Okra is a popular vegetable around the world – it can be used to make a range of tasty dishes, and it’s also full of healthy goodness, so as a chicken keeper, you may be wondering if you can share it with your birds.
While many foods can make great additions to a chicken’s diet, others need to be kept off the menu. So what about okra? To help you understand the answer, in this post, we discuss the question, can chickens eat okra?
Can Chickens Eat Okra? The short answer
In a moment, we’ll go into more detail about chickens and okra, but let’s start by making things simple and giving ourselves a short answer.
Can chickens eat okra? Yes, they can. Chickens can eat the fruit of the okra plant – also known as the pods – and if they want to, they can also eat the rest of the plant since there’s nothing in it that’s harmful to them.
Furthermore, okra contains a range of beneficial nutrients that can supplement the nutrients that chickens receive from their regular feed.
So if you have some spare okra left over after cooking a meal – or if you have some growing in your garden – there should be no problem giving it to your birds.
But of course, there’s more to the question than just this, so now let’s dive in and look at things in a bit more depth.
What is okra?
So what is okra anyway?
Okra, sometimes known as “lady’s fingers” and known scientifically as Abelmoschu esculentus, is a flowering perennial plant that belongs to the mallow or Malvaceae family. This means it is related to other commercially important plants such as cotton, cacao and durian.
Its origins are unknown, but it could have originated in Africa, South Asia or Southeast Asia.
In any case, it is now a common food around the world, featuring in the cuisines of many countries.
The edible pods are the part we usually eat, and in cooking, they are usually treated as a vegetable. They can be cooked in a variety of ways – but the rest of the plant isn’t usually used for human consumption.
Is okra good for chickens?
We’ve already stated that chickens can eat okra, but is it good for them?
Okra is packed full of a range of important nutrients that are beneficial to chickens.
It contains high levels of both vitamin C and vitamin K along with thiamin (vitamin B1) and folate (vitamin B9).
Furthermore, it is a rich source of magnesium, it contains a good amount of phosphate and it also provides some calcium, potassium, zinc and iron.
In addition, okra is a good source of dietary fiber, which is important in maintaining gut health and keeping the digestive system in good working order by ensuring all waste passes through smoothly.
Okra fruit is also 90% water, so eating okra can also help your chickens stay hydrated.
There’s nothing to worry about though – because, although you may sometimes read online that this makes okra toxic for chickens, the amount of solanine found in this plant is extremely low, so chickens would have to eat an unfeasible amount of it to suffer any ill effects.
So to all intents and purposes, okra can be considered harmless to chickens, and nothing bad will ever come of feeding it to them in reasonable quantities.
Which parts can chickens eat?
You’re convinced that okra can make a good addition to your chickens’ diet, and you happen to have some to hand – but which parts can you give to your chickens to eat?
The pods are the parts we normally treat as food, and those are fine for chickens too – they’re the obvious part to give them.
Inside the pods, you’ll find the okra seeds, and those can be eaten by chickens too. Indeed, they’re higher in protein than the rest of the plant, so chickens should be encouraged to eat them.
When okra pods are young, the seeds are soft and easy for chickens to eat, but as the pods grow older, the seeds begin to harden. This is still nothing to worry about though, and most of your flock will happily devour hard okra seeds without a second thought.
What about the leaves and the stalks? Yes, chickens can eat those too, and these parts will provide a good amount of extra fiber to your birds. Whether they’ll want to eat them if more appetizing options are available is another question, though.
So in short, there’s nothing in an okra plant that will make a chicken sick, and as long as they want to eat it, they can.
Is there anything to be careful about?
With all these positives about feeding okra to chickens, there must be some negatives – so is there anything to watch out for?
If you buy okra from a grocery store, try to buy organic okra for your chickens. This is because non-organic vegetables will have been sprayed with harmful pesticides that your chickens should avoid – since over time, they can build up in their tissues and make them sick.
If you can’t find organic okra – or you don’t want to spend the extra money on expensive veggies for your birds – just make sure you wash the okra thoroughly before feeding it to them to remove any pesticide residue.
However, by far the best option is to grow your own in your garden. This way, you can ensure that the okra is 100% organic and suitable for your birds – and you can also give them the extra parts such as the leaves that you wouldn’t usually be able to buy in a store.
How to feed okra to chickens
When it comes to feeding okra to chickens, there’s nothing special you need to do to prepare it since they can eat everything.
A chicken can easily deal with a whole raw okra pod, so you can just toss them to your birds as they are. This way, your chickens will be able to peck at them, and it will make them work a little harder for their food, giving them something to occupy them and alleviating boredom.
If you want to make it a bit easier for them, you can also chop raw okra and set it down in a bowl for them.
This has the advantage of making it easier for them to share, and less dominant chickens will be able to grab a piece and then retreat to eat it safely out of the way of more overbearing members of the flock who might be tempted to steal their tasty morsel.
One problem you might encounter is that some of your chickens might not be so partial to okra.
As it turns out, chickens are much like us – some love okra while others seem to hate it.
As a result, if you want to get all your chickens to benefit from the nutritional goodness of okra, you might need to be a bit creative.
One solution is chopping some up and mixing it in with other vegetables or fruit that you give your birds as treats, something that might help make it more palatable for the ones that don’t like it so much.
As for the leaves and other parts, the same applies. They can be fed to your birds whole or chopped up, alone or with other treats. But don’t be surprised if some of them turn their beaks up at okra leaves because it’s not every chicken’s cup of tea.
You can also feed cooked okra to your birds as leftovers from your meal – but just make sure it hasn’t been seasoned with salt or prepared with non-chicken-friendly ingredients like onion because this risks damaging their health.
And pickled okra? That’s ok too – but again, make sure it doesn’t contain any other ingredients that chickens can’t eat.
For example, okra pickled in vinegar is fine – but okra pickled in brine or otherwise containing high levels of salt is not.
Always in moderation
However you choose to feed okra to your chickens, you should only ever do so in moderation, and the key to this is following the 10% rule.
90% of a chicken’s diet should come from their regular feed since commercial chicken feed is specifically formulated to meet all their dietary requirements.
This can be supplemented by other types of food that can complement the nutrients in their regular feed, but if they gorge themselves on treats, they may begin to ignore their regular feed, which can lead to them missing out on some of the vital nutrients it contains.
This means that you can feed chickens okra – along with other treats – but the treats combined should never exceed 10% of their overall diet.
A tasty addition to their diets – in moderation
As we’ve seen, okra is perfectly safe for chickens, and what’s more, it’s full of important vitamins and minerals that chickens need to stay happy and productive.
This means you can feel confident feeding okra to your chickens because it won’t make them sick and can provide a range of health-giving benefits. Whether they’ll want to eat it is another question that will depend on the individual birds!