Can Chickens Eat Marigolds? Flower Power for Their Benefit

A Field of Marigold Flowers (image by sarangib, Pixabay)

Article Summary

  • Marigolds offer various health benefits to chickens, such as boosting immunity, promoting eye health, acting as antioxidants, supporting digestion, and potentially serving as a natural dewormer and insect repellent.
  • Feeding marigolds to chickens should be done in moderation to avoid potential risks, such as allergic reactions, diarrhea, changes in egg yolk color, and potential interactions with medications.
  • It’s recommended to introduce marigolds gradually, monitor for any adverse reactions, and feed them in conservative amounts.

Do you have an abundance of marigolds in your garden and wonder if you can share these cheery flowers with your flock of chickens? Marigolds are a common plant found in many backyards and gardens, valued for their bright colors and ability to repel certain garden pests. But are these plants safe and beneficial for chickens to eat? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about feeding marigolds to chickens.

Is It Safe for Chickens to Eat Marigold?

The good news is that all varieties of marigolds are entirely edible and safe for chickens to consume. The marigold plant, also known as calendula or pot marigold, is not toxic or poisonous to chickens in any way. Both the flowers and leaves of marigolds contain nutritional compounds that can provide health advantages when fed to chickens in moderation.

Marigolds are in the same plant family as daisies and ragweed, plants that cause no harm to chickens. So, you can rest assured knowing that letting your chickens nibble on marigolds from your garden will not put their health at risk. However, it’s best to introduce marigolds gradually to observe for any adverse reactions.

What Are the Benefits of Feeding Marigold to Chicken?

Marigolds offer a surprising amount of health and nutritional benefits when added to a chicken’s diet in moderate amounts. Here are some of the main advantages:

  • Contains carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin – These compounds boost immunity and eye health. They also enhance the yolk color.
  • Rich in antioxidants – Marigolds contain flavonoids and phenolic acids that act as antioxidants to fight inflammation.
  • Supports digestion – The marigold plant has antispasmodic and stimulant properties that can ease digestion issues in chickens.
  • Natural dewormer – Some experts claim marigolds have anti-parasitic effects that help eliminate intestinal worms in chickens when eaten regularly.
  • Repels insects – Eating marigolds may help repel biting insects thanks to the chemical pyrethrum contained in the flowers.

So, in summary, adding marigolds to your chickens’ diet can provide valuable antioxidants, boost digestion and gut health, increase immunity, and potentially deter parasites and bugs. Even just offering marigolds occasionally provides benefits.

Are There Any Risks Feeding Marigolds to Chickens?

Marigolds are very safe for chickens when fed in moderation as an occasional treat or supplement. There are a few potential considerations to keep in mind, though:

  • Allergic reactions – Rarely, chickens may be allergic or sensitive to compounds in marigolds. Introduce slowly and watch for any symptoms.
  • Diarrhea – Overeating marigolds can loosen stools. Feed marigolds sparingly.
  • Egg yolk color – Excessive marigold consumption may produce overly orange egg yolks if this is undesired.
  • Medication interactions – Marigolds may interact with certain medications. Consult a vet if concerned.
  • Feeding other plant parts – Marigolds’ leaves, stems, and flowers are safest. Seeds may be harder to digest.

As long as you feed marigolds in conservative amounts and monitor your chickens for any intestinal upset, they make an excellent supplemental feed. Any potential downsides are easily avoided.

What Type of Marigold Can Chickens Eat?

There are around 30 species of marigolds, but the common marigold (Calendula officinalis) and African marigold (Tagetes erecta) are the two main types grown in gardens. The good news is that chickens can safely eat both of these popular marigold varieties.

The common marigold, also called pot marigold, English marigold, or Scotch marigold, produces edible yellow and orange flowers. The African marigold features big, brightly colored blooms in shades of yellow, orange, white, and red. Both provide the same nutritional benefits.

A Closeup View of French Marigold (image by MabelAmber, Pixabay)
French Marigold

Other marigold variants, like French marigolds (Tagetes patula), are also non-toxic for chickens. Essentially, any blossoms or leaves from any marigold cultivars can be fed to chickens without concern over toxicity. Just introduce new types slowly to watch for possible allergic reactions.

Can Chickens Eat Dried Marigolds?

Marigolds are often dried after harvesting to preserve their cheery appearance and bright colors. Dried marigolds are equally safe and healthy for chickens to eat compared to fresh flowers.

To dry marigolds for chickens:

  • Harvest marigold flowers on a dry, sunny day after the dew dries.
  • Gently wash and thoroughly dry marigold blooms.
  • Remove any stems, leaves, or petals in poor condition.
  • Spread flowers in a single layer on a drying rack or baking sheet.
  • Place in a warm, dry, dark location with good airflow for 1-3 weeks.
  • To test for dryness, flowers should crumble easily between your fingers.
  • Store thoroughly dried marigolds in an airtight container out of sunlight.

NOTE

Dried marigolds will retain their nutritional value and color to brighten up your chickens’ feed. Dried flowers can also be infused into herbal teas.

Can Chickens Eat All Marigolds?

It’s fine for chickens to eat all parts of the marigold plant, including the flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds. The flowers contain the highest concentration of beneficial phytonutrients. But the leaves also offer nutritional value.

To safely allow chickens to eat all parts of the marigold plant:

  • Shake or wash flowers gently to remove any dirt or insects.
  • Avoid feeding marigolds sprayed with chemicals or pesticides. Choose organic sources when possible.
  • Chop or tear leaves into smaller pieces so they are easier to digest.
  • Consider crushing dried flowers or seeds to help break them down before feeding.
  • Introduce one new plant part at a time in case it causes any digestive upset.

With these simple precautions, your chickens can benefit from consuming all edible pieces of the marigold plant. The colorful petals make a pretty garnish too!

Can Chickens Eat African Marigolds?

The African marigold (Tagetes erecta) is one of the most common varieties grown in gardens. Native to Mexico and Central America, it thrives in hot, sunny climates. These marigolds have large, pom-pom-like flower heads that come in brilliant shades of orange, yellow, white, and red.

Luckily, chickens can safely feast on these vibrant blooms. The African marigold contains the same beneficial antioxidants, carotenoids, essential oils, and other compounds as other marigold species.

To offer African marigolds to chickens:

  • Pick fully open, fresh flowers free of dirt and insects.
  • Shake or rinse the blossoms gently if needed.
  • Pull off the bitter green base of the flower before feeding.
  • Chop or tear petals into smaller pieces for easier eating.
  • Start with a few flowers at first to gauge reactions.
African Marigold Under The Sunlight (image by DagMary, Pixabay)
African Marigold

So, feel free to let your flock nibble on the showy flowers of African marigolds to add color and nutrition to their diet. Just remember moderation is key, as with any treat.

Can Chickens Eat French Marigolds?

French marigolds (Tagetes patula) are a beloved, compact variety of marigolds with bushy, mounded plants. They produce abundant single flowers in warm shades of red, gold, orange, and yellow. Fortunately, these cheery little marigolds are perfectly edible and safe for chickens.

To harvest French marigolds for your flock:

  • Select flowers that are fully open and vibrantly colored.
  • Gently pull off just the flower heads rather than the bitter stems and leaves.
  • Shake or rinse to remove dirt or debris stuck between petals.
  • Consider chopping larger blooms into smaller bite-sized pieces for easier eating.
  • Introduce a few petals at a time to start and gauge reactions.

The petite blooms of French marigolds make a charming, nourishing treat for chickens. Their compact size and profuse blooming also make them an easy marigold for gardeners to grow in abundance for their chickens.

Which Part of Marigold Can Chickens Eat?

While all parts of the marigold plant are edible for chickens, the flower petals are the tastiest and most nutritious part to feed. The golden-hued petals contain the highest levels of beneficial antioxidants like lutein, along with essential oils that promote health.

The marigold’s green leaves are also safe for chickens to eat. They contain some nutritional value, though not as much as the flowers. The stems and seeds are edible, too, but harder to digest. For optimal nutrition and easier eating, just feed the vibrant flower petals separated from the bitter base.

The stems and seeds are edible but harder to digest…

Start by feeding marigold flowers every few days as an occasional treat. Monitor your chickens after introducing them to watch for any digestive issues before gradually increasing the amount. Enjoy the sight of your flock munching away on cheery marigold blooms!

How Much Marigold Can Chickens Eat?

Marigolds are non-toxic for chickens but should still be fed in moderation. Aim to limit daily marigold intake to less than 10% of their diet. Too many can cause loose stool or diarrhea.

For most standard-sized chickens, the following portions are appropriate:

  • 2-3 marigold flowers per bird 1-2 times a week
  • 1 handful of leaves and edible stems 1-2 times a week
  • 1 teaspoon of dried, crushed marigold petals 2-3 times a week
  • No more than 2-3 crushed marigold seeds 2 times a week

Adjust these amounts depending on your chickens’ size, age, and dietary needs. Closely monitor droppings when introducing marigolds. Reduce the amount if stools become loose. Marigolds are a healthy treat but not a complete source of nutrition.

Amberlink Rooster Crowing
Amberlink Rooster Crowing

How to Feed Marigold to Chickens?

Here are some simple tips for safely feeding marigolds to your flock:

  • Pick fresh, vibrant flowers and leaves free of dirt, bugs, and chemicals.
  • Gently rinse or wipe the blossoms clean. Remove any thick stems or bases.
  • Chop or tear the flower heads and leaves into small, bite-sized pieces for easier eating.
  • Scatter a few flowers per chicken over their feed, or offer them in your hand for foraging.
  • Mix dried crushed petals and crushed seeds into feed or herbal blends.
  • Hang bundles of dried flowers in the coop for pecking and foraging enrichment.
  • Plant marigolds in borders the chickens can access to graze on occasionally.

Follow these guidelines to happily incorporate edible marigolds into your chickens’ diet routine.

How Often to Feed Marigold to Chickens?

Marigolds are simple to grow and make a safe, nutritious occasional treat for chickens. But moderation is key when feeding any treat to your flock. Follow these tips for optimal frequency:

For fresh marigolds:

  • Start by feeding a few flowers 1-2 times per week.
  • Slowly increase frequency to 3-4 times per week maximum if chickens tolerate it well.
  • Scatter a handful of leaves and edible stems 1-2 times weekly.

For dried marigolds:

  • Feed dried crushed flowers or seeds 2-3 times per week.
  • Limit dried seeds to just 1-2 times weekly since they are hard to digest.
  • Mix small amounts of dried petals into feed daily for carotenoids.

Avoid feeding marigolds every single day, as overconsumption may cause loose droppings. Find a moderate feeding routine your chickens respond well to.

Can Baby Chickens Eat Marigold?

Marigolds make a safe, nourishing supplement to feed baby chickens in moderation. The antioxidants support immune system development in chicks, while the carotenoids promote healthy growth.

When introducing marigolds to baby birds:

  • Wait until chicks are at least 4-6 weeks old before feeding marigolds. Their digestive system needs time to mature.
  • Start with just a tiny pinch of dried petals or crushed seed mixed into feed.
  • Slowly increase marigold amounts every few days if chicks seem to tolerate it well.
  • Chop or tear fresh flowers and leaves into tiny pieces for easy eating.
  • Limit total marigold intake to less than 5% of feed for young chicks.
Dwarf Cochin Hen and Chicks on Grass (image by Pixel-mixer, Pixabay)
Dwarf Cochin Hen and Chicks

While marigolds can provide benefits, a young chick’s diet should still consist primarily of a complete starter feed. Feed marigolds as a garnish only a few times a week once the chicks are juveniles.

In summary, marigolds are a safe, nutritious flower that can be enjoyed by chickens, both young and old, when fed in moderation. As with any flower treat, follow the tips covered to safely incorporate cheery marigolds into your chickens’ diet. The vibrant blooms will add color and nutrition to their feed routine.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you prepare marigolds for chickens?

To prepare marigolds for chickens, ensure they are fresh, clean, and pesticide-free. Pluck the marigold flowers and remove any dirt or debris. Chop the flowers into smaller, manageable pieces to make it easier for chickens to eat. You can offer marigolds as a supplement to their regular feed or scatter them in the coop for pecking enjoyment.

How much marigold to feed chickens?

When feeding marigolds to chickens, moderation is key. A handful of chopped marigold flowers per chicken per day is generally sufficient. Overfeeding may lead to digestive issues, so monitor their consumption and adjust accordingly. Remember to incorporate a balanced and diverse diet to meet all their nutritional needs.

Is marigold extract good for chickens?

Yes, marigold extract can be beneficial for chickens. Marigolds contain compounds like lutein and zeaxanthin, which contribute to poultry health. These compounds may enhance egg yolk color and provide antioxidant benefits. However, it’s important to use marigold extract in moderation and consult with a poultry nutritionist to ensure it complements the overall diet.

Can chickens eat marigold seeds?

While marigold seeds are edible and not toxic to chickens, it’s advisable to remove them before offering marigolds. The seeds can be a potential choking hazard or may be difficult for chickens to digest. A limited intake is safe for chickens, but it is better to stick to feeding them fresh flowers or dried petals for a safer and more enjoyable treat.

Can chickens eat marigolds in water?

Chickens can consume marigolds in water, but it’s not a common or practical method. It’s better to offer marigolds as a solid supplement, either mixed with their regular feed or scattered in the coop. Adding marigolds to water might make it messy and less appealing to chickens, potentially leading to wastage.