If you often use cilantro in your cooking, rather than throw it away, you might be wondering if you can give it to your chickens. After all, many fruits and vegetables can be highly beneficial to chickens – but others, as you probably know, should be avoided.
To help with this dilemma, in this post, we talk about whether your chickens can be given this pungent herb as we answer the question, can chickens eat cilantro?
Can Chickens Eat Cilantro? The short answer
Before we go into a more detailed discussion of chickens and cilantro, let’s start with a simple answer to the basic question.
Can chickens eat cilantro? Yes, most certainly they can.
Most chickens seem to love cilantro and will eat all parts of the plant.
Furthermore, the various parts of the plant are all packed with various valuable nutrients, vitamins and minerals – as we’ll see in just a moment – so not only will your chickens love eating it, but they’ll also receive a lot of nutritional benefits from consuming it.
But as ever, there’s a little more to it than just that, so now let’s dive in and look at the question in more depth.
What is cilantro?
Cilantro is an annual herb that’s native to large parts of southern Europe, northern Africa and southwestern Asia.
In the regions where it grows naturally, it has been cultivated and used as both an herb (the leaves) and a spice (the dried seeds) for millennia.
Nowadays, it’s an important element in Mexican cuisine, and the roots are also a key ingredient in Thai cooking – which shows how far around the globe this plant has spread.
Cilantro is also used in a wide range of culinary styles in many other parts of the world, and the leaves are said to add a lemon and lime citrus flavor to dishes while the seeds impart a nutty, spicy, slightly orange-flavored nuance to what’s being cooked.
What’s the difference between cilantro and coriander?
You may have also heard the term “coriander”, so what’s the difference between cilantro and coriander?
The answer is that they are the same plant, but in American English, the word cilantro is preferred. Cilantro is the Spanish word for the plant, and its use in American English comes from the ubiquitous use of the herb in Mexican cooking.
In British English, coriander is the word that’s commonly used. This word comes from the French word for the plant, coriandre, and is also closer to the word that’s used in several other European languages other than Spanish.
Confusingly, in American English, the seeds are often referred to as coriander seeds or sometimes just coriander, but they still come from the same cilantro/coriander plant.
But enough of semantics and etymology – let’s get back to chickens and cilantro!
Why is cilantro good for chickens?
So chickens can eat cilantro, but is there any point in them eating it?
As it turns out, cilantro is packed full of goodness, both in the leaves and in the seeds – and chickens can eat both.
The leaves are particularly rich in vitamin A, which is vital for growth and is also important for eyesight, vitamin C, which plays a major role in maintaining the immune system, and vitamin K, which plays a role in maintaining bone strength among other things.
The leaves also contain moderate amounts of minerals – whereas the seeds, while containing lower levels of vitamins, contain higher levels of important minerals, including calcium, selenium, iron, magnesium and manganese.
The seeds are also a source of dietary fiber – and the leaves contain 92% water, which is also important for digestion.
So as you can see, there are all kinds of benefits that chickens can receive from eating cilantro leaves and seeds besides just helping to improve the flavor of their meals!
Is there any reason chickens shouldn’t eat cilantro?
There are no real reasons why you shouldn’t give cilantro to chickens, but one thing to bear in mind is that a large minority of people have a strong aversion to its flavor.
Very roughly, around 10% of people can’t stand the flavor of cilantro, describing it as having a soapy, rotten taste – which is quite different to the fresh lemon-and-lime citrus flavor that the other 90% report.
This is due to one gene that dictates how we perceive certain aldehydes in cilantro that give it its flavor.
The 10% of people who hate cilantro have a different version of this gene, which explains why they perceive its taste so differently.
Of course, we can’t ask chickens what they think of the taste, and it’s unclear if chickens have this same gene that alters their perception of the flavor of this herb.
But if you find that most of your chickens seem to throw themselves at the cilantro with gusto while one or two of the others won’t go near it, this could be a possible explanation.
How should you feed cilantro to chickens?
When it comes to preparing cilantro for your chickens, there’s nothing special you need to do since they can eat the whole plant.
This means you can simply give them any spare cilantro leaves – or roots or seeds – you have left over after using it for cooking.
You don’t need to chop it up, and you don’t need to remove the leaves from the stalks since chickens will quite happily devour the stalks too.
The only thing you might need to think about is introducing the herb slowly to your chickens at first so they have time to become accustomed to the flavor.
This means you shouldn’t give them too much the first time – just give them enough for them all to have a taste. And if that goes well, simply up the dose next time and everything should be fine.
From then on, you can just give them whatever you have left each time you use it to cook, and they will happily peck at the leaves and anything else they find.
Alternatively, you might like to chop it up coarsely and throw it in with a mixture of other vegetables or even their regular pellet feed to give everything an interesting new flavor and to give them the chance to benefit from the vital nutrients cilantro contains.
When feeding cilantro to chicks first time, only give them a small amount – and for chicks, you’re probably better off cutting it up first since this will make it easier for them to manage it.
Moderation is the key
When feeding chickens any kind of treat – including cilantro, but also including other types of fruit and vegetables – the most important thing to remember is that treats should be given in moderation.
Chickens have very specific dietary requirements, and commercial chicken feed is formulated specially to meet these needs.
Adding extra treats to their diets can help supplement the nutrition they receive from their regular feed, but if you give them too many treats, they will gorge themselves on the treats and neglect their usual pellet food.
If this happens, your chickens may start missing out on some of the most important nutrients they require to remain in good health – and this may result in reduced egg-laying productivity or even malnourished chickens, depending on the severity of the problem.
The way to avoid this issue is to always remember the 10% rule that tells us only 10% of a chicken’s diet should consist of treats, with the other 90% being made up of their regular formulated feed.
This is less of a problem when feeding chickens a few cilantro leaves than it would be when giving them something more consistent like zucchini or sweet potatoes, but you should still remember not to overdo it with the cilantro nonetheless.
If you give your flock some leftover cilantro leaves to peck at once or twice a week, everything should be fine – but you shouldn’t be giving them treats like this every day.
Since cilantro is less substantial than many other treats, one of the best ways to feed it to chickens is by mixing it in with other foods.
We mentioned above that you don’t need to chop it up, but if you chop up some cilantro leaves and mix it with other food, your chickens will still benefit from all the nutritional goodness of the cilantro but they will also be receiving a more filling meal at the same time.
If you mix cilantro in with some other healthy and nutritious treats and feed it to your chickens a couple of times a week, it should give their health a powerful boost in many ways – all while keeping them happier because they are receiving more interesting and flavorsome food.
Chickens can eat cilantro and usually love it
As we’ve seen, there is no reason why you shouldn’t give chickens cilantro, and indeed, there are many good reasons why you should give it to them, including the health benefits it can bring and the simple fact that they seem to love it.
The only thing to remember is that you shouldn’t overfeed chickens with treats, but apart from that, if you have any spare cilantro after preparing a dish, feel free to let your chickens have it!