The Definitive Guide to Feeding Berries to Chickens

Article Summary

  • Chickens can generally eat most types of berries in moderation, as berries are nutritious and packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and phytonutrients.
  • Berries offer various health benefits to chickens, such as immune support, collagen production, anti-inflammatory properties, digestive aid, eye and skin health support, nervous system function, and antihistamine effects.
  • Different parts of berries have varying safety for chickens – berries are safe, leaves depend on the variety, stems are usually toxic, roots are toxic.

Berries are a nutritious treat that most backyard chickens love. But with so many different types of berries, it can get confusing figuring out which ones are safe and healthy for your flock. This complete guide covers everything you need to know about feeding berries of all kinds to chickens.

Is It Safe to Give Chickens Berries?

The short answer is yes, it is generally safe to feed chickens most types of berries in moderation. Berries are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and phytonutrients that provide health benefits to chickens. They make a sweet, low-calorie treat that is perfect for free-range foraging birds during summer months when berries are in season.

However, there are a few precautions to keep in mind when offering berries to chickens:

  • Only feed ripe, high-quality berries – unripe or moldy berries can cause illness
  • Introduce new berries slowly to watch for any adverse reactions
  • Chop large berries to avoid potential choking hazards
  • Avoid overfeeding – berries should be limited to occasional treats
  • Never feed chickens the leaves/stems of toxic plants like nightshade berries

As long as berries are fed properly and in moderation, they make a nutritious addition to a backyard flock’s diet. Let’s look closer at the benefits berries can offer chickens, and which types are chicken-safe.

Health Benefits of Feeding Berries to Chickens

Berries are packed with antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals that provide the following health benefits:

  • Antioxidants like anthocyanins, ellagic acid, and resveratrol support immune health and overall wellbeing.
  • Vitamin C promotes collagen production for growth and development of bones and tissues.
  • Bioflavonoids have anti-inflammatory properties to support respiratory health.
  • Fiber aids digestion and nutrient absorption.
  • Carotenoids like beta-carotene are converted to vitamin A to support eye and skin health.
  • Potassium helps nervous system function.
  • Quercetin is an antihistamine that reduces seasonal allergy symptoms.
  • Ellagitannins have antiviral, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties to fight disease.

The wide range of valuable compounds in berries make them a nutritious supplemental treat for chickens spanning all life stages.

Berry Varieties Safe for Chickens

Many common fruits fall under the berry category that chickens can safely enjoy. Here are some of the top types of berries that are fine for chickens when fed properly:

Strawberries

These sweet, red berries are a favorite treat of many chickens. Both the berries and the greens are edible. However, avoid feeding moldy or rotting berries that could cause illness. Introduce strawberries slowly since they contain natural sugars.

Blueberries

These antioxidant-rich gems are loaded with beneficial compounds. Chickens can eat both fresh and frozen wild blueberries. Only feed ripe, blue colored berries and avoid any that are unripe or spoiled.

Raspberries

Raspberries contain iron, magnesium, vitamin C and fiber. Their small, delicate berries are easy for chickens to eat. Avoid any spoiled, fermented berries to prevent illness.

Blackberries

Both domesticated and wild blackberries are safe for chickens. Their leaves also provide beneficial antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Monitor intake though since blackberries contain small seeds.

Cranberries

Whole cranberries provide vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants. Chickens can eat fresh, dried, or frozen cranberries. Chop large ones into bite-sized pieces. Avoid feeding cranberry sauce with added sugar.

Goji Berries

These antioxidant-rich superfood berries offer protein and over 20 vitamins and minerals. They are safe for chickens and consumed easily when rehydrated in water.

Mulberries

The berries, leaves and stems of the mulberry plant are all edible for chickens. White, red or black mulberries provide nutritious foraging. Avoid roots and unripe green berries which are toxic.

Elderberries

Both the ripe, blue-black elderberries and flowers are safe for chickens and offer antiviral properties. Cooked berries are easier to digest. The leaves, stems and unripe berries are poisonous.

Currants

These small, tart berries from ribes plants provide vitamin C. Red, black, or white currants are fine for chickens when ripe. Avoid unripe green currants which can cause illness.

Juneberries

Also called saskatoon berries or serviceberries, these blue-purple berries are safe for chickens when fully ripe. Introduce slowly since they can cause diarrhea if overeaten.

As you can see, chickens can safely enjoy a wide variety of common berries. Introduce new berries slowly and monitor for any adverse effects. Always remove any rotting berries right away to prevent illnesses.

Are Poke Berries and Nightshade Berries Safe?

Two berry varieties that are toxic and unsafe for chickens are poke berries and nightshade berries.

Poke berries come from pokeweed, a plant native to North America. All parts of pokeweed are highly poisonous, containing saponins and oxalic acid. Poke berries are dangerous and should never be fed to chickens.

Nightshade berries come from Solanaceae plants like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, potatoes and goji berries. Unripe green nightshades contain toxins called glycoalkaloids that can be dangerous. Only feed chickens ripe nightshade berries. Avoid unripe ones which are poisonous.

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So while most berries are safe, poke berries and unripe nightshades should always be avoided. Check any unknown berries against toxic plant databases before feeding to chickens. When in doubt, leave it out.

Can Chickens Eat Cranberries?

Yes, cranberries are safe and healthy for chickens to eat. Whole, fresh cranberries provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Here’s what you need to know about feeding cranberries to chickens:

  • Only feed ripe, red cranberries. Discard any spoiled or moldy berries.
  • Chop large cranberries into smaller pieces that are easy to swallow.
  • Introduce cranberries slowly at first to watch for any diarrhea or adverse reaction.
  • Avoid cranberry sauce and sweetened cranberry products which are too high in sugar.
  • Dried cranberries are ok in moderation, but fresh whole cranberries are best.

Cranberries can be a tangy, nutritious berry treat for chickens. Just introduce slowly and limit intake to a few times per week.

Can Chickens Eat Cranberry Seeds?

Cranberries naturally contain tiny edible seeds within the flesh. The seeds are safe for chickens to eat. However, you still need to chop or crush the cranberries to some degree.

Whole cranberries and seeds could potentially pose a choking risk if very large. By crushing the berries slightly, you allow the chickens access to the seeds inside while breaking the berries into bite-sized pieces.

So the seeds themselves are not a concern, just the size of the whole berry. Always crush or chop cranberries before feeding to chickens.

Can Chickens Eat Dried Cranberries?

Commercially dried cranberries, often called “craisins”, are safe to feed chickens as an occasional treat. Check the ingredient label and avoid any with added sugars, oils or preservatives.

The drying process concentrates the fruit and increases its natural sugar content. So dried cranberries should only be fed in very small amounts. Too much can potentially cause loose droppings.

For the best nutrition, feed fresh cranberries more often. But modest amounts of unsweetened dried cranberries are fine for chickens too. Just introduce slowly and monitor serving sizes.

Can Chickens Eat Raw Cranberries?

Absolutely, chickens can safely eat raw cranberries. In fact, raw whole cranberries are ideal for chickens to maximize nutrition.

Cranberries in their raw, fresh form contain the most nutrients, including:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K1
  • Manganese
  • Copper
  • Fiber
  • Antioxidants

Raw cranberries also contain a compound called oxycoccus which provides health benefits but is destroyed by cooking.

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For the best nutritional boost, always feed cranberries raw. Simply rinse them and chop or crush the berries before feeding to your flock.

Can Chickens Eat Blackberries?

Blackberries are a nutritious wild berry that chickens love. They can eat both cultivated and wild blackberries safely.

Blackberries offer health benefits including:

  • Antioxidants like anthocyanins
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin K
  • Manganese
  • Fiber

However, moderation is key when feeding blackberries:

  • Give only ripe, dark colored berries. Underripe green/red ones are toxic.
  • Introduce slowly to watch for loose droppings. Too much can cause diarrhea.
  • Crush or chop berries to prevent choking on whole ones.
  • Avoid overfeeding. Blackberries should be occasional treats.

Within these limits, blackberries are a safe, nutritious berry that chickens will enjoy foraging for and eating.

Can Chickens Eat Blueberries?

Yes, chickens can safely eat both wild and store-bought blueberries in moderation. These antioxidant superstars offer many health benefits.

Blueberries are packed with:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin K
  • Manganese
  • Anthocyanins

However, some tips for feeding blueberries:

  • Only feed ripe, deeply colored berries. Unripe green/red ones are toxic.
  • Introduce slowly. Too much can cause loose droppings.
  • Chop large berries. Whole ones pose a choking risk.
  • Avoid overfeeding. Blueberries should be occasional treats.

When fed properly, blueberries are very healthy for chickens. Just be mindful of portions to avoid adverse effects from overeating.

Can Chickens Eat Frozen Blueberries?

Frozen blueberries are safe for chickens as long as they are thawed first before feeding. Dump a handful of frozen berries into your chicken’s dish and allow 15-20 minutes for them thaw.

Never feed frozen berries directly to chickens. The cold, rock-hard berries could potentially cause digestive upset or choking hazard.

Once thawed, the berries will soften up and become safe to consume. Frozen berries retain most of their nutrition too.

For best results when feeding frozen blueberries:

  • Select organic, unsweetened frozen berries only
  • Thaw completely until soft and pliable
  • Mash or crush large berries
  • Introduce slowly and limit portions

Within these guidelines, thawed frozen blueberries make a healthy treat during the cold winter months when fresh ones are out of season.

Can Chickens Eat Elderberries?

Elderberries offer great health benefits and are safe for chickens when fully ripe. These dark purple berries provide:

  • Antioxidants
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin C
  • Iron
  • Potassium

However, chickens should only eat ripe, blue-black elderberries.

Unripe or under ripe red elderberries contain a cyanide-inducing glycoside and are toxic. So are the leaves, stems and roots which should never be fed.

Cooked elderberries may be easier to digest. Offer berries sparingly at first to monitor for any adverse reaction.

Within these limits, ripe elderberries are a nutritious wild berry chickens can forage on or eat as supplement.

Can Chickens Eat Elderberry Leaves?

No, chickens should never eat leaves from the elderberry plant. All parts except the ripe blue-black berries contain varying amounts of cyanide-inducing toxins.

While the berries contain only trace amounts, the leaves and stems contain higher concentrations and can be very toxic. The roots and unripe berries are also dangerous.

Chickens should only eat ripe, fully colored elderberries. Never feed leaves, stems, roots, or under ripe red elderberries as they could poison your flock.

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Recognizing poisonous plants helps keep your free-ranging chickens safe. Always remove elderberry bushes near poultry enclosures to prevent accidental poisoning.

Can Chickens Eat Golden Berries?

Golden berries go by many names like Cape gooseberries, Inca berries and Aztec berries. These bright, marble-sized orange berries are safe and nutritious for chickens.

Golden berries offer ample amounts of:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A
  • Iron
  • Phosphorus

However, introduce them slowly at first. Golden berries can cause loose droppings if chickens overindulge on them.

Offer just a few berries at time and monitor your flock’s reaction. Within moderation, golden berries make a healthy treat packed with nutrition.

Can Chickens Eat Juniper Berries?

Juniper berries come from the juniper bush, a hardy evergreen plant. These female seed cones are safe for chickens to eat and provide potential health benefits.

Juniper berries contain antioxidant compounds as well as trace amounts of:

  • Vitamin C
  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium

However, juniper berries should only be fed dried. Fresh unripe green berries can upset chickens digestive systems.

Dried juniper berries can be crushed and fed to chickens in very small amounts. Their strong piney taste means most chickens will nibble them sparingly.

Overall juniper berries are safe when dried, and offer a unique nutritional boost. But feed conservatively due to their strong flavor profile.

Can Chickens Eat Gooseberries?

Gooseberries are small, round edible berries produced by ribes vines. When properly ripe, they are safe for chickens to eat.

Red, yellow, or green gooseberries provide:

  • Vitamin C
  • Manganese
  • Fiber
  • Antioxidants like carotenoids

However, unripe berries can cause stomach upset. Only feed ripe berries with sweet fruity flavor.

Gooseberries have thick skins with tiny seeds inside. Crush them before feeding by pressing between your fingers to make it easier for chickens to digest.

Within those guidelines, ripe gooseberries make a tasty, healthy treat for chickens. Just introduce new berries slowly and watch for any reaction.

Can Chickens Eat Goji Berries?

Goji berries, also called wolfberries, are a nutritious superfood known for their high antioxidant content. These raisin-like red berries are perfectly safe and healthy for chickens to eat.

Goji berries provide an impressive amount of:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Protein
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Selenium

Before feeding, always rehydrate dried goji berries in water. Their tiny size makes them easy for chickens to swallow.

Goji berries are dense with nutrients and should be fed in moderation. But overall they make a great supplemental treat with benefits for your flock.

Can Chickens Eat Raspberries?

Raspberries are a sweet, juicy berry that chickens love. Their delicate fruits are easy for chickens to enjoy.

Red, black, yellow or purple raspberries all offer great nutrition:

  • Vitamin C
  • Manganese
  • Antioxidants like ellagic acid
  • Fiber

Raspberries do contain minor amounts of naturally occurring cyanide. But the fruit itself is safe in moderation. Avoid stems/leaves which are toxic.

Introduce raspberries slowly and limit intake to a few times weekly. Within those limits, raspberries make a nutritious berry treat.

Can Chickens Eat Mulberries?

Mulberries are a nutrient-dense wild berry that chickens can safely eat. Morus rubra red mulberries are most common, but white and black mulberries are fine too.

Both the berries and leaves contain valuable nutrition:

  • Vitamin C
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Antioxidants like resveratrol

However, chickens should not consume the inedible woody stems or the unripe fruit which can cause gastrointestinal upset.

Overall, ripe mulberries are a fantastic free-range foraging berry for chickens. Berry-producing mulberry trees make great additions to chicken runs.

Can Chickens Eat Mulberry Leaves?

Yes, mulberry leaves are edible for chickens and provide excellent nutritional value. Chicken owners will often plant mulberry trees in runs specifically so chickens can forage the leaves.

Mulberry leaves contain:

  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Protein
  • Water

Mulberry leaves also have medicinal properties including antiviral, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Just avoid feeding extremely young shoots or unripe green leaves. Fully formed green summer leaves are the most nutritious for chickens to eat freely.

Can Chickens Eat Strawberries?

Strawberries are a backyard favorite that chickens love. The sweet berries provide vitamin C, manganese, folate, potassium and antioxidants. Both the ripe berries and greens are safe for chickens.

However, introduce slowly since the natural sugars may cause loose droppings if overeaten. Also chop large berries to prevent choking.

You can feed fresh strawberries right off the vine. Avoid any moldy or rotting berries which could cause illness.

Within moderation, strawberries are a nutritious spring berry treat chickens will devour.

Are Strawberry Tops Safe for Chickens?

Yes, the leafy green tops of strawberries are completely edible and safe for chickens. Strawberry tops provide fiber, minerals, and different nutrients than the berry itself.

The greens contain iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, B, C, and K.

Chickens can eat both the ripe berries and leafy greens straight off the vine. The entire strawberry plant is chicken-safe.

Just introduce new foods slowly to watch for any reaction. But strawberry tops offer great nutritional value and are safe for chickens to consume.

Can Chickens Eat Wild Strawberries?

Wild strawberries forage well in shady wooded areas. These tiny sweet berries are safe and flavorful treats chickens love.

Both the wild berries and leaves provide ample antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Benefits include:

  • Vitamin C
  • Manganese
  • Folate
  • Potassium
  • Fiber

Wild strawberries tend to be smaller than commercial grocery varieties. Their petite size makes them easy for chickens to peck at and consume.

When foraging, look for white wild strawberry flowers followed by small oblong red berries. Avoid nightshade lookalikes with yellow centered flowers.

As with any treat, feed wild strawberries in moderation. But their nutrient density and foraging appeal makes them a great supplement for free-range flocks.

Can Chickens Eat Moldy Strawberries?

No, chickens should never eat moldy strawberries or berries showing any signs of spoilage. While berries naturally last longer than most fruits, eventually mold and bacteria will develop.

Rotting berries contaminated with mycotoxins from molds like aspergillus, fusarium, and penicillium can make chickens very sick.

Consuming moldy berries can cause digestive upset or even toxicity. Always discard and do not feed chickens any strawberries or other berries that are:

  • Moldy
  • Shriveled
  • Dry or slimy
  • Decomposing
  • Fermenting
  • Off-color

Only feed your flock fresh, ripe, healthy looking berries for their safety. Promptly remove any old berries in coops or runs to prevent accidental consumption.

Can Chickens Eat Wheat Berries?

Wheat berries are whole, unprocessed kernels of wheat. They can be fed sprouted, cooked, or raw to chickens for added nutrition.

Wheat berries provide insoluble fiber, protein, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, and iron. Sprouting enhances nutrition and digestibility.

However, wheat berries contain antinutrients like gluten and phytic acid. So they should be limited to occasional small portions to avoid reduced absorption of nutrients.

It’s best to sprout or cook wheat berries before feeding to deactivate inhibitors and increase bioavailability. Within moderation, wheat berries make a healthy supplemental treat.

Are Poke Berries Poisonous to Chickens?

Yes absolutely, poke berries and pokeweed are highly toxic and poisonous to chickens. All parts of the pokeweed plant contain saponins and oxalic acid.

Poke berries are dangerous berries that should never be fed to chickens or allowed to grow near coops or runs. Eating even a few berries can be lethal.

Signs of pokeweed poisoning include:

  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Muscular paralysis
  • Respiratory failure

If you suspect pokeweed poisoning, take your chicken to the vet immediately. Prevent poisoning by eradicating pokeweed and disposing of poke berries safely.

Can Chickens Eat Beauty Berries?

Beauty berries, also called French mulberries, are vibrant magenta berries that grow in clusters on the Callicarpa Americana bush. All parts of this plant are toxic to chickens except the ripe berries.

While beauty berries provide antioxidants like anthocyanins, they should only be fed to chickens in very small quantities. The berries have a strong, bitter taste that deters overconsumption.

The leaves, stems and unripe green berries contain toxins called triterpene saponins that can cause illness. Only mature, ripe beauty berries are safe in strict moderation.

Which Parts of Berries Can Chickens Eat?

When feeding berries to chickens, some parts are edible while others should be avoided:

  • Berries – Safe to eat when ripe
  • Leaves – Depends on the berry variety
  • Stems – Usually toxic, do not feed
  • Roots – Toxic, never feed
  • Seeds/pits – Can be fed in crushed berries
  • Ripe flesh – Safe
  • Unripe flesh – May be toxic

Always look up individual berry varieties to know exactly which parts are chicken-safe. As a general rule, only feed ripe berries and foliage known to be edible.

How to Feed Berries to Chickens

The proper way to feed berry treats maximizes nutrition while minimizing risk:

  • Introduce new berries slowly to watch for reactions
  • Only feed ripe, fully colored berries
  • Remove any moldy or decomposing berries
  • Chop large berries into bite-sized pieces
  • Crush berries like cranberries to expose seeds/flesh
  • Hand feed a few pieces at a time for control
  • Avoid overfeeding by limiting treats
  • Always provide plenty of fresh water
  • Store berries in fridge up to 10 days

With a few precautions, berries make a fun, nutritious supplemental feed. Follow these tips for successfully adding berries to your flock’s diet.

How Much Berries Can Chickens Eat?

Berries should be limited to occasional treats comprising no more than 5-10% of a chicken’s overall daily food intake. Here are suggested serving sizes:

  • 1-2 strawberries per chicken daily
  • 1⁄4 cup blueberries per chicken 2-3 times weekly
  • 2-3 raspberries per chicken 2-3 times weekly
  • 3-4 blackberries per chicken 2-3 times weekly
  • 1-2 gooseberries per chicken 2-3 times weekly
  • 1 tsp mulberry leaves per chicken daily

Monitor droppings when introducing new berries. Reduce portions if any diarrhea occurs. Within suggested limits, berries provide many benefits. But overfeeding can cause issues, so moderation is key.

Can Baby Chickens Eat Berries?

Yes, berries are safe for baby chicks to eat in small amounts. Chicks can forage for wild berries or be hand fed chopped treats.

The soft flesh and juices are easy for chicks to digest. Berries provide beneficial nutrition to support development and growth.

When introducing berries:

  • Wait until 3-4 weeks old
  • Mash thoroughly into bite sized pieces
  • Feed only 1-2 pieces per chick
  • Avoid any choking hazard
  • Monitor for loose droppings

With proper precautions, berries are a healthy supplemental feed for chicks after their first few weeks. Just serve petite portions to avoid overeating risks.

In moderation, most berries make a nutritious treat that backyard chickens love. Limit portions and avoid toxic varieties for happy, healthy chickens that benefit from berries’ antioxidant power. With some common sense precautions, feel confident offering your flock berry bounty fresh from the vine or foraged from the wild.

Alternative to Berries

If you want to switch up your flock’s diet. Apples, melons, bananas, grapes, oranges, peaches, plums, pears, pineapple, mango, kiwi, papaya, figs, tomatoes, and pumpkins can provide chickens with beneficial vitamins, minerals, fiber, and hydration. Offering a diverse mix of fresh fruits when available helps supplement a balanced chicken diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can chickens eat frozen berries?

Yes, chickens can eat frozen berries. Frozen berries like blueberries and raspberries are safe for chickens to consume. It’s best to feed frozen berries to chickens as a treat in moderation since they contain natural sugars. Remember to defrost or thaw the berries before feeding them to your chickens.

Can chickens have raspberries and blackberries?

Yes, chickens can eat raspberries and blackberries. Both raspberries and blackberries are safe and healthy treats for chickens. They contain high levels of manganese, vitamin C, and antioxidants. Feed raspberries and blackberries to chickens in moderation due to their high sugar content.

can chickens eat blackberry leaves

Yes, chickens can eat blackberry leaves. Blackberry leaves contain nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and vitamin A, C, and K. Feed blackberry leaves to chickens as an occasional treat. However, refrain from feeding large amounts of blackberry leaves to chickens over long periods of time.