Can Chickens Eat Peonies? Safe or Toxic?

There is an immense joy in watching your chickens roam your yard and eat bugs, leaves, grass, plants, etc. However, as a responsible chicken owner, you must be aware of potential dangers to your birds. 

In general, all birds have instinctual know-how of which items to avoid and which are safe to eat. A young chick might taste something and eventually learn what is bad or harmful. However, it may be best not to have those harmful items in the first place.

Most yards have safe plants and flowers for chickens to eat. However, some are toxic to the hens. That brings us to the question- can chickens eat peonies? Can they munch on peony flowers and leaves? Is it safe?

Let us find out!

Can Chickens Eat Peonies? 

There is some debate surrounding this topic and the answer is not a straightforward yes or no.

Some people believe that chickens can safely eat peonies since peonies are also edible for humans. Humans have used these pretty flowers for various medicinal purposes since time immemorial. Many cooking enthusiasts make jams and jellies from peony flowers. Chinese herbalists use the petals, leaves, and seeds of peonies to make pain-relieving tinctures, salves, balms, etc. This is why some chicken owners feed tender peony flowers to their hens and ducks.

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Toxic Compounds

However, there is another line of thought that all of the parts of the peony plant (stems, leaves, flowers, and seeds) contain a toxin called paeonol. This toxin is what imparts the pain-relieving property to peony salves and balms, as it has a numbing effect.

However, this toxin is known to make cows, dogs, cats, and horses very sick. It is known to cause debilitating symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach upset in these animals. There is a chance that peony flowers, in excess, could cause similar signs of poisoning in chickens. That is why many chicken owners refrain from planting peonies around their yards.

Can Chickens Eat Peony Leaves?

Can Chickens Eat Peony Leaves

Can Chickens Eat Peony Leaves

Peony leaves contain a toxin called paeonol. There haven’t been any reports or studies showing that this toxin can harm chickens. However, it is known to cause serious symptoms in cats, dogs, cows, and horses. 

To be on the safe side, it may be best not to feed peony leaves to hens. There is a chance that peony leaves can cause tummy troubles and make your flock sick. Stick to feeding safer treats to your hens. As such, most hens avoid eating perennials like peonies and lilies, especially their leaves, because of their bitter taste.

Can Chickens Eat Peony Seeds?

Humans can eat peony seeds – especially the kernels inside the seeds. Some cooks add peony seeds to their baked goods, salads, etc.

Most chickens avoid pecking at peony seeds due to their bitter taste. Some chicken keepers believe it is best not to let the birds eat peony seeds (or any other part of the peony plants), as they contain a toxin called paeonol.

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Until more studies prove otherwise, it may be best not to feed peony seeds to your flock.

Can Chickens Eat Any Flowers?

Chickens can enjoy most flower varieties. They also instinctively know which ones to eat and which ones are toxic. Here are lists of flowers in both groups:

What Flowers Are Good For Chickens to Eat?

You can feed the following flowers to your flock:

  • Marigolds – marigolds are one of the best flowers for chickens to consume. They are packed with antioxidants that can build your birds’ immunity and help them ward off diseases.
  • Dandelion – The entire dandelion plant is safe for chickens to eat. Most chickens enjoy the tender roots, shoots, flowers, and leaves of this plant.
  • Lavender – lavender can provide nice aromatherapy to chickens. Even if they eat it, it is fine, as these flowers are not toxic. They are calming and function as a nerve tonic. However, many chicken keepers report that their hens avoid lavender flowers as they don’t like the taste.
  • Nasturtiums – these colorful flowers make a wonderful treat for hens. Nasturtiums are packed with vitamins A, C, and E. 
  • Sunflower – sunflower is the best plant to plant around the chicken run. Your birds can enjoy the seeds, leaves, petals, and stems of sunflowers. Sunflower seeds and petals provide many minerals and vitamins for your chickens.
  • Rosemary – The rosemary herb has many benefits for chickens. It acts as a deodorizer around the chicken coop. It also relieves pain and benefits your hens’ respiratory systems.
  • Roses – Roses come in many colors and varieties. Almost all varieties of roses are safe for chickens to eat. Rose petals provide many vitamins and antioxidants for chickens. Rose and rose hips are also anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiseptic, and remove blood toxins. 
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Flowers Toxic to Chickens

Here is a list of flowers and plants that are unsafe for chickens.

  • Azalea – Azalea contains grayanotoxin which can cause debilitating symptoms in chickens. If your chicken has accidentally eaten azalea, it could suffer from excess drooling, diarrhea, and seizures – depending on the quantity it ate and your bird’s size.
  • Daffodil – daffodils are extremely toxic to chickens and ducks. If your bird has swallowed any part of a daffodil, it could die, so please avoid planting daffodils in your garden.
  • Fern – Fern and bracken (which is the UK’s most popular fern) can cause debilitating symptoms like anemia, weight loss, and muscle tremors in chickens.
  • Holly – Holly leaves contain saponins, which are toxic to hens. Please avoid planting holly bushes around your yard.
  • Hydrangea– the flowers and leaves of hydrangea contain compounds called cyanogenic glycosides. When ingested, these compounds convert into cyanides. So, please make sure your hens do not come near hydrangea.

Conclusion – Can Chickens Eat Peonies?

Yes, but with caution. Some experts believe that peonies are edible, while others warn about a toxin called paeonol that is known to cause toxicity in horses, dogs, cats, and other farm animals. 

Most chickens tend to avoid eating peonies on their own. Until more research confirms their safety, it may be best not to intentionally feed peonies (their flowers, leaves, and seeds) to chickens or plant them near the chicken run.

Can Chickens Eat Peonies

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