You love your chickens and you want them to not only be healthy but you also want them to be happy. What better way to make them both than to give them tasty, healthy treats like cherries. But, can chickens eat cherries?
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 cherries.
Can Chickens Eat Cherries?
Yes, chickens can eat cherries safely! Chickens can eat cherries whole, they they probably won't eat the hard pits. Cherries are full of great nutrients to keep your chickens healthy. But do feed them in moderation due to their high sugar content.
Are Cherries Poisonous To Chickens?
Technically, yes, but practically, no. Let us explain.
There is a bit of fear out there that cherries can be poisonous because the pits contain small amounts of cyanide. While cyanide is obviously harmful, it is not a clear and present danger for your chickens.
It is the pit, and not the actual cherry, that contains cyanide. Your chicken would not only need to eat the pit and digest it, but they would need to eat a large quantity in order for the cyanide to have any effect.
This is not a huge danger because chickens will typically peck around the pit and only eat the flesh of the cherry. In instances where they do consume the pit, most often, they just pass it with no issues.
Are They Healthy For Chickens?
Yes, they most definitely are healthy. They contain a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are vital to a chicken's health and wellbeing. Some of these nutrients, as well as their health benefits, include:
- Vitamin A: growth and reproduction
- Antioxidants: an abundance of benefits to fertility, in vivo, embryo development, postmortem meat, etc.
- Anthocyanins: anti-inflammatory as well as other pharmacological benefits
- Boron: bone and egg quality
- b-vitamin complex: metabolism & energy (Thiamine, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine, Cyanocobalamin)
- Calcium: bone and eggshell
- Choline: fat metabolism in the liver
- Vitamin E: neurological function
- Iron: anemia
- Vitamin K: helps with blood clotting and protects against coccidiosis
- Magnesium: prevents perosis
- Melatonin: "regulates feed consumption" and the "brain's biological clock" plus and many other benefits
- Potassium: nerves and muscles
Need some help keeping your chickens health and care taken care of? Check out the Organized Chicken Keeper for an easy to follow system.
Can Baby Chicks Eat Cherries?
It won't hurt them in small amounts but it's not recommended.
Chicks are experiencing a period of rapid growth and need a fairly specific diet to meet their nutritional needs. It is better for them to stick to a good chick/starter feed until they reach adulthood.
Can Ducks Eat Cherries?
For the most part, poultry will have the same nutritional needs. There are some exceptions but in this case, yes, ducks can eat cherries.
Can Chickens Eat Cherry Tree Leaves?
Cherry tree leaves, like cherry pits, can also contain cyanide. This means that they can be harmful when consumed by livestock. That includes cows, goats, horses, and, yes, even chickens.
However, not all leaves are dangerous. If your animals are eating dried and dead leaves that have fallen to the ground, they will be perfectly fine. The same for is they eat healthy green leaves or even the bark of the cherry tree.
The times when the leaves can be toxic are when they are wilting and still hanging from the tree. Here's an explanation as to why from Michigan State University:
"The toxic component in the leaves is prussic acid, a hydrogen cyanide toxin that is only formed when glycosides in the leaves are combined with hydrolytic enzymes. Under normal circumstances, the two components are stored in separate tissues, but can become poisonous in...wilted cherry leaves."
Can Chickens Eat Cherry Blossoms?
Absolutely! The cherry blossoms, unlike the wilting leaves, pose no threat of poisoning to your chickens. The will likely, be drawn to their bright colors and other insects that also like the blossoms.
Can Chickens Eat Wild Cherries?
Yes. Wild cherries do not pose a health risk to your chickens.
Can Chickens Eat Sour Cherries?
Yes. Just like wild cherries, sour cherries are perfectly fine for chickens to eat. In fact, the only difference between the two are the amounts of Vitamin C and Vitamin A. Sour cherries have a slightly higher concentration.
How To Feed Your Chickens Cherries
There are a variety of ways that you can feed cherries to your chickens. Some of them are:
Probably the most worry free method of feeding cherries to your chickens is to give them to them dried. You don't have to worry about them eating any pits or choking on a full sized cherry. However, just like when chickens eat dried cranberries or when chickens eat raisins, the sugar is much more concentrated and can be a little dangerous if they eat too much.
Pitted cherries obviously remove the dangers around choking. You can do this by carefully slicing the cherry in half with a knife and removing the pit, by hand. They also sell devices called pitters that make this a little easier and less messy.
Chickens are completely capable of safely eating cherries without your help. Generally, they will just peck around the pit and just eat the cherry. So, if you want, you can just give them whole cherries.
From The Tree
Simpler yet, you can skip the part where you even pick the cherries. Build their run around a cherry tree and they will pick up all the excess cherries that fall on the ground.
Snack Blend (Chicken "Trail Mix")
If you want to make a special treat for your chickens you can make a special chicken snack mix or "chicken trail mix". To do this you give them even ratios of dried cherries, crushed oyster or egg shells, and dried meal worms.
If you want to not only give them a healthy snack but also a bit of entertainment, you can make a toy out of it. Just run a needle and thread or fishing line through the center of several cherries and make a whole string of them.
Then, hang the string somewhere your chickens can get to it and they will have a blast pecking at them while the cherry string swings around. It's also pretty funny to watch and a form of entertainment for yourself.
Quick Tips For Chicken Treats
We get a lot of questions about the various types of things that chickens can and cannot eat. Here are some of our recommendations.
What Fruits Are Safe For Chickens?
We all just assume that fruits and veggies are always super healthy. For us, that is mostly true. We have larger bodies and different metabolic rates. For chickens, things work a bit differently.
Fruit has a lot of glucose, aka sugar. That isn't inherently bad, it just means that they should only consume fruit in small amounts to avoid spiking their blood sugar and becoming hyperglycemic.
This can be a bigger problem with many dried fruits; cherries being one of the exceptions. Dried fruit has considerably less moisture so the sugar content is much more concentrated.
Too much sugar in these forms can cause digestive issues and even, in some cases, death.
Some fruits that are safe for your chicken to eat are:
Vegetables & Gourdes
Veggies do not have the same quantities of sugar as fruit. However, they still should be given in moderation.
Chickens can't get enough of berries. In fact, it's always a race on whether we get to harvest our blackberries or if they do.
Seriously though, berries, like fruit, contain a large amount of fruit and should be given sparingly. If your chickens get to your blackberry bushes before you do, it's not likely to be a problem split between the flock.
Other safe foods, in moderation, for chickens are:
- Peanuts/Peanut Butter
"What Can Chickens Not Eat?" List
Here are a few things your chickens should not eat.
- Acorns: acorns contain tannins. The tanic acid present in acorns and oak leaves can lead to vomiting, diarhea, and possibly death.
- Alcohol: no. just no.
- Apple seeds: the cyanide in them can be toxic to your chickens
- candy: the refined sugar in candy is even worse than the sugar content in dried fruit
- 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: just like candy; too much sugar content
- pesticides: don't give your chickens poison
- raw/green potato peels or skins: green potato skins contain solanin; a toxin. When consumed, it can be deadly for your chickens.
- tea bags: also 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.