When keeping chickens, part of the fun is coming up with new treats to offer them. But what about cranberries? Are they safe or even healthy for chickens? I spent some time researching the suitability of them in your flocks diet. I’ll be sharing all that I found here tody.
So, can chickens eat cranberries? Chickens can eat cranberries. In fact, they make excellent treats – being naturally high in fiber and equally low in sugar, calories and fat. Many owners even report that their chickens go crazy for cranberries are offered. They are very versatile and can be fed cut up, dried or mixed with others treats and/or part of the regular feed.
You may have seen cranberries at the grocery store, you may have some left over or you may even be fortune enough to have cranberry bushes on your property.
Either way, the question remains the same. Thankfully, this particular berry is considered safe for your chickens to eat.
Better yet, there are numerous health benefits to feeding them from time to time.
Let us now take a closer look at what those benefits are, before turning to some practical suggestions of how many and when to feed them to your flock.
So, if you have some going spare or if curiosity got the better of you when shopping, be sure to keep on reading to know exactly how to offer this fruit.
Are Cranberries Healthy For Chickens
Cranberries are very healthy for chickens, when fed as a treat and in moderation.
Despite the many different health benefits they bring, they should not be fed exclusively to chickens. Equally, providing different berries, fruits and other vegetables is a good way to ensure they obtain the maximum amount of nutrients and vitamins.
In other words, chickens are omnivores – requiring a wide variety of different foods in their diet for robust health.
Let us now take a closer look at the specific vitamins and minerals found in cranberries, before we turn to how these support the health of your flock.
Nutritional Content Of Cranberries
|of which sugars||4.27 g|
|Vitamin E||1.32 mg|
|Vitamin C||14 mg|
As you can see in the table above, even in just one cup, there is a lot of variety in terms of nutrition; both in vitamins and minerals.
If we look first look at the macronutrients, cranberries are low in energy (calories), sugar and fat.
This is great for ensuring that your flock retain a healthy weight; as treats are often the culprit as they are generally easy to overfeed.
The high Vitamin C and Vitamin E are two to note.
Vitamin C is known to improve immune system function and help chickens overcome any source of stress, such as exposure to hot weather during the summer months.
Vitamin E is not found in many foods, but its essential for ensuring proper growth and even reproduction. Plus it has nervous system benefits and supports the defense system; helping chickens overcome certain diseases.
Added to the vitamins is the high fiber content.
Fiber plays a crucial role in a number of different bodily functions with the most important being the maintenance of a healthy and regular digestive system.
PoultryWorld even note that increased fiber may improve the utilization of other minerals and it has been reported to reduce the incidents of pecking and/or cambism in flocks.
Outside of the table above, cranberries are known for their high antioxidant count.
Harvard report that antioxidants are very effective at lowering free radicals, which in excessive amounts can lead to chronic diseases involving the heart and bones.
Offering cranberries from time to time is therefore a great idea.
Can Chickens Eat Dried Cranberries?
Chickens can eat dried cranberries, and they do generally enjoy eating them when they are served in this way.
However, it is important that you only purchase plain dried cranberries. You need to be careful and avoid dried cranberries that have been preserved with additives and preservatives.
Equally, any added sugars, chocolate, yogurt or other foods mixed or added should be avoided.
Another factor to consider, is that dried fruits are generally a lot easier to overprovide and for your chickens to overconsume.
All of the water has been removed, so they are a lot smaller. 100 grams of dried cranberries is therefore not the same as 100 grams of fresh cranberries, for instance.
They are still full of all the nutrients and of much needed fiber, but you do need to be careful of the energy content.
While you may be able to find a good brand of cranberries, like this best seller on Amazon, you can always make your own.
Its easy to do, all you need to do is purchase fresh cranberries and then dry them. This way you are in full control of the additives and you know how many berries you are serving at a time.
As an owner, dried cranberries are very versatile; easy to store and easy to offer to your birds. They’re definitely worth considering at the very least.
Besides they do keep longer!
How Many Cranberries Can Chickens Eat?
Cranberries should be offered to chickens in moderation, as a treat. You should look to offer these to your birds no more than once per week.
25 grams per bird of your flock (3-5 cranberries each), at a time is a good serving size to strive for. Although, you will need to ensure all birds get access and that one bird does not consume them all!
While cranberries offer a lot of nutrition, they are not a complete food and they do not provide everything that chickens need, such as protein and healthy fats.
Equally, if your chickens were to consume too many at any one time could lead to digestive upset and diarrhea. Not good for your birds or you as the keeper who will need to quickly clean it all up!
Also consider that just like any treat in the diet, the best thing you can do is to offer variety.
They should also be fed after your birds regular high quality pelleted feed. This needs to be the basis of the diet, it provides your birds with all the nutrition they need to thrive.
If you were to offer too many cranberries prior to their pelleted feed, you can accidentally lower their appetite, or they could develop preferences.
Not good either way!
How To Feed Cranberries To Chickens
Cranberries can be fed to chickens in several different ways; fresh, dried or mixed in with different foods (or treats). being the main options.
With chickens, they are generally not very picky or fussy when it comes to their food!
As such, you shouldn’t really have any issues or see them left, irregardless of how you serve them.
Many owners have reported that their birds go crazy for this particular berry, even pecking at their owners in expectation!
That being said, it is entirely possible for your birds not to enjoy consuming them, or some birds of your flock may ignore them altogether. This is fine too.
Nevertheless, here is how you can look to offer these berries to your birds:
- Fresh and Raw – it comes advised to cut them into small pieces. In thirds or quarters is best. That way your birds can more easily consume them without the risk of choking.
- Dried – They are generally a little bit more challenging to eat, without the water. So again, it is advised to cut them into small pieces to prevent choking.
- Mixed – You can look to make a healthy berry trail mix, or mix them in with other fruits, vegetables or their main pellet feed. This is a great way to boost intake without the development of preferences.
- Cooked – You can also look to cook the cranberries to make them softer. Just be sure that they are cooled down before serving – you do not want to burn your chickens!
- Off the Bush – If you are lucky enough to own a cranberry bush, you could let your birds consume them directly from it. Equally, your birds could eat them from the ground as they roam. This is great because it promotes natural foraging behaviors. You do need to be careful however that they do not strip the entire bush and overconsume. Once they start they will not likely stop!
One caveat here is that you should never offer frozen cranberries. These are a choking hazard and very difficult for your birds to digest.
Sure you can buy frozen berries to offer your birds, but you will need to defrost them ahead of time.
Chickens can eat cranberries. In fact, this is something that you should be looking to provide every now and again.
They are one of the most nutritious treats you can offer, plus chickens generally love eating them.
Nevertheless, once per week is advised; and in a an appropriate serving size. There is absolutely too much of a good thing.
From a keepers perspective they are also ideal. They’re cheap, widely available, easy to store and can be served in several different ways.
So if you had previously been cautious, rest assured, this berry is a good option for your flock!