There are over 10,000 different types of mushrooms in the world. They come in all sizes, shapes, tastes, and colors, and many of them are safe to eat and quite tasty. Many of these are also types that are safe for both humans and chickens to eat.
Many cultivated mushrooms — that is, store-bought mushrooms — are safe to feed. However, not all mushrooms are safe for chickens. As for humans, many wild mushrooms are toxic and can do permanent damage. Because of this, it’s important to know the different types of mushrooms that grow in an area where your chickens may be foraging.
Can Chickens Eat Mushrooms
Yes, there are certain types of mushrooms that are safe for chickens to eat. Generally, anything that is safe for humans to eat is safe for chickens and other poultry birds. Chickens will eat just about anything, and mushrooms can be a great addition to their diet.
However, it’s important to know that many varieties of wild mushrooms are indeed toxic and can do serious harm to chickens (and to humans). If your chickens are foraging, you’ll need to know how to identify and dispose of these before they’re allowed to roam.
What Mushrooms Can Chickens Eat?
The general rule of thumb for feeding mushrooms is that if it’s safe for us to eat, then it’s alright to feed to your chickens. Stemming from this, any store-bought mushroom can be added to feed or given as a treat.
These varieties are free from poisons and other toxins since they are grown in carefully controlled conditions. Note, however, that selecting an organic option is the safest route, as this ensures that no pesticides or herbicides linger on the mushrooms to be consumed by your chickens later.
All in all, these are the best types to feed to chickens since they are free of any potential elements that could make them sick.
While there are dozens of varieties of mushrooms you can find in the store, some of the best to offer your chickens are button mushrooms, chestnut mushrooms, morel mushrooms, chicken of the woods, and Oyster Mushrooms. They’re easy to find and often cost-effective.
Foraging for these types of mushrooms is another option, which can be both fun and rewarding. That being said, it’s not always an easy task — it can also be tricky, as not all safe mushrooms are easy to distinguish from their toxic counterparts.
Instead, you might try growing your own mushrooms from the spawn of the safe varieties. This can be a fun project! More on growing your own mushrooms below.
How to Feed Edible Mushrooms to Chickens
Just like us, some chickens are picky when it comes to the texture of their food. Most chickens are not interested in the rubbery outside of most mushrooms and will move on after a quick peck. If you’re feeding them as a snack, you’ll need to cook them until they’re soft or mix small pieces in with your regular chicken feed.
To cook them, boil the mushrooms for 10-20 minutes until they’re soft. If you’d prefer to fry them, make sure you do so in water — when it evaporates, the mushrooms will shrink, making them easy for the chicken to munch on.
Never fry mushrooms in oil or butter if they’re being fed to chickens. Chickens can’t easily digest high-fat meals, and too much fat can back them up.
Many birds will happily eat mushrooms that have been diced or cooked. But again, some chickens are pickier than others. This is perfectly normal! Every bird has its own preferences.
Why Feed Mushrooms to Chickens
Chickens generally roam around eating whatever they find appealing. Luckily, this means they’re also easy to satisfy and will usually eat whatever you give them — including mushrooms.
Most chickens tend to have a standard diet, consisting largely of grit and dry feed. Chickens that are allowed to roam will have a diet consisting of more foraging. Beyond these, a fun part of keeping chickens can be in spicing up their diet with treats like seeds, berries, or mealworms. Mushrooms can be a part of those treats, too.
They make a great snack, and if you’ve bought them in the store, they’re perfectly safe to feed in small amounts. These mushrooms are full of nutrients that are good for a flock in terms of health benefits. Some research has been done on this topic. Mushrooms have been shown to increase health-promoting properties and round out a diet with better nutrition.
That’s because mushrooms are anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and immunostimulatory. They’re also full of antioxidants, and they have hypocholesterolemic properties — all of which act to increase gut health.
In laying chickens specifically, mushrooms helped improve both laying performance and the quality of eggs. Ultimately, adding a safe amount of mushrooms to your chickens’ diet helps them lay more and better quality eggs and has been shown to make them healthier overall.
Growing Your Own Mushrooms
Growing your own mushrooms is easy, exciting, and cost-effective. Mushroom logs are one of the more popular methods of growing mushrooms at home.
To do this, all you need is mushroom spawn and a few hardwood logs about three feet in length. Step-by-step instructions are easy to find, and mushroom spawn is easy to find online. Many companies also offer everything you’ll need to pull this off, including tips and tricks.
What to Keep Your Chickens Away From
If you keep backyard chickens, you know they love to free-range. Everything from exploring tight spots to digging holes is a joy for these chickens. As you probably are also familiar with, these same spots can hold hidden dangers, including mushrooms.
Mushrooms are found in all areas of the world and can pop up overnight anywhere that is wet and humid. If this is your backyard, it’s important to inspect the entire space before letting your chickens out in the morning. If you find any unrecognizable mushrooms, toss on some gloves and simply pluck and toss them. Remember to wash your hands after, even with gloves.
Wild mushrooms are always suspicious. Nearly 20% of them are toxic, and they’re not always easy to tell apart. Because of this, it’s better to err on the side of caution, with the safest option being to remove all mushrooms from the foraging area. Identifying mushrooms is certainly possible, especially with mushroom guides — if you’re 100% sure that a mushroom you’ve found is safe, then it’s ok to leave or even eat it yourself.
Toxic Mushrooms, Their Effects, and How to Identify Them
As just noted, nearly 20% of wild mushrooms are poisonous in some capacity. Further, some of these are almost entirely indistinguishable from safer varieties. Many wild mushrooms are safe to eat; however, any of them found in the wild runs the risk of being toxic.
Eating a toxic mushroom can have many adverse effects. They can cause digestive problems, kidney failure, neurological issues, and even death in some animals. Outside of its own risks, a wild mushroom can also contain other microbes or parasites that could also cause illness.
Some of these side-effects can cause permanent damage or last for many years. Without fully classifying a wild mushroom, it can be hard to tell them apart. This is why it’s necessary to be 100% sure when identifying a wild mushroom.
Are there tricks to identifying toxic mushrooms? Of course. Some things to keep in mind are that wild mushrooms that are white or light brown are often poisonous. It’s also a good tip to avoid any mushrooms with gills, rings, a skirt on the stem, or a bulbous sack at the base, regardless of color.
Many of these types of mushrooms are related, and all of them can be deadly. The last tip is to avoid mushrooms with any red on the cap or stem, as it’s an easy sign that that mushroom is toxic.
Note that there are still other poisonous mushrooms out there that don’t have these features — always triple check with a professional guide.
How Big of a Risk are Mushrooms for Foraging Chickens?
If you have foraging chickens, chances are you’ve wondered about this.
Any chicken that spends time foraging outside runs the risk of encountering wild mushrooms. However, the vast majority of chickens could not be bothered to actually eat them, thanks to their rubbery texture.
Most chickens might take a look but will move on after a peck or two (which is rarely close enough contact to cause them harm), or spit them out and then ignore them. It’s still worth it to check the foraging area beforehand, though, before letting them out. Better to be safe than sorry.
Most species of mushrooms can appear overnight. The moist, humid places are the biggest culprits, so take a quick look underneath shrubbery or tight spaces that your chickens like to venture into. Inspecting the space and getting rid of unknown mushrooms is important, but that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult.
Getting rid of mushrooms is as easy as plucking them and tossing them in the garbage or compost. Until you’ve inspected and cleared the area, it’s best to keep your free-ranging chickens away.
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