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If you are at all familiar with the Southern US, you know that sweet tea may as well be our national drink. Add a lemon wedge to it and you can make even the hottest of summer days a little bit cooler. Lemon is like that with many foods and drinks; a small squeeze and a whole new world of flavor is brought to life. So, can chickens eat lemons and also enjoy those sweet, yet sour, benefits or will your chickens suddenly sour on life…permanently?
Keep reading and find out if you should bring out the cutting board for your lemons or the chopping block for your chickens!
Can Chickens Eat Lemons?
You can breathe a sigh of relief because chickens can eat lemons. In fact, lemons are, for the most part, harmless. Despite what you may have heard about citrus being toxic for chickens, there is no evidence that actually says that. The truth is, lemons can be very polarizing due to their acidic and sour flavor. Some chickens will love them while others will not give them more than a single peck.
Is it safe for a chicken to eat lemons?
As we mentioned, lemons are completely harmless. For some reason, lemons, and other citrus fruits like limes, oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, and mandarins, have gained a reputation for being deadly if chickens eat them. Some of this is likely due to anecdotal evidence of lethargy, obesity, and excessive preening or loss of feathers.
The truth is, those are all common signs associated with any fruits, or other foods, that have a higher than normal amount of sugar in them. In fact, sugar is really, the main concern we have about the safety of lemons and citrus fruit, in general. Whether they are eating lemons, peaches, nectarines, cranberries, or raisins, consuming too much sugar can cause any of those symptoms and more; like hypoglycemia.
Can chickens eat lemon peels?
Lemon peels are perfectly fine for your chickens to eat. They are a bit tough so they likely won’t want to eat them, but it is safe for them to do so. We just recommend that you make sure to wash them thoroughly to remove any excess pesticide residue or display wax from the grocery store.
Your chickens may enjoy using lemon peels as a toy and peck at it or scratch it around.
Are lemons healthy for chickens?
Lemons are absolutely a healthy snack choice for your chickens. Assuming you are feeding lemons sparingly and in moderation, your chickens will enjoy a boost in their immune system from the vitamin C and other antioxidants packed into lemons.
What are the nutritional benefits of lemons for chickens?
The table below, courtesy of the USDA FoodData Center, has a breakdown of the nutritional analysis based on a serving size of 1 lemon wedge (8g).
|Total lipid (fat)||0.0||g|
|Carbohydrate, by difference||0.7||g|
|Fiber, total dietary||0.2||g|
|Sugars, total including NLEA||0.2||g|
|Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid||4.2||mg|
|Vitamin A, RAE||0.1||µg|
What do these nutrients do?
Confused about what the table above mean? Check out these examples of what role these nutrients play in your chickens’ health.
- 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 C: joint, cellular, and immune health; collagen synthesis
- Calcium: bones and egg shell strength
- Carbohydrates: give chickens energy
- 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
- Magnesium: bone strength and development, cellular metabolism, heart health, muscle function
- Potassium: temperature control; hydration & electrolyte regulation, metabolism; heart health/heart disease preventative
How do you feed lemons to chickens?
The best way to feed lemons to your chickens is to, first, cut them into wedges and remove the seeds, if you like. The seeds are safe but you may want to remove them. Next, you can use the same sharp knife to remove the lemon peel from the fruits. Again, the peel is safe but can be tough to eat and may be a deterrent for some less determined chickens.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. Can I overfeed my chicken lemons?
Absolutely chickens can be overfed lemons. Stick to feeding them a small amount a few times a week or run the risk of potentially preventable health issues further down the line.
Q2. How many lemons can I feed to my chickens?
A lemon, when cut properly, will give you about 8 wedges. If you cut each of those in half you can feed anywhere from 8 to 16 chickens with a single lemon. Since lemons do have a fair amount of sugar in them, we recommend only giving each chicken half a wedge; maybe a whole wedge if they are a bit larger.
Q3. How often can I feed lemons to my chickens?
We stick to only feeding lemons, and other sugar rich treats, about 1 day, and no more than 3 days, per week. This is so we can make sure they do not throw off their dietary balance. For the best health, stick to the 90/10 rule; 90% of their food is quality feed and bugs, 10% can be snacks and other things.
Q4. Can chicks eat lemons?
We recommend only feeding your chicks a quality starter/grower, or other chick-specific feed, until they are old enough to be introduced to the rest of the flock. While they are small chicks they are quickly developing and you do not want to throw off their dietary balance during this time.
Q5. What other fruits and vegetables are safe for chickens?
Here are some popular foods that your chickens can eat.
Vegetables & Gourdes
For more on chickens
Can chickens eat lemons or will this tart citrus fruit give them a permanent sour face? Find out the facts about chickens and citrus inside!