Can Chickens Eat Apples? Are Apple Seeds Safe?

two hens eat apple

Owning chickens and feeding them scraps is part of life. Your chickens are omnivorous, after all, and they like to eat whatever they can peck. Although chickens can consume a wide variety of fruits, you may be wondering where apples fall. Can chickens eat apples? While the flesh of the fruit is safe, there are some parts of the fruit that have to be removed first.

Today, you’re going to learn about giving chickens apples, including what parts to avoid, and how to feed your flock this fruit. Let’s get started.

Is It Safe For Chickens To Eat Apples?

Yes, apples are safe and delicious. Chickens will happily peck at apples that have fallen from trees or whenever you give them a few slices of apple flesh. However, as with any treat, chickens should not be allowed to over-consume apples. Despite being very healthy fruits, apples are high in sugar.

On the flip side, apples are high in all kinds of vitamins and minerals that bolster your flock’s health. So give your chickens apples at your leisure. Just make sure you have removed the seeds first (more on that in a moment).

What About Apple Peels For Chickens?

chickens eating apple peels

The flesh of apples, as well as the peel, are safe for chickens to eat. Yes, there are some fruits, like avocado, that have toxins in the peel and seeds. The peel of apples are safe (you can eat the peel, after all). However, some chickens will prefer the flesh of the apple over the peel. This is perfectly fine, though it can be frustrating for chicken keepers.

When giving your chickens bits of apple and peel, make sure you are offering up small pieces at a time. You can potentially hang a single fruit for the whole flock to peck at, but many chickens prefer the softer pieces. Once your chickens are done feasting on apple, clean up any remains. Food that lingers in the chicken run or yard overnight could potentially attract dangerous predators.

Can Chickens Eat Apple Cores?

While the peel and flesh of an apple is perfectly safe and should be given to chickens, you do not want to give them the core. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • Cores are thick, fibrous, and difficult to eat, even for people. Chickens can end up choking on those fibrous pieces or have digestive issues.
  • Apple seeds contain cyanide.

Basically, there is no benefit to feeding your chickens an apple core. Not only is the core difficult for them to consume, the seeds are also incredibly toxic. If your chickens do display interest in the core, it is probably out of boredom or curiosity, not hunger.

It’s in your chickens’ best interest to remove the core entirely before giving them any apple.

Can Chickens Eat Apple Seeds?

Giving your chickens apple seeds is a recipe for disaster. You never want to give your chickens apple seeds, because they contain amygdalin, which becomes cyanogenic glycoside.

When metabolized, cyanogenic glycoside becomes hydrogen cyanide (HCN). Accumulate enough HCN in the body, and you suffer from cyanide poisoning. Chickens tend to be affected by HCN much faster than people, because they are way smaller.

A healthy chicken would only need to consume about ¾ of a teaspoon to get sick from apple seeds. That’s not a lot. A seed here and there won’t hurt your chickens, but it is better to remove all apple seeds from the reach of your chickens.

About Cyanide and Cyanide Poisoning in Hens

ripe red apples on the table

So you have seen the word “cyanide” in this article a few times by now. Let’s explain why cyanide is such a harmful chemical to chickens (and everyone else). Cyanide is lethal in greater quantities and is highly toxic to your flock. When cyanide enters the body, it blocks cellular respiration, especially when combined with iron.

In other words, your chickens suffocate.

A high amount of cyanide can cause death within a few minutes. Most of the time, hens die within 30 minutes of a lethal dose.

When a chicken dies of cyanide poisoning, their blood is bright red and their tissues are filled with blood. Up to that point, they struggle with breathing, and their combs go from a healthy shade to purple or blue from lack of oxygen.

Treating Cyanide Poisoning in Chickens

Cyanide poisoning works fast. You may not even realize one of your chickens was poisoned until it is too late. However, if you do notice one of your chickens has a bluish or purplish comb and is struggling to breathe, take them to a vet immediately. The faster you act, the better your chicken’s chance of survival.

Treating cyanide poisoning requires special medical care, including antidotes like sodium nitrate and intravenous amyl. However, the treatment will only work if irreversible damage has yet to set in. But that damage may occur within minutes of cyanide entering the body.

Other Foods You Shouldn’t Give to Chickens

When raising chickens, you have to do a bit of research about what is safe for them to eat. You might be surprised to find that, while there are many things chickens can eat, there is an equal number of unsafe food items. For instance, here is a list of foods that may cause cyanide poisoning in chickens if you are not careful:

  • Apple leaves. Yes, apple leaves contain trace amounts of cyanide that may poison your chickens.
  • Almonds
  • Peach and apricot pits. These fruits are related to almonds, and their pits contain cyanide.
  • Cherries
  • Plums
  • White clover
  • Elderberries
  • Sudan grass
  • Arrowgrass
  • Nutmeg
  • Green potatoes
  • Raw kidney beans
  • Rhubarb leaves
  • Star fruit
  • Mushrooms
  • Cashews
  • Mangoes

Why You Should Feed Your Chickens Apples

two red chickens eating an apple

Having read that apple seeds and cores are dangerous, you might be a bit wary to give your chickens apple. Don’t worry. So long as you give your chickens apples without seeds, you are safe. Plus, apples are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial nutrients that chickens need to thrive. Keep in mind that the variety of apple may shift the nutritional value. Look for organic fruits when possible, as those apples are the most healthy.

Here are some reasons why apples are good for chickens:

  1. Digestion. The high fiber content of both soluble and insoluble fiber makes apples excellent for digestive health. Fiber keeps chickens sated and regulates blood sugar, so your chickens aren’t acting ravenous all the time.
  2. Anti-inflammation. With antioxidants and vitamin C, apples boost your chickens’ immune systems and reduce the effect of stress on the body.
  3. Weight. Obese chickens won’t have a high quality of life. Many fall ill and die early on. Being that apples are rich in fiber, they can keep chickens fuller for longer, meaning your birds won’t be constantly eating.
  4. Bone health. Strong, healthy bones are the — uh — backbone of a long-lived and productive flock. The antioxidants in apples prevent osteoporosis and inflammation caused by free radicals.
  5. Bowel movements. Apples assist with constipation and keep your flock regular. Happy poops, happy birds.
  6. Blood sugar. Did you know chickens can get diabetes? Apples are great for regulating blood sugar levels and keeping chickens from overeating.

How to Give Chickens Apples

Now that you know which parts of an apple are good for chickens, you may want to add apples into their diet. You don’t have to worry about the “apple a day” adage, as chickens should only get treats once in a while. Two to three times a week is enough for your chickens to enjoy the benefits of fresh fruit.

However, your chickens may not always be interested in apples. To entice them, you can get creative. For instance, you may want to create a fruit and vegetable garland. You can tie or run a string through pieces of apple, corn, zucchini, strawberries, and other fruits then let your chickens peck at the garland throughout the day. Plus, that keeps a lot of the foods off the ground and away from ants.

Making a garland with fruits and vegetables can be a little challenging and time consuming. You can always core the apples then run a string through the center to hang them up, too. That also removes the potential of your chickens nibbling on something they shouldn’t.

If that doesn’t suit your fancy, try coring the apples then stuffing them with other goodies. Some ideas include a smear of peanut butter mixed with seeds and nuts and other safe foods. You can also put large pieces of vegetables, like carrots or pumpkin, inside.

Other options include:

  • Chopping up the apple flesh into small, bite-sized pieces
  • Drying the apples and tossing the slices or chunks into the chicken feed
  • Shaving off the peel in a complete spiral for the chickens to play with

Conclusion

Can chickens eat apples? Yes, they can. However, you should only give your chickens the flesh and the peel. The core and the seeds are off limits. Don’t let the potential of cyanide scare you from giving your flock a tasty and healthy treat. As long as you are careful and keep your chickens away from foods containing cyanide, you should have no problems.

After all, chickens love apples and similar fruits, and their health is boosted when they can eat a diverse diet.

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