You may have heard that papaya is considered a kind of superfood for humans due to all the amazing nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants they contain, so you may be wondering if you can give them to chickens too.
However, as most chicken keepers are aware, there are some foods that we can eat that should be kept off chickens’ menus. So what about this deliciously juicy tropical fruit? To help you understand the answer, in this post, we look at the question, can chickens eat papayas?
Can Chickens Eat Papaya? The short answer
Let’s start with the short answer. Can chickens eat papayas? Yes, they can.
Most chickens love the taste and soft texture of ripe papayas, but more than this, papayas are also extremely good for chickens’ health in a wide range of different ways.
So to find out more about feeding papayas to chickens and all the benefits they can bring, let’s delve in and look at the question in a bit more detail.
What are papayas?
Let’s start by saying a few words about what papayas are so we know what we’re dealing with.
Papayas are the fruit of the papaya tree, which is known scientifically as Carica papaya.
They are a tropical fruit that was originally domesticated in Mesoamerica, but they are now commonly grown in many countries around the world – indeed, nowadays, by far the world’s largest grower of papayas is India.
There’s some confusion over exactly what a papaya is since papayas are also known as “pawpaws”, which is accepted as another correct term for the fruit.
However, a non-tropical fruit from North America that’s known scientifically as Asimina triloba is also commonly called a pawpaw – but it’s not the same as a papaya.
In other words, a tropical papaya can correctly be called a pawpaw, but a North American pawpaw isn’t a papaya – they’re two quite different types of fruit.
In any case, in this post, we’re talking about papayas, Carica papaya, and not North American pawpaws, Asimina triloba – so we hope that’s all cleared up!
Which parts of a papaya can chickens eat?
Now we understand which fruit we’re talking about, let’s get back to feeding them to chickens.
We said chickens can eat papayas, but does that just include the flesh, or can they eat the other parts too?
The good news is that chickens can eat all parts of the papaya, and that includes the flesh, the black seeds found in the center, the skin from the fruit and even the leaves from the plants.
All parts of the papaya fruit and the leaves from the plant have different benefits for chickens, so let’s move on to talking about those in detail now.
Are papayas good for chickens?
Papayas are not only delicious for humans and chickens alike, but they’re also packed full of nutritional goodness, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. This means they have both nutritional value and medicinal value too. So let’s break it down.
A papaya consists of about 88% water, and its main nutritional value is as a carbohydrate, which makes up around 11% of its mass. They are low in fat but provide some dietary fiber.
They are an especially rich source of vitamin C, containing more than oranges, the fruit most people tend to associate with having a high vitamin C content.
They also contain a good amount of folate along with smaller amounts of most other vitamins.
They also contain some important minerals, notably magnesium and potassium, as well as smaller amounts of several others.
Furthermore, they also contain antioxidants, which have wide-ranging health benefits for chickens (and us!).
Eating papaya is even thought to improve the quality of chickens’ eggs as well as improving the color of their yolk.
Aside from their nutritional value, papayas are also known to have many medicinal benefits that will help your chickens fight off disease and infection to remain in optimal health.
Papayas are thought to have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiparasitic properties while also being able to boost the immune system of chickens.
Benefits of the seeds
While the flesh of a papaya fruit does not contain a large amount of protein, the edible seeds contain more – and chickens will happily gobble them up along with the rest of the papaya.
In addition, the seeds can help fight against bacterial infections such as Staphylococcus, Bacillus cereus, E. coli, Salmonella and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. They have also shown promise in treating certain intestinal parasites.
Benefits of the skin
Like the seeds, the skin of a papaya contains more protein than the flesh of the fruit, and it also provides a higher proportion of dietary fiber, which is important for digestion and gut health.
Benefits of the leaves
Even the leaves of the papaya plant seem to be beneficial to chickens, and there is good evidence that they can be used as an antiparasitic treatment for coccidiosis as a natural alternative to anticoccidial drugs.
Feeding papaya leaves to chickens may also help increase egg-laying productivity.
Is there anything to worry about?
So with all these wonderful benefits to feeding your chickens papaya, is there anything to worry about?
Well, yes, there is – but nothing too serious.
The first thing to remember is that you shouldn’t feed unripe papaya to chickens. Although it isn’t toxic to chickens, it contains papain, which may damage the esophagus.
Green, unripe papaya is a common ingredient in some Southeast Asian cuisines, but even if people are happy to eat it, that doesn’t mean you should feed it to your chickens, so you’re better off waiting until the fruit is ripe before letting them have it.
The only other real issue is if you buy non-organic papayas from a grocery store, in which case the skin will likely have pesticide residue on it.
You can still feed non-organic papayas to your chickens, but you should remove the skin (and not let them eat it) or wash them thoroughly first.
However, if you buy organic papayas, it will be much better for your birds – and even better still is to grow them yourself. That way, you can guarantee that they are completely organic and haven’t been sprayed with pesticides, and you can also feed your birds the leaves.
How to feed papaya to chickens
Since chickens can eat all parts of the papaya fruit along with the leaves, there’s nothing special you need to do to prepare a papaya for them – although you have several options for how to feed it to them.
The first – and simplest – is just to give them the whole ripe, raw papaya, skin and all, and leave them to peck at it. This way, they will eat the skin, the flesh and the seeds, gaining the maximum benefits from it.
If you have the leaves, you can also throw those in too and let them eat whatever they want.
However, if you do it this way, there’s a chance your birds might fight over a single papaya fruit, so chopping up one or more papayas and placing the pieces in a dish can be a better way to ensure your chickens share the fruit.
This will allow the less dominant members of the flock to grab a piece of papaya and then retreat to somewhere safe to enjoy it in peace without having to worry about it being snatched by a more senior or dominant chicken.
Can you feed papaya to chicks?
You can also feed papaya to chicks, although you probably shouldn’t introduce it before around three weeks. When you introduce papaya to chicks, do so slowly to allow them to get used to it.
It’s also a good idea to chop it up into small pieces to make it easier for them to eat, but since papaya is so soft and juicy, the flesh is ideal for young chicks – although you’ll want to avoid giving them seeds and skin until they’re a bit older.
As with any treat, the key is feeding chickens papaya in moderation.
Chickens have specific dietary needs, and these are met by specially formulated commercial chicken feed.
However, if they eat too much treat food – even highly nutritious things like papaya – it may cause them to miss out on some of the vital nutrients they need since they will fill up on papaya instead of eating enough of their regular feed.
The best way to avoid this is to always remember the 10% rule that states that treats should only constitute 10% of what chickens eat.
The other 90% should come from their regular feed, and this will ensure they always receive the correct balanced diet they need while also benefiting from the extra nutrients, vitamins and minerals that treats like papaya can provide.
Pro tip – freeze papaya pieces for a tasty summer snack
In summer, you can also freeze pieces of papaya before serving them to your birds. Your chickens will then love picking up the frozen pieces of papaya, which will help keep them cool while also keeping them hydrated during the hottest months of the year.
One of the best fruits you can give chickens – in moderation
So as we’ve seen, papayas are a superfood for chickens just as much as they are for us, and they’re one of the most beneficial treats you can give them.
However, you always need to remember to feed treats to chickens in moderation – but if you stick to the 10% rules, papayas are likely to become one of your chickens’ favorite snacks.