Potatoes are a staple in many diets around the world. However, that is only true in human diets. Should chickens eat the same? Although chickens are omnivores, not everything is safe for them. Some fruits and vegetables have toxins that are not dangerous to humans but could affect chickens adversely. As such, you may be wondering if your chickens can enjoy potatoes like you do. Can chickens eat potatoes? The answer yes, but with some conditions to keep in mind.
Can Chickens Eat White, Yellow, or Red Potatoes?
White potatoes, as well as those with red and yellow skins, are part of the nightshade family, the same as eggplants and tomatoes. Any plant that is part of the nightshade family contains a toxin known as solanine.
Solanine is a naturally created pesticide that keeps the plant safe from harm. It is also a neurotoxin that, when consumed, may cause convulsions, respiratory distress, diarrhea, paralysis, and neurological damage. In high amounts, solanine may even cause death.
However, solanine is not too big of an issue for humans, because when you bake a potato at a high heat — say 400 degrees F (204 degrees C) — the amount is diminished.
If you have cooked or steamed white, yellow, or red potatoes that do not have any green on them (or sprouts or eyes), they are generally safe for a chicken to consume.
Can Chickens Eat Sweet Potatoes?
Sweet potatoes are often called a superfood, because they are loaded with nutrients and vitamins required for a healthy life. It’s no different for chickens. Sweet potatoes are good for them, too. Some commercial chicken feed may even contain sweet potato already because of the benefits.
Furthermore, sweet potatoes are different from those of the nightshade family; they are from the morning glory family. Sweet potatoes do not contain any solanine. As such, you can feed your chickens sweet potato scraps without any worry. The only time you cannot give your chickens sweet potato is if it has grown moldy. Never give birds moldy food, as the toxins present in mold could make them extremely sick.
Can Chickens Eat Raw Potatoes?
Generally, raw potatoes should be given to your chickens with extreme caution. As mentioned earlier, uncooked potatoes contain solanine, a toxin that can be lethal in higher doses. Some people have had chickens consume a whole crop of potatoes raw and end up fine. That’s excellent news, but you should not risk it.
The skins and eyes of a raw potato generally have the highest amount of solanine, so do not give these to your flock. Wash and cut away any green sections of the potato. Eyes and sprouts and vines should also be removed.
Otherwise, you should only give your chickens fully cooked white, red, or yellow potatoes.
Can Chickens Eat Mashed Potatoes?
Yes, your flock can have mashed potatoes, but avoid giving them too much. Also, if the mashed potatoes contain any milk or dairy, do not give it to your birds. Chickens are lactose intolerant and cannot process the sugars present.
Otherwise, mashed potatoes make the food more digestible. Just make sure not to overfeed your chickens this way, as they may end up with diarrhea.
Can Chickens Have Potato Leaves?
Did your chickens get into the garden recently and peck at the potato leaves? Keep an eye out for certain side effects, depending on the plant. If you are growing white, red, or yellow potatoes, then those leaves may contain solanine. As you already know, that can be problematic. In the future, put some fencing around your nightshade family plants to prevent your chickens from getting sick.
The leaves of a sweet potato plant are much less toxic. Chickens can have those leaves because they are closely related to nontoxic morning glories.
Are Potatoes Good For Chickens?
Aside from the green parts and skins, potatoes are a healthy addition to a chicken’s diet. Starchy potatoes are loaded with vitamins and minerals that chickens need, as well as beneficial protein and fiber. This is true for both sweet potatoes and white potatoes. If you want to give your chickens a boost in vitamin A, consider giving them sweet potatoes inside of any other kind of potato.
Nutrition Breakdown of a Potato
|Vitamin B6||0.345 mg|
|Vitamin C||5.7 mg|
|Vitamin K||1.8 ug|
Potatoes Enhance Digestive Health
You will notice that potatoes — both white and sweet varieties — are high in fiber. Chickens need fiber for digestion just like you do. In order to properly absorb food and then rid themselves of waste, chickens must have enough fiber in their diet. Giving your chickens a little bit of potato in their meal is a great way to improve their overall health.
Immunity With Vitamin C
Potatoes are rich in vitamins, including vitamin C. Hens use vitamin C for a number of biological processes, including the synthesis of collagen. Vitamin C is also required for immune health. If you want to keep your flock from getting sick, ensure they are getting vitamin C in their diet.
Have you noticed that your chickens are a bit more listless lately? They may need some vitamin B6. This vitamin can rev up your chicken’s metabolism, helping them break down food and absorb it more readily. Your chickens will perk up in no time and start being more productive.
Potatoes and sweet potatoes contain minerals that strengthen the bones, such as iron, phosphorus, and zinc. Maintaining bone structure is also key in chickens that produce a lot of eggs, as they will need healthy bodies to support reproduction.
How to Choose and Prepare Potatoes For Your Chickens
Whether you plan on giving your chickens uncooked or cooked potatoes, there are some things to keep in mind. First and foremost, you need to find the best quality potatoes. If you serve the wrong kind of potato — or if you select one that is green — you could do untold damage to your flock.
As such, make sure you choose potatoes with the following qualities:
- Firmness: Any potato that feels mushy or soft to the touch is not a good potato. You should only give your chickens ones that firm when pressed.
- No blemishes:Cuts and other blemishes on a potato are places where bacteria and other contaminants can enter. You will need to cut away these parts, as they may not be safe to consume.
- Smooth skin: The smoother the skin, the better the potato. Wrinkled skin is a sign that your potatoes are going bad — for a couple of reasons. They may have lost moisture or be ridden with bacteria.
- Zero sprouts: Sprouting or patches of green are signs that your potatoes are not safe for consumption, either by you or your chickens.
Preparing Raw Potatoes For Your Chickens
If you want to give your chickens raw potatoes or sweet potatoes, you will need to remove all of the skin and any blemishes. Once you have done that, you need to cut the potato down into bite-sized pieces. Remember, chickens do not have teeth. Therefore, they need more manageable pieces that they can easily peck.
Mix the raw chunks in with their regular feed or place in a bowl or on a pan with other raw fruits and vegetables. Any potato that is not eaten right away must be cleaned up. Potatoes can start to go moldy very quickly.
Preparing Cooked Potatoes For Your Flock
Want to give your chickens a delectable treat? Try cooking up the taters first. You start just as you would with uncooked potatoes: skinning, removing blemishes, and then dicing them up. Fill a pot with cold water then add the potatoes. There should be enough to cover every piece.
Do not add any salt.
Let the potatoes cook on medium-high heat for about 15 minutes. Do not let the potatoes get too squishy. Once the potatoes are tender, turn off the heat, drain out the water, and let the potatoes cool.
You can serve the potatoes this way or you can mash them up. Similar to uncooked potatoes, you will want to throw away any portion that goes uneaten. Cooked potatoes will not last longer than 12 hours.
Watch a flock of chickens eagerly peck at a boiled potato in this video:
Final Thoughts on Potatoes For Chickens
Chickens, like humans, are omnivorous, meaning they can eat a wide variety of foods. As such, many chicken owners wonder if their feathered companions can have potatoes. The answer is yes. Potatoes are safe for chickens to have in most cases. However, green potatoes or those that have sprouted are not considered safe, because there are dangerous toxins present that will harm your chickens.
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.