This is a common question amongst poultry-keepers since recent confusing information was released saying plants from the nightshade family are bad for us humans. So what about chickens? Let’s take a look at exactly what nightshade plants are and whether our chooks should be eating them or not.
So Can Chickens Eat Nightshade Plants?
In a word, “Yes” – chickens can eat some nightshade vegetables such as , bell peppers, tomatoes, etc., but not the plants’ actual green parts. Cherry tomatoes, in particular, can be a wonderful treat for chickens. That said, chickens are quite savvy animals and, by nature, know what foods are poisonous and which ones to avoid. Most birds won’t forage on foods that can be dangerous for them.
They also love potatoes, cooked or raw, and especially the fine peelings. One precaution to take is not to feed any green potato peel to your chooks, or any green parts of any nightshade plants as this has an extra concentration of solanine and can be toxic to them.
Chickens can most certainly enjoy all of these nightshade vegetables as part of their diet, but like most things, moderation is key! Because of the solanine content, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. So as long as you feed them in a balanced way, your chickens will love these foods without suffering any negative consequences.
Tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, aubergines, and capsicums are all a big part of the Mediterranean diet, which we are all encouraged to follow as it is supposed to the best diet for good health. But how can that be if these food sources are supposed to be bad for us?
You show me a chicken that gets ill from eating a tomato or potato! My chickens absolutely love tomatoes, red and green peppers, and potatoes! I haven’t personally fed them aubergines or gooseberries yet, but they are amongst my favorite fresh foods, so they will be eating them as soon as I start growing them – so watch this space!
What Are Nightshade Plants?
Most of us have heard of ‘deadly nightshade’ AKA Belladonna, which is a poisonous plant with blackberries. I don’t think any of us would even consider giving this to our chickens! But what about other plants within the nightshade family, such as the vegetables we eat on a daily basis?
Common vegetables belonging to the nightshade (Solanaceae) family include potatoes, capsicum, chilies, pimientos, tomatoes, eggplants (aubergines), and gooseberries. They contain an alkaloid compound known as “solanine” that is believed to be toxic in large quantities to humans, so can chickens eat these vegetables?
Which Plants are Poisonous for Chickens?
Any plant related to the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes, eggplants, and tomatoes, should not be fed to your flock. These plants contain a compound called solanine, which is toxic to most pets.
What Is The Evidence?
There is no solid evidence that these foods are bad for chickens to eat in moderation. The vitamins and minerals they contain are an extremely beneficial part of their diet. The vegetables/fruits of these plants are just fine to feed to your chooks, but the leaves are best put on the compost heap or used as a mulch as these can contain higher levels of solanine and “may” be harmful to your chooks.
In a world where words like “gluten” and “nightshade” have become almost like fashionable swear words, everyone jumps on the bandwagon and believes they shouldn’t be eating this stuff. But the truth is that our ancestors have been eating it for centuries and living to ripe old ages and staying in great health!
Will My Chickens Know Not To Eat Bad Stuff?
Chickens are naturally intelligent creatures, although maybe seemingly dumb in some ways! They will instinctively know after taking their first nibble if something isn’t right for them – this is how nature works! If something tastes too bitter or just plain wrong, they will not eat any more of it. Simple!
I tend to cook potatoes for my chooks along with the peels and mix them up with whatever vegetables are growing on my veggie patch. This may be tomatoes, peppers, garlic – you name it, they love it! They are extremely healthy and laying fantastic eggs, and providing great meat.
As with everything these days, there is so much scaremongering around food, only to be completely contradicted the following week. The best approach is to think of how our ancestors did things. Potatoes and tomatoes have been a staple in everyone’s diet for centuries. People have also been feeding these foods to their chickens for centuries with no problems whatsoever.
Tips to Protect Your Flock
If you have free-range chickens that are constantly eating the plants in your garden, you may want to consider taking some steps to prevent them from eating poisonous plants.
Although, as mentioned previously, most chickens won’t eat toxic plants. However, these steps can help you sleep better at night, knowing your chickens can’t access harmful plants.
- Block off access to your garden by installing a fenced-in perimeter.
- Clip your birds’ wings, especially if they are continually jumping your fence to access your garden.
- Train your chickens to stay out of the garden. (it can be done)
- Grow plants that are safe for them to consume.
Other Plants That Are Poisonous to Chickens
By now, you know that any green part of the nightshade plants can be toxic to them. However, several other plants can be deadly to your feathered friends.
Here’s a list of other garden plants that can be dangerous poultry.
Australian Umbrella Tree
The general consensus is that this is yet another modern-day food-fear falsehood without any substantial evidence to back it up. Do not be afraid to feed these foods to your chickens as they will love you for it, continue to provide you with great eggs and meat, and be very grateful for the yummy fresh treats you give them.
If you’re worried your flock will eat the poisonous plants in your garden, take some steps to block them from accessing them. Grow plants that are safe for them.
My motto is if you’re not sure if it’s safe for them, don’t feed it to them.