When feeding livestock, it is of the utmost importance that you pick out the right food for their diet, chickens included. One such food to be considered is spinach.
While spinach can indeed be consumed by chickens and has valuable nutrients, moderating intake will help keep your chickens’ calcium levels in good shape.
Can chickens eat spinach?
There are many a number of questions that have consumed many a great mind over human history. What is the meaning of life? Are we alone in the universe? Did Tony die at the end of The Sopranos? But no question is in need of an answer quite as much as the one I am covering today: namely, the question of whether chickens can eat spinach.
And I will have that answer for you in this very article. When you’re working on picking out a healthy diet for your pets or any other kinds of animals, you want to pick out the best items, and this is not going to necessarily be the same across different animals.
What some people may not realize is that chickens, by and large, will eat anything they can have access to. Chickens will benefit from eating a diet of raw fruits and vegetables, with spinach being one of them.
Why do chickens have a seemingly unusual palette?
Chickens will eat a lot of different things, even things that one would not typically regard as something that should be eaten. For example, chickens are wont to eat rocks and gravel off of the ground.
This may seem terribly strange to people, but this is actually something that benefits the chickens. Chickens lack teeth and thus do not have a way to properly break down food for digestion.
Instead, they consume rocks, which go into an organ called the gizzard, which food goes into to be ground up by these rocks. So honestly, if your chicken is eating spinach more than Popeye, it should not really come as any surprise given what else they are willing to eat.
What benefits does spinach bring to the table for your chickens?
That is a figurative table, mind you (though I won’t judge you if your chicken gets spinach as table scraps). But in all seriousness, there are a lot of benefits that spinach confers to your beloved chickens. Chickens need nutrients as much as we do, so getting an adequate amount of them is paramount to their health.
Spinach is noted for having a lot of vitamins and minerals while also being particularly low in calories, making it a good way for your chickens (and even you!) to get them without adding too much to the daily caloric intake. The daily calorie intake for a chicken is going to vary depending on multiple factors, not the least of which is the type of chicken.
You also need to factor in how big the chicken is, as well as what the chicken is intended to do. A chicken that you are raising to lay eggs, for instance, is going to need considerably more calories in order to accomplish that task in a healthy, productive way.
There are also multiple types of spinach, ranging from the curly, dark green variety, semi-savoy spinach, the less wrinkly variety, and flat-leaf spinach, which is the most popular variety.
The latter variety is going to be the best choice for your chicken, as the first two are better cooked while the flat-leafed variety is better served raw.
Spinach includes a strong variety of benefits, including being an incredibly good source of potassium and magnesium, noted as one of the best by nutritionists.
But that is not all that it offers — it is also rich in zinc, fiber, iron, phosphorus, choline, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, and others. Each of these offers some of the same benefits that we expect to get, as well as benefits that we do not.
For example, a deficiency in vitamin B2 hurts both people’s and chicken’s metabolism, but only in chickens do they have to worry about decreased egg production, which a deficiency can result in. Meanwhile, zinc increases the quality of the chickens’ eggshells.
Spinach also benefits the chickens in vitamin C, which helps the chickens handle various stresses to a degree, including heat stress. They will naturally produce their own vitamin C, but stress makes supplementary vitamin C a major boon to the chickens’ health and quality of life.
Is there anything that one should be mindful of when serving their chickens’ spinach?
However, just because spinach is good for them does not mean that you can just funnel a barrel full of spinach into your chickens. Not just in terms of overeating, but in general, a lot of things you do not want to have too much of in your system or your chickens’ system.
As always, chickens need to consume everything in their diet in moderation, as there is such a thing as ‘too much of a good thing,’ after all. Spinach has something called ‘oxalic acid,’ which can interfere with the chickens’ calcium by binding to the mineral, reducing the ability for it to be absorbed into the chickens’ system.
This can have grave consequences, as consuming too much oxalic acid may result in a deficiency of calcium. These consequences can grow yet more severe when dealing with an egg-laying chicken, as the outer shell of the egg is almost entirely composed of calcium.
A deficiency of calcium can also make it more difficult for the egg-laying process, as calcium is consumed to push the egg out. While oxalic acids are present in multiple leafy greens, spinach is notable for having a lot more than these other greens, so you need to be more mindful of allowing your chickens to eat too much spinach compared to other vegetables (although they may be things you need to consider about those as well).
It is less a problem for you than it is for your chickens, so don’t use your experience for how to handle your chickens.
While oxalic acid is something to be concerned about, there are ways to mitigate the risk of oxalic acid. The first, and probably the best idea, is to balance the kinds of food that you feed to your chickens.
Make sure that when you give your chickens a serving of spinach that you mix it with other foods — and, of course, make sure that the supplementary food that you include is not also rich in oxalic acids. Such foods include Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, and others. Otherwise, what would be the point of supplementing the spinach in the first place? Ideas for foods that are safe to include is to go entirely off the subject of vegetables.
Instead, consider giving them some fruits, like apples, which are low in oxalic acids. You may be concerned about the arsenic present in the apple seeds, but not to worry: the arsenic content in the seeds is far too low to have an effect on the chickens.
That is, not unless you are trying to feed them the entire apple tree. There are other fruits that are low in oxalic acids to choose from (just don’t choose raspberries, as they have a particularly high oxalic acid content), and just about any of them should be safe for chickens to consume in combination with the spinach.
Of course, supplementing the spinach is not the only option at your disposal. You certainly should be mindful of overfeeding your chickens’ spinach, but a way to actually mitigate the effects of the oxalic acids in spinach and other foods are to use different things mixed in, such as oyster shell calcium.
These both contribute to a reduced impact by oxalic acids onto your chickens’ calcium absorption. You can also try to mitigate the negative effects of spinach by improving their stomach acids by incorporating apple cider vinegar into the chickens’ water supply, which will, in turn, encourage the absorption of calcium.
While there are indeed things to be concerned with for spinach, that should not mean that you should avoid using spinach altogether. A lot of the foods that you may incorporate into your chickens’ may have issues of their own, so certainly do not take anything said to mean that you should avoid spinach entirely.
Just make sure that you do it wisely and that you be mindful of your chickens’ intake and health. And make sure not to feed them spinach that may be old or otherwise expired. This may seem like common sense, but all too many people seem to let this common-sense slip their minds.
How much spinach is too much spinach?
Knowing that you should moderate your chickens’ intake of spinach (and other foods rich in oxalic acids) is just the first step, but the second step is knowing how much is too much for your chickens.
You should absolutely make sure that you do not over-indulge your chickens with spinach and other vegetables. Commercial feeds are a fairly good food source for your chickens that you should pursue, while fruits and vegetables should be a treat rather than having them be the norm.
So make sure that when feeding your chickens spinach that you provide a small handful of spinach no more than once or twice every week, supplementing it with certain foods and ingredients to reduce the impact of oxalic acids.
This way, you can ensure that your chickens get valuable nutrients while not having to deal with the consequences of overindulgence.
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