Chickens are typically not very picky when it comes to what they eat- they will usually try anything at least once. Unfortunately, we are all too aware that not everything is healthy for us. A favorite treat among many of these birds is blackberries, but are they safe for your chickens to consume? Do they pose any health risks?
Blackberries are one of the safest fruits that an owner can feed their chickens. However, these tasty berries cannot be the only or primary source of food. In too high quantities, blackberries can have adverse effects on your chickens.
Whether having chickens is new to you or you are a veteran, you probably wonder if you are providing the best diet for them. After all, their diet directly affects your own if they get used for food purposes.
Many owners stick strictly to foods that chickens would eat if they lived in the wild- letting nature be their guide. Some choose commercial products for the vitamins and nutrients as they believe that science has improved on nature’s offerings. Then, there are those who use a mix of products, knowing that there is some good in all food choices.
No matter their primary diet, though, your chickens can benefit significantly from adding some fruits as treats. Just as eating fruit is healthy for humans, it is also beneficial for chickens- as long as it is done with care. And while blueberries tend to be the more common favorite, most chickens do not turn their beaks up at blackberries for a second. That leads to one critical question:
Are blackberries safe for chickens?
Most fruits make excellent treats for chickens as they come with many health benefits and great taste. Unfortunately, not all fruits are healthy choices. For instance, citrus can affect egg production. Avocados have been known to cause some breathing issues.
Some other fruits can cause choking as the chicken tries to eat the seeds. And, of course, some are too tough or too large for chickens to chew and swallow quickly. In these cases, the owner either has to smash the food up, peel it, or prepare it somehow.
Unlike those foods, though, blackberries can easily be broken down in the chickens’ mouth, so they pose no choking hazard at all. For that and many other reasons, blackberries are some of the safest fruits to feed to chickens. However, feeding chickens blackberries can pose a few health risks, so it should be done with care.
Benefits and Risks of Feeding Chickens Blackberries
For the most part, blackberries are incredibly healthy for your chickens. They are low in calories and are naturally full of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Some of the most notable in blackberries include the following:
Manganese is a mineral that plays a vital role in several chemical processes in the body, which include supporting healthy bone development and the immune system. It also helps the body break down carbohydrates, cholesterol, and amino acids while controlling blood sugar.
Fiber also helps to reduce cholesterol and control blood sugar levels like manganese. Additionally, it supports healthy bowel movements as it does in humans by fueling the good bacteria in the gut.
Vitamins C and Vitamin K
Vitamin K is useful in blood clotting. A deficiency of vitamin K typically leads to blood spots in the eggs they lay. Vitamin C helps the body form blood vessels, muscles, and cartilage. It can help feathers and skin regenerate more quickly and healthily. Vitamin C can also lower the risk of diseases, among other things. In short, these two vitamins support the health of both the mama chickens and the eggs they lay. All of that, of course, impacts the health of the person consuming the eggs or chickens themselves.
Vitamin A supports healthy eyesight and boosts a chicken’s ability to produce eggs. The more they can deliver healthily and safely, the better.
Vitamin B can prevent your feathered friend from dealing with many uncomfortable or painful issues. These include having bowed legs, inflamed cavities, liver and kidney problems, mouth sores, dermatitis, and feathering issues.
Chickens cannot exactly tell you when they are in pain. The best way to help them is to ensure they have enough B vitamins to prevent as much pain as possible.
Many fruit seeds can cause either choking or digestive issues. This is not the case with blackberry seeds, though. Blackberry seeds are not just easily digestible- they are also full of Omega-3. Omega-3 supports heart health and egg production.
Blackberries can also provide chickens with energy, protein, calcium, magnesium, and potassium- all of which support a very healthy body. There are some things to watch out for when feeding your chickens blackberries, though.
As you can see, feeding blackberries to your chickens is fine if done in moderation. You must understand that they are full of sugar, and too much sugar is not suitable for any animal.
An excess of sugar typically means an excess of weight, and a lot of weight in chickens can lead to producing fewer eggs or even not producing them at all. Additionally, while full of good stuff, blackberries do not provide all that your chickens need.
Do not provide them daily, as this can be much too often. You might try a few every couple of days- no more than a few ounces at a time- or start with a couple of days each week. Choose a different treat for the rest of the week as chickens need a variety of nutrients.
How to Give Blackberries to Chickens
- Any treats you give your chickens should add up to no more than 10 percent of their daily diet. However, you do not want to give them the same treat every day. Variety helps to keep the diet balanced properly.
- If you have blackberry bushes, add a fence or other obstacle around them to keep your chickens away. They love blackberries and will hop to grab them off the bushes. While it can be a rather silly scene to view, such easy access to blackberries can be dangerous for your birds.
- If you decide not to fence in your blackberries, know that you will likely only be harvesting the ones above your chickens’ reach. More often than not, all the ones close to the bottom will be gone entirely.
- Be sure that none of the blackberries or any other foods you feed your chickens are moldy. Mold is chock full of toxins and is extremely hazardous to their health. Many foods that are said to have harmed animals only did so due to either mold or pesticides. This is undoubtedly the case with blackberries and chickens.
- Not all chickens like blackberries, and there is always a chance that they will not all get eaten. It would be best if you cleaned up any berries left behind. If you do not, they can lead to your chicken eating old, moldy berries. They can also attract rodents, which you do not want in your chicken coop.
- Blackberries can be fed to chickens either by themselves or mixed in with the rest of their food. Since chickens- like all other creatures- typically prefer the sweet stuff, you might get the best results if you mix it in with other food. This way, they are more likely to eat other parts of the feed, as well.
- Giving blackberries to your chickens in the morning allows plenty of time for digestion as opposed to feeding them at night time.
- Store-bought fruits and vegetables are typically treated with pesticides- a big threat to your chicken’s health. You should either wash the store-bought fruit well before feeding them or grow your own.
- Chickens that eat blackberries often have purple bowel movements, so don’t be surprised if you see the change in color.
- Though some owners are concerned with introducing blackberries and other treats too early, this is usually not an issue with baby chicks. In fact, when in the wild, mamas feed their babies worms within a couple of days after birth. To be safe, you can wait until they are one or two weeks old, but there is no reason to wait longer than that.
- Aside from washing off store-bought blackberries, there is really nothing more for you to do. When free of pesticides and mold, every part of blackberries is safe for consumption. This includes even the leaves, though most chickens do not enjoy the taste of leaves. Nevertheless, you need not worry should your chickens gobble them up as well. Just do not allow them to eat too many as it can affect the taste of the eggs.
- There is, of course, no way to know for sure how an animal might respond to a new food source. Some chickens do not like blackberries, while others love them. Additionally, just because blackberries are not generally dangerous for chickens does not mean that a bad reaction will not occur. Start with very small amounts to ensure your feathered friends do not have a negative reaction. You can increase amounts later.
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