Can Chickens Eat Bell Peppers?

Backyard gardens and chicken keeping tend to go hand-in-hand. That means you have chickens scrabbling about the garden once in a while or that you toss them the fruits and veggies you don’t want. With that habit comes the question of what is safe for chickens to eat, such as peppers. Can chickens eat bell peppers? What about the seeds?

While fruits and vegetables are often healthy treats, the bell pepper remains debatable. Keep reading to find out why.

Can Chickens Eat Bell Peppers?

the chicken leaned over the grass

Bell peppers are somewhat controversial, due to their family. Being that bell peppers are part of the nightshade family, they contain solanine, a compound that is toxic to chickens. However, the solanine is only found in certain parts of the bell pepper. So, similar to apples, there are parts of bell peppers that are 100% safe for chickens to eat while others should be removed before your chickens feast.

Solanine is only present in the flowers, stalks, and stem of the bell pepper. In other words, the part humans eat is also edible for chickens. This means you can dice up a green bell pepper and give your chickens a few of the cubes without needing to worry.

That said, there are many chicken owners who have decided against giving their precious flock bell peppers. Whether you decide to do the same or let your chickens sample a bell pepper or two is up to you.

Can Chickens Eat Bell Pepper Seeds?

Since the toxic parts of a bell pepper are the stem, leaves, and flowers of the plant, everything but the stem on the pepper is safe for chickens, including the seeds. Bell pepper seeds are a nutritious addition to the flesh. Plus, chickens love pecking at the pepper’s core to get at the seeds, keeping them entertained for hours.

Why The Nightshade Family Is Dangerous

As mentioned earlier, the nightshade family is often considered off limits to many animals. Aside from the intimidating name, nightshade plants contain compounds that can be toxic, such as solanine. Other vegetables in the nightshade group include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, as well as cayenne and paprika peppers.

While humans can consume solanine in small quantities, chickens and other animals cannot. For humans, large amounts of the chemical compound may cause irritation. The good news is that solanine is present in green, unripe vegetables and fruits. This is why foods like green potatoes and green tomatoes should never be given to chickens.

Solanine is also the reason why you should never, ever eat the eyes or shoots of a potato. 

Should your chickens peck at the leaves, stems, or a green fruit or vegetable that contains solanine, expect some consequences. They may show signs of weakness, discomfort, lethargy, convulsions, vomiting, and diarrhea. Greater amounts can be fatal.

Are Bell Peppers Good For Chickens?

Can chickens eat bell peppers? Yes, but only the flesh and the seeds. Those parts are highly beneficial to chickens. For starters, bell peppers are made up about 92% water, meaning your chickens will be hydrated. During the warmer months, bell peppers make a wonderful snack that helps the chickens beat the heat.

Bell peppers are also crammed with vitamins and minerals and carbohydrates. Chickens need a wide array of nutrients in order to live their best life (and lay delicious eggs). Red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, for example, have a good amount of beta carotene, which is converted into vitamin A. Bell peppers also contain vitamin K, vitamin E, and vitamin B6. Each of these vitamins helps with immunity and muscle function.

Bell peppers also contain minerals like folate and potassium. Growing chickens require these minerals to become strong and healthy.

Let’s not forget the fiber content of bell peppers either. Constipated chickens will love munching on bell peppers. The water content will soften their stools, while the fiber in bell peppers helps with digestion and motility.

Is There a Difference Between Green, Yellow, and Red Bell Peppers?

The color of the bell pepper doesn’t really matter when it comes to your chickens. Eat color has health benefits for your flock. That said, some colors are more nutritionally balanced than others. Let’s compare green, yellow, and red bell peppers to see which is best for your chickens:

Green Bell Peppers

All bell peppers start their life as green, which is unripe. When compared to others in taste, green bell peppers tend to be a bit more bitter. Freshly picked green bell peppers are full of minerals and vitamins, but they probably won’t be the favorite color among your chickens.

Being that green bell peppers are unripe, they may contain solanine.

Yellow Bell Peppers

As bell peppers begin to ripen, the color changes from green to yellow and orange. During this stage, bell peppers are not overly ripe. They are sweet and juicy yet still crunchy. Yellow bell peppers start to develop more beta carotene.

Red Bell Peppers

At the peak of ripeness, bell peppers are red. During this time, bell peppers are sweet and have a complete nutritional profile. Chickens will most likely go for red bell peppers if you offer them.

Also, the redder the bell pepper, the less of a chance there is of it containing solanine.

How Often Should Chickens Have Bell Peppers?

Yellow, orange, and red bell peppers are an excellent treat for chickens. It doesn’t matter if you give the peppers to chickens raw or cooked in some way. The sweetest red bell peppers and the seeds will have chickens occupied for hours. Keep in mind, though, that anything outside your chicken’s high quality feed should be considered a treat.

No matter how many benefits bell peppers offer, they can be a problem when consumed in excess. Provide bell peppers in moderation—only a couple times a week at most.

Preparing Peppers For Chow Time

Chickens enjoy pecking at fruits and vegetables, so you can simply slice off the stem of the bell pepper and toss what remains out into the yard. Your chickens will have no problem consuming the pepper. The best method, however, is to slice the pepper in half or quarters, exposing some of the seeds.

Optionally, you can slice a hole into the top and bottom of the pepper then hang it up on the fence with string. Not only is this a fun way for your chickens to entertain themselves, it also provides them with enriching food.

You can also dice up the peppers and toss them into the feed or around the chicken run. The choice is yours. Watch your chickens as they eat to see which method they prefer the most.

What About Other Peppers?

red and green jalapenos

Now that you know that chickens can consume the flesh and seeds of bell peppers, you may be wondering if other peppers are also safe. Some varieties of peppers are not related to the nightshade family, so some are safer than others. Jalapenos, for instance, are safe for chickens to eat. Since chickens do not have the capsaicin receptors in their mouths, they also won’t balk at the spicy heat.

This is why many chicken farmers give their flocks jalapeno slices and seeds to boost their immune systems.

Interestingly, ground peppers, like cayenne and paprika, can be added directly to chicken feed. These peppers add nutrients to chicken feed and do not have to be considered a treat. Plus, the spiciness that peppers add to food tends to keep rodents away from chicken feed.

What Foods Are On The Do Not Eat List For Chickens?

Bell peppers are in a gray area when it comes to safe consumption, kind of like apples. While they provide many nutritional benefits, you may think them unsafe and therefore opt to avoid even red peppers. That’s fine.

There are some other foods that are in the gray area, including:

  • Avocado. The pits and skins are highly toxic, though some chicken owners let their feathered friends peck at the flesh.
  • Dried or raw beans. Cooked beans are fine, but you should never give your chickens uncooked ones. The same goes for uncooked, dried rice.
  • Salted foods. There is plenty of salt in your chicken’s feed. Anymore is considered toxic.
  • Citrus fruit. While oranges are fine for chickens in small quantities, higher amounts will start leeching the calcium from your chickens’ bones.
  • Onions. Chickens can have onions, but their eggs will taste worse.
  • Asparagus. Higher amounts of asparagus tend to make eggs taste odd.
  • Tomatoes. Green tomatoes are not safe, as well as the stocks, leaves, and stems.
  • Potatoes. Go on, give your chicken a baked potato or tater tot. Just keep them away from unripe potatoes, eyes, and shoots.

Conclusion

Can chickens eat bell peppers and the seeds? Yes, chickens can have bell peppers; but for the sake of safety, choose yellow, orange, or red. Unripe members of the nightshade family can be very toxic to chickens. If you opt to feed your chickens bell peppers, you won’t regret it, as the peppers are loaded with all kinds of beneficial vitamins and minerals.

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