I had quite a lot of problems when I was doing the research for this article and taking the video and pictures I needed.
It turns out my chickens are big fans of tomatoes and I was trying to catch them on camera and they were running of with the tomato in their beak or chasing each other around trying to steal their food like it was some sort of comedy sketch.
Can chickens eat tomato?
Yes chickens can eat ripe tomatoes with no worries at all. In fact it is good for them to have in quantities up to 5% of their diet.
Below: This is a video of my chickens eating some over ripe tomatoes from my garden. Or more accurately it is a video of my chickens running away with tomato halves in their beaks so they don't have to share!
There was a study done a few years ago into alternative sources for poultry feeds. The feeding trial, done by the university of California was looking at ways of boosting the vitamin E levels naturally in poultry feed.
Part of this trial involved feeding chickens 15% by weight tomato pomace, which includes the skins and seeds from processing plants.
It turns out that seeds are rich in Vitamins E and A as well as other nutrients including the antioxidant lycopene.
The spokesperson for the trial said "Through working with tomato pomace, I discovered a plethora of nutritious by-products that could be fed to both broiler and laying hens"
During the trial the egg colour deepened thanks to the carotenoids or colours present in the tomato.
If you grow or process your own into passata or canned tomato then you can happily feed the tomato trimmings and seeds to your chickens knowing they will not only like them but that it is good for them.
Do chickens like Tomato?
I have yet to meet a chicken that does not like tomato.
Below: Mine are monsters when it comes to surplus tomatoes from the garden.
They just run off with them so they can keep it all to themselves.
Can chickens have cherry tomatoes?
Yes, cherry tomatoes are just smaller versions of the same fruit and are fine for chickens.
Below: Chickens eating cherry tomatoes.
As long as the tomatoes are not mouldy, rotten, or have been treated with pesticide or insecticide then they are fine. I personally wouldn’t give my chickens unripe tomatoes on purpose, just because they prefer ripe ones.
What about the yellow tomato or other colours?
I grow quite a few varieties from the massive black Russians to the golden sunrise and all coloured tomatoes go the same way when you add chickens to the mix.
The colour compounds in the tomato help make the yolks a brighter colour so there are real bonuses to adding tomato to your chickens diet.
Can chickens eat unripe tomato?
I would avoid giving chickens unripe tomatoes.
Green tomatoes do not contain solanine like the plants do, they are however difficult to eat if all you have is a beak! Once they have started to change colour you can feed them to chickens.
Unripe tomatoes are generally fine. It depends on how unripe we’re talking, but I’m going to assume they’re reddish and just a little hard for you.
If you grow tomatoes in your garden or greenhouse and your chickens have found your patch, they are going to eat everything they can reach, ripe or not.
And tinned tomato?
Tinned or canned tomato is fine for chickens as well as long as it hasn't had too much salt or sugar added like with ketchup. High sugar and salt food isn't good for birds.
The same with tomato puree, it is fine for hens in small amounts but large amounts of a concentrated product may upset digestion.
Is tomato good for chickens?
Yes, tomato is good for chickens. This turns out to be a case where you can give a treat and feed them well at the same time. The study I mentioned above gave their test hens a diet that was 15% tomato and all the measures of egg quality either stayed the same or increased.
It was noted that the yolk colour improved considerably.
The trial was 50% broiler hens and they did just as well on the diet with tomato pomace in so you can feed it to meat chickens as well.
Do tomatoes have to be cooked for chickens?
No. Tomato can be, but doesn't have to be cooked to be fed to chickens. It is fine for chickens whether it is cooked or raw. Mine like it either way.
Cooked tomato has higher lycopene levels which is good but it does not matter.
Can chickens eat tomato leaves and the plants?
The leaves and stems of the tomato plant should never be fed to chickens, they are a member of the nightshade family and the green parts contain solanine which is toxic to most animals.
This is a dose issue, a few leaves won't do your birds any harm, mine got into the greenhouse and ate quite a lot of leaves once and they were all fine so either it's not as harmful as we think or chickens have developed ways of dealing with poisons in the diet. It is best avoided if you can.