Quinoa is a well-known superfood for humans, but what about for chickens? Is it ok to give it to them as a treat or is it best avoided?
To give you all the answers you need about this topic, in this post, we answer the question, can chickens eat quinoa?
Can Chickens Eat Quinoa? The short answer
Before we come to the details of feeding quinoa to chickens, let’s start with a simple answer to a simple question.
Can chickens eat quinoa? Yes, they can.
Although quinoa is technically a seed rather than a grain, chickens will love pecking at quinoa like other true grains, and what’s more, quinoa is packed full of an amazing array of beneficial nutrients, which is why it’s seen as a superfood for both humans and chickens alike.
So if you’re looking for a tasty treat to give to your birds that will break up the monotony of their regular diet while also providing them with loads of nutritional goodness, quinoa is easily among the best option available.
But of course, there’s a little more to it than just this – so now let’s look at the question in a bit more depth.
What is quinoa?
Let’s start with the basics – what is quinoa?
Those tiny balls of goodness that have become so popular in recent years are the seeds of the quinoa plant, known scientifically as Chenopodium quinoa.
As a member of the amaranth family, quinoa is related to the likes of spinach and beets, and it originates in the Andean region of South America, where it has been cultivated and eaten for millennia.
Although it is now grown in many countries around the world, the Andean region still leads global quinoa production, with Peru and Bolivia being by far the world’s two largest producers.
In recent years, quinoa consumption has exploded as people have become increasingly aware of its incredible nutritional value. It is packed full of a whole range of nutrients, including many vitamins and minerals, something that has seen it quickly gain superfood status.
Nowadays it’s a hugely popular food that’s ideal for human consumption – but is it good for chickens? Let’s move on to this now.
Is quinoa good for chickens?
Quinoa is just as good for chickens as it is for us.
The seeds contain a high proportion of protein, far more than most true grains, and the protein present includes no fewer than nine types of amino acid.
The seeds also contain carbohydrates, making quinoa an energy-dense food, and eating it provides a good amount of dietary fiber too, something that’s good for gut health, ensuring that the digestive system remains in good working order.
Most vitamins are present in quinoa. It is particularly rich in folate (vitamin B9) and vitamin B6 while also containing good amounts of thiamine (vitamin B1) and riboflavin (vitamin B2). It has a slightly lower but still significant proportion of niacin (vitamin B3).
Quinoa is also a good source of vitamin E, but it has no vitamin A or vitamin C.
In terms of minerals, it is an especially rich source of manganese and also contains high levels of phosphorous, magnesium and zinc, along with slightly lower but still high proportions of iron and copper. It also offers lower levels of potassium and calcium. No sodium is present.
In its raw state, the nutrients in quinoa are at their highest, although many are lost through cooking. However, even after cooking, the same nutrients are all present and available to your chickens (and you!), albeit at lower levels.
Furthermore, before harvesting, quinoa seeds contain bitter-tasting saponins that make them unattractive to birds that might otherwise try to eat them.
As a result, quinoa doesn’t require as much protection, and even non-organic quinoa is likely to be less contaminated by pesticides than many other crops.
Can chickens eat all types of quinoa?
Several types of quinoa are available on the market, so you may be wondering if they are all suitable for chicken consumption, and the answer is yes, they are.
Chickens can eat red quinoa, black quinoa and white quinoa – and although the exact nutritional profile for each variety is slightly different, they will all be more or less just as healthy and beneficial to your flock.
Is there anything to be careful about?
Quinoa ranks among the most perfect foods, and there’s nothing much you need to worry about when feeding it to chickens.
One thing to be aware of is that while we might add salt to the water when boiling it for human consumption, if you are cooking quinoa for chickens, you’re better off foregoing the salt since it is harmful to their health.
In the same way, if you want to feed your chickens quinoa scraps from your plate, make sure you haven’t added salt as a seasoning.
Also, make sure it hasn’t been mixed with other ingredients that are harmful to chickens such as onions or butter that shouldn’t be fed to them.
Other than this, if you’re feeding quinoa to chickens raw, it’s better to give it a wash first to remove any traces of saponins. If you’re cooking it, make sure you let it cool down first before serving it to your birds – but this should go without saying!
How to feed quinoa to chickens
Quinoa is a versatile food when served to humans, and it’s equally versatile when fed to chickens.
The simplest way to allow your flock to enjoy the myriad benefits of quinoa is just to scatter a handful of the raw seeds on the floor throughout their run area.
This will encourage foraging behavior, forcing them to work a little for their meal, ensuring they are getting some exercise while also helping to reduce boredom levels by giving them something to do.
Another way to give raw quinoa to your chickens is to mix it in with their regular feed. This way, they will benefit from the nutritional magic of quinoa, and the effort on your part will be minimal.
Cooking quinoa is an option, although since chickens are quite happy to eat it raw, and it contains more nutritional goodness when uncooked, there’s little point in cooking it especially for them, and we don’t recommend it.
On the other hand, if you cooked some for yourself and then realized you made too much, you can let your chickens have the leftovers, and they will still benefit from it while ensuring nothing goes to waste.
Again, just make sure it doesn’t have anything with it like salt that can be harmful to chickens’ health.
Finally, another possibility is giving them sprouted quinoa. This is also a great option since sprouted quinoa contains almost all the same nutrients as raw quinoa but is slightly easier for chickens to eat and digest.
If you don’t know how to sprout quinoa, check out this video to find out!
Can you feed quinoa to chicks?
What about when it comes to chicks? Can they have some quinoa too?
When chicks first hatch, they should be kept on a strict diet of feed that’s specifically designed for them. This way, there’s no risk of them missing out on any of the vital nutrients they need to grow and develop correctly.
However, as they grow, you can also begin supplementing their diet with small amounts of other food – which is important since it helps them become accustomed to eating different things.
Quinoa is a particularly healthy food to give them, and since it contains lots of protein, one of the most important things a growing chick needs, quinoa can also be very beneficial to them.
Wait until at least their third week before introducing quinoa to chicks and start them off with just a little. After that, you can gradually increase the dose, all while ensuring they are still getting the majority of their nutrition from their regular feed.
Use quinoa as a treat and feed it to your birds in moderation
Chickens have specific dietary needs, and commercial chicken feed is carefully formulated to meet these. As a result, 90% of what they eat should consist of their regular feed to ensure they are not missing out on any of the nutrients that require to thrive.
However, the other 10% of their diet can be made up of healthy and nutritious treats that supplement their regular feed by adding extra nutrients, and as part of this 10%, quinoa can be an excellent addition.
In practice, this means feeding your bird a handful of quinoa two or three times a week would be ideal – but it should never replace their regular feed as their main source of sustenance.
A healthy and nutritious snack for chickens
As we’ve seen, quinoa is as much a superfood for chickens as it is for us, making it an excellent option if you’re looking for a dietary supplement for your birds that will provide them with lots of valuable nutrients.
As always when giving treats to chickens, it should never replace their regular feed, but when fed to them in moderation, quinoa is among the best foods you can give to your flock.