Chickens are known for their diverse and omnivorous diet, which often includes various plants, flowers, fruits, vegetables, and insects. Backyard chicken keepers continuously search for ways to diversify their flock’s diet, ensuring that their chickens receive a wide range of nutrients to maintain optimal health. One such plant that has piqued the interest of many chicken keepers is the nasturtium. In this article, we will explore whether chickens can eat nasturtiums, the potential benefits, and risks of including nasturtiums in your chickens’ diet, and how to safely introduce nasturtiums to your flock.
Nasturtiums, scientifically known as Tropaeolum majus, are annual or perennial flowering plants native to South and Central America. They are characterized by their vibrant, funnel-shaped flowers, which come in various shades of yellow, orange, and red. In addition to their ornamental value, nasturtiums are also popular for their culinary uses, as both the flowers and leaves have a peppery, watercress-like flavor that can add a spicy kick to salads and other dishes.
Can Chickens Eat Nasturtiums?
The short answer is yes, chickens can safely eat nasturtiums. Both the flowers and leaves of the nasturtium plant are not only safe for chickens to consume but also offer a variety of health benefits that can contribute to the overall well-being of your flock.
Are Nasturtiums Healthy for Chickens?
Nasturtiums are more than just a burst of color in your garden; they can be a nutritious component of your chickens’ diet, brimming with vitamins A, C, and D, and essential minerals such as iron, manganese, and phosphorus. These nutrients play a key role in bolstering your chickens’ immune system, promoting healthy skin and feathers, and ensuring robust bones and eggshells.
But their benefits don’t stop at nutrition. Nasturtiums carry natural anthelmintic properties, aiding in the elimination or destruction of parasitic worms in the digestive system. This can significantly lower the risk of parasitic infections, contributing to the overall health of your flock.
The introduction of these vibrant flowers not only provides mental stimulation and foraging opportunities for your chickens, but also caters to their innate curiosity.
As a bonus, nasturtiums double up as natural pest repellents in gardens and chicken coops. They deter a range of pests, including aphids, whiteflies, and squash bugs, thereby contributing to a healthier environment for your chickens.
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Risks of feeding Nasturtium To Chickens :
Feeding Nasturtium To Chickens: What You Should Be Aware Of:
Too Much of a Good Thing: Nasturtiums, while beneficial, should not make up the entirety of your chickens’ diet. Overindulgence could upset the nutritional balance necessary for their wellbeing, potentially leading to health problems. As with all foods, moderation is key.
Potential Allergic Reactions: Just as humans can have food allergies, so too can chickens. If you observe any symptoms like diarrhea, sluggishness, or a decrease in appetite after introducing nasturtiums, it may indicate that your chickens are sensitive or allergic to them. Should this occur, promptly remove the nasturtiums and seek advice from a veterinarian.
How to safely add Nasturtiums into Your Chickens’ Diet :
If you decide to offer nasturtiums to your chickens, here are some tips for safely incorporating them into their diet:
Fresh From the Garden: Scatter fresh nasturtium flowers and leaves around your chickens’ foraging area or hang them within pecking distance. This not only adds variety to their diet but also encourages natural foraging instincts, promoting both physical activity and mental stimulation.
Dried Delicacies: If nasturtiums are growing in abundance, why not dry some for later? Lay the leaves and flowers on a clean surface in a well-ventilated spot, away from direct sunlight. Turn them periodically for even drying over a few days. Once thoroughly dry, store them in an airtight container, ready to be a crunchy treat for your chickens.
A Feed Fusion: Blending fresh or dried nasturtium flowers and leaves with your chickens’ regular feed is another method of introducing these nutritious plants, particularly for fussy eaters or those without a foraging area.
Nasturtium-Infused Treats: Making homemade chicken treats? Add some fresh or dried nasturtiums! Whether it’s seed bars, suet cakes, or a medley of veggies and fruits, these nasturtium-enriched snacks not only offer a flavor twist but also a healthful boost.
Precautions to Take When Feeding Nasturtiums to Chickens
Watchful Feeding: Keep a vigilant eye on your flock when introducing nasturtiums to their diet. Any new food can potentially cause discomfort, and it’s important to monitor their reactions. If you observe any signs of distress, be ready to remove the nasturtiums promptly.
Source with Care: If you’re not home-growing the nasturtiums, ensure they come from a reliable source free from pesticides, herbicides, or harmful chemicals. Your chickens’ health is paramount, so always choose organic or pesticide-free nasturtiums.
Slow and Steady: When introducing nasturtiums, it’s best to start small and gradually increase the quantity. This allows your chickens to adapt to the new addition in their diet and lets you spot any potential issues early.
Don’t Forget Balance: Nasturtiums, while beneficial, should be a supplement and not replace the primary food source for your chickens. A well-rounded diet, including high-quality poultry feed and a diverse range of other wholesome foods, remains crucial for the overall health and well-being of your flock.
Flowers That Chickens Can Eat
1. Calendula (Calendula officinalis): Calendula flowers, also known as pot marigolds, are safe for chickens to eat and offer various health benefits, such as improved skin and feather health and enhanced immune function.
2. Pansies (Viola spp.): Pansies are another safe and attractive option for chickens to eat. They come in a wide variety of colors and can add a touch of beauty to your chicken’s foraging area.
3. Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.): Sunflower petals and seeds are both safe for chickens to eat. Sunflower seeds are a great source of protein and healthy fats, while the petals contain small amounts of vitamins and minerals.
4. Borage (Borago officinalis): Borage flowers and leaves are safe for chickens to consume and can provide numerous health benefits. Borage is known to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and can help promote healthy digestion and respiratory function.
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Flowers That Chickens Should Not Eat
1. Foxgloves (Digitalis spp.): Foxgloves are a toxic flower that should not be fed to chickens. They contain toxic compounds called cardiac glycosides, which can cause heart failure and death in chickens.
2. Larkspur (Delphinium spp.): Larkspur is a beautiful but toxic flower that should not be consumed by chickens. It contains alkaloids that can cause digestive issues, muscle weakness, and even death in chickens.
3. Lupines (Lupinus spp.): Lupines are a colorful and visually appealing flowers, but they are toxic to chickens. They contain alkaloids that can cause digestive problems, nervous system issues, and even death in chickens.
4. Rhododendrons (Rhododendron spp.): Rhododendrons, which include azaleas, are toxic to chickens and should be avoided. They contain compounds called grayanotoxins, which can cause severe digestive issues, breathing difficulties, and even death in chickens.
FAQs About Feeding Nasturtiums to Chickens
Q: How often can I feed nasturtiums to my chickens?
A: Nasturtiums should be offered as an occasional treat or supplement to your chickens’ diet. There is no strict guideline for how often to feed nasturtiums, but providing them once or twice a week should be sufficient.
Q: Can I plant nasturtiums near my chicken coop or run?
A: Yes, planting nasturtiums near your chicken coop or run can provide both visual appeal and practical benefits. The plants can attract beneficial insects and deter pests while offering your chickens a safe, edible treat to forage on.
Q: Are there any specific varieties of nasturtiums that are safer or more beneficial for chickens?
A: There is no particular variety of nasturtiums that is significantly safer or more beneficial for chickens. All nasturtiums, if sourced responsibly and free from harmful chemicals, can be safely consumed by chickens in moderation.
Q: Can baby chicks eat nasturtiums?
A: It is generally safe for baby chicks to consume nasturtiums, but it is essential to introduce new foods gradually and monitor their consumption closely. If you notice any signs of distress or discomfort in your baby chicks after consuming nasturtiums, remove the flowers immediately and consult a veterinarian.
In conclusion, chickens can safely eat nasturtiums in moderation and several other flowers, such as calendula, pansies, sunflowers, and borage. However, some flowers, like foxgloves, larkspur, lupines are toxic to your chickens. Both the flowers and leaves of the nasturtium plant offer a range of health benefits, including nutritional value, natural deworming properties, mental stimulation, and pest control. When incorporating nasturtiums into your chickens’ diet, it is crucial to monitor their consumption, source the plants responsibly, and maintain a balanced diet. By doing so, you can ensure that your chickens enjoy the benefits of nasturtiums without compromising their health.