Can Chickens Eat Forsythia: Safe Snacking Guide

Forsythia Shrubs Under The Sunlight (image by Ralphs_Fotos, Pixabay)

Article Summary

  • In moderation, chickens can safely eat all parts of the forsythia plant, including flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds.
  • Risks include overconsumption, which can upset a chicken’s digestive system, and cyanide exposure if chickens gorge on crushed or wilted forsythia.
  • Forsythia feeding should be limited to 1-2 times per week, and baby chickens can eat small amounts of forsythia once they are 2-3 weeks old.

Forsythia is a common ornamental shrub found in many backyards and gardens. Its bright yellow flowers signal the arrival of spring. But if you have backyard chickens, you may be wondering if these bushes pose a treat or a threat. Here’s what you need to know about chickens and forsythia.

Is it Safe for Chickens to Eat Forsythia?

The short answer is yes, forsythia is safe for chickens to eat in moderation. The entire forsythia plant is non-toxic to chickens. The flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds contain no toxins that are hazardous to chickens.

Forsythia does contain an unknown cyanogenic glycoside. This means the plant produces small amounts of cyanide when damaged. However, the low levels found in forsythia are not enough to harm chickens. As long as they don’t eat huge amounts, chickens can safely snack on forsythia.

What are the Benefits of Feeding Forsythia to Chickens?

While not particularly nutritious, forsythia does offer some benefits when fed to backyard chickens.

The flowers, leaves, and young shoots provide chickens with small amounts of vitamins A and C. They also contain antioxidants like quercetin and limonene. This can help boost chickens’ immune systems.

Forsythia parts also provide flavor variety and environmental enrichment. Chickens enjoy diverse foods and foraging activities.

Are There Any Risks to Feeding Forsythia to Chickens?

Chickens Eating Feeds

There are two potential downsides to allowing chickens access to forsythia.

The first risk is overconsumption. While a few leaves or flowers are fine, eating lots of forsythia can upset a chicken’s digestive system. Diarrhea or other issues could occur.

The second concern is cyanide exposure. Damaging the plant releases cyanide. Chickens that gorge on crushed or wilted forsythia may ingest high cyanide levels, leading to poisoning.

However, occasional, moderate forsythia feeding poses little risk. Limit their access and offer it as a supplemental treat.

Which Parts of Forsythia Can Chickens Eat?

Chickens can safely eat all parts of the forsythia plant, including:

  • Flowers – The bright yellow blooms. Offer them fresh or dried.
  • Leaves – The green, pointed leaves. Best when young and tender.
  • Stems – The flexible green shoots and twigs. Offer thinner, non-woody stems.
  • Seeds – The small brown oval seeds. High in protein, but limit the intake.


Avoid offering thick, woody stems as they are hard to digest. Also, limit overripe or damaged plant parts as they may contain more cyanide.

Can Chickens Eat Forsythia Seeds?

Yes, chickens can eat forsythia seeds. The small brown seeds inside the plant’s seed pods are safe and nutritious for chickens.

Forsythia seeds do contain saponins, chemicals that can cause digestive upset. But chickens that eat seeds moderately in small amounts are unlikely to experience issues.

In fact, forsythia seeds offer benefits. They are high in protein, omega fatty acids, and amino acids. They provide valuable nutrition for egg-laying hens.

Just don’t offer cups daily. Feed seeds sparingly as an occasional treat.

Can Chickens Eat Forsythia Leaves?

Chickens can safely eat forsythia leaves. The green pointed leaves contain small amounts of some great nutrients like vitamins A, B, C, and E.

Young, tender leaves are best. They are easier to digest. Older leaves may taste unpleasant and be too fibrous.

Avoid feeding lots of damaged or wilted leaves. These may contain more of the plant’s cyanide compounds.

Offer just a few leaves at a time as a supplemental treat. Too much can lead to loose droppings.

How Much Forsythia Can Chickens Eat?

There are no official guidelines for how much forsythia chickens can eat. But moderation is key.

As a rule of thumb, chickens should get no more than 1⁄4 cup of forsythia parts per day. This includes flowers, leaves, stems, or seeds.

Free-ranging chickens that nibble here and there on forsythia bushes are unlikely to exceed this limit.

But never offer chickens unlimited access. Overindulging could lead to digestive upset or cyanide poisoning.

Stick to small, occasional forsythia treats. variety is important, so rotate with other supplemental foods.

Forsythia Under The Blue Sky (image by papazachariasa, Pixabay)
Forsythia Under The Blue Sky

How to Feed Forsythia to Chickens

If you want to intentionally feed forsythia to your flock, here are some tips:

  • Pick flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds and chop them into bite-sized pieces.
  • Mash or grind dried forsythia parts to release nutrients.
  • Mix a tablespoon or two into the chickens’ regular feed.
  • Offer leaves, flowers, or thinned shoots inside or outside their coop.
  • Hang flower bunches or seed pods around their run for enrichment.
  • Stuff whole flowers or leaves into a suet cage feeder.

Always supervise free-ranging chickens nibbling on growing forsythia. Limit access if they gorge.

How Often Can You Feed Forsythia to Chickens?

It’s best to limit forsythia feeding to no more than 1-2 times per week. Offer it as an occasional treat.

Daily feeding is not recommended, as chickens may start overconsuming if they develop a taste for it.

Forsythia should comprise only a very small portion of a chicken’s diet…

Forsythia should comprise only a very small portion of a chicken’s overall diet. Feed no more than 1-2 tablespoons per chicken per week.

Even occasional overindulging can irritate chickens’ digestive systems. Moderation is key.

Rotate forsythia with other flowers and supplemental foods like vegetables, herbs, fruit, and greens. Variety ensures a balanced diet.

Can Baby Chickens Eat Forsythia?

Yes, baby chickens can eat small amounts of forsythia once they are 2-3 weeks old. But it’s best to wait until chicks are fully feathered at 4-6 weeks old before offering forsythia.

Chicks under 4 weeks old have very sensitive digestive systems. Too much plant matter could cause diarrhea or other problems.

Once grown, offer chicks a tiny portion of chopped flowers, leaves, or seeds 2-3 times a week. Limit treats to a tablespoon or two.

Never let baby chicks free-range unsupervised in areas with forsythia. They may consume too much.

Young Chicks Feeding
Young Chicks Feeding

With moderation, forsythia makes a fine supplemental treat for backyard chickens, both young and old. It adds variety and enriches their environment. Just be sure to limit their intake of all plant parts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Chickens Eat Forsythia Flowers?

Yes, chickens can safely eat forsythia flowers in moderation. Forsythia flowers are non-toxic and can be a tasty addition to your chickens’ diet. However, it’s essential to offer them as a treat and not as a primary food source.

Is It Safe for Chickens to Consume Forsythia Leaves?

Yes, it is generally safe for chickens to consume forsythia leaves. Forsythia leaves are not known to be toxic to chickens. However, as with any new food, introduce them gradually into your chickens’ diet to observe their reactions and ensure they are consuming them in moderation.

What Are the Health Benefits of Forsythia to Chickens?

Forsythia contains antioxidants and may have anti-inflammatory properties that can benefit chickens. While it’s not a staple food, incorporating forsythia into their diet occasionally may contribute to their overall well-being. Always provide a balanced and varied diet for optimal chicken health.