Can Chickens Eat Bananas ? (Going Bananas for Fruit)

Chickens have a surprisingly diverse diet when given the opportunity. They’ll gobble up the most grotesque-looking grubs and insects, and gulp down an array of fruits and vegetables. As our banana trees are currently producing fruit as if there’s no tomorrow, I started wondering if I could share some of the excess with my chickens, or if these sweet, yellow fruits would somehow upset their digestive systems.

So, can chickens eat bananas? They can and will, with great enthusiasm and, like us humans, will benefit from the fruit’s soft, nutrient-rich flesh. While chickens can eat bananas safely, there are some things to consider before tossing a whole bunch into your coop.

Breaking Down Bananas: The Health Benefits for Chickens

Chickens will go bananas over almost any food source, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for them. In the case of bananas, however, there are lots of health benefits, alongside a few potential concerns.

Why Chickens Need Potassium

As you all know, bananas are rich in potassium and, while chickens don’t need a lot of potassium (the estimated minimum requirement is around .06% of an adult chicken’s diet), without it, their egg production will drop and they may show signs of weakness or lethargy.

Potassium also supports the chicken’s heart function and muscle development.

Potassium also helps chickens control their body temperatures effectively, improving their ability to tolerate higher temperatures without experiencing heat exhaustion.

Bananas Boost A Hen’s Health And Hydration

Ripe bananas consist of around 75% water, so feeding your flock a banana or two on a hot summer’s day will help keep them hydrated, reducing the risk of heat exhaustion and dehydration.

The Role of Fibre in the Chicken’s Diet

When I think about the fiber content of my chicken’s diet, I tend to focus on grains and seeds, often overlooking the fact that many fruits also contain fiber. Bananas aren’t particularly high in fiber, but that’s ok as chickens don’t need very much. A single banana contains around 2.6 g of fiber, which is around a third of the average chicken’s daily requirement. Fibre supports the chicken’s digestive system, improving their ability to absorb and metabolize other nutrients, like those discussed below.

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Bananas Contain a Variety of Vital Vitamins

Bananas are packed with vitamins and nutrients, many of which are vital for a chicken’s health. Of course, bananas aren’t the only source of these nutrients, but there’s nothing wrong with giving your chickens a quick health boost in the form of a bendy, yellow banana every once in a while.

Among other nutrients, a ripe banana contains around 0.3mg of manganese, which laying hens need to strengthen their eggshells. A hen whose diet is deficient in manganese won’t be as productive in the egg department and may produce sickly chicks that struggle to grow or develop healthy muscle tone. 

Bananas are also high in magnesium which supports several vital functions, including the metabolism of carbohydrates. Magnesium deficiency increases a chicken’s risk of developing metabolic disorders, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular diseases.

In addition to these vital nutrients, bananas also contain essential vitamins, including vitamin B12   which plays a vital role in many of the chicken’s vital bodily processes. It also helps improve a young chicken’s growth and development, boosts feather quality and egg production, and supports their immune system.

Chickens will also get a good boost of vitamin B6 from a slice or two of ripe banana, which will help egg production and improve chick hatch rates.

Balance and Bananas: Managing Your Flock’s Intake

Just because bananas have health benefits for chickens, it doesn’t mean you should cut out their usual grain and swap them over to a purely banana-based diet. Bananas are surprisingly calorific and also have a high sugar content, which could, in the short term, irritate your chicken’s digestive system, causing diarrhea.

If you feed your flock a lot of bananas for a prolonged period, they consume too many calories and way too much sugar, causing them to gain weight and putting them at risk of obesity. In chickens, excess weight leads to many of the same complications seen in humans, including difficulty moving, and problems with the heart and liver problems. It also increases the risk of heat exhaustion.

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Any food source, fed in excess, can become potentially toxic to a flock of chickens, so keep a watchful eye on their banana consumption, limiting it to one to two bananas a day for a flock of 10.

Another way to control your flock’s sugar consumption while still supplementing their diet with bananas is to feed them green bananas, rather than ripe ones. Not only do green bananas contain less sugar, but they also have a higher starch content, which acts as a prebiotic in chickens, boosting their gut health.

How Many Bananas Are Good For My Chickens?

A person offers a banana to two curious chickens outside a coop

Even though I’m sitting with a boxful of ripe bananas, I’m cautious about how many I offer to my chickens. Every other day, I prepare a single small banana for my flock of 12, which means that each hen receives approximately 1 tbsp of banana per serving.

I only feed my chickens bananas once or twice a week at most, letting them get most of their nutrition from the grubs and greens around the garden.

The Potential Dangers of Feeding Chickens Banana Skins

Although very few people enjoy munching down on a banana skin, they are both edible and surprisingly healthy. One of my horses adores banana skins, and most of my chickens will peck away at them for a while, or at least until their tough texture proves too much like hard work!

Banana peels contain many of the same health benefits as the flesh of the fruit and will give your chickens plenty of fiber, along with several vital vitamins and nutrients. They don’t have the same water content as the fruit, but they also contain less sugar so are less likely to cause weight gain.

Before you start throwing all your discarded banana skins to your chickens, bear in mind that many commercially grown bananas are treated with pesticides and other chemicals, and there may be traces of these potentially harmful substances in the peels.

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The safest way to feed your chickens banana skins is to wash them thoroughly and chop them into more manageable pieces. As chickens can only peck and tear at their food, they may struggle to rip their way through fibrous banana skins, so chopping them up makes them more palatable, and means you can control their intake more accurately.

FAQs 

Can Chickens Eat Overripe Bananas?

Chickens aren’t too fussy about the color or texture of their bananas. I can’t bear the fruits when they get too soft, but chickens don’t seem to care. They’ll happily peck away at a ripe banana, and benefit from the fruit’s high potassium content.

Can Chickens Eat Banana Skins?

A chicken pecks at a banana peel on the grass

Chickens will eat banana skins and gain some health benefits from them, but they need to be correctly prepared. The peels of commercially grown bananas may contain traces of pesticides and other chemicals, so must be washed thoroughly. The fibrous peels are also a bit tough for chickens, so need to be chopped into smaller, more manageable pieces.

Can Chickens Eat Raw Bananas?

Just as a chicken seems quite comfortable with mushy, overripe bananas, so they’ll happily peck away at an underripe green banana. In many ways, these underripe fruits are better for your hens as they contain less sugar and more starch, which acts as a health-boosting prebiotic.

Parting Thoughts

Chickens can eat bananas and will get many health benefits from them, as long as they’re consumed in moderation. As healthy as they are, bananas are also high in sugar, which can cause diarrhea, and high in calories, which can cause your flock to gain weight, leading to obesity.

One or two ripe bananas chopped up and offered to a flock of 10 or so hens constitutes a healthy snack, whereas tossing a whole bunch to a couple of hens could have some nasty consequences.

Another thing to consider when feeding your chickens bananas is where those bright, bendy fruits came from and how they were grown.

I’m fortunate enough to have bananas growing organically in my backyard, but a lot of commercial operations treat their bananas with pesticides, traces of which may remain on the skins. These could have negative consequences for your flock’s health, so you should wash all bananas thoroughly before offering them to your hens.

Now you know that chickens can and will eat bananas, you have another fruit to offer your flock. Not only will it keep them entertained and stimulated, but it will also give them a good boost of potassium, fiber, and various other nutrients and vitamins.

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