If you own a flock of chickens, then it may have crossed your mind to feed them lettuce. But can you actually do this? Is it healthy or even beneficial to do so? What about the different lettuce varieties such as Iceberg and Romaine? Intrigued, I decided to research the topic. I’d like to share my findings with you here today.
So, can chickens eat lettuce? Chickens can eat lettuce, preferably Romaine, however, it is not the best food for them. It does not contain much nutrition and the high water content can lead to diarrhea if consumed in excess. Iceberg lettuce can be particularly problematic. Therefore, only offer fresh lettuce in moderation.
Many chicken owners report feeding lettuce without issue.
However, many experienced chicken keepers often state that lettuce should be off-limits for your birds.
Either way, lettuce does not contain the nutrition your birds need to thrive.
Lettuce (let us – sorry couldn’t resist) now take a closer look at this potential food source and all you need to know about offering it to your birds.
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Should Chickens Eat Lettuce?
The question of whether chickens should eat lettuce is open to debate among chicken keepers. Some will completely avoid it, whereas others will feed it from time to time.
It’s important to first note that there are many different types of lettuce.
Not all are the same, and differ in terms of nutrient and water content.
It’s a salad leaf that comes in a range of textures, colors, and flavors.
For example, Romaine (also known as Cos and Little Gem) is the most nutritional. They contain 6x more Vitamin C than Butterhead lettuce varieties.
So, it is preferable to feed Romaine lettuce over other lettuce varieties.
Romaine lettuces can be usually be easily identified as they are often sold as ‘hearts’ from a store as the outer leaves have been stripped.
Ironically, the majority of the nutrition is in the darker outer leaves, so if you can find Romaine Lettuce with the outer leaves these are the ones to go for.
Other good varieties of lettuce to offer include Arugula (Rocket), Endive, Dandelion Greens, and Mesclun (Spring Mix).
One variety of lettuce to be particularly careful of is Iceberg. This is essentially just fiber and water with no nutrients. If eaten in excess, chickens can suffer from diarrhea so it is best not to feed it at all.
Below, you can see some of the nutrients found in 1 cup of shredded Romaine lettuce.
Romaine Lettuce Nutrition
As you can see, there is some good nutrition in this lettuce variety.
Do Chickens Eat Lettuce?
It will come as no surprise to read that chickens generally will eat lettuce if provided. Just like most other foods.
Chickens are prolific eaters; known to eat almost anything that is provided – even if it could be harmful.
So, if you were to feed Iceberg lettuce, which can be dangerous and lead to diarrhea if eaten in excess, your chickens still may continue to eat it even despite the issues it can cause.
For this reason, you need to be careful of the foods you offer your chickens – considering types, quantities, and additionally, being aware of what they may manage to get access to from their environment.
How To Feed Lettuce To Your Chickens
If you do decide to feed your chickens some lettuce, then there are some good practices to follow.
- Opt for Romaine lettuce or the darker green leaf varieties.
- Offer lettuces sparingly, especially at first, and offer small amount at a time. Generally, a few times per week at most is advised.
- As with any vegetable or fruit, you should be sure to give the lettuce a good rinse through with clean water. This will help to remove any dirt or potential chemicals that have been used on the plant.
- Purchase organic where possible.
- Cut up the lettuce into smaller, more manageable pieces.
Offering lettuce can be done in a number of ways.
Some owners like to offer lettuce on its own, placed into the coop.
Other keepers like to mix the lettuce in with other fruits and vegetables into a medley/mix and sometimes even with their regular feed.
Either way, you should be sure to remove any uneaten lettuce from the coop/run at the end of the day (just like you would with other uneaten food).
You do not want food to rot/spoil or attract rats/mice or other rodents.
Other Foods For Chickens
Lettuce should never make up a significant proportion of your chicken’s diet. Even if you were to opt for more nutritious varieties.
Instead, it should be given in addition to their varied omnivorous diet. Here are some other foods you should look to include:
- Protein and layer feeds – Chickens require a lot of protein in their diets to be able to grow out their feathers and to lay eggs. Getting a reputable feed will ensure that your birds get the right mix of proteins, vitamins and minerals.
- Greens – Fresh greens are a great way to add nutrients to your flocks diet. We’ve covered lettuce and why it is not necessarily the best option. Instead, be sure to offer a combination of: spinach, endive, beet greens, cabbage, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, sliced cucumbers and Swiss chard.
- Corn – is great because it keeps hens busy. It is calorie dense so it should be provided in moderation and as a treat to prevent weight gain. This is equally why it can be useful to use in the winter as it can help to keep your birds warm. Chickens can eat corn that is either canned, frozen, fresh or on the cob; they’ll eat it all
- Worm treats – such as mealworms are excellent for their protein and also a number of other vitamins and minerals they provide.
- Fruits – including strawberries, blueberries and grapes.
Chickens can eat lettuce, whether they should depend on the type of lettuce and how much they feed.
Generally, Romaine lettuce and darker green lettuces are the best options; providing more nutrition than some of the other varieties.
Iceberg is one to watch out for, limit, and avoid altogether – providing little if any nutrition, and too much water – the result can be diarrhea in your birds so you need to be careful.
Ultimately, as a chicken keeper, it’s up to you as to whether you feed it to your birds.
Some do so without issue whereas others avoid the potential risks altogether.
Chickens will eat anything instinctively so we cannot leave it for them to decide, unfortunately.
Either way, lettuce should be fed sparingly and a couple of times per week at most.
From there be sure to provide a wide variety of other fruits, vegetables, and worms and you’ll ensure your flock remains healthy and strong.
Chickens can eat iceberg lettuce, although only in small quantities. The high water content can easily lead to digestive distress and diarrhea. Equally, Iceberg lettuce does not provide any nutrients so there is no real benefit from a health perspective in offering it to your birds.
Chickens can eat romaine lettuce and it is one of the better lettuces to offer your birds. It has more nutrition than other lettuce varieties. However, romaine lettuce should be fed sparingly and should not displace feed and other healthy foods in your chicken’s diet.
Wondering what else chickens can eat? Check out my comprehensive guide below:
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.