If you are inexperienced in chicken keeping, you are probably wondering what is safe and not safe to feed your chickens. But what about spinach; is it safe and healthy to provide?
So, can chickens eat spinach? Chickens can indeed eat spinach, although should do so in limited quantities and in moderation. While spinach is very nutritious and provides a wealth of vitamins and minerals, it also contains a compound called Oxalic acid in relatively high quantities. Too much Oxalic acid can prevent calcium absorption and subsequently lead to issues with egg production in laying hens.
Chickens are omnivorous, meaning they can enjoy a broad and diverse diet of meat, fruit, and vegetables. Fruit and vegetables make excellent, healthy treats but must only make up a small part of a chicken’s diet.
Greens on the other hand, are particularly beneficial to your chicken’s health. If your birds are free-ranging, they will enjoy munching on grass and insects alike.
Spinach is one such green that is often cited as a super-food for humans. For chickens, the story is a little different.
Let us now take a closer look at why spinach can and perhaps should be included, but why you would want to limit how much you offer.
Is Spinach Safe For Chickens?
Spinach is safe for chickens; however, you must be careful not to give them too much (over the course of the week and in any one sitting.
Spinach contains oxalic acid; an organic compound that can interfere with other minerals in the body. In particular, oxalic acid can prevent the absorption of calcium.
This can can be problematic for layer chickens, as calcium is crucial for the creation of healthy eggs.
Sufficient calcium is required for hens to produce the contractions that thrust the eggs down the oviduct, and also for the formation of the eggs shell. this is why you often see chicken owners adding Oyster Shell Calcium to their birds feed. This is the best brand available on Amazon.
With increased calcium in their diet, your chickens will then be able to eat spinach and kale to their heart’s content, without any negative repercussions.
Having low stomach acids is another issue that can prevent the absorption of calcium and other nutrients and minerals.
You can counteract this by adding apple cider vinegar to your flock’s water to boost their immune systems, and the vinegar will promote proper absorption of calcium and nutrients.
Once you add apple cider vinegar to your chicken’s water, feeding spinach is less problematic. However, keep in mind that some chickens may not like the taste of spinach – it all comes down to personal preference.
Apple cider vinegar is equally brilliant in the fact that it also helps to keep your bird’s water algae and bacteria-free.
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Spinach Nutrition For Chickens
You may now be thinking with the potential negative consequences of spinach through the oxalic acid, that it is not worth feeding. Actually, it is.
Spinach is high in many vitamins and minerals which will help to serve the health of your chicken. Vitamin C is very high in particular. While poultry birds can make their own vitamin C, their demand for this vitamin increases during times of stress.
Spinach is also an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K, manganese, folate, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin E, and it does include calcium.
Spinach is also an ideal source of Vitamin B1 and zinc. It comprises a unique mixture of antioxidants, carotenoids, flavonoids, and phytonutrients.
Let’s look at how these vitamins and minerals benefit the health of your chickens:
- Vitamin A – is a requirement for healthy growth, reproduction, and preservation of epithelial cells; this involves keeping the skin and linings of the reproductive, respiratory, and digestive tract in good condition.
- Vitamin K – synthesizes prothrombin, it supports clotting mechanisms and helps to protect against coccidiosis. Deficiency of vitamin K can lead to hemorrhages in the legs and breast, an increase of blood spots in eggs, and a blood clotting failure.
- Manganese – this is an essential nutrient for chickens as it supports reproduction, egg-shell formation, healing of wounds, absorption of nutrients, development of healthy bone, and cartilage. It also helps to prevent perosis.
- Folate – Folic acid promotes healthy feathering and appearance, and it helps to prevent perosis.
- Vitamin B1 – is crucial for carbohydrate metabolism. Deficiency may cause loss of weight, dull feathers, muscle paralysis, and dropping of wings.
- Vitamin B2 – plays a crucial role in metabolism. Deficiency may cause diarrhea, decreased egg production in mature birds, embryonic mortality, and dead chicks.
- Vitamin B6 – is required for the correct metabolism of amino acids. Deficiency can lead to jerky movements and convulsions.
- Vitamin E – is a potent antioxidant and necessary for healthy neurological functions. Deficiency may cause encephalomalacia and muscular dystrophy.
- Calcium – is essential in the diet of poultry birds. Chickens need calcium to develop and support healthy bones as well as forming strong egg-shells.
- Zinc – promotes improved egg-shell quality in chickens and all birds.
- Choline – this is a crucial nutrient that synthesizes DNA. It supports a healthy nervous system. It is vital in muscle development, memory, and regulating heartbeat. Deficiency causes perosis evident by swelling around the hock joint, twisting of the metatarsal, and flattening of tibiometatarsal.
What Vegetables Can Chickens Eat?
There is virtually no end to the list of vegetables your chickens can eat; the only limits are the personal taste of your birds. Chickens relish a variety of food, whether it’s freshly picked from your garden or scraps from your fridge.
A small list includes the following: cabbage, broccoli, bell peppers, cauliflowers, tomatoes, cucumbers, beet greens, cabbage, and cooked potatoes.
Vegetables should however be considered treats and not be seen as the sole source of nutrition for your birds. They require a balanced diet, so make sure that you feed your chickens a reputable and high quality brand of pellets. From there, you should offer vegetables and other foods later.
Another great option for a treat, and way to balance their diet, is to provide mealworms. These are incredibly high in protein, nutrients and minerals. They also help to support the natural eating behaviors of their wild ancestors. You can purchase fresh and resealable mealworms in bulk for a great price on Amazon by clicking here.
What Foods Should Chickens Not Eat?
While you can enjoy experimenting with different vegetables and seeing what your hens like, there are certain foods your birds must stay clear of, and they include:
- Avocado skins and pits – they contain a fungicidal toxin that can be lethal to chickens.
- Raw potato peels -their skins contain alkaloid solanine, which is toxic to your birds, especially when the peels are green.
- Processed foods – leftovers are far healthier for your birds than leftover TV dinners or pizza.
- Spoiled or rotten foods – Foods produce harmful toxins when they rot.
- Salt– too much is not suitable for anyone, let alone chickens.
- Garlic and onions – they are a rather strong tasting and could leave a nasty taste in your chicken’s mouths.
- Dry beans – cooked beans are perfectly safe for your birds to consume, but dried beans contain hemagglutinin, which can make your birds very sick.
- Greasy foods – they can be hard for your birds to digest.
Can chickens eat spinach? They certainly can, albeit in moderation. If you want to provide some spinach, which is wholesome, nutritious and healthy; only look to provide a handful once or twice per week.
If you want to offer more, balance it out with Oyster Shell Calcium and/or Apple Cider Vinegar. In fact, these are valuable additions which you should look to be including in the diet of your chickens anyway. They are cheap, easy to add and they have a wealth of health benefits for your birds.
Ultimately, chickens are fun to feed as they can eat so many different foods, and it’s exciting getting to know what your chickens will eat and what they won’t eat.
Like humans, chickens have their own personal likes and dislikes.
If you are keeping some birds on your property, you can be pretty sure that you’ll have no scraps that go to waste – which is of course, always a good thing. It’s good to keep pets that enjoy what you give them to eat.
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.