Can Chickens Eat Vegetables? Discover the Best Greens for Your Flock!

Article Summary

  • Chickens are omnivores and can safely eat a variety of vegetables and fruits as part of their diet.
  • Vegetables can provide valuable vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber for chickens.
  • Leafy greens, root vegetables, and squash offer the most benefits to chickens, providing vitamins A, C, K, antioxidants, and fiber.

Have you ever wondered if you can share your vegetable scraps and fruit peelings with your backyard chickens? Chickens are omnivores, meaning they eat both plant and animal matter, and when free-ranging, they will eat grass. While the bulk of their meal should consist of quality feed and animal proteins, chickens can benefit from vegetables and fruits in moderation.

Certain veggies and fruits offer valuable vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. They also provide variety to prevent boredom. However, not all produce is safe or ideal for chickens. Some items may cause digestive upset or contain toxins.

This complete guide covers everything you need to know about feeding chickens vegetables. Read on to learn which ones to offer, which to avoid, and the health benefits of produce for your flock.

Can Chickens Eat Vegetables?

Yes, chickens can safely eat a wide variety of vegetables. Veggies should always be limited to less than 10% of your chickens’ total daily diet. But offering small amounts provides important nutritional variety.

Leafy greens, root veggies, and squash offer the most benefits for chickens.

Leafy greens, root veggies, and squash offer the most benefits for chickens. They provide vitamins A, C, K, antioxidants, and fiber. Vegetables are also a source of moisture.

You don’t need to spend money buying produce for chickens. Leftover peels, ends, and scraps from your kitchen work great. Just avoid veggies known to be toxic to chickens. Introduce new veggies slowly and watch for any signs of digestive upset.

What Vegetables Can Chickens Eat?

Here are some of the top vegetables for your flock:

Leafy Greens

Leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, and cabbage are fantastic for chickens. They provide vitamin A, vitamin K, calcium, and antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin. Chop greens into small pieces so chickens don’t reject large leaves. Romaine and red leaf lettuce are favorites.

Root Vegetables

Root veggies like carrots, beets, turnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, parsnips, and radishes are excellent options. They offer beta carotene, vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and carbohydrates. Cook starchy potatoes and sweet potatoes first. Cut items into bite-size pieces.

Sweet Potatoes Inside A Wooden Box
Sweet Potatoes

Squash

Squashes like zucchini, pumpkin, acorn, and butternut provide vitamin A and potassium. Squash seeds also offer protein and healthy fats. Cook hard squashes first to soften. Grated squash makes a tasty treat.

Cruciferous Veggies

Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kohlrabi contain vitamins C and K along with cancer-fighting compounds like sulforaphane. Cauliflower leaves and broccoli stems/leaves are great. Chop into small florets.

Peas and Beans

Peas and beans offer plant protein, carbohydrates, fiber, folate, phosphorus, and potassium. Offer fresh or blanched chopped green beans, sugar snap peas, snow peas, and shelled peas. Well-cooked lentils, chickpeas, edamame, and soybeans are also safe in moderation.

Other Good Options

Some other veggies chickens enjoy include sweet peppers, green tomatoes, okra, celery, cucumbers, fennel, corn, beets, asparagus, artichokes, mushrooms, pumpkins, and avocados. Always introduce new veggies slowly.

Can Chickens Eat Raw Vegetables?

Chickens can eat most raw veggies except for starchy root vegetables and dried beans/legumes. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and dried beans contain compounds that can be toxic to chickens if undercooked.

With most other veggies, raw is fine. In fact, raw vegetables contain more nutrients and enzymes. Light cooking makes certain hard veggies more digestible. Quick blanching, steaming, or microwaving works well. Just don’t overcook them into mush.

Can Chickens Eat Cooked Vegetables?

Yes, cooked vegetables are safe for chickens and even necessary for some harder veggies. As mentioned, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and dried legumes should always be thoroughly cooked before feeding to chickens.

Cooking also softens veggies with tough skins and dense fibers like squash, turnips, beets, and carrots. Well-cooked vegetables are easier for chickens to digest.

TIP

Try lightly steaming, microwaving, or blanching veggies instead of boiling to retain more nutrients. Don’t add any seasonings, salt, oil, or butter. Let cooked vegetables cool completely before feeding to your flock.

Can Chickens Eat Fruit Vegetables?

Many vegetables that are botanically fruits make nutritious chicken treats, such as:

Eggplant

Eggplant provides niacin, magnesium, copper, fiber, and antioxidants. The skin contains most of the nutrients. Dice cooked eggplant into small pieces.

Peppers

All varieties of peppers offer vitamin C, beta carotene, antioxidants, and bioflavonoids. Bell peppers, jalapeรฑos, and sweet peppers are great for chickens. Spicy hot peppers should be avoided.

Tomatoes

A Pile of Tomatoes
Freshly Harvest Tomatoes

Tomatoes contain potassium, vitamin C, vitamin K, and lycopene. Ripe cherry and grape tomatoes are the best option. Avoid unripe green tomatoes which contain toxins.

Overall, these fruiting veggies offer valuable vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Introduce them in moderation and monitor your flock for any adverse reactions.

Can Chickens Eat Leafy Greens?

Leafy greens are some of the best vegetables for chickens. They provide a mega-dose of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Leafy greens to offer your flock include:

Lettuce

All types of lettuce are safe for chickens. Romaine, green leaf, and red leaf lettuce offer the most nutrition. Iceberg lettuce has fewer nutrients but the crunch is satisfying.

Spinach

This leafy green is packed with vitamin K, vitamin A, folate, iron, and antioxidants like lutein. Feed spinach in moderation due to oxalic acid.

Cabbage

Cabbage offers vitamin C, anthocyanins, fiber, and cancer-fighting compounds like sulforaphane. Chickens enjoy cabbage leaves and shredded stems. Red cabbage has the most antioxidants.

Kale

Curly kale provides vitamins A, C, K, B6, manganese, copper, calcium, and antioxidants. Massage leaves to tenderize or chop into small pieces before feeding.

Overall, leafy greens provide the most nutritional bang for your buck. Offer a variety and rotate what you feed.

Can Chickens Eat Root Vegetables?

Root vegetables that grow underground are packed with nutrients. Some excellent options include:

Carrots

Chickens love carrots, and this root vegie is loaded with beta carotene, vitamin K, potassium, and antioxidants like lutein. Grate or slice cooked carrots into small pieces.

Beets

Chickens can eat beets, and beets offer manganese, potassium, magnesium, iron, and antioxidants called betalains. Cook before feeding. The beet greens are also nutritious.

Turnips

Turnips contain vitamin C, calcium, folate, manganese, and fiber. Peel turnips, dice, boil, mash, then let your chickens enjoy.

Radishes

Radishes provide vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, fiber, and sulfur compounds. Both the roots and leaves are nutritious for chickens.

Jicama

Sliced Jicama on a Wooden Board
Sliced Jicama

Jicama is a root vegetable that provides chickens with nutrients like vitamin C, calcium, antioxidants and fiber. Feeding chickens jicama seeds, leaves, vines and chopped raw or cooked root in moderation benefits their health as part of a balanced diet.

Ginger

Ginger is safe for chickens and may offer anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Finely grate or chop and mix it with their feed, or infuse it in water for a refreshing beverage. Start with small amounts.

Overall, root veggies provide important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Cook hard, dense veggies before feeding.

Can Chickens Eat Bulb Vegetables?

Bulb vegetables include nutrient-dense alliums like onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, and fennel. Here’s what chickens can safely eat:

Onions

Chickens can eat onions, but too much can be harmful. Onions contain inulin fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and organosulfur compounds. Avoid raw onions which can cause anemia. Cooked onions are healthy treats.

Leeks

A Closeup View of Sliced Leek
Sliced Leek

Chopped, cooked leeks offer flavonoids, antioxidants, vitamin K, iron, and folate. Both the white bulb and green leaves are nutritious.

Fennel

This vitamin C rich veggie provides fiber, potassium, phosphorus, and folate. Use the entire vegetable, including the leaves and seeds. Dice the bulb and stalks first.

Overall, bulbs like onions, garlic, and leeks are healthy for chickens in moderation. Introduce them cooked and cooled.

Can Chickens Eat Stem Vegetables?

Stem vegetables that grow tall and vine-like make great chicken treats. Options to offer include:

Celery

Celery provides vitamin K, potassium, silicon, sodium, and water content. Both the stalks and leaves are safe for chickens. Chop before feeding celery to your chickens.

Asparagus

This spring veggie offers vitamin K, folate, copper, fiber, antioxidants, and prebiotics. Steam lightly before feeding. The tough stems can be composted.

Stem veggies add crunch and hydration. Celery leaves also replace the need for forage. Wash thoroughly and chop into bite-size pieces first.

Can Chickens Eat Fruiting Vegetables?

Sliced Squash in Half

In addition to tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, chickens can eat other fruiting vegetables like:

Cucumbers

Cucumbers provide vitamin K, molybdenum, potassium, and biotin. Offer peeled, chopped cucumbers and zucchini. Smaller gourds are also acceptable.

Peas

Green peas, sugar snap peas, and snow peas provide plant protein, minerals, antioxidants, and prebiotics. You can also feed dried split peas once cooked.

Squash

Summer and winter squashes provide abundant vitamin A, niacin, folate, magnesium, and fiber. Cook dense, hard squashes before feeding. Squash seeds are also highly nutritious.

Fruiting veggies like cukes, peas, and squash add variety and important nutrients. Just introduce new items slowly and watch for reactions. Cook hardy squashes first.

Can Chickens Eat Cruciferous Vegetables?

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts contain beneficial compounds called glucosinolates. Your flock can safely enjoy:

Broccoli

This superfood provides vitamins K and C, chromium, indole-3-carbinol, lutein, potassium, and fiber. Feed the stems, leaves, and florets. Cook before feeding.

Brussels Sprouts

These mini-cabbages pack in folate, vitamin K, manganese, and antioxidants. Chop the sprouts into smaller pieces for easy eating.

Cauliflower

In addition to the florets, cauliflower leaves provide vitamin C, K, antioxidants, choline, and glucosinolates. Introduce new veggies slowly.

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi in a Garden (photo by Pezibear)
Kohlrabi in a Garden

Kohlrabi bulb and greens provide vitamin C, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and glucosinolates. Peel and chop the bulb. Finely chop the leaves.

The Brassica vegetables offer a powerhouse of nutrition and compounds that fight disease. Introduce them slowly in moderate amounts.

Can Chickens Eat Legumes?

Legumes like beans, bean sprouts, peas, lentils, and soy contain antinutrients that can cause gastric distress. Only feed legumes to chickens if:

  • Fully cooked – Raw legumes contain toxins.
  • Well soaked before cooking – Soaking removes antinutrients called phytates.
  • Chopped/mashed – Makes them easier to digest.
  • Introduced slowly – To monitor for tummy troubles.

Some safe legumes include lentils, chickpeas, green peas, snow peas, and shelled peas. Avoid raw green beans and soybeans.

Can Chickens Eat Herbs?

Chickens can consume a variety of herbs, and many of these can offer both flavor and potential health benefits to our feathered friends. Herbs like parsley, basil, oregano, dill, and cilantro are not only safe but can also provide additional nutrients and antioxidants to their diet. These herbs can be scattered in the coop or run, allowing the chickens to peck at them as they please.

It’s important to note that while most herbs are safe for chickens, there are a few exceptions. Certain herbs like tansy, pennyroyal, and rue can be harmful to chickens and are best avoided. These herbs may contain compounds that can adversely affect their health, so it’s essential to keep these out of the chickens’ reach.

What Vegetables Can Chickens Eat Daily?

Some of the best daily veggie choices for chickens include:

  • Leafy greens – Romaine, kale, spinach, swiss chard
  • Root vegetables – Carrots, beets, turnips
  • Squash – Zucchini, acorn, pumpkin
  • Cruciferous – Broccoli florets and stems, cabbage, bok choy
  • Asparagus shoots
  • Celery leaves and chopped stalks
  • Fresh corn cut off the cob

These vegetables provide a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and prebiotics. Aim to feed at least 3-4 different veggies per day. Leafy greens and squash should be staples.

NOTE

Always rotate vegetables to provide variety. Chop produce into chick-sized pieces before feeding. Introduce new vegetables slowly.

What Vegetables Are Not Safe For Chickens?

While chickens can eat a diverse range of vegetables, some should be avoided, such as:

  • Raw potatoes, sweet potatoes or legumes – Contain toxins if undercooked
  • Raw green tomato foliage/stems – Contain toxic alkaloids
  • Dry beans or soybeans – High in antinutrients if uncooked
  • Raw rhubarb leaves – Contain oxalic acid
  • Mushrooms – Risk of toxicity and allergies
  • Nightshade family veggies – Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra – Can be inflammatory

Unless a veggie is known to be poisonous, chickens can try small amounts to see if they tolerate it. Watch for signs of illness and discontinue if issues arise.

Can Chickens Eat All Vegetable Scraps?

Chickens love all types of vegetable scraps and peels. Veggie trimmings are a great way to reduce kitchen waste. Some veggie scraps chickens can devour include:

  • Carrot tops and peels
  • Beet greens and ends
  • Broccoli stems and leaves
  • Cauliflower leaves and stalks
  • Green pepper cores
  • Zucchini ends
  • Squash guts and seeds
  • Radish tops
  • Celery leaves and ends
  • Corn cobs
  • Wilted greens
Chicken Tractor with Three Chicks by Josh Larios
Chicks in Chicken Tractor

Avoid spoiled produce, moldy or rotten vegetables, and any food that was cooked with seasonings. Also steer clear of potato and sweet potato peels as they may contain a toxin called solanine.

Can Chickens Eat Too Much Vegetables?

It is possible for chickens to eat too many vegetables, fruits, or treats. Some risks include:

  • Nutritional deficiencies – Excess produce can displace healthy feed.
  • Weight gain – Fruits and starchy veggies are high in natural sugars.
  • Digestive upset – Too much fiber can impact digestion. Introduce new items slowly.
  • Dietary imbalance – Chickens need protein, grains, and calcium from quality feed.
  • Lack of foraging – Chickens should not just eat scraps alone. They need nutrients from live forage.

To prevent issues, vegetables and fruit should be less than 10% of a chicken’s overall diet. Provide variety in moderate amounts. Make sure they still eat a balanced ration each day along with live foraging.

In Summary

Chickens benefit from a diverse range of vegetables in their feeding and diet. Produce provides important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Stick to the vegetables listed in this guide and introduce all new items slowly. Avoid spoiled produce and any known toxic foods. Veggies and fruits should always be limited to less than 10% of your chickens’ total feed intake per day. Offer a variety alongside their regular quality feed and fresh forage. With some common sense, your flock will benefit from small amounts of garden produce!

Frequently Asked Questions

What vegetables can chickens not eat?

Chickens should avoid certain vegetables like raw potatoes, onions, and rhubarb leaves. These can be toxic or harmful to chickens. It’s also a good practice to limit their consumption of very salty or spicy vegetables.

Can chickens eat raw vegetables?

Chickens can eat many raw vegetables, but some are best served in moderation. Common choices include lettuce, kale, and carrots. However, certain vegetables like raw potatoes or very tough, fibrous ones may be more challenging for them to consume.

Can chickens eat tomatoes and cucumbers?

Chickens can safely eat ripe tomatoes and cucumbers in moderation. These vegetables can be part of their diet, but avoid feeding them the green parts of tomato plants, which can contain harmful compounds.

Can chickens eat cooked veggies?

Chickens can eat some cooked vegetables, but it’s generally unnecessary since they can consume most veggies raw. If you choose to cook vegetables for chickens, ensure they are plain and unseasoned, without added salt, spices, or ingredients that might be harmful.

Are tomatoes toxic to chickens?

Tomatoes themselves are not toxic to chickens. However, the leaves and stems of tomato plants contain a compound called solanine, which can be harmful. Feeding ripe, red tomatoes in moderation is generally safe, but avoid giving them green or unripe parts of the plant.