Some plants are poisonous to chickens although they are generally quite savvy about what to eat and what to avoid.
Poultry in general and chickens in particular are foraging birds by nature and have a well developed sense of what is good for them and what is not.
It is quite rare for a chicken to eat poisonous plants as they seem to have a well developed sense of smell.
Prevention is far easier than cure. If in doubt, keep harmful plants away from your birds.
Simple tips to protect your poultry:
- Be careful before free ranging birds in an ornamental garden.
- Have a clearly defined run and clip primary wing feathers if necessary.
- Grow some things especially for them like dandelions, lettuce or courgettes.
- Ex battery hens may need a bit more supervision and training.
- Make sure you know what you are feeding them, your chickens will likely eat whatever you present them with as you feed them all the time.
- If you are unsure then it is best avoided.
The problem comes with confinement, chickens may eat plants that are bad for them if they have nothing else to nibble at. Give your chickens plenty of access to fresh pasture with lots of grasses to eat and they are less likely to consume the plants that will hurt them.
Before you go stripping every last plant out of your garden or pasture please remember there are incredibly few cases of poisoning by plants in poultry. They are more likely to be hit intentionally or by rat poison or similar.
This action shot of my free range Wyandotte bantams enjoying the sunshine on open grassland. Preparation of the pasture your birds spend their time on is a sure fire way to protect them.
Here is a list of some plants that are poisonous to chickens:
The list, based on what veterinarians have told me and I have picked out of old poultry books.
Poisonous Plants List
Anything mouldy – mould often contain mycotoxins which can be deadly and spores can be a problem.
Rhubarb – oxalic acid causes digestive discomfort in small dose and whilst is unlikely to be fatal to an adult bird may kill growers.
Lily of the Valley
St. Johns Wort
Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata L.)
Acorns and oak leaves
It is by no means exhaustive and I have not been able to verify whether they are poisonous or if it is just wives tales.
Free range chickens seem to avoid things that are not good for them.
Some are not fatal but are best avoided. I’m not going to test them on my chickens!
If plants are poison to humans then it is likely they are no good for your poultry.
Blue Green Algae found in water can be fatal so ensure water sources like ponds or water containers are clean and kept covered.
The Maybe not poisonous after-all list:
Plants that we have moved to the next list are the ‘maybe not dangerous’, in the same way curry plant is not a danger to humans but can make you feel unwell.
Chickens have fed on or been seen eating these plants and coming to no visible harm.
- Daffodil – I would still keep them away. Seems to be more of an issue with the bulb rather than ther greenery.
- Elderberry - except the stalks and unripe berries - The berries contain a compund that causes diarrhea in birds and the stalks an alkaloid poison.
- Lamb’s Quarters.
- Apple pips – contain cyanide but the fatal dose is over 1000 pips. I feed my birds apples in Autumn and they are just fine.
- Stinging nettles – the stings can causes rashes and swelling.
- Citrus – the jury is till out on this one but my hens never go anywhere near it.
Please contact us if you feel we have missed anything we will build a clearer picture over time.
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