If you own some pet chickens, then you’ll want to know about some of the foods you can offer safely as treats. Fruits are one such category. But what about cherries? Can you offer cherries to chickens; will they enjoy them, can they benefit from their consumption?
So, can chickens eat cherries? Chickens can eat cherries and they do typically enjoy them when offered as treats. In fact, cherries are an excellent food to offer your chickens because they are abundant in vitamins and minerals including potassium, calcium, vitamin C and A. However, you need to remove the pit as these can be a choking hazard.
Let us now take a closer look at cherries as a potential food source and some of the things you will want to consider when doing so.
But first, why are cherries an ideal treat?
Cherries are abundant in several health promoting properties that can benefit your chickens. They are also very low in calories (77 calories in a cup of 155g); enabling you to offer them as treats without the risk of weight gain.
Cherries are predominately water (82%), carbohydrate (16%) ) and dietary fiber.
Regarding specific components; cherries are abundant in antioxidants which help to reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease and certain cancers.
Beyond this, cherries are high in melatonin; a chemical compound which is required for sleep and supports and aids restful and deep sleep.
Cherries are completely free of fat, cholesterol, and sodium; three components you want to keep reduce in the diet of your chickens. Due to their high quantities of vitamins and minerals; they are good at keeping blood sugar controlled.
Cherries are rich in the vitamins C,A and K along with b-vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6), potassium and magnesium.
The calcium plays a big role in the production of their egg shells. Higher quantities of calcium is known to support stronger shells. This is why Oyster Shell Supplementation is often recommended for laying hens.
The potassium and b-vitamins are crucial for a chickens healthy bodily functions, primarily organ functioning (including liver, heart and kidney), bone formation and strength and cell renewal.
Can You Give Chickens Cherries With Pits?
While cherries are a great treat to offer from time to time, there is one major factor to consider – the pits!
Most fresh cherries that you purchase at the grocery store will come with their pits included inside them (unless of course you purchase a de-pitted variety).
However, pits can be immensely dangerous to a chicken if consumed. Due to their size and hardness, they can be a significant choking hazard. This is all due in part to the way chickens eat their food (swallowing whole). For this reason, it is not a good idea to provide the pits.
Although this sounds worrying and scary (especially If you fear missing a cherry or two), thankfully chickens are very intelligent and can peck at cherries removing the pit and only consuming the flesh.
For this reason, the pit is considered less problematic than initially first thought.
As a chicken owner, I’d rather remove the pit and not take my chances. That’s personal preference and having a ‘better safe than sorry’ attitude with my birds.
However, if you did want to provide whole cherries (with pits included), or if you have a local cherry tree near to your chicken coop/pen, there is little to worry about.
Pits are also relatively small, and should not typically get lodged in your chickens throats. While it can happen, it will not always happen.
In the unfortunate case that a pit was accidentally swallowed, chickens will naturally expel the pit in time.
How To Offer Cherries To Your Chickens
Cherries are a great treat to provide to your chickens. While they should never replace their regular feed, you can look to offer them several times over the course of a week. 2-3 times per week is considered idea.
All types and varieties of cherries can be fed to chickens. Sour and wild are the most common and both equally boost strong health benefits for your chicken despite being slightly different in vitamin/mineral composition and taste (wild cherries are known to be less sweet yet higher in Vitamin C).
The only types of cherries you want to steer clear from are glazed cherries. These are generally covered in a sugary dressing, like a honey or a treacle. Of course, this significantly raises the sugar content of the cherries and can be easily provided in excess. There the risk of weight gain is high. These are not the type of cherries to offer.
With this being said, here are some ways to offer cherries to your chickens
Dried cherries offer a great, affordable and practical way to offer cherries to your chickens. They are very easy to store and they do not spoil like fresh cherries do. An added perk is that the pits are automatically removed.
You do want to be careful on where you source them from and the brand you purchase. You want to ensure you are getting naturally dried cherries without preservatives and added sugar.
Cherry Trail Mix
I’m not talking about regular trail mix of chocolate designed for human consumption. I’m talking about a trail mix specifically created for your chickens.
To create your own is easy and you can routinely mix it up, My birds love this trail mix that I have devised:
Take a bowl, add a few cups of their regular feed. Add some mealworms and add another cup of either dried or freshly chopped cherries.
From there, you can try adding other fruits and even an Oyster Shell calcium supplement and grit to really give them a health boost.
I get all my supplies for the trail mix on Amazon:
This sounds more complicated than it is. All you need is some cherries, some string, and a needle to thread them on.
Just like you would add a conker to a piece of string, you’re doing the same here but creating a ‘Cherry Kebab’.
Thread as many cherries on that fit, then, hang it from the coop/pen and let your chickens pick at it when desired. This is great because it also serves to keep them mentally stimulated too.
This also serves as a great distraction, prevents boredom and stops unwanted behavior in and among your birds.
Chickens can safely consume cherries. In fact, they are a healthy and wholesome treat that can offer variety to their diet.
The pits are a potential hazard it must be said. Potential, because your chickens will naturally try to avoid them. Moreover, any pits that do make their way into their mouths can usually be swallowed.
For peace of mind, you may want to remove the pits from any fresh cherries that you serve.
Beyond this, dried cherries and providing your own trail mix are excellent options. The latter can even help you work some health-promoting items into their diets, like Oyster Shell Calcium and Grit.
As always, moderation is key. Cherries should be provided in addition to their regular feed and diet.
If you find your birds do not like cherries, that’s fine too. Some will and some won’t. Each bird have their own preferences. Generally speaking, cherries are very well enjoyed.
All in all, give some cherries to your birds and offer them in a variety of ways; its for their health and well-being!