Can Chickens Eat Strawberries ?

Last week, my chickens managed to break into the kitchen garden and quickly set about destroying everything in sight, starting with the strawberries!

Judging from the slim pickings they left behind, I think it’s safe to say that chickens love the juicy sweetness of a strawberry just as much as we do!

Between my 10 hens and Cocky Locky the rooster, they devoured the entire summer’s harvest in one short afternoon!

Unsurprisingly, my first reaction was anger, but this quickly gave way to concern as I realized I had no idea if chickens could safely eat such a quantity of strawberries!

Running inside, I quickly typed, “Can chickens eat strawberries?” into my search engine and breathed a sigh of relief.

Although my chickens may not feel great after eating so many strawberries, I was pretty sure it wouldn’t cause anything more serious than an upset stomach. Things could’ve been very different, however.

Why my Chickens Survived their Strawberry Feast

One of the reasons my chickens survived eating so many strawberries was because they’re homegrown and 100% organic. We don’t spray any pesticides or other chemicals on our plants, so they’re much safer for chickens (and humans) to eat.

That isn’t the case with store-bought strawberries, 99% of which have “detectable residues of at least one pesticide,” according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

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While some of these, like chloropicrin, have been shown to have “no adverse effects,” others, including phenoxy acid herbicides that are commonly used on strawberries, can cause potentially fatal toxicosis.

Even more worryingly, traces of those same herbicides are still detectable in the chicken’s eggs 24 weeks after they initially consumed the product, which means you’re eating them too!

Another thing that could’ve caused a problem is the amount of sugar my chickens digested while gorging themselves on strawberries! Fortunately, although sweet, strawberries are considered to be a low-sugar fruit and one afternoon of over-indulgence wasn’t enough to cause too much damage.

If my chickens ate that many strawberries every day, they might start gaining weight and experiencing metabolic issues as a result of the sugar content. In time, they would become obese, putting them at risk of heat exhaustion and potentially reducing their rate of egg production.

A rooster reaches for a strawberry through a mesh fence.

How my Chickens Benefited from their Afternoon of Strawberries

My chickens may have had slightly runny tummies as a result of eating all those strawberries, but they would also have got a few benefits:

Carbohydrates Give Chickens Energy

Although the carbohydrate content of a strawberry isn’t particularly high, if included as part of a balanced diet, it can give your chickens the energy they need to live a healthy life.

Chickens get the majority of their carbohydrates from cereal grains like barley and wheat, but boosting it a little with the occasional strawberry won’t do any harm!

Manganese Is a Vital Trace Element

Like most backyard chicken owners, I primarily keep chickens for their eggs (and because I find them endlessly amusing) so I like to make sure they get the manganese they need to stay healthy and produce strong eggshells.

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Without trace elements like manganese and biotin, chickens are also at risk of developing perosis disease – a disorder that causes leg deformities in chicks and young pullets.  

Folate Content Prevents Folacin Deficiency

Chickens are surprisingly susceptible to folacin deficiency and I’ve seen a couple of hens exhibiting symptoms such as lethargy, poor feathering, pale skin, and lack of appetite.

Strawberries are a good source of folate which, in addition to preventing folacin deficiency, also improves the flock’s overall health, boosting egg mass and weight and reducing their feed conversion rate.

Can Chickens Eat Strawberry Leaves and Tops?

Chickens peck at a strawberry through a wire fence.

I don’t know how my chickens knew to avoid the green tops of the strawberries or their leaves, but miraculously they did!

Maybe it’s not that miraculous, after all, those parts of the strawberry plant are quite bitter due to the high level of tannins, so that was probably enough to put my chickens off!

Chickens can’t eat the tops, or calyxes, of strawberries, nor their leaves or stems, at least not when they’ve just been picked. As part of the strawberry plant’s self-defense, it releases hydrogen cyanide through the leaves whenever it senses an attack – or you pick a strawberry!

That gas is still present in the calyx and stem of the fruit when first picked, making it toxic to chickens.

FAQs

How do You Prepare Strawberries for Chickens?

The safest way to prepare strawberries for your chickens is to remove the stems, tops, and leaves before serving.

Although the amount of cyanide present in the stem is relatively small, it’s not worth risking your chicken’s life for, so make sure you only offer them the juicy red fruits and none of the accompanying green bits.

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Can Laying Hens have Strawberries?

As I mentioned earlier, strawberries can have a positive impact on your laying hens’ egg production and quality, making it a healthy treat for your backyard flock.

Parting Thoughts

Although I’m grateful that my chickens survived their strawberry feast, I’m unwilling to let them repeat the experience, so have been busy fixing fences.

Next time my chickens eat strawberries, it will be because I’ve decided to give them a fruity treat, which means I can decide how much and which parts.

To make it a bit safer than it was last time, I plan on removing the leaves and tops and restricting my chickens’ strawberry consumption to one or two fruits per hen. That way, I can prevent those runny tummies, and stop my chickens over-indulging on too much sugar!

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