Avocados are a versatile, trendy ingredient you might find in any hip restaurant today. From avo toast in brunch cafés to guacamole at your favorite Mexican joint, avocado has earned its place as a staple in delicious food.
Aside from the fact that avocados are flavorful and delicious, it’s a favorite because it’s rich in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E, riboflavin, potassium, omega-3 fatty acids, and more.
Some chicken owners who love eating avocado might be tempted to feed it to their chicken flock. After all, chickens love table scraps!
But can chickens eat avocado? Is it safe for them, or is it high in toxicity for birds? Continue reading to find out more about the pros and cons of feeding your chickens avocado.
Chickens Can Eat Only the Flesh of an Avocado
Chickens love most fruits, like watermelon, apples, apricots, and pears. They’re amazing treats to give a chicken when they’ve been working hard on the farm. They’re nutrient-dense and completely safe for chickens to eat. But are avocados part of these healthy fruits for chickens?
The answer is quite complicated. Only some parts of the avocado are safe for chickens to eat, while others are quite toxic and can do more harm than good.
The part of the avocado that you can feed your chickens is the delicious, fat-rich flesh of the fruit. This part isn’t just delicious, but it’s usually pretty safe for bird consumption. It has a bunch of health benefits for chickens too, which we’ll talk about later.
However, you want to avoid feeding your chickens the skin, pits, leaves, and seed of the avocado at all costs. These parts of the fruit contain persin—a fungicidal toxin that is harmless to humans, but poisonous to chickens.
Sometimes, persin will absorb into the flesh of the fruit from the seed. So, if you prefer to err on the side of caution, don’t even give your chickens avocado flesh. If you do want to give them avocado as a treat, do so only in small doses to minimize risk.
What Happens When Chickens Eat Avocado Peel?
When a chicken accidentally ingests avocado skin and gets persin poisoning, the symptoms appear pretty quickly. Signs such as weakness, a higher heart rate, apathy, and difficulty breathing can appear in as fast as 15 minutes. Some will even have disordered feathers.
If a chicken ingests large amounts of persin, it may show severe respiratory symptoms which can lead to asphyxia (suffocation), and then death quite soon after. The scary thing is that this can all happen within 12-24 hours of eating avocado, so there’s not much time to save your chickens.
Aside from the skin, persin is found in the seed of the avocado, too. Thankfully, chickens intuitively ignore that part of the fruit when they’re eating the flesh. But to be safe, make sure that you take the seed out of the avocado before feeding the fleshy part to your flock.
Nervous about accidentally feeding your chickens other table scraps that aren’t good for them? Check out this video to see which “human” foods you shouldn’t feed your flock:
Which Chickens Are at Risk of Avocado Poisoning?
While you should avoid giving all your chickens the dangerous, potentially toxic parts of the avocado plant, some chickens are at higher risk of poisoning.
These include your older, weaker chickens that might already have underlying heart or respiratory diseases. If you were to feed your flock some avocado flesh, make sure that the seniors of the flock only get a tiny amount.
Smaller chickens are also at high risk of poisoning from avocados. Avoid giving smaller birds and chicks of any breed any part of the avocado. Go instead for healthier alternatives if you want to give them some treats.
But the Flesh of Avocados Have Some Benefits, Too
While the flesh of avocados might still have trace amounts of persin, giving your chicken some of this fruit in moderation can still be safe. Plus, there are quite a few benefits your flock can get out of this yummy fruit.
1. Fiber helps with digestion
Avocado contains fiber, which is a must for the regulation of digestive issues in chickens. Fiber helps prevent issues like constipation and diarrhea in chickens.
Note, however, that there are still better sources of fiber out there for your flock. These include fiber-rich vegetables and healthy grains.
2. Riboflavin boosts egg production
Riboflavin—also known as vitamin B12—is also present in avocados. This vitamin helps chickens produce healthy red blood cells and can also boost the quality of the eggs your hens lay. It’s a nutrient that chickens need in their overall development on the farm.
3. Healthy fats for yummier poultry products
Avocado is a popular source of healthy fat, aka omega fatty acids. These can help reduce inflammation in your chickens, which is helpful for older members of the flock that might suffer from arthritis or joint inflammation.
4. Niacin for better joint health
Avocado also has niacin, a B vitamin that is known to strengthen the joints and feathers of chickens. In fact, a niacin deficiency can lead to bow-leggedness in chickens, as well as weak feathering, weak muscles, and even paralysis.
5. Phosphorus for strong feathers
Lastly, avocado flesh has phosphorus, which is known to help chickens grow stronger feathers and bones. It also helps hens produce strong, sturdy eggshells.
How to Feed Avocados to Chickens
It’s best to get the opinion of a veterinarian or poultry expert to see if feeding your flock avocado is a good idea. If you’ve weighed the pros and cons of feeding avocado to your chickens and still want to proceed with letting them have a taste of the fruit’s flesh, here’s the safest way to do it:
- Pick out only ripe avocados. These avocados are soft and easier to puree or mash, so your chickens’ intestines will have an easier time digesting it too
- Slice the avocado in two and take the seed out. Remember, the seed contains persin, so you shouldn’t give it to your chickens.
- Scoop the flesh out of the skin. This is probably the most important step of the process. You don’t want your chickens to accidentally ingest even a little bit of persin. So, make sure you’ve removed the flesh from the skin before giving it to your flock.
- Mash the fruit with a fork until it’s soft and easy to nibble at.
- Put the avocado flesh in a shallow bowl and serve it to your chickens. Make sure you only put small amounts of avocado in the bowl.
- Observe your chickens for any bad reactions to the fruit. If you see any symptoms of avocado poisoning in any of your chickens, call your trusted poultry expert immediately to ask for help.
Safer Foods to Feed Your Chickens Instead
Most of a chicken’s diet should be from their regular, commercially produced feed. Chicken feed is made specifically to meet the dietary needs of chickens to ensure that they grow strong and healthy.
Around 90% of what a chicken eats daily should be their feed. The rest of their diet can be treats, like table scraps or foraged proteins from the wild.
There are plenty of possible treats you can give your chickens that are safer and healthier than avocados. Here are some of those nutritious options:
1. Berry fruits, like strawberries and blueberries
Berries are rich in antioxidants that protect chickens from free radicals and oxidative damage that can harm their bodies. Thanks to high amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, manganese, and more, berries also boost their immune systems and give them extra defense against illnesses.
2. Low-calorie fruits and vegetables
Avocado is a high-calorie fruit, which makes chickens susceptible to harmful weight gain. Instead of feeding them avocados as a snack, you might want to go for low-calorie, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetable options instead, like lettuce, watermelon, eggplant, asparagus, cucumber, and broccoli.
3. Grains like wheat and oats for fiber
While avocados can be a source of fiber for chickens, grains might be a better option for them. Not only do grains like wheat, oats, corn, and barley have fiber, but they also have carbohydrates to help energize your chickens. Plus, they’re safer to eat because they don’t have toxins.
Avocado is a tricky food to feed your chickens. While its flesh is healthy and provides tons of health benefits like improving egg production and boosting bone and joint health, its skin and pits contain persin—a toxin that can lead to asphyxia and even death in birds.
Your chickens should only be fed the flesh of avocados. Other parts of the fruit should immediately be tossed out. But since there are also trace amounts of persin in avocado flesh, weighing the risks of feeding it to your chickens is up to you.
If you’re iffy about feeding avocado to your chickens, go for healthier, safer alternatives, like berries, grains, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, kale, and other fruits and veggies with no toxins. Remember—when it comes to the lives of your chickens, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.