If you keep chickens, you’re probably aware of the benefits of feeding your birds a range of healthy treats, but there are some foods you should avoid giving them.
As a result, you may be hesitant to feed cherries to your flock, so to put your mind at rest, in this post, we discuss the question, can chickens eat cherries?
Can Chickens Eat Cherries? The short answer
Before we look at feeding cherries to chickens in more depth, let’s start with the short answer.
When feeding cherries to chickens, there are many benefits as well as a few things to be careful about, which we’ll talk about in more detail in just a moment – but on the whole, it’s fine to give your chickens cherries.
Now let’s dive in and look at the various aspects of this topic in more detail.
How beneficial are cherries to chickens?
Most people know that eating plenty of fruit and veg is vital if we want to maintain a healthy balanced diet, and the same is true for chickens.
Chickens are omnivores that are happy to peck up just about anything they come across, and adding fresh fruit and vegetables to their diet will help ensure they remain in the best possible health while keeping their egg-laying productivity high.
Cherries in particular are rich sources of vitamins A and C as well as minerals including potassium, iron, magnesium and calcium – and they also provide all-important fiber to help keep your chickens’ digestive systems in good working order.
This means feeding cherries to your chickens will not only give them a tasty treat that love, but it will also provide a whole range of additional nutrients to supplement those they usually receive from their regular feed.
Which types can they eat?
Generally speaking, chickens can eat any type of cherries you want to give them, although some chickens might prefer sweeter varieties rather than the more sour types.
However, this is entirely dependent on the individual tastes of your birds as well as the kinds of foods they are used to eating.
Chickens can also eat dried cherries, but be especially careful about giving them too many of these since they can easily cause diarrhea.
The only ones to avoid are cherry food items such as glazed cherries, cherries covered in chocolate or cherries preserved in alcohol – although we’re sure most chicken keepers wouldn’t dream of giving anything like this to their chickens anyway!
Are there any dangers to be worried about?
Although it’s safe to feed cherries to chickens, there are a few things that some chicken keepers might be wary of, including the pits, the stalk and the skins, so let’s look at each of these now.
One of the things chicken keepers might be most worried about when feeding cherries to chickens is the pits, and this is for two reasons.
The first worry is that cherry pits are physically quite large, and they may pose a choking hazard to a chicken if it tries to swallow one.
However, despite their bird-brained reputation, chickens are no fools, and they are quite able to distinguish between the delicious flesh of a cherry and the inedible stone it contains inside.
This means they will usually peck at the cherry and eat flesh while discarding the pit.
And even if they do inadvertently swallow a pit, the risk of choking on it is still low. In practice, the chicken will usually swallow the pit, which will then work its way through the chicken’s digestive system before being ejected out of the other end.
So this is really nothing you need to be overly concerned about.
The second concern that some people might have is that cherry pits – like apple pits and certain others – are known to contain cyanide (or a substance that changes into cyanide when eaten).
This might sound quite alarming, and knowing this, some chicken keepers will be understandably worried about feeding a deadly poison to their beloved birds.
However, in reality, it’s actually nothing to worry about.
The amount of cyanide contained in one cherry pit is minimal, and a chicken would need to consume a great many pits for them to have any adverse effects.
Furthermore, the cyanide in the pit is contained inside, and since the pit will usually pass right through the chicken’s gut whole, the chicken won’t be exposed to any poison.
So again, this is nothing to worry about!
Like the pits, the stems of cherries may pose a minimal choking risk, but it’s really nothing to be concerned about since chickens won’t usually eat the stalks, and even if they do, there is only a slight chance it will cause the animal any problems.
However, since it’s not a big job to remove the stems before giving the cherries to your chickens, you might as well do this first, even if it’s just to save you the hassle of picking them up again after the chickens have finished eating.
You may sometimes hear that you need to remove the skins from cherries before you feed them to chickens, but this is unnecessary.
Chickens can digest the skin of cherries, and whatever their digestive system can’t deal with will simply be passed out of the other end anyway.
As a result, removing the skins from cherries before feeding them to chickens is not necessary.
How to feed cherries to chickens
When feeding cherries to chickens, there’s no particular trick to it.
If we’re talking about adult chickens, you can simply give them whole cherries – with stalks removed if you prefer.
If, despite what we’ve said about the pits, you are still concerned about the risk they pose, you can remove them – but as we’ve already mentioned, this is not really necessary.
You can also remove the pits and chop the cherries up for your chickens, something that’s a good option if you’re feeding cherries to chicks.
Some people also like to chop cherries up and mix the bits with other types of fruit or even mix them into their chickens’ regular pellet feed.
You can also spread the food over the floor of the run to encourage foraging behavior, but if you do this, don’t forget to clean up after feeding time is over because pieces of leftover food can attract pests, and moldy fruit can also harm your chickens’ health.
But generally speaking, you can feed cherries to your chickens in whichever way is most convenient for you, so you don’t need to worry too much about having to prepare the cherries in some kind of special way.
Can chickens eat too many cherries?
Even though you don’t need to worry about how to prepare the cherries for your chickens, there is one thing you’ll need to consider, and that’s how many cherries they get – because overfeeding them cherries or other treats can be detrimental to their health.
So how many cherries should they be eating?
There’s no hard and fast rule about this, but a good guideline would be to give each chicken two to four cherries two or three times a week.
The key here is moderation since a few cherries or other treats can be extremely beneficial to chickens, but giving them too many can be harmful.
The best thing to remember is the 10% rule, which means only about 10% of a chicken’s diet should be made up of treats – and the other 90% should come from their regular food.
This is because commercial chicken feed is specially formulated to meet all of their nutritional needs, but if they gorge on treats, they will neglect their regular food and will end up missing out on some of the vital nutrition it is designed to provide.
This, in turn, may lead to your chickens becoming less productive layers – or in extreme cases, they may even become malnourished.
The same is true of any treats, not just cherries. But with cherries in particular, you should be careful not to feed them too many since, although cherries are low in calories, they do contain a certain amount of sugar, and too much sugar can damage a chicken’s health.
If we’re talking about chicks, you also need to be careful. You can feed chicks cherries, but you should cut them up into small pieces first, and only feed them a small amount – not more than one cherry per chick a couple of times a week should be fine.
Pro tip – introduce cherries slowly
Like with any new food, introduce cherries to your birds’ diet slowly. The first time, start with just one cherry per chicken and then slowly increase the dose. This will avoid them suffering any ill effects from the new food.
A delicious treat as part of a properly balanced diet
As we’ve seen, cherries are fine for chickens and can bring them many nutritional benefits as part of a balanced diet.
As with anything, the key is feeding cherries to chickens in moderation – but as long as you follow the 10% rule, your chickens are sure to love cherries as an occasional delicious and healthy snack.