What Plants are Poisonous to Chickens? Avoid These Toxic Varieties

Article Summary

  • Several plants commonly found in gardens and landscapes can be toxic to chickens, leading to various health issues or even death if ingested.
  • While chickens have instincts that help them avoid toxic plants, there are circumstances where they might consume them.
  • Awareness of poisonous plants is essential to ensure the safety and health of the chicken flock, and regularly inspecting the environment, providing a balanced diet, and being vigilant can prevent many poisoning incidents.

Raising backyard chickens comes with many joys and rewards. However, it also comes with the responsibility to keep your flock safe and healthy. One potential danger that new chicken keepers may not be aware of is plants that are poisonous to chickens. While chickens have a strong instinct to avoid toxic plants, accidents can happen. Knowing which plants to avoid introducing into your chicken run is key. Let’s explore some of the most common poisonous plants and what to do if your chicken gets into one.

What Plants Are Toxic to Chickens?

Many common garden and landscape plants can be toxic to chickens. Here are some of the most notable ones to avoid:

Rhododendrons and Azaleas: All parts of these flowering shrubs contain grayanotoxins which affect the digestive and nervous systems. Symptoms include weakness, vomiting, trouble breathing.

A Closeup View of The Azaleas
A Closeup View of The Azaleas

Foxgloves: The leaves and flowers contain digitalis glycosides which affect the heart. Can cause heart attacks in chickens.

Foxglove Flowers in Bloom
Foxglove Flowers

Lilies: Asiatic lilies, and Easter lilies contain toxins that cause kidney failure in chickens. Just a few bites can be fatal.

Asiatic Lily Under The Sun (image by StillWorksImagery)
Asiatic Lily Under The Sun

Potatoes and Nightshades: Green potatoes and foliage from tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant contain solanine. Can cause gastrointestinal and nervous system issues.

Paprika Fruits And Leaves
Paprika Fruits And Leaves

Yew Shrubs: The foliage of yew plants contains taxine alkaloids which affect the heart. As little as a handful of leaves can cause death.

Oak Trees: Wilted oak leaves contain tannins which are toxic to chickens. Can cause kidney damage.

The Bright Green Oak Tree Leaves
Oak Tree Leaves

Moldy Foods: Moldy bread, nuts, and grains contain mycotoxins which harm the liver and nervous system. Never feed chickens moldy foods.

Will Chickens Eat Toxic Plants?

Chickens are naturally quite discerning about what they eat. Their instincts help them avoid many toxic plants. However, there are some circumstances where a chicken may ingest dangerous plants:

  • Young chicks who are exploring and pecking at anything do not have fully developed toxin detectors yet. They are more prone to sampling toxic foliage and flowers if they have access.
  • Bored chickens confined to a run may resort to picking at whatever greenery they can reach through or inside the fence, even if it is not good for them.
  • Hunger can override a chicken’s good judgment and cause them to eat questionable plants.
  • Wilted leaves from trees like oak are more palatable and may be sampled.
  • Curiosity about colorful berries on toxic plants leads some chickens to give them a peck.


While chickens are smart, they can make poor choices when their environments and circumstances lead them to it. As caretakers, it’s up to us to chicken-proof their surroundings.

Signs Your Chicken Ate a Toxic Plant

If you suspect your chicken has ingested a toxic plant, watch for these common symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Listlessness, lethargy
  • Unsteady walking, falling over
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooping wings
  • Paralysis
  • Seizures
  • Twitching
  • Collapse

The effects depend on the toxin involved, but many impact either the nervous system, digestive tract or kidneys…

The effects depend on the toxin involved, but many impact either the nervous system, digestive tract or kidneys in chickens. Stay vigilant for any behavioral changes in your flock. Timely treatment greatly improves the chance of recovery.

What to Do If You Suspect Plant Poisoning

If your chicken exhibits symptoms of plant poisoning, take action right away:

  • Isolate the sick chicken in a warm, safe space to prevent further poisoning and reduce stress.
  • Call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline for guidance. Depending on the plant involved, activated charcoal, milk thistle herbal remedies, or other treatments may be recommended.
  • Offer hydration with electrolytes to maintain fluid balance and reverse dehydration. Nutrient gel supplements can also boost recovery.
  • Dispose of any questionable plants, bushes, or cuttings in the chicken’s environment to prevent recurrence.
  • Monitor the chicken closely for 24-48 hours for improvement or worsening symptoms. Quick vet care maximizes the effectiveness of treatment.
Rearing Small Chicks

With rapid action, many chickens fully recover after eating toxic plants. Just take care to chicken-proof their environment going forward! A little awareness about poisonous plants can keep your flock safe, healthy, and enjoying the free-range life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are plants poisonous to chickens?

Plants poisonous to chickens include varieties like rhubarb leaves, nightshade plants (like tomatoes and potatoes), azaleas, yew, and certain species of lilies. It’s essential to familiarize yourself with these plants to ensure the safety of your poultry flock.

Will chickens eat poisonous plants?

They are naturally curious, so chickens may consume various plants. While some toxic plants may deter chickens due to their taste or smell, others might be accidentally ingested. It’s crucial to ensure their environment is free from harmful plants and to monitor their access to potential toxins.

How can I identify plants poisonous to chickens in my yard?

To identify toxic plants in your yard potentially harmful to chickens, research prevalent poisonous species in your area, consult local agricultural extensions, utilize plant identification tools, and note distinctive leaf shapes or colors indicative of toxicity. Consistent plant inspection and knowledge can safeguard against unintended chicken poisoning.

Which garden plants are poisonous to chickens?

Garden plants such as rhubarb leaves, azaleas, nightshades (like tomatoes and potatoes), yew, and specific lilies can be toxic to chickens. To protect poultry health, research potentially harmful plants in your garden and ensure chickens cannot access or consume them.

Are there natural remedies for treating chickens?

While prevention is key, if a chicken consumes a toxic plant, consult a veterinarian immediately. Some poultry keepers explore natural remedies, such as activated charcoal or certain herbs known for detoxifying properties. However, always prioritize professional guidance to ensure the best care for your chickens.