If you own a flock of chickens, then naturally you are going to want to know what scraps of fruits and vegetables you can offer them. But what about peppers? Are these safe and beneficial to feed? What about the different varieties of peppers; are some suitable whereas others are not? With these questions in mind, I decided to spend some time researching. Below is what I was able to find.
So, can chickens eat peppers? Chickens can eat ripe peppers, in almost all forms and varieties. The main ones you can look to feed are Bell Peppers and Chilli Peppers. Both of which provide great all-around nutrition, anti-oxidants, and vitamins. Even pepper seeds are entirely safe for chickens to eat. However, it is important to ensure that pepper stalks, leaves, and under-ripe peppers are not offered. These contain high amounts of a compound called Solanine; a toxin that can be dangerous to chickens when eaten in excess.
There are many reports of chicken keepers feeding their birds peppers, and their flock responding enthusiastically and positively to such feed.
This is great news considering they are relatively cheap and easy to source, and often a food that we buy too much of and would otherwise throw away.
Let us now take a closer look at the different pepper varieties, along with some considerations for our flock’s diet.
Can Chickens Eat Bell Peppers?
Chickens can eat bell peppers of all colors, and generally, really enjoy doing so.
Bell peppers are also quite a popular food to offer, as reported by many chicken keepers across a number of online poultry forums.
This is great to know, considering that they are loaded with vitamins and minerals to support the health of your birds. They are also relatively inexpensive, easy to prepare and easy to find at the store.
From a nutritional perspective, bell peppers are low in calories and high in water. This means that they are great for keeping excess energy intake at bay, while equally hydrating to your birds.
With this in mind, bell peppers make an excellent summer treat, when the weather is hot and they need support to cool down.
They also contain a decent amount of vitamin C, K1, A, E along with other important B-Vitamins such as folate. Plus, there are some health-promoting minerals such as potassium and calcium too.
Here is the nutrition of a small (78g) singular red bell pepper:
As you can see, bell peppers are low in both carbohydrates and fat – macro-nutrients we need to carefully manage in our birds.
But what about the different colors of bell peppers (green, yellow, and red) – is there a difference?
In fact, there is and there isn’t.
A green, yellow and red pepper is actually from the same plants; but they are not all at the same stage of ripeness.
Green is considered unripe, yellow/orange at mid-ripeness and red is fully ripe. This is why red peppers are generally sweeter and most nutritious.
For this reason, red bell peppers are best to offer to your flock; then orange, then yellow, and then green. Although, all colored peppers are a good addition to the diet.
You may even find that your birds have a preference for one particular color. While chickens typically love to eat bell peppers, some have reservations about certain colors.
They can even have preferences for how they are offered. Some chickens will only eat cooked bell peppers, whereas others may prefer them raw.
Of all the potential scraps to offer your birds, bell peppers are some of the best options.
Are Bell Pepper Seeds Safe For Chickens?
Bell pepper seeds are perfectly safe to offer to your chickens. So, you can serve them along with the outer flesh.
In fact, it is the seeds that mean that bell peppers are actually considered a fruit by botanical standards.
This makes offering bell peppers a lot more practical. You do not have to worry about removing all the seeds prior to feeding. They will not do any harm.
The truth cannot be said for all seeds of fruit – some can be particularly harmful for chickens. One to note here are apple seeds which contain traces of cyanide. These should be avoided at all costs.
Thankfully, bell pepper seeds are harmless, and not something you need to worry about offering.
Can Chickens Eat Chili Peppers
Chilli Peppers are safe for chickens to consume and they generally really enjoy eating this food.
Of course, it is only natural to wonder and perhaps worry about the spice – especially in jalapenos or those considered exceptionally hot to us humans.
Well, chickens do not actually have the ability to taste capsaicin, which is the compound that gives chilies their explosive heat.
Again, many chicken keepers report that their flocks love eating chili peppers, even the seeds which are notoriously where most of the spice comes from and are often eaten with great enthusiasm.
Beyond just the taste, chili peppers are also a great source of nutrition. They provide a range of vitamins, like bell peppers, along with some additional anti-oxidants.
In fact, chili peppers even are known to have specific therapeutic uses in chickens.
They are a good immune stimulant for sick birds and studies have even are reported to help bring hens to lay.
So, chili peppers may be useful for you to offer in these contexts.
Chilli peppers can be served by hand, or finely chopped and added to other foods. Just be sure to wash your hands after!
Keepers always seem to be surprised that their birds cannot register or detect the heat at all from even the hottest of chilies. Along with the fact that wild bushes are often stripped bare if available and accessible while roaming.
Never Feed Pepper Stalks, Leaves, or Stems
While peppers, including bell and chili, are perfectly safe to feed your chickens, there is one important aspect to be aware of.
You should only look to feed the flesh (fruit) and the seeds.
You should never offer the stalks, leaves, or stems.
This is because peppers are part of the nightshade family of plants; all of which are known to naturally produce a compound called solanine. It is mostly found in the stalks, leaves, and stems.
Solanine is a chemical compound that can be very dangerous to chickens, especially when consumed in high quantities. It can result in poisoning leading to severe illness and even death.
Solanine is most prominent in the stalks, leaves, and stems; however, it is also present in smaller quantities in the flesh of under-ripe green peppers.
It is only present in the nightshade family of plants when they are under-ripe and still green. Once these plants ripen solanine is no longer present.
Therefore, you should always look to offer the ripest peppers where possible. This is why red peppers are typically most fed and why some chicken keepers remain cautious of feeding green peppers to their birds altogether.
Ultimately, so long as you remove all of the stalk, leaves, and stems – and stick to the riper peppers, your chickens should enjoy all the benefits that this fruit can provide.
Other Nightshade Vegetables To Consider
All nightshade plants naturally contain solanine, so it is important that we are aware of them and do not look to offer them to our birds under-ripe or green.
Below are some of the main nightshade vegetables to be aware of:
This does not mean these foods should never be provided to our birds. It just means we need to be careful.
It’s important to note that solanine is only present in green tomatoes, green potatoes and stalks and leaves.
So, ripe tomatoes and potatoes are safe and can be fed; along with the skins so long as there is no green on them.
For this important, we do need to consider how these foods are sourced and stored.
Other Good Foods To Feed Your Chickens
Peppers are a great addition to the diet; but what other foods should be included? You may be wondering at this stage what other chicken keepers like to feed their birds. So, let us briefly go over some other nutritious treats.
Of course, the majority and basis of your chickens’ diet should be from a high-quality pelleted feed. From there you can look to introduce some scraps and leftovers to offer variety and additional nutrition.
If possible, it is also advisable to let your chickens free roam. This will enable them to forage and consume a variety of different foods from the environment.
Free-ranging birds are generally healthier, due in part to consuming a diverse range of insects, bugs, and plant matter.
Free-ranging chickens will look to consume the following if available:
Chickens are not usually fussy and will eat most foods we put in front of them. Therefore, it is important we offer appropriate and nutritious foods as scraps.
The following are some examples of some other great treats and scraps to offer:
- Grains, especially Oats: You can offer oats raw or cooked, whether they are rolled or in jumbo form. Bread is also another good option to feed in moderation.
- Mealworms are high in protein along with many other nutrients. They are easy to feed, and store and can be purchased for a great price on Amazon.
- Berries: are very high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals while being low in calories, sugar, and fat. They are also high in fiber. Excellent options include strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.
- Fruits – Other fruits can also boost the nutrition in your bird’s diet. You do need to be careful though as some can be quite carbohydrate and sugar dense – so need to be fed in moderation. Some of the best fruits to offer include cherries (pitless) bananas and apples (without the seeds).
Chickens can eat many varieties of peppers and like most other foods, they will do so liberally.
Not even chili peppers need to be avoided! In fact, there are exclusive benefits to offering these to your birds. And don’t worry about the spice – they cannot taste it!
If you want to offer a variety of peppers to your birds, then you should do so. They are low in calories, high in nutrients, and can offer variety.
They are also easy to get, cheap, easy to prepare, can be fed in many ways, and easy to store.
Just be careful about the leaves, stems, and stalks of any pepper. Also, be wary of any pepper that appears under-ripe. Keep these well away from your birds and if in doubt – do not give them.
While peppers can be fed whole, chopped up, cooked, or raw, remember that the majority (~90%) of your chicken’s diet should be from a high-quality pelleted poultry feed.
The rest should include a variety of scraps.
Black pepper is perfectly safe for your chickens to eat, and can be a great way to add taste and variety to other foods. Studies have also confirmed that black pepper can improve reproductive performance and lipid blood profiles in chickens.
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.