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Asparagus is one of those vegetables that you either love it or you hate it. We fall firmly on the loving it side of the divide (in spite of some of it’s…aromatic drawbacks). It’s great grilled and one of the healthiest, not to mention easiest, crops you can grow. So, do any of those benefits ring true for your chickens too? Can chickens eat asparagus or will this snack just turn into one, big, stinky mess?
Let’s dive in and see!
Can Chickens Eat Asparagus?
Yes, chickens can eat asparagus. It may take them a little bit of time to test it out, but once they do, they will absolutely love it! Which is fantastic because asparagus is chock full of life giving nutrients that every chicken needs to live a long, happy, and healthy life.
Healthy treats are important in keeping your chickens in tip top shape, so adding asparagus to their diet is a good idea.
Types of asparagus
We all know of asparagus as the long, thin stalks we’ve seen bundled with a rubber band. Some of us know it only by it’s reputation for making certain functions have a very strong distinct smell. In fact, that same phenomenon plays a bit of a role in how much or how often you should feed your chickens asparagus.
But, did you know that asparagus is not only found as the traditional green veggie we all think of? There are actually quite a few different, and colorful, varieties.
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This is the most common and healthiest asparagus and the kind you will most likely give your chickens. You will likely find this in just about any produce department in any grocery store you walk into. It is also widely available. It’s darker green color is a sign, like with broccoli and zucchini, that it is packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and overall general healthy goodness.
You may have never seen white asparagus before. It is almost identical to green asparagus except it is just pure white. It is not nearly as common as green asparagus but will offer most of the same nutrients. One interesting thing is that it gets it’s color, or lack thereof, by being grown underground in complete darkness. The lack of chlorophyll, from sunlight, gives it a more bitter flavor than either other type of asparagus.
White asparagus is still a healthy treat for your chickens but it is not quite as nutrient rich as green and is much more difficult to find.
This is, by far, the coolest looking asparagus. It is only grown during a small time frame during the year and is a deep, rich purple due to the presence of anthocyanins, the same thing that give blueberries their color. Purple asparagus is also the sweetest of the three strains due to it having “20% more” sugar content than white or green asparagus.
Is asparagus safe for my chickens to eat?
Asparagus is completely safe for your chickens to eat. We will get into some of the specific nutrients asparagus offers your chickens in a just a bit. What we will say right now is that asparagus is one of the most hydrating snacks you can give your flock. So, not only is asparagus safe, but it can actually help your chicken stay hydrated when the weather is really hot.
While asparagus does contain a tiny bit of oxalic acid, it’s nowhere near the levels that something like rhubarb is and therefore is perfectly fine. In fact, chickens can eat rhubarb also, but must avoid the leaves where that high oxalic acid content is.
What about canned asparagus?
We do not recommend feeding your chickens canned asparagus. The asparagus will typically still have the same nutrients, however, usually they have way too much sodium. Salt is used as a preservative which is essential in canning asparagus for commercial use.
Is asparagus healthy for chickens?
Asparagus is incredibly healthy for your chickens. They contain a whole host of vitamins, like Vitamin A, B6, C, E, and K, and minerals, like calcium, copper, fiber, selenium, and zinc.
What are the nutritional benefits of asparagus for chickens?
Below, You’ll find the USDA FoodData Center nutritional analysis on a serving size of 1 cup (134g) of raw asparagus.
|Fiber, total dietary||2.8||g|
|Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid||7.5||mg|
|Vitamin A, IU||1,010.0||IU|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)||1.5||mg|
|Vitamin K (phylloquinone)||55.7||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: (Beta Carotene, Lycopene) 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
- Calcium: bones and egg shell strength
- Carbohydrates: give chickens energy
- Copper: helps digestion and elevates the immune system
- Vitamin C: joint, cellular, and immune health; collagen synthesis
- Vitamin E: immune system support, cell regeneration
- Fiber: only small amounts or they can become constipated, get a blockage, etc; energy, growth, and digestive health
- Folate (B Vitamin): folate deficiency; helps blood formation; healthy feathers & size
- Iron: prevents anemia
- Vitamin K: blood clotting, bone metabolism
- Magnesium: bone strength and development, cellular metabolism, heart health, muscle function
- Potassium: temperature control; hydration & electrolyte regulation, metabolism; heart health/heart disease preventative
- Protein: muscle growth and development
- Selenium: Boosts their immune system and helps with over nutrient balance in selenium deficient areas (most of the US)
- Zinc: immune system and mineral retention
How do you feed asparagus to chickens?
Feeding your chickens asparagus is pretty easy. Your options essentially break down to raw or cooked. Let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks of either method.
If you want to go with the low effort, simple, one and done way, just throw some raw asparagus where your flock gathers to eat. If they have never had asparagus before it may take them some time to try tit out. But, eventually, one brave cluck will, no doubt, mosey over and start pecking away, thus, triggering an entire feathered cavalcade of beak happy chickens.
A few problems can arise in that scenario. If there is not enough asparagus to go around, the chickens may start fighting which can lead to injuries. Another, sometimes related, issue is asparagus is pretty hard. Because it’s so tough, and chickens may be in a rush to peck and run with their food, it can quickly become a choking hazard.
Cooked asparagus is, in our opinion, a much better option. It will take a little bit longer but you don’t have to do anything fancy. Simply boiling them will soften them up enough to make them easier to eat and digest.
Some of the same problems from above will still apply with either raw or cooked asparagus. They can still choke but cooked asparagus is a little less likely since it’s softer. The way we are able to cut down either of those things from happening?
It’s easy. Just cut the asparagus up into small, chicken bite sized pieces. This way you can scatter a much larger area so each chicken will get some and be less likely to fight. And the smaller pieces are easier to eat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. Can I overfeed my chicken asparagus?
Yes, you can give them too much asparagus. Will it hurt them? It isn’t likely but it can throw off their dietary balance. We like to stick to the 90/10 rule when giving our chickens treats, snacks, or supplementary food.
Basically, 90% of your chickens’ diet should come from a high quality chicken feed and supplemented with whatever they catch when free ranging. The other 10% of your chickens’ diet can be any number of special treats like rice, peanuts, figs, radishes, tomatoes, or bananas.
Q2. How much asparagus can I feed to my chickens?
We recommend not feeding asparagus to your chickens more than 3 or 4 times a week. On top of it possibly throwing off the balance of their diet, another consequence of unfettered asparagus consumption is it can start to taint the flavor of their eggs.
Some people claim it doesn’t at all while others claim a single feeding will do it. This is most likely due to the asparagusic acid found in asparagus. It’s the same compound that makes your pee smell and can also give eggs a bit of a sulfur flavor.
Q3. How often can I feed asparagus to my chickens?
Stick to the 90/10 rule for feeding and only give your chickens asparagus 2 to 4 times a week. If you notice a change in the flavor of their eggs, reduce the number of times per week or stop giving it to them altogether.
Q4. Can I feed asparagus to my chicks?
Asparagus should be safe for your chicks to eat. However, like with any treat, only feed it sparingly and make sure it is small and soft enough for them to eat easily. We tend to not give chicks any treats or snacks outside of their normal starter/grower feed until they are a bit older.
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.