Figs are interesting, small and sweet fruits that grow on trees all around the world. Chicken keepers, especially those with fig trees on their property often wonder whether their chickens can safely consume them. I wondered the same, so spent some time researching their suitability in the diet of these birds. I will be sharing all that I managed to find here with you today.
So, can chickens eat figs? Chickens can eat figs, so long as they are offered infrequently and in moderation. Figs do provide a number of important vitamins, minerals and nutrients and chickens generally enjoy eating them. They can also be served in several ways. However, due to the fact that they are quite high in fruit sugars, they do need to be limited in the diet. Equally, figs should never replace or be fed in substitution of your flocks regular, well-balanced and high quality poultry feed.
Figs are often cited for being very healthy for humans. But as us chicken keepers know, just because a food is healthy for us does not necessarily mean they are for our birds.
Thankfully, figs can be included in the diet of your birds; and in doing so can provide great supplemental nutrition.
Equally, figs are very versatile and easy to store. They are commonly found in grocery stores and fig trees are abundant all over the world.
Let us now take a closer look at the suitability of this soft fruit in your chickens’ diet. We will be running through the nutrition they can provide and how to feed them. So, be sure to read to the end if you are looking to offer them going forward.
Are Figs Healthy For Chickens?
Figs can be fed to chickens and are healthy in appropriate amounts. In fact, they are great when provided as a treat and you can look to offer them in a multitude of different ways.
They are rich in nutrition, and are generally enjoyed by all chickens when provided.
One thing to consider however, is that only the flesh and the fibrous shell should be provided. The leaves can be problematic for chickens, as they naturally contain an enzyme called ficin which can lead to laxative effects if consumed in excess.
This is therefore something to watch out for if your chickens are close to a fig tree!
Let us now take a closer look at the specific vitamins and minerals found in figs, before we turn to how these support the health of your flock.
Nutritional Content of Figs
|of which sugars||8.1g|
|Vitamin C||1 mg|
|Vitamin K||2.4 mcg|
As you can see, even in just one medium fig, there are plenty of different vitamins and minerals available.
They are specifically rich in calcium (and have a favorable calcium to phosphorous ratio), while also being a good source of magnesium, potassium, choline and Vitamin K.
Calcium is one of the most important minerals for chickens, but can be difficult to obtain in the diet naturally.
A deficiency is most evident when eggshells are soft, crack easily or in more advanced cases chickens develop reproductive illnesses and osteoporosis.
Laying hens actually require as much as 3x more calcium than non-laying hens; so if you are keeping birds for their eggs, this is something you will need to consider if you had not already.
Therefore, any additional sources of calcium, like can be obtained through the provision of figs, are most welcome.
Magnesium is another essential mineral for chickens, and figs can provide a decent amount of it.
Magnesium is required in sufficient quantities for proper bone formation, carbohydrate metabolism and for the proper functioning of a number of enzymatic processes.
A lack of magnesium can also lead to issues with other vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin D and calcium.
Chickens low in this mineral can experience osteoporosis and cardiovascular diseases, and cause lethargy and weakness. In young chicks, deficiencies can result in stunted growth or in extreme cases death.
Ensuring your chickens consume enough potassium will ensure that their metabolic processes and cells function optimally.
Sufficient potassium will help maintain optimal electrolyte balance and in turn, help your birds regulate their body temperatures in cold/warm extremes.
Additionally, potassium supports heart health and also lowers the risk of heart disease.
Vitamin K plays a key role in proper bone formation and metabolism, along with blood clotting.
A chicken that does not consume enough vitamin K can suffer with a condition known as Coccidiosis (an intestinal disease). Figs therefore can boost your birds supply of this hard to come by nutrient.
Figs are often recommended to humans to help stimulate the intestines due to their high fiber content.
Fiber is of equal importance to chickens; ensuring they remain regular and preventing impaction which can be fatal. Equally, it helps maintain steady sugar levels for your birds throughout the day.
Moreover, figs also contain prebiotics, which help to support the growth and maintencence of healthy bacteria in the gut, improving digestive processes altogether.
How Many Figs Can You Feed Chickens
For the most part, figs should be fed once or twice per week. A fig per chicken, or a handful of figs is a good starting and rough serving size, although it will depend on the number of chickens in your flock.
It is generally recommended that fruits do not exceed 10% of total energy intake for these birds; and figs should be fed in accordance with other fruits and treats in the diet.
You need to be especially careful of fruits, especially those extra sweet ones like figs. While chickens are not particularly fussy when it comes to pretty much any food, they can develop preferences which can result in neglect of their nutritionally complete and required poultry feed.
For this reason, keepers do need to keep the diet of their flocks in mind and under consideration at all times.
Its easy to overfeed the wrong foods, let alone foods that can be considered healthy like figs. Ultimately, it is imperative to ensure that layer feed and water comes first and is always made available.
Figs then can be given almost as a supplement; an additional and infrequent treat.
Thankfully, if you do so, you’ll be providing them with a wealth of nutrition in the process.
How To Feed Figs To Chickens
Figs are also relatively soft, chewy and are easily edible by these birds. They typically enjoy pecking at the outer shell to obtain the nutritious, hydrating and sweet flesh and seeds found inside.
For that reason, figs can be fed whole to chickens in the following ways.
Fresh figs come into season during the Summer and the Autumn. They are quick to spoil however, so are typically best to offer in the first couple of days following purchase (or having fallen from the tree).
The best fresh figs to serve your chickens should be juicy, dark in color and free from any bruising.
You can keep your fresh figs in the fridge prior to offering to your birds. If they are not ripe however, leave them at room temperature for a couple of days to ripen and then look to serve them.
When offering figs you can place them down whole into the coop. Alternatively you can cut them into halves or quarters for your birds to enjoy.
Dried figs are great for the winter, and they do keep for a lot longer (either in the fridge or a dark cupboard). However, they are more calorie dense and you need to be extra careful with serving sizes (as you can easily provide too many to your birds at any one time).
If you purchase dried figs, you need to check the label and ensure they have not been treated with chemicals and preservatives. Equally, you want to make sure they are free from mold and are soft.
Otherwise, you can look to dry your own figs and prepare them for your birds in advance.
You can offer your chickens peeled or unpeeled dried figs, some birds may have different preferences to how they are presented and the different textures.
Dried figs are quite sticky in the center so cutting them up for your birds can be a challenge. Offering them whole (as they are more condensed anyway) is advised.
From The Tree Itself
Chickens love to forage, and there are quite a few studies that confirm those that do have better health outcomes, produce better quality eggs and live a happier life.
Some keepers may already have fig trees on their property, whereas you might even want to consider planting some for their future delicious and nutritious fruits.
Either way, if you were to place the coop near a fig tree, you will likely find your birds eating them as they drop and become available.
Just keep an eye on how many they are eating of course!
Chickens can eat figs, and in fact, there are multiple benefits of them being able to do so. There are multiple vitamins and minerals in this compact and sweet fruit, and chickens tend to love the process of plucking at them to obtain the hydrating and nutritious reward that they can find inside.
That being said, figs should be offered or made available to your birds in moderation. They should be seen as a treat, and a supplemental food to their regular and nutrient dense poultry feed.
1-2 times per week is typically advised; and they should be alternated and offered in accordance with other fruits.
In doing so, you can help prevent your birds from developing preferences for specific foodstuffs, while also ensuring they do not consume too much sugar.
Equally, when you do offer them, be sure to quickly clean up any leftovers. Sweet fruits like this can quickly bring about rodents, like rats, to the coop; something you will want to avoid for a number of reasons.