Can Chickens Eat Cabbage: Is It Safe?

The humble cabbage is a commonly used vegetable around the world. From a quick stir fry to stews and more, cabbage is a great addition to all kinds of recipes. But you probably also have some cabbage leftover. So can chickens eat cabbage if you give it to them? And are there any risks involved? Today, those questions are going to be answered, along with a couple others.

Can Chickens Eat Cabbage?

chickens eat cabbage

First order of business: Can chickens have cabbage? The answer is yes. Cabbage is considered a cruciferous vegetable, putting it in the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, and kale. Since none of these vegetables are known to have anything poisonous to chickens, cabbage is a perfect treat.

Now, you may be wondering, can chickens eat any kind of cabbage? They definitely can. There are many kinds of cabbage out there, and since they are all related, they are all safe for chickens to have. The different kinds of cabbages to offer your chickens include:

  • Savoy cabbage
  • Green cabbage
  • Red cabbage
  • Napa cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Bok choy

Each of these types of cabbage have a slightly different nutritional profile, but each is incredibly healthy.

Can Baby Chicks Eat Cabbage?

Generally, if chickens can eat something, so too can chicks. However, young chicks do not have a fully developed digestive system. Wait until your chicks have reached at least 6 weeks of age before introducing adult snacks to them. Up to that point, chicks should be eating only a high quality starter. You should also be careful when giving them raw cabbage, as it can be tough for them to peck at and swallow.

The best way to see if your chicks will eat cabbage is to boil it first, softening up the leaves. Chop the cabbage into smaller pieces and give the chicks a small amount. As they get older, you can be a bit more generous with portion sizes.

What Parts of a Cabbage Can Chickens Eat?

chicken eats leaves

A flock of chickens can easily devour a whole cabbage. The only part of the vegetable that may give your chickens a challenge is the hard stem and core. Otherwise, there is no part of a cabbage that chickens should avoid. Everything is perfectly safe for them to eat or peck.

The only kind of cabbage that your chickens should avoid is anything processed. Think coleslaw that is dredged in salts and fats.

Is Cabbage Healthy For Chickens?

If you are buying or growing cabbage for your family, then you are probably already aware of how nutritious it is. Cabbages are chock full of vitamins and minerals that keep the body strong and healthy. Those same components are beneficial for your chickens, too.

Here is the nutritional breakdown of 100 grams of green cabbage:

  • Protein: 1.28 grams
  • Fiber: 2.5 grams
  • Vitamin B6: 0.124 mg
  • Vitamin C: 36.6 mg
  • Vitamin K: 76 ug
  • Folate: 43 mcg
  • Manganese: 0.16 mg
  • Calcium: 40 mg
  • Magnesium: 12 mg
  • Potassium: 170 mg
  • Phosphorus: 26 mg

There are also trace amounts of riboflavin, iron, and vitamin A in cabbage.

You should pay special attention to foods that are rich in fiber, vitamin B6, and folate. Chickens need these nutrients just as much as people do. Not only do these vitamins and minerals promote a healthy nervous system, they tone the metabolism and protect the organs from free radical damage. Furthermore, cabbage has polyphenols, a kind of antioxidant.

Cabbage also contains a lot of water. Combined with the fiber content, a serving of cabbage can both hydrate and help move the digestive process along.

Are There Any Risks to Giving Cabbage to Chickens?

Now, while cabbages are a wonderful snack for your feathered friends, it comes with a warning. As with most treats, cabbage should not be eaten in excess. If cabbage exceeds 10% of a chicken’s weekly diet, it could be dangerous. Moderating how much your chickens eat is essential to their health.

Too much cabbage could cause diarrhea, which can dehydrate your chickens and make them very uncomfortable. Cabbages also contain something known as goitrogenic agents, which are known to cause thyroid complications. Broccoli, turnips, soybeans, flax, and rapeseed also contain these compounds. When your chickens eat too much cabbage, they may develop immune deficiencies, reproductive problems, and even avian goiter. Furthermore, while cabbage is low in calories, it can contribute to obesity should your chicken receive too many treats.

Also, you want to avoid giving your chickens anything moldy, including cabbage. Rot foods are harmful to your chickens. If the cabbage has started to go bad or smells foul, do not give it to your birds.

Do Chickens Like Eating Cabbage?

Yes, chickens love to eat cabbage. Most of the time, your flock is going to be ready and waiting when they see that cabbage is on the menu. There will seldom be scraps of cabbage left after providing it to your chickens. However, each chicken is going to have their own preferences. Some chickens are going to lose their minds over cabbage. Others may turn their beaks up at it and prefer to forage for insects.

If you want to see how your flock is going to react to cabbage, only give them a few small pieces in the beginning. See if they are willing to peck at the cabbage. If they only nudge the vegetable with their beaks, you should probably give them something else as a treat. On the other hand, if the cabbage is demolished, they like it.

How to Serve Cabbage to Chickens

The first rule of thumb when serving up leafy green treats to your flock is to limit how much they receive. Remember, treats should never exceed 10% of a chicken’s diet. Therefore, if you have a flock that is smaller than 6 birds, you should only give them half a cabbage. That ensures that each chicken has enough. Larger flocks can have a medium-sized cabbage. And if your flock is huge or prone to altercations, use a couple of smaller cabbage heads and scatter them around.

But how should you serve up cabbage? By the head? A few leaves at a time? Here are some fun ideas for you:

Cooked

You can steam or boil up some cabbage for your chickens. That said, avoid giving them the leftovers of your meal. Chickens do not require any additional salt or sugar in their diet — the feed is enough. Leave any cabbage you intend to give your flock unseasoned.

Refrigerated and Raw

During the hot summer months, cabbage can be a fun and refreshing snack. Put the head of uncooked cabbage in the refrigerator for a few hours. You can even shred up some cabbage, stuff it into ice cube molds, and freeze alongside water.

Dangling by a Hook

Hanging a raw head of cabbage within pecking height for your chickens is a wonderful idea. Not only does hanging food keep it off the ground, where it could get dirty, it also adds a bonus level of entertainment. Your chickens will have a blast chasing after and pecking the cabbage until there is nothing left.

This video explains how to hang vegetables like cabbage or iceberg lettuce from a hook:

Cabbage Entree

You can also use cabbage as part of a full course meal for your chickens. Again, this should be used in moderation. Mix together the following:

  • 4 cups cooked wheat berries
  • 4 cups groats
  • 1 cup cooked lentils
  • ½ cup shredded cabbage (of any kind)

The ingredients are high in protein and fiber. Your chickens will stay fuller for longer! Plus, they will be nice and warm throughout the night if you add in a little cracked corn.

Tips To Keep In Mind About Cabbage

white cabbage

Before sending you off to feed your chickens cabbage and a whole rainbow of fruits and vegetables, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Do not feed your chicken too much cabbage, as it can cause diarrhea.
  • If you have a large flock (more than 6 chickens), it is best to separate the cabbage into portions throughout the yard or run. That will give the weaker chickens a chance to grab a few pieces for themselves.
  • Use cabbage as a treat and provide your chickens with a balanced layer feed throughout the week.
  • Always wash the cabbage before giving it to your chickens. Store-bought cabbages are often covered in pesticides and herbicides, which can be harmful to your birds.

Final Thoughts on Giving Cabbage to Chickens

Cabbage is a wonderful treat for your chickens. In fact, you may find that they become quite addicted to the vegetable. Don’t give into their pleas for more. Cabbage is super healthy for your flock, but it can also impact them negatively when given in excess. Ensure that they have a well balanced diet that is enriched with cabbage and other vegetables and fruits. Your chickens will be much happier and healthier that way.

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