Can Chickens Eat Tomatoes? The Complete Guide for Chicken Owners

A Pile of Tomatoes
Freshly Harvest Tomatoes

Article Summary

  • Chickens can consume all varieties of tomatoes, but the leaves and vines of tomato plants are toxic to them.
  • The fleshy insides, seeds, and juice of tomatoes are safe for chickens, while stems, leaves, green tomatoes, and moldy tomatoes should be avoided.
  • Tomatoes should be given as an occasional treat, not a daily staple, to prevent digestive issues.

It’s a common question for chicken owners – can my chickens eat tomatoes? The short answer is yes, chickens can eat tomatoes in moderation. Tomatoes contain many vitamins and antioxidants that are beneficial for chicken health. However, some parts of the tomato plant are toxic to chickens. Read on to learn all about feeding tomatoes to chickens.

What Age Can Chickens Eat Tomatoes?

Chickens of any age can eat tomatoes! However, when introducing new foods to young chicks, go slowly. Wait until chicks are at least 6 weeks old before offering tomato treats. Then start with just a bite or two to avoid upsetting sensitive young digestive systems.

Are Tomatoes Good for Chickens?

Yes, tomatoes are a healthy treat for backyard chickens. The main benefits of tomatoes for chickens include:

  • Vitamin C – Boosts immune health and combats stress.
  • Vitamin A – Supports eye and skin health.
  • Lycopene – A powerful antioxidant that reduces inflammation.
  • Potassium – Important for muscle function and egg production.

Tomatoes also provide small amounts of vitamin E, B vitamins, iron, and calcium. The juicy flesh and seeds offer added hydration on hot summer days.

What Type of Tomatoes Can Chickens Eat?

Chickens can eat all varieties of tomatoes – cherry, grape, heirloom, beefsteak, etc. The most common garden tomatoes like Early Girl, Better Boy, Big Beef and others are perfectly fine for chickens.

NOTE

Avoid feeding chickens green tomatoes, which contain toxic solanine. Fully ripe red tomatoes are the best choice.

Can Chickens Eat Cooked Tomatoes?

Yes, chickens can eat cooked tomatoes with no issues. Blanching or roasting tomatoes can make them easier for chickens to digest. Just avoid adding any seasoned oils or salt when cooking tomatoes for your flock.

Can Chickens Eat Uncooked Tomatoes?

Absolutely! Raw, ripe tomatoes are nutritious and safe for chickens to eat. Many chicken owners report their hens love snacking on freshly picked cherry tomatoes right off the vine.

Make sure any uncooked tomatoes offered to chickens are ripe and red. Unripe green tomatoes are toxic.

Can Chickens Eat Tomato Plants?

Chickens on the Field

This is where things get tricky. While tomatoes themselves are fine, the leaves and vines of tomato plants are toxic to chickens. The foliage and stems contain solanine, chaconine and other glycoalkaloids that are dangerous for chickens if consumed.

So it’s best not to let chickens forage around tomato plants. They may be tempted to nibble on tasty leaves and get sick. Remove chickens from the garden when tomato plants are present.

Which Parts of Tomatoes Can Chickens Eat?

Chickens can safely eat:

  • The fleshy insides
  • Seeds
  • Juice

Avoid feeding chickens:

  • Stems
  • Leaves
  • Green (unripe) tomatoes
  • Moldy tomatoes

Ripe tomato flesh and seeds provide the most benefits…

Ripe tomato flesh and seeds provide the most benefits without risks. Just be sure tomatoes are fresh and not spoiled.

How to Prepare Tomatoes for Chickens

The simplest way to feed tomatoes is tossing whole, ripe cherry tomatoes into the chicken run for your flock to enjoy.

For larger tomatoes, chop them into bite-sized pieces first. This prevents choking hazards.

Lightly cooking tomatoes, especially beefsteak varieties with tough skins, makes them easier to digest. You can roast, blanch or microwave whole tomatoes for a minute or two before feeding to chickens.

Never season cooked tomatoes with anything like salt, butter or oil. Plain preparations are safest.

How Much Tomato to Feed Chickens

Tomatoes should be an occasional treat, not a daily staple. A good rule of thumb is:

  • No more than 2-3 cherry tomatoes per chicken, 2-3 times per week.
  • 1-2 bites of a large tomato per chicken, 2-3 times per week.

Monitor your flock’s droppings when feeding tomatoes. Runny poop could mean they are getting too much. Scale back or eliminate tomatoes if necessary.

Can Chickens Eat Tomatoes Daily?

It’s best not to feed tomatoes every day. Too much can cause loose stool due to the high water content. Enjoy tomatoes in moderation 2-3 times per week at most.

For daily antioxidant boosts, look to foods like blueberries, kale, carrots or squash instead. Variety is important in a chicken diet. Rotate different fruits and veggies to provide a diverse mix of vitamins and minerals.

Alternatives to Tomatoes for Chickens

Some healthy alternatives to tomatoes include:

  • Peppers – Contain more vitamin C than tomatoes. Opt for red, yellow or orange peppers.
  • Carrots – Packed with vitamin A like tomatoes, plus more beta carotene.
  • Watermelon – Provides lots of hydration like tomatoes do.
  • Squash – Choose summer or winter varieties for vitamin A.
  • Berries – Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries offer vitamin C.
  • Leafy Greens – Kale, spinach and chard supply carotenoids.

The Verdict on Feeding Tomatoes to Chickens

Ripe, red tomatoes are a nutritious snack for backyard chickens. But only feed them 2-3 times per week in moderation. Avoid green tomatoes and all parts of the tomato plant, as they can be toxic. With a little common sense, tomatoes make a great addition to a varied diet for happy, healthy hens.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will Chickens Eat Raw Tomatoes?

Yes, chickens can eat raw tomatoes in moderation. Tomatoes are a healthy treat for chickens, providing vitamins and antioxidants. However, avoid feeding them in excess, as too much can lead to digestive issues.

Are Tomato Plants Toxic to Chickens?

Yes, tomato plants (like the leaves and the vines) are toxic to chickens. The plant contains solanine, which can be harmful if ingested. Ensure that only ripe tomatoes are given to chickens, and discard any leaves, stems, or unripe fruits to prevent potential poisoning.

Can Chickens Eat Tomato Seeds?

Chickens can eat small amounts of tomato seeds without harm. However, it’s advisable to remove seeds from large quantities of tomatoes, as excessive consumption may cause digestive problems. Offering tomatoes in moderation, with seeds removed, is a safer option for your chickens.