Can Chickens Eat Soybeans? The Ultimate Guide

Scattered Soybeans on Gray Fabric

Article Summary

  • Soybeans are a common plant protein source in commercial poultry feeds, rich in high-quality protein and essential amino acids.
  • Excessive consumption of underprocessed soybeans could potentially harm the intestinal tract or cause weight gain in confined chickens.
  • Processed soybean meal or forms can be part of daily feeding, while whole roasted or cooked soybeans can be provided 2-3 times per week.

Soybeans can be a healthy and beneficial addition to a backyard chicken’s diet, especially for broiler chickens and hens. They are a nutritious ingredient commonly found in poultry feed and animal feeds. This nutrient-dense legume offers protein, fat, and other key nutrients for poultry.

It is a great addition to animal feeds for hens, as it provides essential feed ingredients. However, soybeans also contain anti-nutritional factors, so they require proper preparation before feeding to chickens.

Read on to learn all about feeding soybeans to chickens – from benefits and risks to how much and how often chickens can eat them. Discover the best practices for incorporating soybeans into your flock’s feed ration.

What is the Role of Soybeans in Poultry Feed?

Soybeans are one of the most common plant protein sources used in commercial poultry feeds for broiler chickens and birds raised on pasture. They are rich in high-quality protein, containing all the essential amino acids chickens require.

The oil in soybeans is also a valuable energy source for chickens. The fat content ranges from 17-22%, providing concentrated calories.

When processed into soybean meal, the protein content increases to around 44-48%. This makes soybean meal an inexpensive way to boost protein levels in feed.

Soybeans are also high in fiber, which promotes gut health by encouraging digestion. Raw beans, such as soybeans, are often used in balanced chicken feeds alongside corn. This is because the amino acid profile of beans complements that of corn, making them a common combination for broilers.

Chickens and Chicks Eating Corn Together
Chickens and Chicks Eating Corn Together

By incorporating raw beans into their diet, chickens can benefit from a well-rounded source of nutrients while grazing on pasture. However, it’s important to note that raw beans can also be a potential source of campylobacter contamination.

Soybeans, like some of the human foods offered to chickens, are a versatile ingredient that provides protein, energy, and fiber. When properly processed and combined with other feedstuffs, soybean meal helps meet chickens’ nutritional requirements.

Is it Safe for Chickens to Eat Soybeans?

Yes, chickens can safely eat soybeans when they are prepared properly. Raw or underprocessed soybeans contain anti-nutritional factors that can negatively affect chickens if consumed in large quantities.

Trypsin inhibitors in raw soybeans interfere with protein digestion and absorption of nutrients. Phytic acid can bind to minerals like calcium, zinc, and iron, making them unavailable for chickens to utilize.

Lectins and saponins are additional anti-nutrients found in soybeans that can irritate the intestinal tract.

Roasting, boiling, or fermenting soybeans neutralize or destroy nutritional factors, such as trypsin inhibitors and lectins…

However, by roasting, boiling, or fermenting soybeans, these anti-nutritional factors are neutralized or destroyed. Then the beans become a highly digestible, nutritious feed ingredient for chickens.

As long as you process soybeans correctly before feeding, chickens can consume them without issue as part of a balanced diet. Only feed them raw or underprocessed beans in moderation.

What are the Benefits of Feeding Soybeans to Chickens?

Feeding adequately prepared soybeans offers several benefits for backyard chickens:

  • High in digestible protein – Soybean meal contains around 44% protein, providing amino acids for growth and egg production.
  • Energy source – The oil in soybeans gives concentrated calories for energy.
  • Inexpensive protein supplement – Processing soybeans into a meal makes them an affordable way to increase protein levels in feed.
  • Amino acid balance – Soybeans contain lysine, tryptophan, and other amino acids that complement cereal grains in chicken feed.
  • Gut health – The fiber in soybeans encourages digestion and gut motility.
  • Bone health – Soybeans provide calcium for proper bone development and strength.
  • Reduces feed costs – Substituting some processed soybeans for other protein sources lowers overall feed expenses.

In the right amounts, feeding processed soybeans gives chickens top nutrition at a reasonable price point for backyard chicken keepers.

Are there any Risks in Feeding Soybeans to Chickens?

The main risk of feeding soybeans to chickens is not properly preparing them before consumption. Raw or undercooked beans retain anti-nutritional factors that can cause:

  • Reduced protein and mineral absorption
  • Digestive upset or irritation
  • Decreased chick growth and egg production

Consuming very high amounts of underprocessed soybeans could potentially damage the intestinal tract lining or even cause death.

Also, soybeans are relatively high in fat. Feeding too many can lead to excess weight gain in confined chickens.

However, when fed in moderation and properly prepared, soybeans do not pose any significant risks. Simply ensure you always process soybeans by cooking, roasting, fermenting, or another method before feeding to your flock.

RECOMMENDATION

Start chicks on soybean meal slowly and increase amounts gradually. Limit soybeans to under 15% of the total diet for optimal health and performance.

What Type of Soybeans Can Chickens Eat?

Chickens can eat most types of soybeans, including:

  • Whole dry soybeans – Must be cooked or roasted at high heat to destroy anti-nutritional factors
  • Soybean meal – Made by grinding processed soybeans into a high-protein meal
  • Fermented soybeans – Fermentation helps break down anti-nutrients
  • Soybean sprouts – Sprouting neutralizes trypsin inhibitors
  • Roasted soybeans – Roasting eliminates anti-nutritional compounds
  • Soy milk – A good source of digestible protein for chickens
  • Tofu – Provides protein and calcium
Soybeans And Soy Milk on The Table
Soybeans And Soy Milk

Avoid feeding raw fresh green soybeans, which are higher in anti-nutrients. Also, limit uncooked full-fat soybeans, as the oil may go rancid.

For best results, choose processed forms like soybean meal, fermented soy products, and sprouted soy products. Additionally, it is important to note that raw beans and samples should also be considered. This makes the soy easier to digest while still providing excellent nutrition.

Can Chickens Eat Soybeans Raw?

It’s not recommended to feed raw, unprocessed soybeans to chickens in anything more than very small amounts. Raw soybeans contain high levels of trypsin inhibitors, lectins, phytic acid, and other anti-nutrients.

These compounds can reduce protein and mineral absorption, cause digestive upset, and depress growth rates. Consuming very high amounts could potentially be fatal.

However, chickens may enjoy pecking at a few raw soybeans as a treat here and there. Just limit raw soybeans to less than 10% of the total diet to avoid issues. Make sure the bulk of soybeans fed to chickens are properly prepared.

Can Chickens Have Fermented Soybeans?

Yes, fermented soybean products are safe and provide excellent nutrition for chickens. Fermenting soybeans helps break down the trypsin inhibitors and phytic acids they naturally contain.

Some fermented soy options chickens can enjoy include:

  • Miso – A probiotic-rich paste made from fermented soybeans and grains
  • Tempeh – Soybeans fermented into nutty cakes with a firm texture
  • Natto – Whole soybeans fermented with Bacillus subtilis bacteria
  • Fermented soybean meal – Partially broken down by microorganisms

Fermented soy is highly digestible for chickens while still providing protein, amino acids, and other nutrients. The live cultures may also benefit chickens’ gut health and immunity.

Fermented soy is highly digestible for chickens while still providing protein, amino acids…

Feed fermented soybeans in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Chickens will readily eat small amounts of miso, natto, or tempeh as tasty, nutritious treats.

Can Chickens Eat Soybean Meal?

Yes, soybean meal is an excellent choice to feed your chickens. Soybean meal is made from roasted, ground soybeans, which neutralizes the anti-nutritional factors.

With around 44-48% high-quality protein content, soybean meal makes an economical protein supplement. It provides balanced amino acids to complement grains in chicken feed.

Since the oil is partially removed and fiber increased during processing, soybean meal promotes good digestion. The calcium in soybeans also supports bone health.

Serama Hen And Chicks

Commercial poultry feeds commonly include soybean meal to cost-effectively boost protein levels. Backyard chicken keepers can likewise utilize soy meal in their own rations.

Introduce it slowly, especially for chicks, and limit it to 10-15% of the total diet. But when fed properly, soybean meal gives an inexpensive nutrition boost.

Can Chickens Eat Soybean Sprouts?

Yes, chickens can eat soybean sprouts. The sprouting process helps neutralize anti-nutritional compounds like trypsin inhibitors in raw soybeans.

Sprouted soybeans retain their high protein and amino acid content. Sprouts also contain vitamin C, fiber, and beneficial enzymes.

A few tips for feeding soybean sprouts:

  • Start by offering just a handful per bird as chickens adjust to the new treat.
  • Combine sprouted soybeans with greens or chopped vegetables.
  • Sprouts can be fed fresh or dehydrated as long as they are not moldy.
  • Limit sprouted soybeans to a few times per week to avoid overconsumption.

In moderation, sprouted soybeans give chickens added protein, vitamins, and healthy phytochemicals. They make a nutritious supplement to a balanced feed ration.

Can Chickens Eat Soybean Hulls?

Soybean hulls are the outer covering of soybeans removed during processing. These hulls are very high in fiber at around 30% but low in protein.

Small amounts of soybean hulls can provide needed fiber to promote healthy digestion in chickens. However, they lack nutritional density compared to the bean itself.

Excess soybean hulls could potentially cause loose droppings if overfed. It’s best to limit hulls to no more than 1-2% of the total feed ration.

NOTE

Rather than soybean hulls alone, whole processed soybeans or soybean meal offer more balanced nutrition for chickens. Buthulls do offer some fiber value when included minimally.

Can Chickens Eat Dry Roasted Soybeans?

Yes, chickens can eat dry roasted soybeans in moderation. Roasting helps destroy the anti-nutritional compounds in raw soybeans, making them safer to feed.

Dry roasting at 250-280°F for 15-20 minutes eliminates most trypsin inhibitors and lectins. This prepares the beans for digestion while retaining nutritional value.

A few roasted beans make a crunchy, protein-packed treat or supplement. Limit them to less than 15% of the diet to avoid potential weight gain from the extra fat.

Also, introduce roasted beans slowly to chicks over 2-3 weeks. But when fed properly, dry roasted soybeans are an excellent source of energy and protein.

Can Chickens Eat Ground Soybeans?

Ground or crushed raw soybeans are not recommended for chickens. Grinding alone does not remove anti-nutritional factors like trypsin inhibitors.

However, chickens can safely enjoy ground soybeans if they have been adequately heat-processed first. Options include:

  • Soybean meal – Made from ground roasted soybeans
  • Cooked and ground soybeans
  • Extruded soybean pellets
  • Ground soybeans fermented or sprouted before grinding

With proper preparation, ground soy products provide concentrated plant protein and amino acids. Introduce them slowly and limit them to 10-15% of the diet.

Only offer ground raw soybeans in tiny amounts, occasionally as treats. For regular feeding, ensure ground soy is heat-treated or fermented first.

Can Chickens Eat Cracked Soybeans?

Like ground soybeans, cracked or split soybeans should only be fed to chickens after proper processing to destroy anti-nutritional compounds.

Simply cracking or splitting raw soybeans is not enough to neutralize trypsin inhibitors and make them digestible. Safe options include:

  • Roasted then cracked soybeans
  • Boiled or extruded cracked beans
  • Fermented cracked soybeans
  • Sprouted cracked beans

Cracked soy processed this way provides high-protein pieces easy for chickens to eat. Introduce slowly and limit to 10-15% of the diet.

Without roasting, cooking, fermenting, or sprouting first, limit cracked raw soybeans to just a few per bird. But prepped cracked soy makes an excellent nutritional supplement.

Can Chickens Eat Soybeans Straight From the Field?

It’s best not to feed soybeans directly from the field to chickens unless they have been cooked or roasted first. Raw fresh soybeans have higher levels of anti-nutritional compounds.

Dried mature soybeans have lower trypsin inhibitor content, but filed-picked mature soybeans can still contain anti-nutrients…

Dried mature soybeans have lower trypsin inhibitor content than fresh green beans. But field-picked mature soybeans can still contain lectins, phytates, and other anti-nutrients.

To safely feed field-harvested soybeans:

  • Dry the fresh beans completely.
  • Then roast at 280°F for 20 minutes or boil for 30-60 minutes.
  • Process into meal after cooking for easier digestion.
  • Limit prepared beans to 10-15% of feed ration.

With proper processing, field-picked soybeans can be a free protein source. But always prepare them first before feeding more than occasional treats.

How Much Soybeans Can Chickens Eat?

Soybeans and soy products like meal and fermented forms can make up 10-15% of a backyard chicken’s diet. This provides valuable protein without exceeding the recommended limits.

Commercial chicken feed usually contains 14-22% soybean meal on average. But backyard flocks with diverse diets don’t need quite as much.

Here are some approximate guidelines for different types of soybeans:

  • Soybean meal – 10-15% of diet
  • Whole dry roasted soybeans – No more than 15%
  • Fermented soy products – Around 2-3%
  • Sprouted soybeans – Up to 5%
  • Raw soybeans – Just occasional treats, not daily feed

Adjust amounts slowly based on your flock’s health and production level. Free-ranging birds typically need less soy supplementation overall.

How to Feed Soybeans to Chickens?

Here are some tips for safely incorporating soybeans into your flock’s diet:

  • Roast or boil whole soybeans for 20-60 minutes before feeding to deactivate anti-nutrients.
  • Introduce soybean meal or processed forms slowly over 2-3 weeks.
  • Mix prepped beans, soy meal, or fermented forms into a balanced feed ration.
  • Offer sprouted soybeans in moderation as a supplement a few times per week.
  • Limit raw uncooked beans to occasional whole treats, not main feed.
  • Provide grit to help grind soybeans in the gizzard for better digestion.
  • Feed soy in age-appropriate amounts, starting chicks on small soy rations.

Processing the beans before feeding and gradually transitioning onto soy products will help your chickens accept them readily.

How Often to Feed Soybeans to Chickens?

Two Free-Range Hens Foraging The Pastures

For soybean meal or processed forms, daily feeding in recommended amounts is fine. Whole roasted or cooked soybeans can be provided 2-3 times per week.

Fermented soy like miso or tempeh can be offered as supplemental treats 2-3 times weekly too.

Sprouted soybeans are also a great treat choice a few times per week for added protein and phytonutrients.

Only provide raw, uncooked whole soybeans occasionally in tiny amounts as a treat, not daily rations.

Monitor your flock’s condition and adjust soy feeding frequency as needed. But properly prepared soy products can be part of a chicken’s daily balanced diet.

Can Baby Chicks Eat Soybeans?

It’s fine for baby chicks to eat soybean meal and processed soy products once they are 2-3 weeks old. But some preparation is important:

  • Use soybean meal or crumbles made for starter feeds.
  • Start with just 5% soybean meal or less in chick rations.
  • Slowly increase soy content as chicks grow to avoid anti-nutrient issues.
  • Avoid raw or underprocessed beans for chicks.
  • Roast or cook whole beans well before feeding them to juveniles.
  • Limit sprouted or fermented soy to occasional treats until 6-8 weeks old.

With a gradual introduction and age-appropriate amounts, soy can provide valuable protein for growing chicks without causing digestive upset.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can chickens eat soybeans raw?

Chickens should not eat raw soybeans. Raw soybeans contain anti-nutritional factors, such as trypsin inhibitors, which can interfere with the digestion of proteins and nutrients in chickens. To make soybeans suitable for chicken consumption, they should be cooked or roasted to eliminate these harmful substances.

Is soy good for chicken feed?

Yes, soy is an excellent source of protein for chicken feed. Soybeans are rich in essential amino acids, making them a valuable component of poultry diets. They contribute to the overall nutritional balance of chicken feed, promoting healthy growth, feather development, and egg production.

How to make chicken feed from soybeans?

To make chicken feed from soybeans, start by cleaning and dehulling the soybeans. Then, grind or crush them into a coarse powder. Mix the soybean powder with other essential ingredients such as grains, vitamins, and minerals to create a balanced feed. Adjust the proportions based on the specific nutritional requirements of the chickens at different stages of growth.

Do all chickens eat soy?

Not all chickens eat soy, but soy is a common and valuable component in commercial chicken feeds. Soy provides a high-quality protein source and is rich in essential amino acids, contributing to the overall nutritional needs of chickens. However, some backyard chicken keepers may choose alternative feeds or have specific dietary preferences for their chickens. It’s essential to consider the nutritional requirements of the specific chicken breed and its purpose when formulating a feed regimen. Some alternative feeds may replace or supplement soy to meet the chickens’ dietary needs.

How to roast soybeans for chicken?

To roast soybeans for chickens, preheat the oven to around 350°F (175°C). Spread cleaned and dried soybeans on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast them for 20-30 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally for even roasting. Check for a golden-brown color and a nutty aroma to ensure they are properly roasted. Let them cool before incorporating them into the chicken feed as a tasty and nutritious treat.