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Feeding guide for Backyard Poultry

I recently had a conversation with a family member that shocked me totally, they were very much animal people but did not know that rhubarb is highly poisonous to animals!

I honestly thought that EVERYONE knew that rhubarb leaves were highly poisonous! so that conversation has led me to think about what else is toxic and others may not know about.... so, I have put together this little list of things that you should not feed your chickens. Hope its a good reference and that perhaps there may be something on this list that you didnt know:

NO AVOCADO - avocado conatin the toxin persin. Leaves of the avocado are the most toxic ... and before you say "we dont have avocado trees in Tasmania" think again ... I have one in my backyard, and perhaps you do too if it is a garden that you havent planted from scratch and are unfamiliar with its foliage.

NO CHOCOLATE - contains the toxin methylxanthines theobromine which should be avoided.

NO CAFFINE + NO ALCOHOL (for obvious reasons!)

NO TEA BAGS

NO APPLE SEEDS - apple seeds contain small amounts of cyanide - please core all your apples before giving to any of your animals

NO POTATOES - potatoes are part of the nightshade family. The toxin in potatoes is called solanine. This toxin can cause diarrhea and heart failure. Some people have told me that if you cook the skins they are then ok, but personally i would prefer to put them in the compost bin and be safe than sorry.

NO TOMATO LEAVES | NO RHUBARB STALKS | NO EGGPLANT LEAVES - these are also all part of the nightshade family. Giving your hens the green tomatoes from your vines should also be avoided.

NO RAW DRIED BEANS - which contain phytohemagglutinin (PHA/hemaglutin), a natural insecticide that can be harmful unless the dried beans are soaked and then properly cooked. Once cooked, they are fine to feed. Interesting note, sprouted beans are fine for your chickens. The act of sprouting also kills the hemaglutin.Sprouting your own beans as a feed source is a greatway of ensuring adequate greens.

NO ONIONS - which contain a toxin called thiosulphate that destroys red blood cells. Excessive amounts can cause jaundice or anemia in your hens or even death. Some people claim that onions will taint the taste of your eggs as well. We don't recommend feeding onions because any possible health benefits are far outweighed by the potential health risk

NEVER FEED MOULDY FOODS, although overripe fruits, wilted veggies and stale cereal or bread products are all fine. Nothing too salty/sweet/fried. Self-explanatory, if its not good for you, it's probably not good for them either. They can get overweight which affects their overall health and laying ability.

Citrus is thought to interfere with calcium absorption and contribute to thin-shelled and fewer eggs, so don't feed citrus fruits regularly.

The oxalic acid in spinach can also interfere with calcium absorption, so spinach should be only an occasio

Dairy products can give chickens diarrhea since they aren't designed to digest the milk sugars, so go easy on the dairy if you notice it's having a negative effect on your girls.


Remember, a toxic substance does not mean that it will immediately kill the bird that consumes it.

Many toxins build up in the system and signs of distress take awhile to be apparent. Symptoms can range from hemorrhaging, internal congestion, visceral gout, diarrhea, convulsions, kidney failure, a rapid heartbeat or poor egg quality and quantity, all depending on the hens' overall health, condition, age, size and what and how much is eaten how often.


In moderation, most things won't hurt them - even those listed above. But there's sometimes a fine line between what will be beneficial and what won't, and what eventually will take it's toll on a body. Even our own daily vitamins that contain such beneficial nutrients and minerals would be toxic if we were to take enough of them in a short period of time.

Most of the time chickens will avoid things that aren't good for them, but if food is scarce, or it is included in with other things they normally eat, they can't always be trusted to steer clear. Additionally, treats of any kind other than so-called 'green treats' such as grass and weeds, should be limited to no more than 10% of your chickens' diet.

So do your chickens and yourself a favor and avoid feeding them any potentially 'toxic treats' and stick to a good quality all purpose feed that offers vitamin and minerals - plus of course ...... plenty of free ranging!

* check back occassionally as other items may be added to this list as found :-)

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