There are many fruits and vegetables and even roughage from the backyard that chickens can eat. Chickens are by no means picky, and they often have enough sense to stay away from the things that could harm them. But since chickens will eat avocado flesh, does that mean it’s okay? Can chickens eat avocado?
There are reasons why chicken owners may give their chickens avocado flesh or avoid the fruit entirely. Today, you’ll learn about avocado, so you can make an educated choice about giving the fruit to your flock.
Can Chickens Eat Avocado?
Time and again, avocados end up on the lists of dangerous foods for chickens, alongside unripe or overripe potatoes, rhubarb, eggplant, tomatoes, uncooked beans and rice, and chocolate. However, there are some chicken owners who give their chickens avocado skin and report no issues whatsoever. So what gives? Is avocado safe for chickens or not?
The safety of avocado is debatable. One thing known for certain is that the leaves, pits, and skins of avocado are highly toxic to chickens because of a compound called persin. Due to persin being abundant in the seed, it makes sense that some of the compound is found in the flesh in trace amounts.
So while chickens can eat avocados, you have to ask yourself if it is worth the risk. Avocado flesh does have health benefits, but the small amount of persin could potentially harm your chickens.
Can Baby Chicks Eat Avocado?
Even if you eventually decide to give your chickens a little bit of avocado, you should never give baby chicks the fruit. Baby chicks are far more sensitive to the toxins present in foods.
If you want healthy chicks, give them a high quality starter. Such feed is made with the growing bodies of chicks in mind, so they get all the protein, carbohydrates, and fats necessary for a long life. Starter feed is also designed to provide the adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals. You don’t have to give chicks many supplements for their health.
Around 3 weeks old, your chicks are ready for more heartier foods, including fruits and vegetables. However, you should wait to give them avocado until they are a couple months older.
Can Avocado Kill Chickens?
Yes, avocado can kill chickens if you are not careful. If a whole avocado happens to roll into the chicken’s enclosure, your chickens will peck at it out of curiosity. They could potentially swallow some of the peel to get to the flesh, meaning they ingest persin. A mere 5% of a single avocado can kill a small bird in under 48 hours. Your bantam chickens don’t stand a chance if they get a hold of the stem, leaves, peel, or stone of an avocado.
Young chickens and older, weaker chickens are even more susceptible to toxicosis from persin. Even in small doses, persin can cause the following symptoms:
- Accelerated heart rate
- Damage to the heart (myocardial) tissue
- Labored breathing
- Discomfort and restlessness
Aside from the toxins in avocado, there are also acids and fats that chickens may find difficult to digest. For some birds, even a tiny amount of avocado can cause horrible diarrhea that will last for a couple of weeks. It’s not a fun time for your birds, and it’s not going to be fun for you to clean up the mess either.
Are There Benefits to Giving Avocado to Chickens?
Avocados have achieved superfood status and are the star in many recipes these days. But is there any nutritional benefit to giving chickens a taste of avocado?
Yes, there is! A tiny amount of avocado can be healthy for chickens when you consider the nutritional profile:
Vitamins and Minerals
Avocados are rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D, riboflavin, calcium, niacin, copper, iron, zinc, and pantothenic acid. Each of these are essential. For example, vitamin A is needed to sustain growth and increase egg production. When your chickens are deficient in vitamin A, they may act listless and stop producing eggs. Avocados also contain small amounts of vitamin K for blood clotting, as well as magnesium and phosphorus.
Chickens need fiber to help regulate digestion. In avocado, there is both dietary fiber and water, which helps flush out the intestines and keeps your chickens regular.
Did you know that some chickens will drink more than a liter of water on a hot summer day? Chickens need to stay hydrated to survive, meaning that you need to provide them with foods that also contain water. Chicken feed is great for nutrition, but it is also very dry.
The flesh of an avocado contains a high percentage of water. In fact, the vitamins and minerals present in avocado makes them all the more hydrating. Anecdotal evidence states that even a little avocado can make a dehydrated chicken act normal again.
Omega Fatty Acids
One of the reasons people love avocado is the presence of heart-healthy fatty acids. Omega-3 and omega-6 fats support skin, heart, and brain health. Healthy fats can also clean plaque from the arteries and stabilize blood sugar levels. Your chickens will also enjoy the anti-inflammatory properties of omega fatty acids, especially if your older hens are afflicted with arthritis.
How to Safely Feed Your Chickens Avocado
Can chickens eat avocado? Yes. But you are going to have to know how to prepare the avocado as safely as possible. Avoid giving your chickens too much avocado, as well. It is best to restrict the amount of avocado to about a quarter per bird every 3-4 days. Such a small portion contains enough nutritional benefits without overloading your flock with persin.
If you have a larger flock (around 6-10 chickens), you can give them 2 avocados — flesh only. Keep an eye on your chickens when they are eating the avocado, as some of the bigger birds may bully the others and eat too much.
The best way to feed an avocado to your flock is raw. Attempting to cook the fruit will immediately leech any nutritional value from it. Also, do not give your chickens any processed foods containing avocado, as it will probably contain too many chemicals and sugar.
Here is the best way to prepare avocado for your chickens:
- Remove the stone. Cut the fruit in half and remove the stone. Ensure that there is nothing left of the pit, including the papery shell.
- Scoop out the flesh. Grab a spoon. While holding one half of the avocado, start scooping out the flesh. Avoid getting too close to the skin, as there will be more persin in the flesh that was close to the peel. The same is true for the flesh that was surrounding the stone.
- Offer in small pieces. Even the most edible portions of avocado for chickens will contain some persin and loads of fat. Do not overfeed your chickens.
- Combine with other fruits and vegetables. While avocado is fine alone, you can also mix the fruit up with other treats, including cooked pasta, grapes, apple, red bell peppers, banana, lettuce, cucumber, mealworms, broccoli, and asparagus.
Safer Fruits to Feed Your Chickens
Worried about giving avocado to your chickens? Turns out there are plenty of substitutions that your chickens will adore. They won’t even miss avocado once you start giving them other fruits throughout the week.
You know that saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Well, it works for chickens, too. Apples are full of healthy fiber and hydration. Chickens also love apples. One word of caution: Remove the seeds prior to feeding. The seeds contain a form of cyanide and is highly toxic.
As exotic as pitaya (also known as dragonfruit) may be, it’s also incredibly delicious and nutritious for chickens. The best part is that the entire fruit can be eaten by chickens, but it is best to give them the flesh and seeds. The outer peel is a bit tough for chickens to digest, though they may enjoy pecking at it.
Known as one of the best fruits for soothing digestion, banana is an excellent choice for chickens. The potassium and other antioxidants in bananas benefit chickens greatly. Do give bananas in moderation, as they are high in sugar.
Another amazing fruit with loads of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants is mango. Chickens go nuts for this delectable fruit. Like bananas, mangoes should be fed in moderation due to their high sugar content.
My Chicken Accidentally Ate Avocado! What Do I Do?
While most chickens are highly intuitive and will stay away from foods that could poison them, there is always a chance that your chickens stumble across something that is toxic and they eat it. What happens if your chicken gets at an avocado peel before you can stop them?
In small amounts, persin is not fatal. Your chicken may experience acute respiratory distress and will need to see a veterinarian for medical care. Any time your chicken is potentially poisoned, it’s best to consult with a vet. They may tell you that your chicken will be fine and to just keep an eye on them for the time being. Others may ask that you bring your bird in for an exam.
Larger amounts of avocado can be so toxic that even medical care cannot help. Again, there is not much you can do to assist with poisoning.
Can chickens eat avocado? The answer is maybe, as there is a lot of risk for the nutritional reward. Due to the toxins present in avocado, you may decide to keep your chickens away from the fruit entirely. However, if you do want to give your chickens avocado, do not give them the peel or the seed. Only the flesh is safe in very small quantities. Fortunately, there are plenty of other fruits and vegetables that can make a much safer treat for your flock.
Valerie has been content writing since 2016 for websites and companies all around the world. A traveler, dancer, martial artist, Valerie loves gathering experiences and wisdom. Her travels have taken her to over 20 countries, and she hopes to see more of the world soon.