Broccoli is a staple in many households. It’s nutritious as it is versatile and can be put in many homemade dishes. And while it can be a pain getting your kids to eat the stuff, it’s chock-full of vitamins and minerals that are good for you.
But are they also good for your chicken flock? Chickens are known to eat veggies as little treats when they’re not eating their feed. But can chickens eat broccoli?
In this guide, we’ll tell you whether it’s a good idea to give your backyard chickens some of your extra broccoli, and what they would gain from this superfood. We’ll also show you the pros and cons of feeding this vegetable to your beloved chickens.
Chickens Love Eating Fruits and Vegetables
Chickens are known to not be picky eaters. They’ll pretty much peck on anything you give them. They’re omnivores who enjoy foraged meats and plant-based goodies, but most of their diet will consist of their commercial chicken feed.
But occasionally, you can give them table scraps or fresh food from your kitchen as a delicious treat. They love eating fruits and vegetables, and their bodies gain all the benefits from these nutritious foods.
Some of their favorites include berries like strawberries or blueberries. These fruits are rich in antioxidants that protect the body against free radical damage and oxidative stress. Other fruits they love include cherries, apples, bananas, grapes, and melons.
Chickens also love green, leafy vegetables, such as kale, lettuce, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, and more. These veggies are packed with vitamins A and C to boost immunity and support a chicken’s overall development.
We could go on and on about the fruits and veggies that are great for chickens. But let’s zero in on broccoli. Is this cruciferous vegetable a safe food to give your chickens?
Can Chickens Eat Broccoli?
Yes, chickens can eat broccoli! Not only is it safe for them to eat in moderation, but it also gives them so many nutrients they need to grow strong and healthy. Plus, it’s quite a delicious treat for them now and then!
Chickens will eat both the florets and the stems of broccoli. The florets are the dark green “flowers” on the crown of broccoli. Chickens can easily peck on these soft parts, but it’s better to cut them up into tiny pieces.
They can also eat the stalks of broccoli, which are much more nutritious than the broccoli florets. Although humans will cut off the stalks and throw them away, chickens would enjoy chomping down on these tasty scraps that are rich in calcium, iron, vitamin C, and loads of other nutrients.
You can either serve broccoli stalks and florets to your chickens raw or cooked. You can even give it to them mixed with other vegetables that are suitable for their diet, such as cauliflower, peppers, and carrots.
Just make sure not to season these veggies with salt and other spices, as chickens don’t do well with sodium. Give it to them plain and unseasoned. Since broccoli is juicy, it will still taste yummy!
The Benefits of Broccoli for Chickens
As we’ve mentioned, broccoli is good for your chicken’s nutrition. But what nutrients is broccoli abundant in specifically? Here are just a few of them and the benefits they can provide to your flock:
1. Has essential vitamins and minerals
People often call broccoli a superfood because it’s so dense in much-needed vitamins and minerals for humans and animals alike. It’s rich in vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and zinc.
All these nutrients aid in developing strong muscles and bones for your chickens. They also boost immunity to help your chickens defend themselves against illnesses.
2. Rich in protein for stronger feathers
Many would be surprised to learn that broccoli is one of several vegetables that are an excellent source of protein. For every 100 grams of broccoli, there are 2.8 grams of protein packed in it.
Protein is a must for any chicken’s diet because it helps them build muscle and produce high-quality eggs. Chicks and teenage chickens also need a lot of protein to grow and develop properly, which is why regular chicken feed is made with high levels of protein.
Another reason chickens need protein is that it helps them grow strong, beautiful feathers. Maintaining healthy feathers is a must to protect your chickens from cold temperatures and injuries to the skin.
3. Fiber-rich and helps with digestion
Broccoli is also rich in fiber, which helps manage your chickens’ digestion. It promotes healthy bowel movements to flush out toxins and can even help prevent diseases like salmonella. Feeding broccoli as a little treat to your flock is a great way to maintain their gut health.
4. Low-calorie to avoid weight gain
Some chicken treats like cheese, peanut butter, or pasta can be high in calories and can lead to obesity and fatty liver syndrome. Thankfully, broccoli is low-calorie, coming in at 34 calories for every 100 grams. That makes it a terrific snack for chickens that need to manage their weight.
Broccoli is also a great food to give your chickens if they are prone to overeating. Give them broccoli as a little appetizer before they free-range and forage for fatty proteins. That way, they’ll have their tummies filled before they stuff themselves with potentially high-calorie foods.
Broccoli Has Trace Amounts of Goitrogens
But broccoli is far from being the perfect snack for chickens. It has one downside to it, too. Broccoli is a vegetable that is known to have goitrogens—compounds that are known to cause thyroid issues that may lead to abnormal metabolism.
In chickens, goitrogens can cause avian goiter. This disease interferes with the thyroid’s ability to produce the hormones it needs to stay healthy. Symptoms of this sickness include depression in the coop, abnormal and weak feathers, and a decline in reproduction and hatchability.
Now, even if broccoli contains these compounds, they’re only in small, trace amounts and are unlikely to harm your chickens.
They’re nowhere near as dangerous for your chickens as avocados or uncooked beans. Their many nutritional benefits outweigh this one unlikely risk. That said, make sure that you don’t overfeed your flock with broccoli just in case.
How Often Should You Feed Your Chickens Broccoli?
Around 90% of the food your chickens should be eating will come from their commercial feed. These feeds are formulated specifically for the growth of chickens, so it needs to be a staple in their diet. The remaining 10% of their food can come from treats. This is where broccoli falls under.
However, don’t use up the entire 10% of their treat allocation on broccoli. Although this vegetable is rich in many vitamins and minerals, it doesn’t contain all the nutrients chickens need for a healthy, balanced life.
Give them other plant-based goodies they might enjoy too, such as watermelon, celery, cucumbers, pumpkins, and green beans. Serve them some yummy, energizing grains when you can as well. These include oatmeal, corn, rice, barley, and more.
Plus, too much fiber can be bad for chickens. Instead of helping with their digestive health, it can end up causing constipation and abnormal bowel movements. Try to give them broccoli just once or twice a week to avoid these issues.
How to Serve Broccoli to Your Flock
- When choosing broccoli for your chickens, make sure you get one that is free of preservatives and pesticides. These can be toxic to your chickens.
- Rinse the broccoli through running water to get rid of these chemicals and any dirt that may be on the florets and stalks. To be extra sure that the broccoli doesn’t contain harmful bacteria, you can let soak it in water for 10 minutes.
- At this point, you can choose whether to serve the broccoli raw or cooked. If you want to cook it, steaming it is the best way to go. The heat softens up the broccoli, making it easier to chew and digest for your beloved chickens.
- When your broccoli is done cooking, allow it to cool down for a few minutes.
- Chop up the broccoli stalks and florets into tiny, bite-sized pieces. You can always toss the whole thing into the chicken coop, but breaking them down into smaller pieces will make sharing among the flock easier.
- Serve the broccoli chunks to your chickens on a feeding tray or just toss them on the ground. Either way, they will surely be excited to gobble all the yummy broccoli up!
Broccoli is safe to feed to your chickens. It’s full of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that can aid in many health issues, such as your flock’s digestive issues, healthy egg production for hens, and growing strong bones and feathers.
Just don’t forget that broccoli shouldn’t be given to them in large amounts, or they might be vulnerable to thyroid issues. Instead, mix up their vegetable treats with other safe plant-based foods for them to nibble on, such as berries, scratch grains, and other nutrient-dense vegetables.
Next time you find an extra head of broccoli that you have no use for, chop it up and toss it to your chickens as a yummy treat. They’ll surely love you for it!