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Have you ever accidently left the gate open to your garden only to come back and find it infested with chickens? If you haven't, trust us, you will. What's worse is they won't eat that much but they will "taste" just about everything. Except bright red tomatoes. They will attack and devour them. So, can chickens eat tomatoes or will your flock be joining their cousin the Dodo in eternity?
Keep on reading and we will find out together!
Can Chickens Eat Tomatoes?
Yes, chickens can eat tomatoes. They are a nutrient rich with potassium, vitamin K, Vitamin C and antioxidants just to name a few. You do need to be careful about feeding them only the actual tomato though as the other parts of the plant can be dangerous.
Are tomatoes healthy for chickens?
Aside from chickens loving to eat tomatoes, tomatoes are actually good for them too! Nutritious and delicious? You can't beat that. Tomatoes are chock full of many vitamins and nutrients that a chicken needs in it's regular diet.
What are the nutritional benefits of tomatoes for chickens?
Vitamins and nutrients like Vitamins C and K, and minerals like potassium, as well as a whole host of antioxidants are ever present in tomatoes. So tomatoes can help your chickens improve their immune systems, lay eggs with strong shells, have brighter combs, wattles, feet, beaks, AND feathers! Plus. they're low in sugar which means your chickens are less at risk of having a hypoglycemic episode.
Need some help keeping your chickens health and care taken care of? Check out the Organized Chicken Keeper for an easy to follow system.
Nutritional analysis - Per 5 raw grape tomatoes (49.7 g)
|Energy (Atwater General Factors)||15.4 kcal|
|Carbohydrate, by difference||2.74 g|
|Fiber, total dietary||1.04 g|
|Potassium, K||129 mg|
|Calcium, Ca||5.47 mg|
|Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid||13.5 mg|
|Folate, total||4.97 µg|
|Vitamin K||2.09 µg|
What types of tomatoes can chickens eat?
Chickens can eat all types of tomatoes. The nutritional analysis above is based on a handful of grape tomatoes, but it could have been cherry, Roma, beefsteak, or just a regular old normal tomato like a globe or slicing tomato.
When are tomatoes harmful for chickens to eat?
Most of the times, in nature, bright colors, especially red, mean "stay away!". Green is usually considered to be more benign and not risky. Like driving a car, red means stop and green means go. However, with tomatoes, the opposit is true and, in some cases, can be a fatal mistake.
Some unripe tomoatoes are still safe to eat for you or your chickens. If they are turning red but still a little green and not completely ripe, they should be fine. They may not taste great but they aren't dangerous. But green, unripe tomatoes, just like are dangerous.
Additionally, just in the way that chickens can eat onions, but only part of the plant, the stalks, leaves and other parts of the tomato plant are also dangerous.
Nightshade plants aka Solanaceae
There are a couple of reasons the tomato plant is toxic. Two reasons are common amongst the family of nightshade plants; which include tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplants, and even tobacco (so don't let your chickens smoke either). The presence of lectins and phytochemicals.
Lectins are in almost all foods but tend to have a higher concentration in nightshades. The reason they are problematic is they cause proteins to bind to carbohydrates which leads to cells binding together. This can lead to problems like excess inflammation, arthritis, and other auto-immune diseases.
Phytochemicals are a plant's natural defense against pests; like a natural bug spray. The particular phytochemical in a tomato is called tomatine. In high concentrations, tomatine can give the affected individual symptoms similar to solanine poisoning.
As you may be able to tell from the family name, Solanaceae, solanine is also present in nightshade vegetables and is very dangerous, not just for chickens, but for other animals and humans too.
Solanine can cause a ton of health concerns when consumed. Some of the potential problems range from annoying to fatal:
- problems with digestion, gastrointestinal issues, and diarhea
- nausea and vomiting
- inflammationaches and pains
Worse yet, solanine is there to stay. In fact, a study conducted in 1996 found that cooking will decrease solanine a bit but not enough to significantly decrease it's toxicity levels. So your chickens should not eat unripe or green tomatoes and, frankly, neither should you.
How do I feed my chickens tomatoes?
Fortunately, chickens are pretty good at spotting things that can harm them if eaten. It's not 100% fool-proof, but even the dumbest of clucks seems to do pretty well. But, if you want to make things easier on them you can use a couple of these recommendations to make sure you are feeding your chickens tomatoes that are completely safe.
First of all, don't over feed them. You should always follow the 90/10 rule when feeding chickens. All that means is 90% of their diet should be a good, high quality chicken feed balanced specifically for their nutritional needs. That leaves another 10% left for any sort of extra treats they may want like cherries, cantaloupe, grapes, or bananas.
Make sure their food is fresh, clean, and free from things like mold or mildew. A good rule of thumb is don't feed your chickens their food in a condition that would be harmful if you ate your food in a similar condition.
Keep the green parts of the tomato plant, as well as unripe tomatoes, away from your chickens.
Finally, just like if you want to chew gum in school, make sure you bring enough for everyone. If there is more tomato than chickens they will be less inclined to fight each over this delicious surprise.
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.