Can Chickens Eat Broccoli? What Are The Benefits?

Chickens are by no means picky eaters. Throw them just about anything, and they will peck at it inquisitively. Yet, as their keeper, you need to know what kind of fruits, vegetables, and table scraps are safe and healthy for your chickens to eat. This includes broccoli. Can chickens eat broccoli? Is there any benefit to giving them broccoli?

You’re about to find out!

chicken eats leaves

Can Chickens Eat Broccoli?

Chickens can absolutely eat broccoli, and they will flock to get a chance at having some. Broccoli is one of those special treats that chickens want. As a cruciferous vegetable, broccoli is low in calories and high in fiber. It is also a great source of protein, calcium, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin K. All of those things are necessary for raising happy, healthy chickens that lay loads of eggs.

If you haven’t given your chickens broccoli yet, there should be nothing stopping you now!

Do Chickens Like Broccoli?

When giving your chickens a snack, you most likely wonder if they even know what they are eating. However, chickens do indeed love broccoli. They know a tasty vegetable when they’re pecking at it! For chickens, the most enjoyable sections are the florets and stalks.

Broccoli Florets

Crowning the stalk of broccoli is the flower beds, also known as the florets. These dark green portions of the broccoli have the most flavor but lack some of the nutritional value of the stalk. Regardless, chickens love to peck at the florets. Be sure to cut up the florets into manageable pieces for your flock. Mix them together with cooked cauliflower florets, zucchini, or carrots.

Broccoli Stalks

Have you ever bought fresh broccoli from the supermarket but didn’t know what to do with the stalk? For humans, the stalk is fibrous and a bit hard to chew. They also don’t have a lot of flavor. So why not give the stalks to your chickens? Interestingly, the stalk is far more nutritious than the florets and is packed with vitamins, iron, and calcium.

Your chickens will eat the broccoli stalks raw or cooked — the choice is yours. That said, if you do plan on serving up the stalk raw, make sure you take some time to cut it into tiny pieces. Broccoli stalks can also be mixed with other vegetables and fruits to make a salad.

The Benefits of Broccoli For Chickens

broccoli florets

Yes, chickens can eat broccoli. But are there any benefits?

As mentioned earlier, broccoli is jam-packed with minerals and vitamins that are essential to your chickens growth and egg-laying. Broccoli is also a decent source of water. But let’s talk about the two most important things broccoli contains: protein and fiber.

Broccoli is one of the best plant-based sources of protein around. 100 grams contains 2.8 grams of protein, a macronutrient that is important to chickens. Protein plays a role in immunity, growth, egg production, and many other functions.

Fiber also has a key role. Not only does fiber assist with healthy digestion and motility, it has been scientifically proven to ward off salmonella and other pathogens. Fiber can also help with extracting valuable vitamins and nutrients. Other studies have found that chickens with a fiber-rich diet tend to release less ammonia in their droppings, too.

In other words, you want your chickens to get enough fiber.

Aside from those benefits, broccoli also contains vitamin C, vitamin K, zinc and potassium. Such vitamins and minerals work together to bolster the immune system, enhance metabolism, prevent bone-related issues, and strengthen the organs, including the eyes and heart.

Growth Enhancement

Are you looking for better egg and meat production? Then you are going to love broccoli. By increasing the nutrients your chickens receive, you get better tasting eggs. The yolks will be a brighter color. Plus, the antioxidants in broccoli ensure tissues stay healthier, so your chickens will be safer to consume.

But that’s not all. Broccoli contains properties that can lead to a 3-6% growth increase in broilers, meat birds, and dual purpose chickens. This is attributed to the array of probiotic fiber, antioxidants, and antibacterial qualities in broccoli. Overall, your chickens are healthier and can grow up stronger when broccoli is added to their diet.

Your chickens get so much from broccoli, it sounds too good to be true! Turns out, there is one downside to broccoli — you can’t give your chickens too much of it.

How Much Broccoli Should Chickens Eat?

chickens eating broccoli

While broccoli seems to be a chicken superfood, it does have some drawbacks. You should never overfeed your chicken with treats, broccoli included. Like other supplements, broccoli should not be more than 10% of a chicken’s daily energy intake. 90% of their calories should come from a high quality chicken feed or a combination of feed and free ranging.

Furthermore, that 10% of treats shouldn’t be only broccoli. You need to mix it up a little with other safe fruits and vegetables, such as apples, peppers, and squash.

In terms of frequency, that 10% amounts to a single head of broccoli once or twice a week. 

Here is why you don’t want to overfeed your chickens with broccoli:

  1. Broccoli is great, but it’s not a complete food.
  2. Broccoli contains goitrogens.

Okay. Point number one: Broccoli cannot sustain chickens on its own. Even for humans, a diet that consists of one or two things is incomplete and, therefore, unhealthy. You can’t survive only on cake or steak. Additionally, too much broccoli means too much fiber, which isn’t a good thing for birds.

Poultry feed is specifically formulated to provide a balance of macro- and micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Without a good quality chicken feed, it is almost impossible to give your chickens a balanced diet on your own.

Broccoli falls short on its own. In excess, it can even disrupt your chicken’s feeding patterns, leading to deficiencies in nutrients gained from chicken feed.

About Goitrogens

Now for the second reason why broccoli isn’t all-powerful. Broccoli is from a family of vegetables that contains goitrogens, a naturally occurring compound. Cabbage and cauliflower also have this compound.

In people, goitrogens mess with the thyroid gland and cause an abnormal release of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) from the pituitary glance. Hence the “goit,” as in goiter. For chickens, too may goitrogens lead to metabolic problems, such as feather loss and lack of energy.

Less is more when it comes to giving your chickens broccoli. 

How To Feed Broccoli To Chickens

Giving your chickens treats of fruits and vegetables does not have to be difficult. You have two options for broccoli: raw or cooked. The important thing is that you do not give your chickens anything spoiled. Organic broccoli that is free of pesticides is the best, but if you have leftover steamed broccoli, your chickens won’t complain.

When giving your chickens raw broccoli, make sure you have rinsed off the vegetables and scrubbed off any dirt. This is important when not using organic, as you need to get off any harmful pesticides and herbicides. The best way to remove such chemicals is to let your broccoli soak in lukewarm water for 10-15 minutes.

Steamed or boiled broccoli is ideal. The heat breaks down the broccoli just enough that it makes it easier for the chickens to peck at and swallow. Anything too fibrous or tough could get lodged in their throat. The downside to boiling vegetables, however, is the diminished nutrients.

Raw or cooked, make sure the broccoli has been sliced down to bite-sized pieces for your flock. Toss the florets and stalks around the yard or mix together with their feed or other treats. Your chickens will have no problems seeking out the bits they like best.

You may also find that your feathered friends have a preference. Some birds prefer raw while others like cooked broccoli. Observe to see which kind gets the best reaction then proceed from there.

Conclusion

Can chickens eat broccoli? Yes, and they get a load of vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients from broccoli as well. However, broccoli should not exceed more than 10% of a chicken’s diet. While broccoli is a wonderfully delectable treat for chickens, they may get sick if they eat too much. Next time you have leftover broccoli from dinner, throw it to your chickens and watch them peck and cluck with delight.

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