Asparagus is a vegetable that is both common and unusual. While you see it everywhere—like as a side dish paired with steak or roasted and basted in butter and garlic—it’s also a veggie like no other. Its tall shoots, crunchy texture, and tasty flavor make it a favorite of foodies everywhere.
But this vegetable isn’t just delicious and versatile in the kitchen. Chicken owners will tell you that asparagus is a favorite in the coop as well. But can chickens eat asparagus in the first place? Is it safe for them to eat? If so, what kinds of asparagus can chickens consume?
Today, we’ll tell you all about whether chickens are allowed to eat asparagus, and what benefits they reap if they do take a bite of this yummy vegetable. We’ll also tell you about the surprising effect it has on eggs! Stick around to learn more.
Is Asparagus Safe for Chickens?
When feeding vegetables and table scraps to your chickens, it makes sense that safety is your first concern. There are some seemingly healthy and harmless fruits and vegetables that are toxic to chickens. This includes avocados since their pits are filled with persin—a toxin poisonous to birds.
Fortunately, you won’t have the same worries and concerns about asparagus. This vegetable is completely safe for chickens to ingest, from the asparagus spears to its long, tasty stems. Chickens are allowed to eat asparagus whether it is cooked or uncooked.
Much like broccoli, cabbage, and kale, asparagus is a pretty popular snack to give to chickens. Dedicated farmers love to give this veggie to their flock because they’re reliable and packed with vitamins and minerals to boost your chickens’ health.
The Benefits of Feeding Asparagus to Your Chicken Flock
Asparagus is rich in nutrients that are good for the overall development of humans, from vitamin A to zinc. Chickens can reap the same benefits from this vegetable, so long as they don’t overeat it.
Curious to know all the wondrous health benefits of asparagus for your chickens? Check out some of them below:
1. Antioxidants prevent cell damage in the body
First, asparagus is rich in antioxidants. These include common ones like vitamin E and vitamin C, but it also contains unique ones such as polyphenols and glutathione. It also has more flavonoids than other superfoods, like broccoli!
Things like unhealthy food and pollution from the air expose chickens to free radicals that can harm their bodies and organs. Antioxidants protect your chickens’ overall health by neutralizing these free radicals, preventing oxidative stress and damage to the cells in their bodies.
Antioxidants can also help boost your chickens’ immune systems. That means they’ll be strong enough to fight off the spread of disease.
2. Vitamin K boosts blood clotting and egg production
Asparagus also has a high vitamin K content. Although this vitamin is not as popular as vitamins A, C, and E, it has an amazingly unique benefit for chickens—it promotes healthy blood clots.
Chickens—roosters especially—are known to be kind of aggressive in the coops. They may get into fights with other chickens and end up injured at times. If they have a good amount of vitamin K in their bodies, they’ll be able to create blood clots, which can save them from severe wounds.
Aside from that, vitamin K is also pertinent for hens to create strong, sturdy eggshells. The body requires vitamin K to properly break down and utilize calcium, which is needed for high-quality shells. Without this vitamin, your hens can end up laying fragile, weirdly shaped eggs.
3. Fiber helps with digestive health
A chicken’s digestive health can be tricky to manage. These creatures are known to be extra sensitive when it comes to digestion issues, as their system is designed to eat simple foods only, such as grains, feed, and insect meat.
So, eating the wrong thing makes them extremely prone to diarrhea, vomiting, and other digestive health problems. One way to improve their gut health and prevent these episodes is by feeding them veggies with lots of dietary fiber.
There are about 2.8 grams of fiber in each cup of asparagus. This is great for helping chickens manage their bowel movements and digestion issues. Fiber-rich veggies like these are also said to lower blood pressure and prevent heart problems.
Pro tip: If you want asparagus that is extremely high in fiber, go for the bouquets with thicker, chunkier stalks. Thinner stalks also have a good amount of fiber, but thicker asparagus stalks have way more of it.
4. Nutrient-dense with very few calories
We’ve already mentioned vitamin K, fiber, and antioxidants. But did you know that asparagus is also an excellent source of phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, folic acid, and vitamin B6? These vitamins and minerals are essential for the health of chickens.
And even if asparagus is packed with nutrients, it’s incredibly low in calories. Every cup of asparagus only has 27 calories, which is insanely low. Chickens can pretty much burn it all when they walk around after eating asparagus.
Because asparagus is a low-calorie snack, it lowers the chances of chickens getting sick and obese from it, even if they accidentally eat one stalk too many. Overweight chickens are vulnerable to heart disease, fatty liver, and even low-quality egg production.
So, if you’re extra conscious about keeping your chickens at a healthy weight, asparagus is a terrific treat to give them.
What Types of Asparagus Are Chickens Allowed to Eat?
There are plenty of types of asparagus out there, all in different colors, flavors, and textures. In ancient times, every kind of asparagus was used for unique medicinal purposes. But are all types of asparagus good for chickens to eat today?
Fortunately, most types of asparagus are suitable for chickens. Switching between asparagus types is a great idea if you want to give your chickens extra versatility in their vegetable snacking. Here are three kinds of asparagus you should consider feeding your flock:
1. Classic green asparagus
Vibrantly green asparagus is undoubtedly the most popular kind of asparagus in the world. It’s the asparagus you typically see in your grocery stores and dishes in restaurants. Its signature crisp texture and grassy but yummy flavor make it a favorite among humans and animals alike.
2. Delicate and tender white asparagus
Next up, we have white asparagus, which is more commonly found in Europe. This asparagus is grown in enclosed spaces, like greenhouses. Their spears are usually covered with soil too, so they don’t get a lot of exposure to the sun. This results in the veggie’s white, pale color.
White asparagus has a mild and delicate flavor which is often described as “nutty.” It also has a more tender texture than green asparagus, so it may be easier for chickens to munch on.
3. Sweet and vibrant purple asparagus
Lastly, we have purple asparagus, which has a violet shade when it’s fresh. Note, though, that once it is cooked with heat, its color turns green.
This type of asparagus is rich in anthocyanins—the pigments that give it its unique color. Aside from giving it an amusing color, the high anthocyanin content also helps lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease.
This kind of asparagus is the rarest of the three. It has a sweet and fruity flavor and a delicate texture that’s perfect for chickens. And while it has more antioxidants than green and white asparagus, it also has less dietary fiber in it.
4. Never feed your chickens asparagus berries!
Word to the wise—never feed your beloved chickens the red berries you see on the asparagus plant. Although these look like sweet, juicy berries, they are actually hard seed pods that only look like fruit. And while they look beautiful as decorative foliage, they are very toxic when consumed.
Although there aren’t any studies yet about their effects on chickens, it’s best never to give them these seed pods. As we mentioned, chickens have a very sensitive digestive system. It’s best to be cautious and avoid anything that can be toxic for their bodies.
Only Feed Asparagus to Chickens in Moderation
But don’t get too excited to feed your chickens asparagus! You might end up giving them way too much for their own good. Asparagus should only be considered occasional treats for your chickens. They shouldn’t be eating it every day because they can’t get all of their essential nutrients from it.
Around 90% of a chicken’s diet should be their regular chicken feed. This feed is formulated to have all the vitamins and minerals they need to grow strong and healthy. They’re also meant to help them produce high-quality eggs and meat.
After they get their fill from their regular feed, it’s time for treats. Only 10% of their diet should make up treats, whether it’s fruits and vegetables or naturally foraged insects from free-ranging. Aside from asparagus, mix it up and give them other treats too, like carrots, broccoli, kale, and more.
Aside from making sure they have their essential nutrients first before feeding them treats, there’s another reason why you should only feed your chickens asparagus in moderation. That’s because apparently, asparagus can alter the flavor of hen’s eggs.
Hens that have eaten a lot of asparagus will lay eggs with a mildly sulfuric taste. You could say it’s similar to the way eating asparagus can change the odor of pee in humans. Although it’s not necessarily harmful, it’s undesirable, so it can impact your poultry operations on the farm.
2 Different Ways to Feed Chickens Asparagus
Keep your asparagus fresh by storing it in the refrigerator until you want to feed it to your chickens. Take it out when you’re ready to serve it to them as a snack.
You can prepare your asparagus in different ways for your chickens. Here are two ways to feed it to them:
1. Raw and chopped up
The easiest way to feed your chickens some asparagus is by giving it to them raw. Although it’s safe to toss the whole stalk or bouquet into the coop, it’s always better to chop up your uncooked asparagus first. That way, your chickens will have an easier time sharing the snack with others.
Chopping up the asparagus also makes it easier for your chickens to peck at it. Asparagus is tough, like bamboo. Slicing it into bite-sized pieces will make it a breeze to chew.
Feeding chickens raw asparagus is so easy that even young kids can do that. Watch chickens happily being fed asparagus by kids in this quick video:
2. Cooked asparagus for a softer texture
You can also cook your asparagus first before serving it to your chickens. Steaming and roasting asparagus are good options. This can give it a softer texture, so it’s easy for chickens to nibble on and digest. Just make sure you don’t season the asparagus, as this can be harmful to chickens.
After cooking it with heat, let it cool down. Then, chop up the asparagus into bite-sized pieces and then give it to your chickens to feast on. If they’re extra soft, you can even mash them up for baby chicks to easily eat.
Asparagus is a great healthy snack to give your chickens in moderation. It’s packed with nutrients like fiber, vitamin K, vitamin C, folic acid, antioxidants, and amino acids that boost the health and performance of your chickens, from digestive health to egg production.
That said, you should never allow your chickens, especially your hens, to overeat asparagus. This vegetable can affect the flavor of your hens’ eggs, giving them a bit of a sulfuric taste. Give your flock asparagus to munch on about once or twice a week only.
Whether you serve your asparagus to your chickens raw or cooked, they will thank you for this nutritious, delicious treat. Make sure to complement it with other yummy veggies like lettuce and cabbage to give your flock a balanced diet of healthy snacks.