The old saying goes, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." Does the same hold true for your favorite feathered friends? Can chickens eat apples or are they dangerous?
Chickens get the vast majority of their nutritional needs from the feed you give them and on a healthy dose of bugs and other things they can catch. But, I bet they sure would like a little more variety in their diet.
Let's take a look at whether or not chickens can eat apples.
Can Chickens Eat Apples Safely?
Yes, chickens can not only safely eat apples, they LOVE them! You may have heard that apple seeds are deadly since they contain cyanide. That is technically true, but it would take a lot of seeds and chickens are usually more interested in the sweet fruit instead.
Part Of A Balanced Chicken Diet
Apples make a great snack food for chickens. In moderation, they can also provide a nice little boost of nutrients for your flock.
When raising chickens you will find they need a well balanced diet to keep up with the amount of calories and energy they burn while producing eggs. Believe it or not, chickens use almost ⅔ of their daily calorie intake just making eggs!
While there is not enough protein in an apple to make a serious dent in your feed bill, there are enough nutrients to keep your chickens healthy. Apples have a ton of vitamins and minerals that chickens need like Vitamins A, C, and B-6, as well as Potassium, Iron, Magnesium, and calcium.
Are Apple Peels Safe For Chickens?
Apple peels are incredibly packed with the beneficial nutrients we mentioned above. In fact, an apple that has NOT been peeled has 50 more phytonutrients than a peeled apple!
The times when apple peels may be harmful to your chickens is if they are not completely clean. Many apples, especially conventional/non-organic apples, are sprayed with various pesticides as they grow.
Once they are harvested and prepared for market, vendors will sometimes coat them in wax to make them shiny and be more visually appealing (or is it a-peel-ing?).
Both pesticides and wax can be harmful if ingested, not just for chickens but for us humans, too. If you want to feed your chickens apples with their peels, which is the healthier way to feed them, you will need to clean them first.
Cleaning them is easy. Just run the apple under some warm water and gently scrub the peel with a soft brush. You can even find a fruit and vegetable cleaning brush specifically made for a job this gentle.
Once your apple is nice and clean, you're chickens can enjoy their healthy treat!
Need some help keeping your chickens health and care taken care of? Check out the Organized Chicken Keeper for an easy to follow system.
Are Apple Cores Safe For Chickens?
The short answer is no. Apple cores are not safe for your chicken to eat.
Apple cores are mush harder and dense than the peel or flesh of an apple. The apple peel and flesh are both easily pecked and broken up. The core tends to break off in bits, often times too large for a chicken to safely swallow.
The other big problem with apple cores is not the core itself. It is what is inside the core...
Can Chickens Eat Apple Seeds?
You guessed it! The apple seeds are the most dangerous part of the core. So, no. Chickens can not safely eat apple seeds.
Why is that?
If you did not know, apple seeds contain small amounts of cyanide. Now, a couple of apple seeds is not likely to pose a threat to your chicken's life. But, in large enough quantities it can be deadly.
What Is Cyanide?
Cyanide is a highly toxic chemical found all throughout nature. Such as in different forms of bacteria, fungus, apricots, peaches, bitter almonds, and, yes, apple seeds.
Essentially what happens is, if too much cyanide is ingested, the cyanide will bond with iron found in the chickens system. This combination causes cellular respiration to cease. Eventually, cells die, organs fail, and the chicken will not survive.
How To Spot Cyanide Poisoning In Your Chickens
Unfortunately, it is not easy to tell if your chicken has cyanide poisoning until after they have die. If you know they have eaten or been around a cyanide source AND you notice they are having trouble breathing you can assume they have been poisoned.
How To Treat A Chicken With Cyanide Poisoning
The key to treatment is acting quickly. When a chicken has cyanide poisoning, they can often die quickly; within 30 minutes or so. Since the poisoning cause irreparable damage, it is critical to administer the antidote as soon as you can.
Vet treatment is most likely required as your chicken will need an IV of amyl and sodium nitrate. Neither of these are standard homesteading supplies.
The most effective way to help your chickens is to just make sure they do not have the opportunity to ingest apple seeds.
How To Make Apple Treats For Your Chickens
As you may be able to tell from the above section, the best way to feed apples to your chickens is to remove the core and the seeds.
Here are a couple of ways your chickens will probably like to eat an apple snack.
This is, hands down, the best way to feed apples to your chickens. They are already pre-sliced and very thin. They have no core or seeds. Plus, the drying process makes them soft and even easier for a chicken to chew and tear apart.
Slices have all of the same advantages as dried apples except they are not quite as soft. Still, this is more accessible assuming you do not have a way to dry your own apples and do not want to buy them.
Stuffed Apples With All The Peanut Butter
Chickens will go crazy for this! Remove the core and seed from the apple and pack the center of it with peanut butter. You can also mix in some other chicken treats like sunflower seeds or dried meal worms.
Bonus points if you tie a string to them and hang them in their coop like apple garlands. They will spend all day eating and playing with their new toy.
Sliced Apples With All The Peanut Butter
Instead of cutting up chunks or making stuffed apples, consider just giving them some apple slices with peanut butter on them.
Apple Garlands: The Ultimate Hanging Apples Boredom Buster
Similar to the "with all the peanut butter" snack above, you can cut your apple into small chunks and run a piece of string or fishing line through it to make apple garlands. Do this with apples, cherries, strawberries, grapes, or some other treats and make another type of treat toy they can enjoy!
Quick Tips And Frequently Asked Questions On Chicken Treats
People are always asking about what they can and can't feed their chickens. Here is a great starter list of some of the most commonly asked about chicken snacks.
Can chickens eat apple pie?
No, chickens should not eat apple pie. Feeding your chickens apple pie can lead to health problems due to the high amount of sugar. Too much sugar in a chicken's diet can cause problems with obesity, hypoglycemia, and other health problems. This also applies to anything extra sweet, not just apple pie.
Can chickens have apple cider vinegar?
There are many farmers that swear by using apple cider vinegar as a health supplement. They claim that adding some to their water every couple of weeks can help provide health benefits, boost their immunity, and fight off parasites.
Whether or not that is true or an old wives' tale, we're not sure. But we do know that it isn't going to hurt them to try. You can actually make your own apple cider vinegar using old apple peels.
What Fruits Are Safe For Chickens?
The main problem with feeding your chickens fruit is the sugar content. Fruit is great for use because we are much larger than chickens and are capable of processing the sugar content.
Chickens, being significantly smaller, can have their entire system thrown off if given too high a dose of glucose, aka sugar.
That doesn't mean they can't have fruit. It just means it should be given in moderation. Especially dried fruits and berries, like raisins. They have much less moisture so the sugar content is much more concentrated.
Some fruits that are safe for your chicken to eat are:
And for food that are not fruit:
Vegetables & Gourdes
While not quite as sugary as fruit, the same rules apply and should only be given in moderation.
Berries and chickens go together so well. If our chickens notice our blackberry bush producing before we do, its all over!
Berries are like fruit in that they also contain a lot of sugar. For the most part, they are safe. Just make sure they do not eat an excess amount.
"What Can Chickens Not Eat?" List
Here are a few things your chickens should not eat.
- Acorns: the tannins in acorns are toxic. This can lead to vomiting, diarhea, and possibly death.
- Alcohol: c'mon
- candy: this sugar source is worse than fruit and berries combined
- dry beans: contain phytohaemagglutinin which is toxic. You MUST cook all beans in order to be safely eaten by your chickens. Soaking is not enough.
- jam, jelly, or preserves: way too much sugar to be safe for chickens
- pesticides: you don't really think your chickens should eat poison, right?
- raw/green potato peels or skins: green potato skins contain solanin; a toxin. When consumed, it can be deadly for your chickens.
- tea bags: same as acorns. they contain toxic amounts of tannins.
If you need more help with taking care of your chickens, check out The Organized Chicken Keeper for a complete system for managing their health through keeping their supplies stocked and coop clean.