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Can Chickens Eat Beans? Are Beans Safe?

Beans, beans, they are good for your heart, right? For humans, beans are magical and make a lot of dishes taste phenomenal. But should beans be given to your chickens? Turns out, beans have a bit of a bite, especially when they are either raw or dried. That bite means they are toxic to many living things, including your chickens. So can chickens eat beans? It depends on how those beans are prepared, and even then, you are going to want to be careful in how many your flock consumes.

Here is what you need to know about giving your chickens beans.

What Are Beans?

kinds of beans

A bean is a variety of legume and acts as seeds for plants that are part of the Fabacea family. Beans commonly grow in pods. There are many kinds of beans available, including:

  • Adzuki beans
  • Mung beans
  • Black beans
  • Cannellini beans
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Great Northern beans
  • Navy beans
  • Lima beans
  • Fava beans

Most of these beans can be purchased at the local grocery store in either cans or dried, raw in bags. You may also find pre-cooked or steamed bags of beans.

Can Chickens Eat Beans?

Beans are considered a superfood and are highly nutritious despite being among the cheaper sources of protein. However, beans tend to rank high on the list of contentious foods for chickens. Some owners will avoid beans entirely, because they believe the risk is too high. Others will present their chickens with baked beans or freshly cooked black beans.

The most important thing is that you are giving your chickens thoroughly cooked beans.

So long as the beans have been cooked the right way, your chickens will be fine. Also, the beans must be given in moderation. Do that, and your chickens will be able to enjoy this tasty, nutritious treat while getting some excellent benefits.  

Are Dried or Raw Beans Safe For Chickens to Eat?

Absolutely not. Any kind of dried or raw bean is highly dangerous for chickens. This means that if you have beans growing in your backyard garden, you will never want to let your chickens in there. Dried or raw beans contain something called phytohaemagglutinin, which is considered toxic to chickens. Should a chicken eat 3 or 4 raw beans, they will ingest enough phytohaemagglutinin to die within an hour. The worst part is that there is nothing you can do to save the bird once it has been poisoned.

This does not apply to green beans, which are not technically beans and can be eaten either raw or cooked.

Are Bean Sprouts and Leaves Safe For Chickens To Eat?

bean sprouts

Is every raw, uncooked part of the bean plant deadly or just the beans? Both bean sprouts and leaves are safe for chickens to eat. The only dangerous part is the raw bean. You can give your chickens bean sprouts without much worry, as the sprouts do not contain the same toxins found in uncooked beans. Similarly, the bean plant does not contain the toxins that make uncooked beans so harmful. Thus, your chickens can peck at bean leaves and stalks without issue. However, you should not let them do so in the garden, as they may pick up raw beans at the same time.

The Nutritional Benefit of Beans for Chickens

Beans are one of the best forms of plant-based protein available. In a single cup of beans, you get the following:

Energy168 Calories
Protein15 g
Carbohydrates24 g
Fiber11 g
Copper28% of RDI
Manganese85% of RDI
Iron27% of RDI
Folate (Vitamin B9)70% of RDI

Health Benefits of Beans

red hen on the grass

As you can tell from the chart above, beans are an excellent way to help your chickens meet their dietary needs. Keep in mind that some beans have a different nutritional profile. For instance, garbanzo beans tend to have less protein and more fiber than black beans or pinto beans. Still, all beans contain a rich assortment of vitamins and minerals.

Complex Carbohydrates & Fiber

For humans, beans are a part of a low glycemic diet (based on the glycemic index), meaning that they are full of fiber and tend to digest more slowly than simple carbohydrates. Chickens receive the same benefit from fiber and other complex carbohydrates.

Both fiber and complex sugars help the digestive tract, ward off diseases, and keep cholesterol levels in check.

Essential Vitamins and Minerals

The varieties of beans are full of phytonutrients, as well as antioxidants to keep your chickens’ immune systems bolstered throughout the year. Minerals like magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese are found in many kinds of beans. Each mineral has a role in your flock’s overall wellbeing. Plus, beans are rich in water-soluble B-vitamins for energy, immune, and nervous system health.

The Right Way to Feed Beans to Your Chickens

There is no denying that chickens loved dried things plucked straight from the wild. Seeds, grass, dead insects, and dried fruits are all favorites. However, beans are another study. Chickens can eat beans when they are cooked — no other way is safe. Therefore, you need to know how to prepare and feed beans to your chickens the right way, so they get the maximum benefit of beans.

Here are the steps you need to take prior to giving your flock beans to eat:

Cleanse The Beans

Regardless of the kind of beans that you purchase, they must all be washed, soaked, and cooked the same way. The beans have to first be cleaned. Whether they come from a can in the supermarket or your own garden, you want to rinse them clean of dirt and other things. Most of the time, water is enough.

Soak The Beans

Once the beans are free from dirt and other contaminants, put them in a bowl or pot and let them soak in water for about 5 hours. For raw or dried beans, soaking them ensures that the tough outer shell softens up enough to make it digestible.

If you have purchased canned beans, they are usually stored in a liquid. You can skip this step.

Cook The Beans

All beans must be thoroughly cooked before giving them to your flock. As mentioned earlier, uncooked beans are very harmful to birds because of the toxins in them. To remove those toxins, boil the beans for about 30 minutes in water. Afterwards, drain the beans and let them cool before giving them to the birds.

Serve The Beans

You can serve up beans a number of ways to the flock. You can mix the beans together with grains or vegetables, toss the cooked beans into their layer feed, or put the beans in the palm of your hand. Whichever method you choose, your chickens are bound to love them. Beans that were cooked in sauces or mixed into a rice dish are also fine to give your birds, so long as the sauces or other ingredients are not overly salty or sweet.

Want to keep your chickens cool in the summer? Refrigerated cooked beans can help them chill out during the hotter months.

Concluding on Beans for Chickens

Can chickens eat beans? It depends on how you prepare them. Uncooked or dried beans are toxic to chickens and should never be fed to them. If you want to give your chickens beans, ensure their snack is cooked first. Cooked beans are an excellent way to cover many of your chickens’ dietary needs, especially since beans contain large amounts of protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Just remember, when it comes to beans — wash, clean, and cook first!