Every conscientious and caring chicken keeper will be aware that feeding chickens a range of nutritious treats is a great way to ensure they remain happy, healthy and productive while also keeping things interesting by providing them with a varied diet.
However, while many foods are fine for chickens to eat, some are best avoided, and you may be wondering what the deal is with beets. So to give you all the information you need about this topic, in this post, we answer the question, can chickens eat beets?
Can chickens eat beets?
Before we get into the details of feeding beets to chickens, let’s make things easy by giving a simple answer to a simple question.
Can chickens eat beets? Yes, most certainly they can. Not only do chickens love pecking at beets, but they’re also packed with valuable nutrients, minerals and antioxidants, so they’re great for chickens’ health.
Indeed, beets are considered a type of superfood – for humans and chickens alike – so chickens can eat beets, but more than this, they should eat beets because they’re extremely beneficial to their health.
So now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s jump in and examine the question in more depth.
What are beets?
Before we come to the details of feeding chickens beets, let’s say a few words about what beets are to make sure we know what we’re talking about.
The beet plant, known scientifically as Beta vulgaris, is an edible flowering plant that was first domesticated millennia ago in the ancient Middle East.
With its distinctive vibrant purple color, most people are familiar with the root of this plant, and this is the part we most commonly eat – either raw, pickled or cooked.
However, the leaves are also edible, and when young, can be eaten raw in salads – alternatively, when mature, they are usually boiled and eaten like spinach.
Chickens can eat beets too, so now let’s look at which parts you can feed them.
Which parts can chickens eat?
Just as with humans, chickens can eat all parts of the beet plant, including the root and the leaves.
The different parts of the plant are all packed with nutritional goodness that will help your chickens thrive, so nothing should go to waste.
Chickens can also eat beets in all forms, which includes raw, cooked or pickled.
This means if you have any pieces of pickled beet left over from your salad, you can hand it over to your chickens, and they’ll love helping you to finish it all off.
However, even better, if you have a vegetable garden and grow beets of your own, you can also feed raw beets and leaves to your chickens as an occasional treat that they’re sure to enjoy.
Are beets good for chickens?
We’ve already mentioned several times that beets are great for chickens’ health, so let’s have a look at the details of this now.
In terms of the root of the plant, beets consist of 88% water, with another 10% being made up of carbohydrates. However, for a vegetable, they also contain a good proportion of protein and so are a nutritious option for your flock.
They are a rich source of vitamins, especially folate (vitamin B9) and are also a good source of vitamin C.
Beets are also rich in manganese, an important mineral that helps with bone development as well as protecting against the effects of free radicals.
They are also known to have antioxidant properties and are even thought to help lower blood pressure.
Beets also provide some dietary fiber, with the leaves being a richer source of fiber than the root.
Raw beet contains the most nutrients, but pickled beets also contain most of the nutrients found in beets in the raw state.
Cooking, on the other hand, reduces the nutritional values of beets – but even cooked beets are a highly nutritious food for both humans and chickens.
Is there anything to watch out for?
If you want to feed beets to your chickens, there’s not much you need to worry about since beets are good for chickens in almost any form.
Beets that are pickled in any combination of salt, sugar, water or vinegar are fine for chickens to eat since the quantities of sugar and salt are too low to be dangerous for their health.
However, you should make sure that no other preservatives have been used since these are not good for chickens to consume.
Something else to be aware of is that if you buy beets for your chickens from a grocery store, you should always choose organic beets. This is because non-organic beets will have been sprayed with pesticides that can be harmful to your chickens’ health.
The best of all, though, is simply to grow your own – because that way, you know exactly what’s been used in growing them, and you can be sure that they are 100% safe for your birds.
Finally, if you are feeding your chickens leftovers from your plate, make sure you haven’t added any salt to what you were eating – otherwise, the extra salt content could be harmful to your chickens.
How to feed beets to chickens
Since beets can be fed to chickens in any form, there’s nothing special you need to do to prepare them, giving you several options for how to feed them to your flock.
If you have whole, raw beets, you can simply feed them to your birds as they are, and your chickens will enjoy pecking at this delicious snack. However, you might consider cutting the beets into halves or quarters to make it easier for your chickens to share.
With pickled beets, you can place them in a bowl for your chickens and leave that in their run for them to help themselves.
The leaves can also be left in the run for your chickens to peck at raw.
If you have cooked beet, you can also feed it to your chickens – but just make sure that no salt was added during cooking, or it won’t be suitable for their consumption.
Can chicks eat beets?
When it comes to chicks, you can also feed beets to them from about their third week.
When feeding beets to chicks, it’s a good idea to cut them up into small pieces to make them easier to eat. Pickled beet is also ideal for chicks since it’s soft and easy for them to peck at.
As with any food, introduce beets to your chicks gradually. Give them a little bit at first, just so they can get used to the taste. Then after that, you can gradually increase their dose.
When feeding beets to chickens – as with any other type of treat – the most important word to remember is moderation.
Chickens have very specific nutritional requirements, and if their requirements are not met, their egg-laying productivity may suffer, their eggs won’t be of the same quality and in extreme cases, they may become malnourished.
Commercial chicken feed is specially formulated to provide all the nutrition that a chicken needs, and this can then be supplemented by giving them occasional healthy treats.
However, if you feed them too many treats, they may stop eating their regular food, just like a child who won’t eat their dinner after gorging on candy and chips.
To avoid this, you should always stick to the 10% rule. This rule states that chickens’ diets should only consist of up to 10% treats, with the rest of what they eat coming from their regular feed.
Beets don’t contain all the nutrients a chicken needs, so they should only be given as a treat – they shouldn’t constitute a chicken’s main source of food.
However, as long as beets – along with other treats – don’t make up more than 10% of what your chickens eat, they make an excellent nutritious snack that can supplement your birds’ regular feed while also adding extra nutrients to their diet.
This means giving chickens beets two or three times a week is fine – but more than that is probably too much.
And one more thing…
If you feed your chickens beets, there’s one other thing you should know about…
Chickens that eat a lot of beets may start producing red or pink poops, especially the day after.
This might shock or worry you when you first see it, but it’s natural and due to the pigmentation on the beet, so you don’t need to be concerned that your chickens are pooping blood.
Similarly, you may sometimes notice chickens with red around their beaks, but again, this comes from the beet and is nothing to worry about – it doesn’t mean your chickens have been fighting or trying to eat each other!
A healthy superfood that chickens love
Beets are among the best treats you can give to your chickens due to their nutritional value and all the health benefits they can bring.
With beets, like any other treats, you should only feed them to your chickens in moderation, but as part of a balanced and varied diet, beets are fine to give to chickens – and your chickens are sure to love eating them too!