Can Chickens Eat Nettle? An In-Depth Guide for Chicken Owners

A Foliage of a Nettle Leaves (image by pasja1000, Pixabay)

Article Summary

  • Chickens can safely eat all types of nettles, including stinging nettles.
  • There are no known risks to feeding chickens nettles, but precautions include avoiding nettles from pesticide-treated areas, introducing them slowly, feeding in moderation, and washing them thoroughly.
  • The recommended amount of nettles for chickens is about 1-2 cups of fresh nettle leaves per 3-5 chickens daily, and nettles can be included in the diet of baby chickens after 3-4 weeks.

Nettles are a common weed packed with nutrients that chickens love. But can chickens safely eat nettles? What are the benefits and risks? How much and how often should you feed nettles to chickens? This comprehensive guide has all the answers.

Is it Safe for Chickens to Eat Nettles?

Yes, chickens can safely eat nettles. All types of nettles, including stinging nettles, are safe for chickens to consume. The stinging hairs on nettles do not affect chickens. In fact, nettles are highly beneficial and nutritious for chickens.

Nettles contain proteins, minerals like iron, calcium, potassium, and vitamins…

Nettles contain proteins, minerals like iron, calcium, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and K. This makes nettles an excellent supplement to your chickens’ diet. Nettles also have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties that can boost chicken health.

What are the Benefits of Feeding Nettles to Chickens?

Here are some of the top benefits of feeding nettles to chickens:

  • Nutrient-dense: Nettles contain essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins that promote growth and egg production.
  • Supports immune system: Nettles have natural antibacterial and antiviral properties to keep chickens healthy.
  • Increases egg production: The high nutrient content in nettles enhances egg quality and production.
  • Promotes feather growth: Nettles have high protein content for growing healthy, vibrant feathers.
  • Anti-parasitic: Nettles can help control parasites and worms in chickens.
  • Natural anti-inflammatory: Nettles can reduce inflammation in chickens.
Welsummer Rooster Roaming
Welsummer Rooster Roaming

Are there any Risks in Feeding Nettles to Chickens?

There are no known risks to feeding chickens nettles. Nettles are completely safe for chickens to consume. However, here are some precautions:

  • Avoid picking nettles from areas treated with pesticides or herbicides. This can contaminate the nettles.
  • Introduce nettles slowly at first to see if any individual chickens have reactions.
  • Feed nettles in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Too much can cause loose droppings.
  • Wash nettles thoroughly to remove any dirt, debris, or eggs from parasites.

As long as you take these precautions, nettles are a very safe supplement for chickens.

What Type of Nettles Can Chickens Eat?

Chickens can safely eat all varieties of edible nettles:

  • Stinging nettles – Very common. Despite the sting, completely safe for chickens.
  • Wood nettles – A non-stinging variety. Safe and nutritious.
  • Himalayan nettles – A nutritious nettle native to Asia.
  • White dead nettles – A European variety with no sting.
  • Hemp nettles – Common in North America. No sting.


The key is to avoid any ornamental or toxic varieties of nettles not meant for consumption. However, common edible nettles are all chicken-safe.

Can Chickens Eat Nettles Raw?

Yes, chickens can eat nettles completely raw without any issue. Some chicken owners prefer to feed nettles raw to preserve the nutrients. Just make sure raw nettles are washed thoroughly.

Can Chickens Eat Nettles Cooked?

Cooking nettles is unnecessary but chickens can eat cooked nettles too. Light cooking can wilt down fresh nettles for easier feeding. Avoid overcooking, which can deplete some vitamins.

Some options for cooked nettles include:

  • Lightly steamed or blanched
  • Added to warm mash
  • Baked into treats

Can Chickens Eat Stinging Nettles?

A Closeup of a Stinging Nettle (image by MabelAmber)
A Stinging Nettle

Definitely! Stinging nettles are perfectly fine and safe for chickens to eat. The stinging hairs on the leaves and stems do not affect chickens at all. In fact, stinging nettles are one of the most common nettles fed to backyard chickens. Just be careful when harvesting them!

Which Part of Nettles Can Chickens Eat?

Chickens can safely eat all parts of nettles:

  • Leaves – The most nutritious part of the nettle. High in vitamins and minerals.
  • Stems – Fibrous and healthy. Great source of nutrients.
  • Flowers – Contain proteins, minerals, and bioactive compounds. Completely edible.
  • Seeds – High protein and fat content beneficial for chickens.
  • Roots – Edible and nutritious but difficult to harvest in quantity.
A Closeup of Nettle Flower Buds (image by papazachariasa, Pixabay)
Nettle Flower Buds

For the easiest feeding, harvest the leaves, stems, and flowers. However, chickens can eat all above-ground parts of nettles.

How Much Nettles Can Chickens Eat?

Chickens can eat nettles daily as part of a balanced diet. About 1-2 cups of fresh nettle leaves per 3-5 chickens is a good amount. Too much can cause loose droppings.

Start with small amounts and gradually increase to find the optimal quantity your flock enjoys. Observe your chickens’ health and droppings to determine the right nettle intake.

How to Feed Nettles to Chickens?

Here are some tips for feeding nettles:

  • Harvest nettle tops using gloves and scissors.
  • Rinse well and chop into bite-sized pieces for easier eating.
  • Mix chopped nettles into feed or serve free choice in a separate bowl.
  • Hang nettle bunches inside the coop for pecking and enrichment.
  • Stuff whole leaves and stems into a suet feeder.
  • Dehydrate nettles into crispy treats.
  • Add fresh nettles to smoothies, mashes, or warm oats.

Get creative with the ways you serve nettles! Just ensure they are washed and chopped safely.

How Often to Feed Nettles to Chickens?

Aim to feed nettles 2-3 times per week as part of a balanced diet. Nettles can be given daily, but avoid feeding only nettles.

Rotate nettles with other plants and nutritious treats, like comfrey, herbs, fruits, veggies, and sprouts. Variety ensures chickens get all essential nutrients.

Can Baby Chickens Eat Nettles?

Yes, baby chicks can eat small amounts of nettle leaves finely chopped. Introduce nettles after 3-4 weeks when chicks are eating starter feed well. Start with just a few leaves at a time, shredded finely.

A Dead Nettle With a Bee (image by Rollstein, Pixabay)
A Purple (or Red) Dead Nettle

Nettles are safe and healthy for chickens of all ages. Just follow the portion guidelines and monitor your flock. With some simple precautions, nettles make an excellent nutritional supplement for chickens.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can chickens eat purple dead nettle?

Yes, chickens can eat purple dead nettle. It is a safe and nutritious plant that can be included in their diet. Purple dead nettle contains vitamins and minerals that contribute to the overall health of chickens. Ensure that the nettle is free from pesticides and contaminants before offering it to your chickens.

Can chickens eat nettle seeds?

Feeding nettle seeds to chickens is generally safe. Nettle seeds are a good source of protein and other nutrients. However, moderation is key, as excessive consumption of seeds may lead to digestive issues. It’s advisable to introduce them gradually into the chickens’ diet and observe their response.

Can chickens eat nettle leaves?

Yes, chickens can eat nettle leaves. Nettle leaves are rich in nutrients and can be a valuable addition to their diet. Ensure the nettle leaves are fresh, clean, and free from pesticides. Introduce them slowly, especially if it’s the first time, to allow the chickens to adjust to this new food source.

Can chickens eat hemp nettle?

Chickens can eat hemp nettle in moderation. Hemp nettle is generally safe for chickens and provides additional nutrients to their diet. As with any new food, introduce it gradually and observe their reaction. Make sure the hemp nettle is free from harmful substances and pesticides.

Can chickens eat red dead nettle?

Yes, chickens can eat red dead nettle. It is a safe and nutritious plant that can be part of their balanced diet. Red dead nettle provides vitamins and minerals that support the well-being of chickens. Prioritize offering clean and pesticide-free nettle to ensure the health of your flock.