- Lambsquarters, also known as pigweed, are safe, beneficial for chickens, and packed with essential nutrients.
- In rare cases, excessive lambsquarters can lead to oxalate poisoning in chickens, resulting in various symptoms, including hindlimb paralysis and death.
- Lambsquarters can be a regular part of chickens’ diets but should be fed in moderation.
Lambsquarters, also known as pigweed, is a common edible weed packed with nutrients that make it a potential food source for backyard chickens. But is it safe? Here is a complete guide on whether chickens can eat lambsquarters, the benefits and risks, and how much to feed.
Is it Safe for Chickens to Eat Lambsquarters?
Yes, lambsquarters are safe and even beneficial for chickens to eat. Lambsquarters contain beta carotene, vitamin C, calcium, potassium, protein, and other nutrients that can complement a chicken’s diet. Lambsquarters have been traditionally fed to livestock including chickens.
As with any new food for chickens, introduce lambsquarters slowly at first to watch for any adverse reactions. Overall though, lambsquarters are an edible, nutritious green that most chickens enjoy eating.
Health Benefits of Feeding Lambsquarters to Chickens
Feeding lambsquarters to chickens provides some excellent health benefits:
- Nutrient-dense: Lambsquarters contain high levels of protein, vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. This provides a powerhouse of nutrition.
- Supports egg production: The high calcium and protein content especially promotes strong eggshells and good egg production.
- Antioxidants: Lambsquarters contain two types of antioxidants, flavonoids, and betacyanins, that can boost chickens’ immunity.
- Aids digestion: Some components in lambsquarters may help stimulate chickens’ digestive systems.
Overall, incorporating lambsquarters in chickens’ diet supports their health, productivity, and well-being.
Potential Risks of Feeding Lambsquarters to Chickens
Lambsquarters is considered safe for chickens but there are a couple of risks to be aware of:
- Oxalic acid: Lambsquarters contain oxalic acid, which can bind to calcium and inhibit absorption. But chickens process oxalates better than humans. As long as lambsquarters are fed in moderation, oxalates are not a major concern.
- Pesticide exposure: Lambsquarters growing in areas treated with herbicide may absorb chemicals that could be harmful. Avoid picking lambsquarters from potentially contaminated areas.
- Choking hazard: Some types of lambsquarters have small fruits that could pose a choking risk if swallowed whole. Chop or crush any fruits before feeding.
RECOMMENDATIONMonitor your flock and be mindful of these risks, despite lambsquarters being a safe nutritious food for chickens. Introduce new foods slowly and discontinue use if any adverse reaction.
Effects of Oxalate Poisoning on Chickens
In the rare case that a chicken does experience oxalate poisoning from excessive lambsquarters consumption, symptoms can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weakness and lethargy
- Decreased egg production
- Soft-shelled or shell-less eggs
- Hindlimb paralysis
- Difficulty breathing
- Bluish coloring of wattles/comb
- Death (in severe cases)
Oxalate poisoning is reversible if caught early. Discontinue feeding lambsquarters and provide calcium supplements. Most chickens process normal amounts of oxalates in lambsquarters without issue. Monitoring your flock and feeding lambsquarters in moderation minimizes any risk.
Can Chickens Eat Lambsquarters Raw?
Yes, chickens can safely eat lambsquarters raw. Lambsquarters don’t contain anything toxic or harmful when fresh.
In fact, raw lambsquarters may retain more nutrients than cooked. Chickens can forage and graze freely on fresh lambsquarters in the garden or yard.
For intentional feeding, chop raw lambsquarters leaves and tender stems into bite-size pieces for chickens. Introduce gradually mixed into their feed to observe any issues before increasing portion sizes.
Feeding raw lambsquarters provides chickens with a nutritious supplement to their usual diet.
Can Chickens Eat Lambsquarters Cooked?
Cooking lambsquarters is also safe for chickens and may even offer some benefits. Light cooking can make lambsquarters easier to digest.
To cook lambsquarters for chickens:
- Wash and chop leaves, stems, and shoots.
- Steam, boil, or saute just until wilted.
- Allow to cool before mixing into feed.
Cooking also removes any concerns about pesticide residues on lambsquarters. Just avoid overcooking, which can diminish nutrients.
Some chickens seem to relish cooked lambsquarters even more than raw. Feel free to experiment with both raw and lightly cooked lambsquarters.
How Much Lambsquarters Can Chickens Eat?
Chickens can eat lambsquarters daily but it’s ideal to feed in moderation. Lambsquarters should make up no more than 10% of a chicken’s overall diet.
For supplemental feeding, a good general rule is:
- 1/2 cup chopped lambsquarters per large chicken
- 1/4 cup per bantam chicken
Adjust amounts based on how readily your flock eats lambsquarters and any effects observed. Small amounts daily or a few times a week are safer than large weekly portions.
Free-ranging chickens that forage on lambsquarters will regulate their own intake. Avoid letting penned chickens gorge unlimited on lambsquarters. Follow recommended portions for optimal health.
How to Feed Lambsquarters to Chickens
Here are some tips for successfully feeding lambsquarters to chickens:
- Introduce slowly mixed into regular feed to allow chickens to adapt to the new food.
- Chop leaves and tender stems into bite-size pieces for easier eating.
- Mix lambsquarters into a moist mash or crumble feed for better adhesion.
- Offer lambsquarters in the morning when chickens are hungriest.
- Start with young, leafy lambsquarters plants. Older plants can be too fibrous.
- Feed lambsquarters fresh within a day or two of harvest or cooking. Discard any slimy or moldy portions.
- Provide free-choice insoluble grit to help chickens grind and digest plant-based foods.
- Try both raw and lightly cooked lambsquarters to see which your flock prefers.
Following these tips will help ensure chickens readily eat lambsquarters and gain the benefits. Observe your flock and adjust amounts and frequency as needed.
How Often Can You Feed Lambsquarters to Chickens?
Lambsquarters can be fed to chickens daily but in moderation. Feed smaller portions 1-3 times per week for the best results.
Chickens enjoy variety in their diet. Rotating lambsquarters with other greens and plant treats prevents boredom and overconsumption.
Here is a general feeding schedule:
- Baby chicks: Offer tender young lambsquarters leaves every 2-3 days.
- Pullets/Laying hens: Feed chopped lambsquarters 2-3 times per week.
- Roosters: Feed adult roosters lambsquarters leaves 2-3 times per week.
- Meat chickens: Provide lambsquarters 3 times a week for variation.
- Free-range: Allow chickens to self-regulate lambsquarters grazing daily.
Adjust the frequency based on your flock’s interests and needs. The key is not overdoing portions to prevent potential issues.
Can Baby Chickens Eat Lambsquarters?
Yes, baby chicks can eat lambsquarters but it should be introduced slowly. Chicks have sensitive digestive systems that take time to mature.
Wait until chicks are 2-3 weeks old before offering any greens. Start with just a few tender lambsquarters leaves torn into tiny pieces.
Gradually increase lambsquarters every 2-3 days while monitoring droppings for normal appearance. By 4-6 weeks old, chicks can eat chopped lambsquarters more regularly.
Avoid feeding adult-size portions of lambsquarters until chicks are fully feathered and 8 weeks old. Letting young chicks self-regulate intake from foraging is also an option.
With a gradual introduction, lambsquarters provide beneficial nutrition for growth and development. This versatile green is a chick-approved addition to feed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can chickens safely eat lambsquarters?
Yes, chickens can safely eat lambsquarters. Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album) is a nutritious and commonly found weed that is generally considered safe for chickens to consume. However, it’s crucial to ensure that the lambsquarters are free from pesticides or other harmful substances before feeding them to chickens. Introducing new foods gradually and monitoring the chickens’ reactions can also help ensure their well-being.
Are lambsquarters poisonous to chickens?
No, lambsquarters are not poisonous to chickens when consumed in moderation. In fact, lambsquarters are rich in nutrients like vitamins and minerals, making them a beneficial addition to a chicken’s diet. However, as with any new food, it’s essential to introduce lambsquarters gradually and monitor the chickens for any adverse reactions. Additionally, always ensure that the plants are free from harmful chemicals or pesticides.
How often can chickens eat lambsquarters?
Chickens can eat lambsquarters as part of their regular diet, but moderation is key. While lambsquarters offer nutritional benefits, they should be fed in conjunction with a balanced diet that includes other feed sources suitable for chickens. Offering lambsquarters a few times a week in small quantities can be a good approach. Monitoring the chickens’ health and adjusting the frequency based on their response is advisable.
Do lambsquarters affect the taste of chicken eggs?
The consumption of lambsquarters by chickens is not known to significantly affect the taste of their eggs. Chickens with access to a varied diet, including greens like lambsquarters, typically produce eggs with a flavor that reflects their overall diet. However, the primary determinants of egg taste remain the chicken’s genetics, health, and overall diet quality. As such, lambsquarters can contribute to a diverse diet for chickens without notably altering the taste of their eggs.