Can Chickens Eat Nightshade Plants? A Poultry Owner’s Guide

Paprika Fruits And Leaves

Article Summary

  • Nightshades include plants like tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers; some contain the toxin solanine, which can be harmful if consumed in large quantities.
  • The risks of overconsumption are digestive, neurological, and respiratory issues, paralysis, and death in severe cases.
  • Offering nightshade treats should be limited to 10% of the daily feed and adjusted based on chicken tolerance.

Are you wondering if it’s safe to feed nightshade plants to your backyard chickens? Nightshades are a family of plants that include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers. Some nightshade varieties contain toxins that can be harmful to chickens if consumed in large quantities.

This article will cover everything you need to know about feeding nightshades to chickens. We’ll discuss the potential benefits and risks, which parts and types are safe, proper feeding guidelines, and symptoms of toxicity. Read on to learn if and how you can incorporate nightshades into your flock’s diet.

Is Nightshade Poisonous to Chickens?

Some nightshade plants contain a toxin called solanine. Solanine is produced in the leaves, stems, and unripe fruit of nightshades as a natural defense against insects and animals. While solanine levels are very low in most edible nightshades, extremely high doses can potentially be fatal.

Luckily, chickens are not as sensitive to solanine as humans. Small amounts are not likely to harm your flock. However, it’s best to control their nightshade consumption and avoid feeding the most toxic parts.

What Are the Risks of Feeding Nightshade to Chickens?

Eating large amounts of nightshade plants with high solanine content can potentially cause:

  • Digestive upset and diarrhea
  • Neurological impairment affecting coordination
  • Reduced egg production
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Paralysis or death (in extreme cases)
Chick in a coop
Chick in a Coop

Nightshade toxicity is more likely when chickens free-range and eat the plants randomly. It’s less risky when you intentionally feed safe parts in moderation.

Symptoms of Solanine Poisoning in Chickens

Watch for these signs that your chicken may have ingested too much solanine:

  • Lethargy, weakness, and unwillingness to move
  • Wobbly gait, falling over, or muscle tremors
  • Gasping, wheezing, or labored breathing
  • Decreased appetite and egg-laying
  • Diarrhea or bloody stool
  • Dilated pupils and impaired vision


If you notice any of these symptoms, remove nightshades from their environment immediately and contact a veterinarian. Early treatment increases the chances of recovery.

Which Types and Parts of Nightshade Are Safe for Chickens?

To minimize risks, only feed your chickens:

  • Ripe tomatoes – Solanine levels drop as tomatoes ripen. Fully red tomatoes are a safe, nutritious treat. Avoid unripe green tomatoes.
  • Ripe peppers – While unripe peppers are toxic, ripe sweet bell peppers are a healthy source of vitamin C and antioxidants.
  • Potato peels – Cooked potato peels from store-bought russets or reds make an inexpensive, protein-rich supplement. Avoid peels from green potatoes as they contain more solanine.
  • Eggplant flesh – The edible flesh of eggplants is very low in solanine. Just avoid feeding leaves, stems, and unripe fruit.

Avoid potato sprouts, leaves, vines, and any green parts of nightshades. These contain the highest toxin levels and pose the greatest risk.

How Much Nightshade Can Chickens Safely Eat?

It’s best to limit nightshade treats to no more than 10% of your flock’s total daily feed. Start with small servings and gradually increase to recommended portions:

  • 1-2 slices ripe tomato per chicken
  • 1-2 strips sweet bell pepper
  • 1⁄4 cup diced eggplant flesh
  • 1 potato peel per chicken

Adjust portions based on your chickens’ tolerance. Stop immediately if you see any signs of a negative reaction.

How Often Should You Feed Nightshades to Chickens?

For optimal health and egg production, vary your flock’s diet and don’t overdo any one food. Feed nightshade treats just 1-2 times per week as a supplement to their main feed.

Unlimited access to quality, complete feed and clean water will ensure balanced nutrition…

Ensure they always have unlimited access to quality, complete feed and clean water. This will ensure balanced nutrition even if they eat a little too much nightshade on occasion.

Tips for Safely Feeding Nightshades to Backyard Chickens

Follow these tips for safely incorporating nightshades into your flock’s menu:

  • Introduce new foods (plant or non-plant) slowly and watch closely for reactions
  • Only feed ripe, cooked parts known to be low in solanine
  • Chop or mash treats into small pieces for easier digestion
  • Provide treats in moderation and infrequently as a supplemental feed
  • Immediately remove and discard any leftover fresh nightshade parts
  • Don’t allow chickens to freely forage on nightshade plants
A Pile of Tomatoes
Freshly Harvest Tomatoes

Can Baby Chicks Eat Nightshades?

It’s best not to feed nightshades to baby chicks under 4 months old. Their digestive and immune systems are too immature to handle toxins.

Wait until chicks are mature adults before offering limited portions of ripe nightshade fruits and veggies. Never feed potato sprouts or leaves to chicks.

The Verdict on Feeding Nightshades to Backyard Chickens

Chicken owners can safely feed certain ripe, cooked parts of nightshades in moderation. Avoid unripe, green parts, and always introduce new foods slowly while watching for signs of reaction. Feed nightshade treats just 1-2 times per week in small portions along with their regular feed. With some common sense precautions, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and potato peelings can be nutritious additions to a backyard flock’s diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can chickens eat black nightshade?

Chickens should not be allowed to consume black nightshade. Black nightshade is part of the nightshade family, which contains solanine, a toxic substance harmful to many animals, including chickens. Ingesting black nightshade can lead to various health issues, making it essential to keep these plants away from poultry.

Is black nightshade safe for chickens?

No, black nightshade is not safe for chickens. This plant contains solanine and other toxic compounds that can be harmful when ingested by chickens. It’s crucial to ensure that chickens do not have access to black nightshade to maintain their health and well-being.

How can I identify nightshade plants?

Identifying nightshade plants requires attention to specific characteristics. Most nightshade plants have alternate leaves that may be toothed or lobed, and they often produce star-shaped flowers, usually in shades of white, blue, or purple. The berries of some nightshade species are particularly recognizable, as they can be small, shiny, and either black or red. However, due to the toxicity of some nightshade species, it’s essential to consult with a local expert or use reliable resources to ensure accurate identification before taking any action.

Are nightshade plants toxic to chickens?

Yes, many nightshade plants contain toxic compounds like solanine, which can be harmful to chickens if ingested. Symptoms of nightshade poisoning in chickens may include digestive upset, weakness, difficulty breathing, and even death in severe cases. It’s vital to be aware of the presence of nightshade plants in areas where chickens roam and take preventive measures to keep them safe.