Did you know that on top of being delicious, the papaya is packed full of healthy vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients? Papayas also offer a whole host of other health benefits. It makes you wonder if they are so good for us, can our animals get the same improvements? So, can chickens eat papayas?
Let's keep reading to see if papayas are the most nutritious and delicious treat EVER or the sweet kiss of death for your chickens (or maybe something in between that is less dramatic).
Can Chickens Eat Papayas?
Yes, chickens can eat papayas! They can eat ripe papayas skin, flesh and seeds. They are incredibly nutritious and a sweet treat chickens love to eat.
What exactly is a papaya?
A papaya is a small, mostly tropical fruit in the caricaceae family. It's scientific name is Carica Papaya. As it begins to ripen, the color of it's skin will change from a darker green to an almost orangey yellow with bits of green mixed in. The riper it is, the sweeter it will be; ranging from a mild sweet flavor, similar to a banana, to a very sweet flavor reminiscent of mango.
One common misconception is that papayas and pawpaws are the same thing. It can get confusing because papayas are sometimes called pawpaws, correctly.
They are very similar, however, North American Pawpaws (similar but different name) are usually bigger and grow in colder climates; all the way up into Canada. There are some other differences in color and flavor.
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Is it safe for a chicken to eat a papaya?
It is definitely safe for chickens to eat papaya. As we mentioned, they are packed full of good nutrients that will strengthen and improve just about every facet of your flock's physical wellbeing. Even the sugar is not as big an issue as some other treats like cranberries, cherries, peaches, or raisins.
However, with all of the health benefits, there are a few things to consider before dumping a whole bushel in your coop.
Can chickens eat papaya seeds?
Yes, chickens can eat papaya seeds, technically. The seeds of a papaya are not toxic, however, they are hard and can be difficult to eat and digest. Because of this they can be a choking hazard and possibly lead to an internal blockage.
Due to the choking hazard, it may be best to remove papaya seeds before feeding them to your chickens.
The seeds are easy to remove, though. Just slice the papaya in half and use a spoon to scoop the seeds out. Easy peasy!
Are the leaves of a papaya plant poisonous to chickens?
Another thing to keep in mind is the greenery attached to the fruit, like leaves. While they are not explicitly toxic in the same way tomatoes or potato skins may be, there is still some debate going within the scientific community to whether the leaves are harmful or not. We like to play it safe and remove any greenery prior to feeding them to our chickens.
What about unripe or green papayas? Can my chicken eat those?
Finally, only feed ripe papayas to your chickens (and to yourself, honestly). Papayas, when unripe, contain papain which is harsh and can cause harm to the esophagus.
But don't worry too much, just as chickens can eat asparagus despite the potential oxalic acid toxin, as long as you feed papaya in a safe manner, it's totally safe.
Are papayas healthy for chickens?
Yes, papayas are very healthy for chickens to eat! We've said it a few times already but now let's talk a little bit about WHY they are so healthy. Aside from being nutrient dense, papayas have been known to have additional health benefits.
Papaya as a dewormer
If you have ever raised any livestock you know goats lice and mites can quickly become a big problem. This issue is only made worse by the overuse of many over the counter dewormers leading to stronger and more resistant breeds of worms.
Papaya as an antibacterial
There are some other studies that have made a connection between papayas and wounds healing more quickly and effectively. Papayas contain many antibacterial properties and thus can help increase your chickens' ability to heal itself when injured..
Papayas as a treatment for coccidia
Coccidia, or coccidiosis, seems to be a constant battle with chickens and goats, especially baby goats. Fortunately, papayas have shown promising signs of being a good defense against coccidia and it's effects.
Papaya as an antifungal and antiviral
As if the above benefits were not enough, papayas have also been used as an antifungal and, because they are packed with so much immune boosting Vitamin C, they act as an antiviral, as well.
What are the nutritional benefits of papaya for chickens?
Papayas have a ton of nutrients in them. Your chickens will get just about every vitamin, mineral, antioxidant, and other nutrients they need from eating papaya.
The table below, courtesy of the USDA FoodData Center, has a breakdown of the nutritional analysis based on a serving size of 1 cup of 1" papaya pieces (145g).
|Carbohydrate, by difference||15.700||g|
|Fiber, total dietary||2.460||g|
|Sugars, total including NLEA||11.300||g|
|Vitamin A, RAE||68.2||µg|
|Vitamin A, IU||1,380.0||IU|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)||0.4||mg|
|Vitamin K (phylloquinone)||3.8||µg|
What do these nutrients do?
Here are what some of these nutrients can do to help your chicken be as healthy as possible.
- Vitamin A: eye, skin, respiratory, and digestive health
- Antioxidants: 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
- 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
- Carbohydrates: give chickens energy
- Fiber: only small amounts or they can become constipated, get a blockage, etc; energy, growth, and digestive health, reduce cholesterol, controls blood sugar, 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
- Manganese: bone development, immune system, breaks down carbs, cholesterol, and amino acids; controls blood sugar
- Phosphorus: bone formation
- 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)
How do you feed papaya to chickens?
No matter what method you use, always start out by washing them. This will remove any unwanted pesticide residue that may still be present. Better yet, try and get you rpapayas from a vendor who is pesticide free (but still wash them anyway).
This is the easiest method. Just toss a whole papaya to your chickens and be done with it. However, with the ease of this method comes some risks.
- chickens may fight over the small, unscattered portion
- some may eat more than others and become nutritionally unbalanced
- some may choke on the seeds
While this takes a little more work, this is a much better, and safer, way to feed your chickens papaya. Just cut the papaya in half, scoop out the seeds with a spoon and then slice it into slivers or small cubes. Now, you don't have to worry about as many fights or choking hazards.
On really hot days, we love to freeze our fruit for healthy snacks, like blueberries, blackberries, grapes, and cherries. Freeze some papaya as well and give your flock a cold fruit medley during the summer months.
Bonus points if your run a needle and fishing line through them to make a hanging chicken toy. It's a good snack and the chickens will not get bored chasing the swinging fruit.
Finally, you can dehydrate papaya and give that to your chickens. Removing the moisture will make the sugar content a little more potent and can be risky, though. However, if you want to peel them first, feed the fruit to your chickens and then dry the skins for a snack later on.
The skins typically have all of the same nutrients but without the excess sugar. To dry them yourself you can put them on a cookie sheet and stick them in the oven on the lowest temperature, usually around 140º to 150º, and let them bake for about 12 hours; checking every couple of hours on their progress.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. Can I overfeed my chicken papayas?
As with anything good, feeding papayas to your chickens can be overdone. We stick with the 10% rule when feeding our chickens treats. That basically means that no more than 10% of their diet should come from anything other than a quality chicken feed and whatever they can catch while free ranging.
Q2. How often can I feed my chickens papaya?
Following the 10% rule, your chickens can benefit from eating papaya anywhere from 1 to 3 times a week.
Q3. How much papaya can I feed to my chickens?
Depending on the size of your chicken flock, the amount will vary. But the average backyard flock can probably feed 1 or 2 small papayas and be in the safe range.
Q4. Can baby chicks eat papaya?
Baby chickens can benefit from the nutrients in papaya. However, being so tiny, it is easy to give them too much without realizing it; not to mention the potential choking hazard. We recommend sticking with a specialized chick/grower feed until they are a little bit older.
Q5. What other fruits and vegetables are safe for chickens?
Most fruits, vegetables and berries are safe for your chickens to eat, within the confines of the 10% rule we mentioned earlier. Here is a short list of some of our flock's favorites:
Vegetables & Gourdes
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.