If you keep chickens, you’re probably constantly on the lookout for new ways to keep your flock in good health and laying well, and a big part of this will involve what you feed them. However, while many foods can be used to supplement a chicken’s regular diet, some should be avoided.
As a result, you may be wondering about which of these categories apples belong to and whether it’s safe to give them to your birds – so to help, in this post, we discuss the question, can chickens eat apples?
Can Chickens Eat Apples? The short answer
Before we get into the details of chickens eating apples, let’s start with a simple answer to a simple question.
Can chickens eat apples? Yes, they can!
Many chickens love apples, and what’s more, apples are known to contain a range of nutrients that are important to a chicken’s diet.
They are also beneficial to chickens’ health in several other ways, so if you have leftover apples in your fruit basket – or excess apples are dropping from the trees on your property – your chickens will be more than willing to help you finish them all off.
But of course, there’s more to this topic than just this, so now let’s delve a bit deeper into feeding apples to chickens.
Are apples good for chickens?
While chickens are unfussy omnivores that are happy to eat almost anything, if we want to keep them healthy and productive, it’s best to choose foods for them that have some kind of benefit – so what about apples?
Raw apples consist of 86% water, and in terms of macronutrients, their main value is as a carbohydrate. They also provide a certain amount of dietary fiber, but their fat and protein content is low.
Apples contain low levels of most vitamins, with the most significant being vitamin C – although even that is not present in the high levels found in other fruits like oranges. They also contain low levels of dietary minerals without being a particularly rich source of any.
Other health benefits
Apples’ benefits aren’t just related to the role they play in providing nutrition though, and they are also known to provide many other health benefits to humans and chickens alike.
Apples are a rich source of antioxidants, which help chickens’ bodies fight disease. We’ve all heard the expression “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, and while feeding chickens apples every day might not be so wise, adding them to their diets can help boost their health.
- Blood cholesterol reduction
Eating apples – and in particular, the skin – can help reduce bad cholesterol in the blood while also helping to boost good cholesterol.
- Gut health
The antioxidants in apples also help promote gut health, and the fiber content of apples also helps to keep the digestive system running smoothly, allowing waste to pass through the chickens’ gut and out the other end.
Pectin is a substance found in apples that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
It’s thought to boost the immune system while also helping to reduce obesity, a major cause of sudden death syndrome in chickens.
Can Chickens Eat Apple seeds
Although there are many reasons to allow your chickens to eat apples as an occasional treat, there’s something that puts many chicken keepers off doing so, and that’s the seeds.
As it turns out, apple seeds – like the seeds and pits of many other fruits – contain amygdalin, a compound that converts to cyanide when ingested.
Understandably, lots of chicken keepers will hear that apples contain cyanide and conclude that the best option is to keep them off chickens’ menu altogether.
However, the amount of cyanide produced by a single apple seed is almost negligible, and a chicken would have to eat a huge amount to experience any toxicity.
It would take at least a teaspoonful of crushed apple seeds to cause a chicken any harm, and if a chicken manages to eat that many, something is very wrong with its diet because eating that quantity of apples would leave little room for anything else.
As a result, if you give your chickens an apple to eat as a treat two or three times a week, you should have nothing to worry about, even if they do manage to swallow one or two of the seeds.
However, if you prefer to err on the side of caution, you can simply remove the seeds before handing the apples over to them – but you shouldn’t let the slight toxicity of the seeds put you off giving apples to your birds because the benefits far outweigh any tiny risks of poisoning.
Is there anything else to be careful of?
When buying apples from a grocery store, if you plan to give them to your chickens, you should always opt for organic ones.
This is because non-organic apples will have been sprayed with harmful pesticides, and if this builds up in your birds’ tissues, it can eventually cause their health to deteriorate.
If you can’t find organic apples – or you don’t want to buy expensive organic apples just to feed to your chickens – you can also give them non-organic ones. However, you need to make sure you wash them thoroughly first to remove any fertilizer residue.
Otherwise, just make sure any apples you give to your chickens aren’t served with any other non-chicken-friendly ingredients.
Giving them raw fruit is fine, but giving them apples that have been cooked with salt, sugar or anything else that can harm their health is to be avoided. And of course, never give chickens apples that have been soaked in alcohol.
How can you feed apples to chickens?
You’ve decided that giving apples to your chickens is a good idea – so what’s the best way to do it?
Here are a few suggestions.
The simplest way to do it is just to throw the apples to them whole. Chickens will easily deal with the skins, and they’ll enjoy pecking at them and chasing them around their run as they try to eat their fill.
Don’t remove the skins because they’re full of healthy nutrients – but you can remove the seeds if you’re worried about cyanide poisoning.
You might also decide to cut the apples into halves or quarters to make it easy for all your chickens to have a chance to eat some – otherwise, they might end up squabbling over them, and some less dominant chickens might end up missing out.
Another option is to make apple garlands or to hang apples up on strings. This will then keep your chickens busy and interested as they peck at the apples, which will help fight boredom since they’ll have to work harder for their treat.
Can chicks eat apples?
Chicks can eat apples too, but when feeding apples to chicks, make sure you cut them up into tiny pieces to make it easy for them to eat the apples and also to reduce the choking hazard.
Chicks’ main source of food should come from specialist chick feed that’s formulated to provide all the nutrients they need to grow and develop.
However, supplementing this feed with healthy options such as apples can give them additional benefits while also helping them become accustomed to eating a wider range of foods.
That said, you should wait until their third or fourth week before supplementing their regular feed with anything extra.
Chickens have very specific dietary requirements, and if they don’t receive all the nutrients they need, egg-laying will slow down or even stop altogether, and in more extreme cases, chickens can become malnourished.
Commercial chicken feed is specially formulated to provide all the nutrients a chicken needs, but if a chicken is given too many other treats, it may begin to neglect its feed in favor of the treats, which will lead to them missing out on some of the vital nutrients it contains.
For this reason, 90% of a chicken’s diet should come from its feed. This way, they are guaranteed to receive the correct amount of protein, vitamins, minerals and everything else they require to thrive.
However, the other 10% can come from healthy treats, which can be used to supplement their diet and provide additional nutritional benefits – and apples can play a role in this.
However, apples – combined with all the other treats you give your chickens – should never exceed 10% of their diet, and sticking to this “10% rule” will ensure your chickens remain in good health and continue to give you plenty of high-quality fresh eggs.
A healthy and nutritious snack – in moderation
So as we’ve seen, apples are perfectly safe for chickens to eat – even the seeds, as long as they don’t eat large quantities – and they are also a highly nutritious snack that your chickens are sure to love.
As with any kind of treat, the key is to feed apples to chickens in moderation – however, as long as apples are given to them as part of a healthy and balanced diet based on proper chicken feed, they can be a great addition to the range of foods your chickens can eat.