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Where we're from it seems like you can't go 10 feet without running into a wild blackberry bush. We're not complaining though. They're delicious, convenient, and a healthy snack...for us. But, if we can get to them, so can our chickens. That got us wondering can chickens eat blackberries or are all of these berry bushes a disaster waiting to happen?
Wanna know what we found out? Scroll down a little and find out!
Can Chickens Eat Blackberries?
Yes, chickens can eat blackberries! There can be some adverse health risks if they eat too many at once, but overall, blackberries are perfectly safe for your chickens.
There will be no poultry related disasters today (at least not due to blackberries, anyway). Blackberries, store bought, garden grown, or free ranged are a pretty easy and healthy snack for your flock.
Are blackberries safe for chickens?
Yes, blackberries are safe for chickens and are part of a healthy treat routine for your chickens. In fact, there aren't too many berries your chickens can't eat. Just from our own garden we treat them with blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and, of course, blackberries. One thing they really love is when we freeze the blackberries (or blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc) before bringing them out. The extra cold berries are a fantastic summer cool down treat.
The only berries you really want to avoid letting your chickens eat are elderberries and gooseberries. Both of them are can be toxic and make your chicken sick or worse. Some say they are not bad and it's the plants that are toxic but we err on the side of caution with our flock.
Really one of the main worries you can have with your chickens eating blackberries is the high sugar content and the risk of them becoming hypoglycemic.
Need some help keeping your chickens health and care taken care of? Check out the Organized Chicken Keeper for an easy to follow system.
Chickens and hypoglycemia
When sugar is metabolized in the body it is converted into glucose, which is where the body gets most of it's energy. Unfortunately, glucose burns very quickly and can leave your chicken bottoming out with their blood sugar levels. This is, at best, uncomfortable and, at worst, deadly.
What are the nutritional benefits of blackberries for chickens?
As you can see on the table below, blackberries are full of many of the nutrients and vitamins that a chicken needs to live a healthy life. Some key minerals to pay attention to are both copper and selenium. Depending on where you live, there may be a copper deficiency. And almost everywhere, at least in the US, is deficient in Selenium.
The table below from the USDA's FoodData Center has a breakdown of the nutritional analysis based on a serving size of 1 cup (144g) of raw blackberries:
|Vitamin C||30.2 mg|
|Vitamin B-6||0.043 mg|
|Carotene, beta||184 µg|
|Vitamin A||308 IU|
|Vitamin K||28.5 µg|
What do these nutrients do?
Vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are essential to living a long and healthy life. Here is a brief synopsis of what some the nutrients found in blackberries can do to help your chickens.
- Vitamin A: eye, skin, respiratory, and digestive health
- Carotene, Beta (Beta Carotene): egg, feathers, skin, beak, and comb color; converts to Vitamin A
- Vitamin C: joint, cellular, and immune health; collagen synthesis
- Calcium: bones and egg shell strength
- Fiber: only small amounts or they can become constipated, get a blockage, etc; enery, growth, and digestive health, reduce cholesterol, controls blood sugar, digestive health
- Folate (B Vitamin): folate deficiency; helps blood formation; healthy feathers & size
- Vitamin K: blood clotting, bone metabolism
- Manganese: bone development, immune system, breaks down carbs, cholesterol, and amino acids; controls blood sugar
- Magnesium: bone development, cellular metabolism
- Omega-3: heart health, egg production
- Potassium: temperature control; hydration & electrolyte regulation, metabolism; heart health/heart disease preventative
How do you feed chickens blackberries?
If you have a blackberry bush, you don't really have to do much other than make sure they aren't eating so much that it bottoms out their blood sugar. If you notice that starting to happen, maybe consider building some sort of barrier so you chickens can longer help themselves to the all-you-can-peck blackberry buffet.
For homegrown, store bought, or from the local farmer's market, you just want to go through the same steps you would for your own snack. Make sure there are no berries that are rotting or moldy. As a general rule, if you wouldn't eat your food under those conditions you shouldn't feed your animals their food in subpar condition.
Depending on where you get your blackberries, you may want to remove any green parts of the plant. Pesticides tend to hang around on stems, leaves, and the calyx (green leaf at the top of the berry) even after you wash them. Pesticides, even in small amounts, can be very dangerous for a chicken. It's best to either grow them without using pesticides, purchase them from a pesticide-free organic source, or, if those options are not available, make sure all the greenery is gone from the berries before serving them to your chickens.
If there is no rick of pesticides being ingested, blackberry leaves and plant stems are completely safe for your chickens to eat. They probably won't since they prefer the berries, but it's safe if they do.
How to prepare them
Like we said above, prepare them like your own snack
- Wash them
- make sure you get any dirt, tiny bugs, and potential pesticide residue cleaned off
- Serve them
- serve them freshly washed, mixed in with some other treats or in their daily feed, or freeze them and help them cool down
What fruit is bad for chickens?
There are very few fruits or veggies that are truly bad for your chicken. Most of them, when fed in moderation, can end up being very beneficial. Some fruits, veggies, and berries that are safe for chickens to eat are:
- Apples (not the seeds)
Vegetables & Gourdes
- Mountain Ash Berries
- Rowan Berries
Now, there are plenty of other natural and man made things that are not good for chickens to eat.
- Acorns: contain tanic acid which can cause vomiting, diarhea, dehydration, and, in some cases, be fatal
- Alcohol: you already knew this one
- Apple seeds: in small amounts okay but too much can be toxic due to the cyanide present in apple seeds
- Candy: the loads of sugar in candy wreak havoc on a chicken's blood sugar levels
- Dry beans: even small amounts of phytohaemagglutinin can be deadly. Beans MUST be cooked before eaten. This applies to chickens, pets, AND humans
- jam, jelly, or preserves: same as candy
- pesticides: we already covered this but it's literally poison
- raw/green potato skin/unripe tomatoes: the solanin in many nightshade plants is toxic. Peel your green potato skins, only give ripe tomatoes, and don't let your chickens eat the green parts of the plants.
- tea bags: same as acorns, many teas contain 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.