Can Chickens Eat English Ivy? Insights & Safety

English Ivy on Tree Trunk (image by GAIMARD)

Article Summary

  • English ivy is not poisonous to chickens when consumed in moderation.
  • Eating large amounts of ivy can lead to digestive issues in chickens due to the presence of mildly toxic saponins in the leaves and stems.
  • While English ivy can be a safe backyard foraging food for chickens when given in moderation and with precautions, it should be rotated with other enrichment foods to provide a diverse and balanced diet.

English ivy (Hedera helix) is a common decorative plant found in many backyards and gardens. Its glossy green leaves and vining growth habit make it popular for use as ground cover or on trellises. But is it safe for backyard chickens to peck at and consume? Here’s what you need to know about feeding chickens ivy.

Is it Safe for Chickens to Eat English Ivy?

In moderation, yes. English ivy is not poisonous to chickens. The leaves, berries, and stems contain only trace amounts of toxins that are generally not harmful to chickens.

Chickens have foraged on ivy in wooded areas for centuries. Their diverse diet allows them to consume small amounts of toxins safely. So, pecking at some backyard ivy occasionally is fine.

What are the Benefits of Feeding English Ivy to Chickens?

Ivy provides some nutritional value to chickens. The leaves contain antioxidants like flavonoids and polyphenols. Ivy berries are a source of protein and fat.

The vines also provide boredom relief and enrichment. Chickens enjoy pecking at and shredding the foliage. This gives them an activity to engage in.

So allowing chickens to nibble on ivy in your garden can provide some benefits. Just be sure it’s a small part of their overall diet.

Are There Any Risks to Feeding English Ivy to Chickens?

Eating large amounts of ivy can cause issues for chickens. The leaves and stems contain saponins, which are mildly toxic. Ingesting too much ivy can cause upset digestive systems.

…unchewed berries can get lodged in a chicken’s throat.

Additionally, ivy berries are a choking hazard. Whole, unchewed berries can get lodged in a chicken’s throat. It’s best to remove and discard berries rather than allow chickens to eat them off the vine.

As with any plant material, there is also a risk of pesticide exposure if ivy has been treated with chemicals. Be sure you know what’s been applied to any ivy accessible to chickens.

How Much English Ivy Can Chickens Eat?

Chickens should only eat ivy in moderation as a supplement, not a dietary staple. Around 10% of their diet can consist of treats like ivy. The other 90% should come from layers pellets, grains, bugs, and produce.

For most backyard flocks, allowing them to peck at and shred several ivy vines in the yard provides plenty of moderation. Avoid moving chickens into areas totally overgrown with ivy for long periods.

Chickens Pecking on Grass

How to Feed English Ivy to Chickens

Rather than picking and offering ivy to chickens, let them forage on vines still rooted in the ground. This allows them to engage in natural pecking behaviors.

Cut back excessive growth so mature ivy doesn’t take over their run. But leave some vines intact for chickens to discover and nibble on as they wish.

You can also hang bundles of ivy vines from hardware cloth inside the coop. This gives roosting chickens something to interact with and shred.

How Often to Feed English Ivy to Chickens

Chickens should not eat ivy daily. 2-3 times per week is sufficient. Monitor their droppings for any diarrhea, which may indicate they’ve had too much ivy.


Rotate ivy with other enrichment foods like cabbage, kale, watermelon, and sunflower seeds. Variety keeps chickens engaged and provides a diverse diet.

Can Baby Chicks Eat English Ivy?

It’s best to avoid feeding ivy to chicks under 16 weeks old. Their digestive systems are more sensitive as they develop.

Wait until chicks are fully feathered adolescents or adults to introduce small amounts of ivy into their enclosure. Don’t allow unlimited access to ivy for young birds.

Chicks and Hen Feeding Together
Chicks and Hen Feeding Together

The occasional nibble of an ivy leaf won’t harm an older chick. But ivy should never make up a substantial part of a growing chick’s diet. Stick to chick starter feed as their dietary staple.

So, in moderation, chickens can enjoy ivy as a supplemental plant treat. Use it to enrich their environment. But don’t rely on it as a regular part of their diet. With some common sense precautions, ivy can be a safe backyard foraging food for your flock.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can chicken eat English ivy seeds?

In moderation, chickens can safely consume English ivy seeds as they are not considered toxic to them. While it’s always essential to monitor the amount ingested, small quantities of English ivy seeds are generally harmless to chickens. However, as with any new food, it’s advisable to introduce it gradually and observe the chickens for any adverse reactions.

Can chicken eat English ivy leaves?

Chickens can eat English ivy leaves in moderation without experiencing toxicity. English ivy leaves are generally not poisonous to chickens, but it’s crucial to ensure that the birds have a balanced diet and access to other suitable food sources. Introducing English ivy leaves slowly and monitoring the chickens’ health is recommended to ensure they tolerate it well.

How much English ivy can be toxic to chickens?

English ivy is not inherently toxic to chickens, but like many plants, excessive consumption could potentially cause digestive upset. It’s essential to provide a varied diet and ensure that English ivy is just one component, not the primary food source. As a precaution, observe the chickens for any signs of discomfort or illness when introducing English ivy or any new food item.

Can English ivy affect the taste or quality of chicken eggs?

When chickens consume large amounts of English ivy regularly, it can potentially affect the taste or quality of chicken eggs. The compounds present in English ivy can be absorbed by the chickens and may pass into the eggs. As a result, eggs laid by chickens that have consumed English ivy might have an altered taste or quality. To maintain the desired taste and quality of chicken eggs, it’s important to ensure that the birds do not have access to English ivy.