy Greens: The best things to feed your chickens as a snack are ones that are full of water and vitamins! Things like lettuce, kale, and spinach have nutrients like vitamins A, C, and K, as well as other immune-boosting ingredients.
- Carrots: Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which is great not only for immune function but also for vision and growth! Cook them or give it to them raw. Either works perfectly!
- Pumpkin and Squash: These popular fall veggies are great for chickens. Their seeds can act as a kind of natural dewormer due to the cucurbitacin content they contain. The flesh is also great, as it’s very nutritionally dense.
- Broccoli: Alongside their rich content of vitamins and minerals, like calcium and magnesium, chickens also get a kick out of foraging for the tiny florets of the broccoli.
- Melons: Melons of any kind have an extremely high water content, which is excellent for chickens (especially in hot weather). They also have a boatload of helpful antioxidants and vitamins like B6, C, and A.
- Blueberries: Also vitamin-rich, chickens are a big fan of eating blueberries. Something lesser known about including these in your chicken’s diet, though, is that their feces will turn blue!
- Tomatoes: Yes, tomatoes are a fruit. Not to mention, they’re a fruit that has a high amount of potassium, fiber, and essential antioxidants! Be careful feeding your chickens tomatoes, though, as the plant, leaves, and flowers of the tomatoes are poisonous due to their solanine content.
Fruits and Vegetables That Chickens Can’t Eat
Although we’ve cleared up that chickens can eat apples, there are definitely some fruits and veggies that the birds should not consume. Here are some that you should definitely avoid when it’s snack time:
- Avocado: Technically speaking, chickens can consume the flesh of an avocado. However, this is ill-advised because the pits and skins are incredibly toxic. So, you might want to be on the safe side and skip out on giving this veggie to your chickens.
- Rhubarb: This fruit contains anthraquinone, a substance that has a laxative-type effect on your chickens. Even worse is cold-damaged rhubarb, as this can cause it to develop high concentrations of oxalic acid. This can potentially be fatal to your chickens!
- Anything Rotten: As a general rule, if it’s too moldy or old for you to consume it, it’s too rotten for your chickens. Eating rotten food can be toxic and, at the very least, will result in incredibly wet feces.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Tadulia/iStock via Getty Images
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