If you own a flock of chickens then you will often consider the foods which you can offer. Some vegetables make a great addition to the diet, whereas others can be harmful, toxic, or are not typically enjoyed by these birds. But what about Kale? Is this a safe and healthy option for chickens and is it something you should even be looking to provide? I spent some time researching this commonly available cruciferous vegetable and its suitability in a chicken’s diet. I will be sharing my findings with you here today.
So, can chickens eat kale? Chickens can eat kale and not only is it safe for them to eat, but it also benefits their health too. Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber are all obtained from this vegetable. Kale can be served in a plethora of ways. You can chop up a few pieces or hang a few leaves inside the coop. Your birds will enjoy pecking the leaves, and it will keep them busy, especially during the cold winter months.
Kale comes from the brassica family and is grown for its edible green leaves. This specific type of cabbage is rich in nutrients and comes with many health benefits for humans and animals alike.
The primary benefits of eating kale include, but are not limited to: boosting digestive health, protecting against cancer, and helping to control blood pressure.
Kale is high in dietary fiber, vitamins C and K, calcium, and iron; it contains other nutrients that help avoid health conditions that arise from vitamin deficiencies.
Thankfully, chickens can also benefit from the consumption of kale; and it is an affordable and common food found in most grocery stores worldwide.
Most chicken keepers will feed kale in moderation to their flock.
Despite being a great source of nutrition, it is low in energy and therefore is best fed as a treat. The bulk of the diet should come from a well-formulated and premium poultry feed.
Let us now take a closer look at kale as a food source for chickens.
We will cover the safety aspects to consider, why this green leafy vegetable is so healthy and ways to feed it.
Finally, we will finish up with some other excellent foods to provide so be sure to keep reading to get all the information that you need!
Is Kale Safe For Chickens?
Kale is perfectly safe to feed to chickens. There are no health risks associated with providing this leafy green to your birds. However, you must wash the leaves well as they may contain pesticides, dirt, or debris.
Pesticides are designed to kill pests like rodents and insects. Since this toxic element is designed to kill insects, bugs and other critters, chances are they are unsafe for your chickens.
Not all pesticides are the same; some will make your flock sick while others can cause more severe health conditions over time.
So washing the leaves well or purchasing organic kale can eliminate the danger of pesticide poisoning, and the risks associated with it.
You can grow kale yourself and feed it to your flock which is perhaps better yet.
Either way, you should still wash the leaves.
But at least this way, you know how your vegetable is grown and know fully well that it is entirely safe and free from any potentially dangerous residues.
Is Kale Healthy For Chickens?
Kale is one of the healthiest greens in existence; offering it to your chickens is generally a great idea as it is very dense in nutrients.
At the same time, it is low in calories, carbohydrates, sugar, and fat so it does not lead to weight gain or other issues that can come with offering treats.
Below, you can see the nutritional profile of this versatile vegetable:
Nutritional Content of Kale
|Vitamin C||19.6 mg|
|Vitamin A||50 µg|
|Vitamin K||81.8 µg|
As you can see, kale consists mostly of water which can also help with hydration!
Let’s now take a closer look at the other, most significant health benefits kale provides:
Many Useful Minerals
This leafy dark green vegetable is a rich source of minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, and others.
Potassium sustains electrical gradients within cells. This mineral helps lower the risk of heart disease.
Calcium supports bone health as well as bone formation and is associated with cellular functions. Magnesium helps the body ward off certain chronic diseases.
High In Antioxidants
Kale is rich in antioxidants like many leafy greens; these antioxidants include beta carotene, Vitamin C, flavonoids, and polyphenols.
These compounds help the body repair the damage caused by free radicals. Oxidative damage results in many health problems, and it causes aging.
Antioxidants have medicinal benefits for humans as well as chickens; they promote health, lower blood pressure, protect the heart, act as an anti-inflammatory, as well as having many other uses.
These antioxidants are essential for the development of all body tissues; this includes the skin and feathers of poultry birds.
High Vitamin C
Vitamin C is essential for the body as it supports collagen synthesis. It also plays a very important role in healthy immune function and resistance to bacteria and infections.
Interestingly, kale contains more of this water-soluble antioxidant (Vitamin C) than spinach.
When you compare it to other natural food source, kale is undoubtedly, one of the best sources of Vitamin C in existence.
High Vitamin K
Vitamin K is vital for blood clotting; it does this by activating specific proteins to bind calcium.
This process speeds up blood clotting in the case of an injury. Your chickens will benefit from a higher Vitamin K intake, which can be difficult to achieve as it is not found in many foods, let alone in higher quantities.
Good Amounts Of Fiber
Kale is relatively high in fiber as well as water, both prevent constipation and supporting a healthy, regular digestive tract.
Eye Support and Health
Kale supports eye health – it contains zeaxanthin and lutein, and they help lower the risk of macular degeneration due to aging.
Beta-carotene, Vitamin C, and E, and zinc are present in kale, and they go a long way in supporting eye health too.
With all these benefits in mind, it comes as no surprise to learn that kale is considered to be a superfood. Better yet, it is very easy to obtain. Many grocery stores will have this available in abundance, and it is cheap to purchase and easy to store.
At the same time, you can grow it relatively easy in your own garden. It can survive many climatic conditions, which explains why it is one of the most abundant vegetables in many parts of the globe.
Kale comes in many colors, the most popular being green, but also red, and it also comes in many shapes, all provide equal nutrition.
How Much Kale Should You Feed Your Chickens?
As good as it is, kale should never be the only treat you feed your flock. They require a variety of different vegetables, fruits and protein sources for optimal health. Remember, these birds are omnivorous so having access to grubs and insects is important too!
Generally, you should look to feed kale 2-4 times a week; try not to provide it more often than that. This will ensure they obtain more nutritional variety and will not become too fond of it, or go off it altogether.
When it comes to the amount of kale you can feed, it’s essential to make sure they have their regular feed first before introducing and of offering treats – this includes kale.
You can offer kale as a snack, or you can add it to other foods and mix it all in together. This is actually quite advantageous, as you can really create a nutritious and complete meal (by throwing in some mealworms – like these excellent natural and non-GMO ones from Amazon).
We all know that chickens are designed to eat all day, and they love to do so!
Their regular feed comes with a recommended feeding guide that is based on your flock’s age, weight, and activity level.
Make sure that you follow the feeding guide and that your chickens have enough to eat each day; your flock also requires access to fresh drinking of which you must facilitate.
Its also important that you feed your chickens at regular times every day. Even though they love to graze, feeding them at regular times allows you to monitor their eating habits.
You can top up their feed in the mornings and let them out for an hour in the late afternoon. You can use tasty treats to encourage your flock to go back into their pen at night, always remove leftover scraps of food.
How To Feed Kale To Your Chickens
Make sure that before feeding kale to your flock, that you wash the leaves well to remove any trace of pesticides and dirt.
You can chop the leaves up into tiny pieces, and you can mix them with other veggies like a salad.
You can serve kale raw or cooked; however, bear in mind that the process of cooking removes many nutrients in kale. You can scrunch up the leaves on your hands to make it easier for your flock to digest.
Another option is to suspend a bunch of leaves inside the coop for your flock to peck at. The latter option keeps them fed and also keeps boredom at bay when they are not outside free-ranging.
Other Vegetables To Offer Your Chickens
For the most part and with a few exceptions, there is virtually no end to the number vegetables you can feed your flock. The main restriction tends to be your flock’s personal taste!
You can acquire vegetables to feed your chickens from the supermarket, greengrocer, farmers market, or your own garden.
You can offer vegetables in scrap form, from your own plate.
The following list of vegetables you can feed to your flock, and is by no means exhaustive:
- Bok choy,
- Sliced cucumbers,
- Corn on the cob,
- Swiss chard,
- Butternut squash,
- Cooked and peeled potatoes,
- Cooked turnip,
- Beet greens,
- and many more.
You can provide a little fun to your cooped flock by hanging some vegetables in a mesh bag, and they will peck away at it for what appears to be hours on end!
Foods To Avoid Feeding Your Chickens
It’s easy to get carried away when it comes to giving treats to your flock. Not all treats are safe and healthy either.
So, while the list of vegetables appears endless, there are some foods that you should keep a list of that do need to be avoided at all costs.
- Avocados; their flesh, skins and pits contain persin, which is a deadly toxin to chickens.
- Green tinged potato peels contain a toxin known as solanine.
- Citrus fruits
- Dried or under-cooked beans contain a toxin that affects birds, it’s known as hemagluten.
- Heavily processed junk food like pizza, cakes and pastries.
- High salt, high fat foods
Kale is a wonderful treat to offer your flock, as long as you don’t feed it exclusively to your chickens.
Your flock still require a varied diet, even despite the many benefits that this green leafy vegetable offers.
So long as your birds have a mainstay of chicken feed, you can offer kale along with many different fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts.
Nevertheless, its good to know that kale provides many nutrients to your chickens, and it’s a wholesome addition to a varied diet. Its the type of food that is often left over, plus it is often found on discount at many stores.
Equally, kale can be served up in numerous ways and it can be fed either cooked or raw. However, the cooking process does remove some of the nutrients.
Kale is not only suitable for chickens, but they typically enjoy munching away at it too; its a treat that can be fun to consume, especially if you prepare it in certain ways.
You can chop up the leaves or suspend a bunch of leaves inside the coop, and this will keep your birds engaged and occupied.
Make sure always to wash the leaves well as to remove traces of pesticides and dirt.
Pesticides are harmful to chickens, and kale is often the most contaminated vegetable, so always seek out organic options and be careful with your preparation.
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.