If you own chickens and like to feed them scraps, you may be wondering about apples. Where do these fall? (no pun intended). Can you safely feed this fruit to your chickens and will they benefit by consuming them? What about the core and the seeds which are often cited as being a source of potentially dangerous components?
So, can chickens eat apples? Chickens can eat apples and generally enjoy doing so. With that said, apples should only be offered as a treat and not exceed their main poultry feed. The seeds should also be removed before serving as they contain cyanide which can be fatal if consumed in excess. Cutting up the apple is also advised to prevent choking.
While it is appealing to just throw some apples down to your birds, this is not a recommended nor great idea.
Instead, carefully preparing them into bite-size slices is one of the best things you can do.
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Let us explore the topic further so keep reading to find out exactly how to feed apples successfully and appropriately to your birds.
A Healthy Chickens Diet
A healthy diet is, without a doubt, the most crucial element of raising hens.
Yes, they will indeed eat just about anything, but as their keepers, it’s up to us that they have a nutritionally balanced diet.
You must also bear in mind that some foods are completely off-limits.
The bulk of their daily menu must be high-quality feed; rest assured, that feeding top-quality brands to your birds will give them all the vital nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that they need to be healthy.
For example, you want to source feed that has sufficient protein and is unprocessed.
The Scratch and Peck is one such option. You can pick it up in bulk for a great price on Amazon.
After this, you can feed your chickens scraps.
Chickens are naturally curious eaters and generally like to consume a wide variety of foods.
Even foods like bread will be consumed if provided.
Outside of this, chickens enjoy foraging the land for food, so it’s beneficial for them to have access to some grassland vegetation.
As mentioned above, certain foods are off-limits, and some of which may surprise you. In contrast, others may not surprise you at all.
Still, these include potato peel, raw or green potato, citrus fruits, avocado skin or seed, moldy food, uncooked rice, beans, and lentils, onion, chocolate, salty/ sugary foods, and rhubarb leaves.
Then there are fruits and apples.
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Is It Safe For Chickens To Eat Apples?
Apples are one of the safest and tastiest foods for a chicken to eat so long as the seeds are not provided. With that said, apples should only be offered as a treat and not exceed their main poultry feed.
Apples are very low in protein, but they do contain minerals, vitamins, pectin, and amino acids, and you can serve apples to your hens in a variety of exciting ways.
You can chop or slice apples with or without the skin. Some hen keepers like to combine them with other foods.
Among the creative ways to serve apples to your hens are to string apples with thread along with other foods like popcorn, cranberries, raisins, and watermelon, etc. to create a garland.
You could hang the apples on the chicken run, where your hens will enjoy pecking at them from where they hang. Make sure that you remove the string, as soon as the birds finish eating, as it could be a potential choking hazard.
Some keepers get very fancy and offer stuffed apples to their chickens; you could stuff them with peanut butter and or dried fruit, but make sure you remove the core and the seeds.
Can Chickens Eat Apple Peels?
It is perfectly safe for chickens to eat apple peels; they are not toxic nor cause harm to your birds. The skins of certain fruits and vegetables are poisonous, so this is a natural concern, however, rest assured apple peels are not in the off-limits list.
Some hens are fussy and will not like apples however they are served. Others will like apples with/without the peel, as peels can be a bit hard.
When feeding apple, offer only small pieces at a time. If you notice that they are not attempting to eat it or enjoying it, stop offering it and leave it out of their diet. You cannot force your birds to like apples if they don’t, it will just be a waste.
Also be sure to clean up any left apple or any other uneaten food from the coop regularl and as soon as possible. This can be a major source of rats which you really do not want in and around your chickens.
We’ve established that apples and peels are perfectly safe for a chicken to consume, how about apple cores, let’s look at this subject in more detail, in the next section.
Can Chickens Eat Apple Cores?
As strange as it may seem since apples and their skins are otherwise safe, chickens should not eat apple cores.
There are two main reasons for this.
- The seeds contain cyanide – which in excess can kill your hens through poisoning
- Apple cores are difficult to break down by chickens and can end up getting stuck in your chickens throat. Leading to choking and other issues.
If you really wanted to offer the core (which serves no inherent benefit), you would need to break it down and make it more manageable to consume. You’d also want to remove all seeds.
So for the most part and in the interest of time, when you are offering apples to your birds, its better not to include the core.
Some poultry keepers will tell you that their hens eat every bit of apple ( seeds and all) with no consequences.
However, it is a risk doing this with no real benefit in doing so. You can completely avoid any danger simply by taking this extra step. Apple seeds do pose a danger to the well-being of your chickens, and as their keeper, you have a duty of care to your birds.
Let’s look at what cyanide is and how its deadly effect on chickens.
What Is Cyanide?
Cyanide is a fast-acting, lethal chemical, and it is highly toxic to chickens. Cyanide stops cells in the body from using oxygen when this happens, cells die. When cyanide is combined with iron, it can block cellular respiration.
Many foods contain cyanide glycosides such as apple seeds, white clover, johnsongrass, arrowgrass, sudangrass, peach pits, elderberry, cherry, and almond trees. Cyanide poisoning can cause death within minutes.
Signs Of Cyanide Poisoning In Hens
Hens that die from cyanide poisoning have bright red, oxygenated blood, and have blood-filled body tissues.
Hens will die within 30 minutes of ingesting the toxic chemical in lethal doses.
Clinical signs include:
- Difficulty breathing,
- Blue to purple colored comb,
- Sudden death.
Treatment For Cyanide Poisoning In Hens
Specific antidotes, along with supportive veterinary care, is the way to treat cyanide poisoning.
For the remedy to work, it must be given before irreversible cell damage has occurred, within minutes of exposure. Intravenous amyl and sodium nitrate are administered to treat cyanide poisoning.
Prevention is always better than treatment. If you are intentional about avoiding cyanide poisoning among your flock, you will need to prevent the feeding of seeds of particular fruits to your chickens. These include the seeds of: apples, cherries, apricots, peaches and/or pears. Other foods include almonds.
As much as chickens love to forage, you must make sure that they are not foraging among plants that accumulate cyanide.
Can chickens eat apples? They certainly can eat them including the peel. You may feel like not giving your chickens apples because the seeds are so toxic. But as long as you’re careful to avoid offering the core and seeds, apples are a delicious snack.
As well as giving apples to your hens, offer fruits such as berries, melons, and bananas are widely enjoyed. Vegetables should include leafy and non-leafy greens, carrots, cucumbers, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. You can offer your chickens bread (in moderation ) grains like cooked rice and wheat; oatmeal is also a tasty treat.
As chickens are omnivores, be sure to offer them some cooked meat as well.
When it comes to treats variety is vital, enjoy being creative with food, but do be careful what you give them.
Personally, my birds love to mealworms that I get from Amazon. I suggest you give them a try!
Wondering what else chickens can eat? Check out my other chicken feeding guides below!
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.