I don't know about you but there are few things as delicious and satisfying as biting into a sweet, fresh orange. Oranges have just the right amount of sweet combined with tart to become one of our favorite fruits. Plus, it's super healthy too. So, we have to ask, can chickens eat oranges and enjoy them the same way we do or will they end up being fertilizer under the citrus tree?
Keep scrolling and you will find out if it's true when poultry farmers and other chicken owners say that oranges are deadly for their flock!
Can Chickens Eat Oranges?
Yes, chickens can eat oranges as well as other citrus fruits. The peel can sometimes have residue from display wax and pesticides but citrus fruits, like oranges, are not actually harmful. However, some chickens do not like them due to their tartness.
Is it safe for a chicken to eat oranges?
Despite what you may have read on the internet, chickens can eat lemons, grapefruit, tangerines and other citrus like oranges are with them being no more harmful than any other fruit. The only real danger, in our opinion, come from overeating and consuming too much sugar.
Of course, whenever you feed any treats, you want to do so in moderation and do regular health checks on your chickens to keep tabs on their health.. As with any fruit, especially those high in sugar, like when chickens eat peaches, when chickens eat nectarines, when chickens eat cranberries, and when chickens eat raisins, too much can become unhealthy with the large levels of sugar; which we will look at a little deeper in just a bit.
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 chickens eat orange peels?
Assuming the peel does not have any wax or pesticide residue left on it, the peel is perfectly fine to give to your chickens. However, because of it's tough leathery texture, they will probably make use of orange peels as chicken toys rather than snacks.
Are oranges healthy for chickens?
In moderation, oranges can be very healthy. As you may already know, citrus fruits, including oranges, are rife with Vitamin C and, thus, can give your flock a HUGE boost in their immune systems.
The only major problems to look out for, assuming you are feeding oranges to your chickens without the peel, is the extreme amount of sugar. Excess sugar can lead to a multitude of problems including, but not limited too, heart disease, joint and muscle pain, a decline in an appetite for their regular feed, and low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia.
There is evidence to suggest that prolonged exposure to citric and absorbic acids can weaken the strength and thickness of their egg shells.
What are the nutritional benefits of oranges 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 naval orange (140g).
|Carbohydrate, by difference||16.5||g|
|Fiber, total dietary||2.8||g|
|Sugars, Total NLEA||12.0||g|
|Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid||82.7||mg|
What do these nutrients do?
Wondering what all of the things on the table above mean? Here are a couple examples of how those nutrients affect 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 oranges to chickens?
When it comes to oranges, and most other citrus fruits, you don't really have a lot of serving options. You get to basically choose peeled or unpeeled.
We recommend peeling the orange first. That way you can eliminate any accidental exposure to pesticides or the wax they use to make produce look shiny in the grocery store. Plus, the peel is tough and will take your chickens more time and energy to get through it.
After peeling it, we like to seperate each of the wedges and then cut each of those in half. You will likely end up with around 20 or so orange pieces, give or take a couple. Then just scatter those pieces around the barnyard or wherever your chickens like to gather for snacktime.
A word of advice, though, keep an eye on how much they eat and if there are any leftovers. You will want to make sure no one is overeating, so you can avoid any of the health concerns mentioned earlier. The other reason is, if there are any leftovers, you don't want to leave them lying around. They will quickly attract bugs and rodents; neither of which you want to be hanging around your homestead.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. Can I overfeed my chicken oranges?
Yes, you can overfeed oranges to your chickens. Some of the hazards can be heart problems, pain and discomfort, and blood sugar issues.
Q2. How many oranges can I feed to my chickens?
The average orange has around 10 segments. We like to cut each of them in half and scatter them in our barnyard. Given the high amount of sugar, half a slice to 1 slice is plenty for a chicken. So, a single orange can feed between 10 and 20 chickens.
Q3. How often can I feed oranges to my chickens?
We think it's best to keep orange, or any citrus, treats to around 1 to, no more than, 3 times a week. If they start showing signs of poor health, try decreasing the amount of times or eliminating them altogether to determine if it oranges are the culprit or if it is something else.
Q4. Can chicks eat oranges?
It is not a good idea to feed oranges, or any non chick specific feed to chicks until they are a little bit older. We recommend sticking with a starter/grower feed until they are ready to join the rest of the flock outside.
You can, but the sugar can be even more dangerous to them, due to their small size. Instead of various treats, we find it best to stick with a good starter feed until they are able to handle a wider variety in their diet.
Q5. What other things can chickens eat?
Some other things chickens can eat are:
- Apples (not the seeds)
- Mountain Ash Berries
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.