Olives are recognized and routinely cited as being one of the healthiest foods you can consume. But can your chickens also benefit by eating them? Should they, or is there anything in which a chicken keeper must be aware before they attempt to offer them? I decided to research the suitability of this widely available food in the diet of these birds. I’ll be sharing my findings with you here today.
So, can chickens eat olives? Chickens can eat olives, but should do so infrequently and in moderation. This is because they are naturally quite high in fat, which must be kept in check in the diet of your birds. Uncured olives are best, as they are lowest in salt, preservatives and other additives. It is also advised not to serve olives without removing the pits first, as these are often left and can be a choking hazard.
Its great to learn that chickens can indeed eat olives; they are very practical, versatile, and can be routinely found in stores all of the world. In fact, olives vary in taste and size depending on where they are grown.
There are also many different varieties of olives, which is why they can look so different and come in different colors and shades.
One thing to note about olives is that by nature, they are small, oval fruits with a hard flesh. They need to be somewhat processed to prevent an overly bitter taste. This is why you will often see cured and marinated olives for sale and how they are most commonly sold.
This is something to bear in mind, as a lot of preparations make them unsuitable for chickens. If you want to offer them; be sure to look out for those that are not covered in oil, seasonings or stuffed with any other inappropriate foods, such as cheeses.
Let us now take a closer look at how healthy this fruit is and if you should include them in your flocks diet. We’ll also be covering the main questions commonly asked, like about cured olives and whether the pits can even be eaten. finally we will finish on appropriate serving sizes and how you can look to feed them if you do decide to do so.
Are Olives Healthy For Chickens?
Olives are healthy for chickens; so long as you offer them fresh varieties that are minimally processed.
In fact, when the right options are offered they make a great treat and chickens tend to enjoy pecking away at them.
One thing to consider however, is that olives can come in a variety of different ways whcih are not always suitable for these birds. You need to be careful that they have not been soaked in oils, marinades or other things that can prove to be problematic.
So, the sourcing of your olives is crucial, or how you prepare them in advance for your birds.
Let us now take a closer look at the specific vitamins and minerals found in olives, before we turn to how these support the health of your flock.
Nutritional Content of Olives
|of which sugars||0.2 g|
|Vitamin A||1 mg|
|Vitamin K||110 µg|
|Vitamin E||1.1 mg|
As you can see, even in just one small serving, there are a number of different vitamins and minerals available.
From a macronutrient perspective, olives are generally quite low in calories, carbohydrates and sugar.
While they are quite high in fat, those within olives do provide a number of essential fatty acids that are required for some bodily processes.
When we glance over the table above, we can also see that they contain quite a lot of calcium. Better yet, they are low in phosphorous; so the calcium to phosphorous ratio is very beneficial here.
Calcium is a much required nutrient, particularly in laying hens, for it is required to produce strong and dense eggshells.
Olives are perhaps most beneficial for the high level of Vitamin E in which they contain.
Vitamin E is difficult to get into the diet as it is not found in many foods. Yet, it plays a key role in proper growth and reproduction. Beyond this, Vitamin E is important for a properly functioning nervous system and supporting the natural defense system again diseases.
Beyond this, Choline is found in decent concentrations. The MSD Veterinary Manual emphasis the needed for this nutrient in the diet of chickens.
Lastly, olives are known for being naturally high in antioxidants. Studies show how they are very effective for lowering free radicals which can protect the heart, the bones and from diseases such as and cancer.
Can Chickens Eat Cured Olives?
Chickens can eat cured olives, however, uncured olives are preferable and should be sought out if possible.
Cured olives, are those that have been prepared with salt to remove the bitterness that this fruit naturally carries.
Olives can be dry-cured, or cured in a salty water solution which is otherwise known as brine.
For chickens, they are not particularly fussy when it comes to their food. The bitterness of olives is not usually something that will put them off eating them.
Therefore, it is advisable to seek out pre-cured olives. Those that have not been left to preserve in a salty solution, or those that are holding salt due to their preparation.
Salt does need to be managed in the diet, so overfeeding cured olives can definitely become a problem. You will need to consider the amount of salt that your birds are equally getting from other dietary sources.
You can always rinse your olives ahead of serving to your chickens. This can, and should remove some of the excess salt that may be being held and remaining in the flesh.
Can Chickens Eat Olive Pits?
Chickens may be able to east olive pits; but it is advised that you do not offer them.
Usually, the pits are provided as part of the whole olive – but it does come recommended to remove them first (if they have not been previously removed).
This is why.
The pits do not provide any real nutrition. If anything, they’ll just pass through your birds system intact.
That is of course, if your birds do decide to consume them.
Most chickens will peck at the flesh before leaving the pit on the ground uneaten.
If they do pick up the pit, they will often drop it back to the ground.
But there is of course, the risk of the pit getting stuck and becoming a chocking hazard.
It depends on the bird and the size of the pit, but it is best to not offer them altogether.
How Many Olives Can You Feed Chickens
Olives should be considered a treat, and therefore you should look to serve them to your birds no more than once per week.
A small serving, an ounce or an olive or two per bird is a good rule of thumb to follow.
As mentioned previously, olives are naturally high in fat and if you were to offer cured olvies, they’ll be high in salt too.
Both of these need to be managed in the diet. Too much fat in the diet can result in excess weight gain, whereas too much salt can lead to electrolyte imbalances and other hydration issues.
Remember, just like any treat in the diet – be sure to mix the foods you offer up and be sure to offer variety.
They should also never be fed instead of, or before, your birds regular high quality pelleted feed. This must form the basis of the diet as it provides all the nutrition your chickens need.
Eating too many olives prior to this can result in a lack of appetite or even dismissal of their feed altogether.
Treats and scraps should enhance the diet – not become it!
How To Feed Olives To Your Chickens
Olives can be fed to your chickens in a variety of different ways.
Some keepers like to provide them to their birds whole (either with the pit inside, or after it has been pitted out).
Tossing a few olives around the coop/run is the approach taken here.
For those that offer olives with the pit still inside, they often report their birds will peck at and consume all of the flesh. Leaving the pits to be picked up by the keeper and removed at a latter time.
Another, perhaps better way to offer olives, is to prepare them a little in advance. Cutting the olives into slices, quarters or segments tends to work well. It makes them easier for your birds to consume and you can easily remove the pits this way. It also means you don’t have to clean them up later!
Lastly, you can consider cooking them in with other foods you may want to serve, or mixing thm with other treats/their regular feed.
This can be a good way to boost the nutrition of your flock, improve the taste of their foods, and get them eating food items they may have previously turned their noses up to.
Chickens can eat olives; and there are in fact several benefits in doing so. They are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, while also being an enjoyable food for your birds to peck at.
That being said, these small fruits should be offered infrequently and in moderation. You’ll also need to consider how they are prepared, stored and offered.
Removing the pits is generally advised, as is seeking out uncured options.
Ultimately, with a lit of planning in advance, there is no reason why these birds cannot benefit from these powerful little super foods either.