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Can Chickens Eat Cabbage? [What The Research Says!]

I must admit, I am personally not very fond of cabbage. Its that one vegetable that I’ve always left on my plate. But, passing them in the store the other day did get me thinking. Could I offer them to my chickens, would they like them, and would they be nutritious? Upon returning home, I delve into the research to find out for sure.

So, can chickens eat cabbage? Chickens can eat cabbage, although should do so in moderation. Once per weak is considered ideal. Hanging a whole cabbage from the coop ceiling is perhaps the best way to offer cabbage, providing entertainment and reducing boredom while still offering a nutritious treat.

I think its fair to say that I will be picking up a cabbage on my next visit.

On the face of it, cabbage is actually a very popular treat given by keepers. There are a lot of reports of chickens going crazy for it.

I even saw one keeper note their birds prefer it to apples. Who knew.

Let us now take a closer look at if this leafy green (or red) vegetable. We’ll be covering the nutrition, the amount you should look to offer, and how.

So, if you are contemplating this treat be sure to keep on reading to get all the information that you need!

Is Cabbage Healthy For Chickens?

Cabbage is considered a to be a healthy food for chickens, and can provide both physical and mental benefits to your birds.

From a nutritional perspective, it provides a number of different important vitamins and minerals, is low in calories, carbohydrate and fat, and is high in fiber.

From a well-being perspective, cabbage can provide additional entertainment for your birds if you serve a head whole, and hanging.

But more on this later.

Let us now see the exact vitamins and minerals that this vegetable can provide, before turning to why these are so beneficial:

Nutritional Content Of Cabbage

NameAmount
Water83 g
Energy22.5 Calories
Protein1.15 g
Carbohydrates5.2 g
of which sugars2.8 g
Fiber2.25 g
Fat0.09 g
Calcium36 mg
Phosphorous 23.4 mg
Magnesium10.8 mg
Potassium153 mg
Zinc0.16 mg
Selenium0.27 µg
Iron0.42 mg
Folate38.7 µg
Choline9.63 mg
Vitamin K68.4 µg
Vitamin C32.9 mg
Vitamin E0.13 mg
Vitamin B-60.112 mg
Per 1 Cup (90g). Source: USDA

As you can see from the table above, quite the range of nutrients available. And this is in just a cup (90g) – a whole head weighs around 900 grams!

Most of a cabbage is water, which is great for keeping your chickens hydrated (outside of their regular drinking).

But, there is also a decent amount of fiber. And for cabbage specifically, its the beneficial soluble type.

This has been found to promote good digestive health and populate the digestive tract with beneficial bacteria.

Perhaps the two most noteworthy nutrients to draw attention to are vitamin B-6 and folate.

These are essential to a robust and healthy functioning metabolism and nervous system.

And then there is the vitamin C, which is surprisingly high in cabbage. This nutrient is particularly important for laying hens, helping them with performance and egg quality.

But, in all chickens it also supports many metabolic activities and functions, such as heart health and vision.

But beyond the table, there are other compounds in cabbage that can support health.

There are a range of antioxidants, sulfur compounds and polyphenols in cabbage, all of which can help these birds be more resilient to stress.

How Much Cabbage Should Chickens Eat?

With all the above information, you may be thinking that cabbage is the ideal food to offer regularly to your birds. Not so fast.

Cabbage should be offered to chickens in moderation, once per week is advised and a handful per bird is a good serving size to aim for.

This is for two reasons:

  1. Cabbage is not a complete food,
  2. The presence of goitrogens

Regarding point one, scraps such as vegetables, should comprise of roughly 10% of the diet.

This is because for the most part, they are lacking in all of the nutrient a chicken needs to thrive. Or alternatively, they provide too much of certain things you may want to limit.

The majority of a chickens diet should come from a high quality and well-formulated feed, designed to give your birds everything they need.

From protein, healthy fats, and calcium, pelleted, mashed or crumbled feed should always remain as the bulk of the diet.

Feeding too many treats, such as the higher fiber vegetables like cabbage, can also prevent this feed from being consumed.

Your birds get full and satisfied and as such, begin to ignore what they need. Nutrient deficiencies can arise over time. Not good.

Now onto point two.

There have been some alarmist reports that cabbage can be toxic to chickens and other poultry.

However, upon further research, I have come across studies that confirm cabbage is safe to offer and does not have any adverse effects on feed intake, egg production, feed conversion ratio, or egg yolk quality.

That being said, the main concern of cabbage is that it is part of the vegetable family (along with others such as cauliflower and broccoli) that is higher in goitrogens.

These are compounds, which in excess, can result in metabolic issues, including: immune deficiency, decreased metabolism, lethargy, and skin and feather issues. 

The key word here is excess.

In fact, many chicken keepers report that they have fed sufficient quantities to their birds without issue.

There may even be a difference between the ‘head’ of a cabbage and that we buy at the store, and the leaves that surround cabbage when it grows.

Of course this may have complications if you grow cabbage at home and your birds free range, or if you are simply buying it at the store.

But either way, why would you risk it?

So, only look to offer cabbage in moderation, and in accordance with others treats/scraps in the diet – sparingly.

How To Offer Cabbage To Your Chickens

Offering cabbage to your chickens is relatively simple, and you have two main and recommended ways that you can do so: shredded, or whole and hanging.

Either way, its important that you source a firm and fresh cabbage.

If you can, look for organic cabbage and purchase this if possible.

Irregardless of whether you can, you should still look to thoroughly wash the cabbage, to remove any dirt and debris. But, for non-organic cabbages, you are going to want to do so to ensure you remove any potential pesticides/herbicides that were used.

If you are using cabbage from your own vegetable patch, than it does come recommended to remove any external leaves of the plant, and reduce the cabbage down in size.

From there you can do one of two things.

You can shred the cabbage and lay it down for your birds. From there you can watch your birds peck away and eat what they want.

Or, you can create a hanging cabbage. This is a great way to prevent boredom in your flock and perhaps the recommended approach to take.

Let us now take a closer look of how you can do so.

How To Hang A Cabbage For Chickens

  1. Begin by drilling a whole all the way through the middle of a cabbage.
  2. Run some rope through the hole, so it sits like a swing.
  3. Hang the cabbage in your chicken coop or run, at a height low enough for your birds to peck at (and get a taste for it!)
  4. After they have pecked for some time, shorten the rope a small amount so that they can still reach it without needing to jump.

And that’s it.

It will keep them entertained for hours!

Its particularly useful in the winter months when your birds need to stay inside during the cold.

Many keepers report that their chickens consume a whole head of hanging cabbage in just a few days!

Finally

Cabbage can make an excellent treat for your chickens.

In fact, its somewhat preferable to some other green vegetables due to the fact that you can hang it and make it an interesting and entertaining event!

There are just so many benefits to cabbage; its full of nutrients and easy for your birds to eat. Plus its cheap to buy and you can find it pretty much in any food store.

At the same time, its considered very easy to grow. So, if you like the idea of your own vegetable patch (if you have not got one already), you have the space and a flock, then you may even want to grow your own!

However, this does all come with a caveat.

Like any scrap or treat – it should be offered in moderation. 1-2 per week, a handful per bird tops.

This will give you the benefits without the risk.

A high quality and well formulated feed should come first and make up the bulk of your birds diet.

Besides, cabbage may be problematic in excess.