We love to grow zucchini. It’s a great crop for beginning gardeners, it’s prolific, and you can make a tone of delicious recipes with it. With all the love zucchini deserves, can chickens eat zucchini too and share in the joy or will they take an unknowing bite into their last meal?
Keep reading and find out if zucchini is the awesome treat we want it to be!
Can Chickens Eat Zucchini?
Chickens can absolutely eat zucchini. In fact, they will love eating it AND it is good for them too! Generally speaking, zucchini, fruit, leaves, flowers, and seeds, are all safe for your chickens to eat. On occasion there can be dangerous substances called cucurbitacins that will give the zucchini a bitter taste. You can feed zucchini a couple of times a week but we would recommend no more than three times. A single zucchini, when cut in half or into cubes, can feed at least 5 chickens.
What is zucchini?
The zucchini, or courgette, is the long and green edible part of the zucchini plant. Zucchini is part of the summer squash family. A fun little fact is that while zucchini can be found on a ton of different “top vegetables to grow” lists, it is actually technically a fruit. Chickens love it so much for a couple of reasons.
One, zucchini, when harvested in time, is very soft and easy for them to eat and digest. We technically harvest the zucchini prior to it being fully ripe which is why the outer skin is still soft enough to penetrate with your fingernail. The other reason is that zucchini has a very mild, yet sweet, flavor. The lack of bitterness keeps chickens coming back for more and more of this squash.
Is asparagus safe for my chickens to eat?
Zucchini is very safe for chickens to eat. Despite having a sweet flavor there is, surprisingly, not too much sugar. Which, as we know from discussing peaches, nectarines, cranberries, and raisins, can cause a ton of health issues, like obesity, sugar addiction, and hypoglycemia.
There is a possibility that zucchini can have cucurbitacins in them. Cucurbitacins is believed to be a naturally occurring substance that some plants use ad a means of pest control. In higher concentrations it will give the fruit or vegetable a bitter taste.
For people, cucurbitacin poisoning, otherwise known as toxic squash syndrome, can result in diarrhea, nausea & vomiting, and in some cases, hair loss. You can imagine if this is the impact on a full grown adult, what it can do to a chicken who is only a fraction of the same size and weight.
What about zucchini plant flowers, leaves, and seeds?
Unlike peach, nectarine, mango, and tomato plants, the entire zucchini plant is safe for your chickens to eat. Most likely they will want to stick with the fruit of the plant, but, if they do eat the plant, rest assured they will be just fine. Also, as a side note, it is possible there is a higher concentration of cucurbitacin in the rest of the plant, so do take a bit of caution if feeding them zucchini greens.
Is zucchini healthy for chickens?
Zucchini is full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients your chicken needs to live a happy and healthy life. Because it has so much water in it, it will also help keep them hydrated. Water, as well as fiber, also helps aid in digestion too.
Additionally, while we could not find any scientific studies or sources saying this is true, there are anecdotal experiences of zucchini being used as a natural dewormer, along with pumpkin seeds and some other gourds. Again, we have not been able to confirm this so keep in mind, if you do consider trying it out, your experience may vary from the experiences of others.
What are the nutritional benefits of zucchini for chickens?
Below, You’ll find the USDA FoodData Center nutritional analysis on a serving size of 1 raw, skin-on, medium size zucchini (196g).
|Carbohydrate, by difference||6.100||g|
|Fiber, total dietary||1.960||g|
|Sugars, total including NLEA||4.900||g|
|Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid||35.100||mg|
|Vitamin A, RAE||19.600||µg|
|Vitamin A, IU||392.000||IU|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)||0.235||mg|
|Vitamin K (phylloquinone)||8.430||µg|
What do these nutrients do?
Here are what some of those nutrients mentioned above do to keep your chicken’s body running right.
- Antioxidants: repair damage from free radicals, fight off/prevent future damage, protect from oxidative damage, anti-inflammatory, lower blood pressure, improve heart health in high enough doses, development and health of tissue, skin, and feathers
- Vitamin A: eye, skin, respiratory, and digestive health
- Vitamin B6: healthy blood vessels, eye/vision health, nervous system , immune system
- Carbohydrates: give chickens energy
- Vitamin C: joint, cellular, and immune health; collagen synthesis
- Fiber: only small amounts or they can become constipated, get a blockage, etc; energy, growth, and digestive health
- Potassium: temperature control; hydration & electrolyte regulation, metabolism; heart health/heart disease preventative
How do you feed zucchini to chickens?
If you did not grow it yourself without pesticides or buy it from a pesticide free farm, make sure you thoroughly wash the zucchini to remove any potential residue. It’s always a good idea to wash your fruits and veggies anyway but especially so if they have been exposed to pest control sprays.
You can feed zucchini whole, if you like but most likely some chickens will eat too much while other will not get much, if any, at all. What we recommend is to either cut it into small cubes or cut it in half and put down a pair of zucchini “troughs”.