If you keep chickens, you’re sure to know how much they enjoy receiving a variety of snacks and treats to break up the monotony of their regular feed, but you’ll probably also be aware that some foods are best avoided.
So what about peas? Are they safe for chickens to eat or do they come under the category of foods chickens can’t be fed? And how should you prepare them for your chickens? In this post, we look at questions like these and more as we answer, can chickens eat peas?
Can Chickens Eat Peas? The short answer
Before we get into the details of chickens and peas, let’s start with a simple answer to a simple question.
Can chickens eat peas? Yes, they can. They enjoy eating peas, it can be entertaining for them to peck around for peas (and for us to watch!), and peas are full of all kinds of healthy nutrients – so if you want to feed peas to your birds, you can go right ahead.
However, there’s a bit more to it than just this, so now let’s take a look at feeding peas to chickens in a bit more depth.
Are peas good for chickens?
So chickens can eat peas, but are peas good for them?
Yes, peas are a nutritious food for chickens containing plenty of beneficial goodness that will help your chickens thrive.
Peas are mainly known as a source of protein – depending on the variety, they can contain between 5 and 15% protein. Furthermore, they are a good source of carbs as well as dietary fiber.
They are also packed full of vitamins, including vitamins A, C, K and several types of vitamin B. In terms of minerals, they are a good source of calcium and iron, and they also contain some magnesium, potassium and selenium.
So in short, peas are a highly nutritious treat for your birds that will help ensure they remain strong and in good health – and it’s even thought that feeding peas to hens can improve the quality of their egg yolks.
Which type of peas can chickens eat?
Chickens can eat any type of edible peas, so whatever peas you have growing in your garden – or whichever variety you buy to eat – you can also feed them to your chickens.
The exception is sweet peas, which we’ll come to in a moment, but other than that, all types of peas are suitable for chickens.
Can they eat the pods and other parts of the plant?
As well as the peas themselves, you can also feed the pea pods to your chickens.
Generally speaking, the pods will have a lower protein content than the peas, but they’ll have a higher fiber content.
The only thing is, some chickens might not want to eat them – so the best option is to give them the option and let them decide for themselves.
The same goes for any other parts of the pea plant. Chickens can eat them if they want to, but they might not want to, in which case it’s up to them.
Is there anything you need to watch out for
There are a couple of things you need to be aware of when feeding peas to chickens, and the first is that they shouldn’t be given peas that have been salted.
If you’re going to feed cooked peas to chickens, don’t cook them in salted water – and certainly don’t feed them peas from your plate if you added salt while you were eating them.
The other thing to consider is whether to feed chickens dried peas.
Some people say it’s ok, while others say it should be avoided, the rationale being that dried peas are harder for chickens to digest.
In reality, it’s probably fine to feed chickens dried peas since they will be broken down efficiently in the chickens’ gizzards.
However, just to be on the safe side, it’s probably better to soak dried peas overnight before feeding them to chickens to make them easier to digest.
Split peas are also a possibility. Split peas are simply dried peas that have been split in two – and since this makes them easier to digest than whole dried peas, this could be a better option.
Although you can feed all kinds of edible peas to chickens, you should never feed them sweet peas or any other part of the sweet pea plant since they’re toxic to chickens – and they’re toxic for us too for that matter.
Sweet peas are an ornamental plant that’s grown for its flowers, but the seeds are not for eating.
However, chickens won’t realize this, so if you have sweet pea plants growing in your garden, make sure you keep your chickens well away from them, or you may end up with some sick chickens on your hands – or potentially, even worse.
Can chicks eat peas?
Yes, they can. You can start introducing peas to your babies’ diets from around three weeks – but avoid giving them dried peas at this age since they will be too difficult to digest and they may even cause your chicks to choke.
Can chickens eat chickpeas?
What about chickpeas? Can chickens eat those?
Yes, they can. Chickpeas are not actually a type of pea, but they’re still perfectly fine to give to chickens – and they happen to be an extremely rich source of protein, so they will be highly beneficial for your birds.
How to feed peas to chickens
Chickens can be fed all varieties of edible peas, and they can be served in just about any form, so there’s nothing special you need to do to prepare them.
As we mentioned above, avoid giving chickens peas that have been salted, but other than this, you can give them raw fresh peas, cooked fresh peas, frozen peas, dried peas (preferably soaked), peas in the pod or peas out of the pod.
Bear in mind that raw peas are more nutritious because cooking removes some of the nutrients – but chickens may prefer cooked peas, just as most people do.
The best thing is to experiment to see what works best with your flock.
However, many people find spreading peas over the floor of the run and allowing the chickens to forage for them works well since it keeps them busy and gives them something to do – and most chickens seem to enjoy it.
Alternatively, you can mix peas in with your chickens’ regular food to supplement the essential nutrients they get from that with the extra nutrients found in peas.
Remember to always clear up any leftovers after mealtimes because food left out on the floor can easily attract rodents and other pests – and peas can go moldy, which may also make your chickens sick if they then eat them.
Moderation – the 10% rule
The key to feeding peas to chickens, like with any other treat food, is moderation since peas shouldn’t make up too high a proportion of their diet.
Chickens have very specific nutritional needs, and commercial chicken feed is specially designed to provide them with everything they require.
Supplementing their regular feed with treats such as peas can add important extra nutrients to their diet while also making things more interesting by giving them some different flavors to experience.
However, if they receive too many treats, they may begin to neglect their regular feed, and this will mean they end up missing out on some of the essential nutrients it contains.
This in turn can lead to reduced egg-laying production, and in extreme cases, your chickens can become malnourished.
To avoid this, you should always remember the 10% rule that states that chickens’ diets should never be made up of more than 10% treats like peas or anything else.
The other 90% should come from their regular, balanced chicken feed, which will ensure they are receiving all the nutrients they need to stay happy, healthy and productive.
Pro tip – freeze peas in summer
We mentioned above that you can feed chickens frozen peas, and in the summer, this is a great way to help your birds keep cool.
You don’t need to defrost the peas first – simply pour some pout into a bowl and let your chickens have them.
They will love pecking up the small, hard frozen peas, and since they’re still cold, they will also help lower your chickens’ body temperature.
Your birds are sure to enjoy this experience – in a similar way to how most people enjoy eating a cold ice cream when the mercury starts to rise!
A healthy nutritious snack your birds will love
Peas are extremely healthy and nutritious for chickens, and most chickens love the taste – and they also enjoy chasing around after them in their run as they try to peck up as many as they can.
As always when feeding snacks and treats to chickens, remember that moderation is the key and don’t forget the 10% rule – but other than this, you should have no concerns about feeding peas to your flock as an occasional treat as part of a varied and balanced diet.