When it comes to feeding chickens, they’ll happily eat a lot more than just their usual feed. In fact, giving them a diverse diet supplemented with whole foods is a great way to ensure they’re getting well-rounded nutrition while also keeping them happy.
Chickens suffer from menu burnout just like we do. And while chickens can eat a lot of the same things we can, they can’t eat quite everything, and even if they can, we must be careful of the quantity.
Let’s look at beans for instance… Can chickens eat beans safely?
Yes, chickens can safely eat beans but only if they are fully cooked. Uncooked or raw beans contain high amounts of lectins which can hurt or kill your chickens. But so long as the beans are properly cooked your chickens will benefit from their nutrients.
Most of us take beans for granted when it comes to preparing or eating them since they often come pre-cooked.
But, as it turns out, raw beans can actually be quite dangerous even for people, and if chickens eat them raw, just a handful might be enough to kill them.
This means if you’re going to give beans to your chickens you really cannot afford to get anything wrong.
I’ll tell you everything you need to know about feeding beans to your flock below…
What Benefits Do Beans Have for Chickens?
Assuming of course that the beans are fully cooked and therefore safe for your chickens, they have some pretty excellent nutritional benefits for chickens.
Beans are packed with macro and micronutrients that all chickens need, and these nutrients will:
- give them energy,
- improve muscle growth and healing,
- maximize the production and oxygenation of blood cells,
- promote proper feathering and response to injury or molting,
- and help to maintain proper metabolism and cellular function.
But the benefits don’t stop there, because beans can also improve skeletal health and the maintenance of connective tissues throughout the chicken’s body.
For laying hens, beans can promote the production of eggs with thick, hard shells which can make laying easier on the mother and also increase the viability of the eggs whether or not they are unfertilized.
There’s a lot to like about beans nutritionally, and they can be a great part of your flock’s diet but you must make sure they are properly prepared and thoroughly cooked!
Beans Nutritional Info
The nutritional content of beans varies depending on the type, but all beans are absolutely packed with protein, some carbohydrates and lots and lots of vitamins and minerals that chickens need.
Especially prevalent in most kinds of beans are the B complex vitamins, vitamin E and vitamin K.
In looking at the B complex vitamins in particular we see a great lineup, with thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, B6 and abundant folate.
The mineral content of beans is also quite impressive, with tons of iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc with a little bit of calcium and a good shot of potassium.
One thing to be aware of with beans is that they contain a fair bit of salt which also proves to be problematic if you feed them to chickens repeatedly over time.
Are Beans Safe for Chickens Raw?
Absolutely not! Raw beans, of all kinds, contain a compound that is dangerous to chickens, phytohemagglutinin.
This compound is a type of lectin that can cause severe, potentially even fatal, digestive tract injuries.
Raw Beans Have Lectins Which Can Sicken or Kill Chickens
The stuff is no joke, and we aren’t talking about a little diarrhea or an upset stomach here. The lectins present in raw beans can kill your chickens!
These compounds are in the plant as a natural defense mechanism, specifically to keep it from being eaten by animals because it will hurt their stomach and maybe kill them.
Pretty self-explanatory, huh? If chickens were to eat raw beans, what will happen is that the lectin compounds will bind to the lining of the chicken’s gut and then start to perforate it.
In minor doses, this can cause serious diarrhea and subsequent dehydration. But in the case of high doses, it can lead to shock and death!
it is critical that you never, ever feed raw, uncooked or improperly prepared beans to your chickens and if they are growing on your property or if you have them anywhere they can reach them for any reason you must take all necessary steps to prevent them from eating them or expect to lose some birds.
Can You Cook Beans to Give Them to Chickens?
Yes, you can. And you must! The only safe method of preparation for beings, if you want to feed them to chickens or eat them yourself for that matter, is to cook them.
But even before cooking, the beans should be soaked for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Once that’s done, the water should be changed out for fresh and then the beans boiled hard for at least 20 and preferably 30 more minutes.
This will fully cook them, and completely neutralize the harmful compounds.
Listen, this is important: the beans must be boiled for a long time over high temperature after soaking in order to fully neutralize the toxins!
Other methods of cooking like using a crock pot, oven roasting, grilling, or anything else have been proven less effective and can potentially leave intact lectins in the beans which can harm or kill your birds.
It is a simple method of preparation, but also the prescribed one that you must follow exactly if you care about the health of your chickens. If you’re unwilling to follow these steps, simply don’t give your birds beans.
Are Canned Beans Safe for Chickens?
Possibly. After reading all of the above, you might be rightly worried about preparing raw beans for your chickens and somehow screwing it up with fatal consequences.
You could, of course, just give your chickens canned beans that come pre-cooked. Right?
Yes, but this might cause problems in a different direction. You will rarely, if ever, find harmful beans coming out of a can but these beans are invariably crammed with salt and other ingredients that chickens just should not have.
The beans themselves won’t be harmful, but all the other stuff can still cause serious sickness and chickens.
If you want to give your chickens canned beans, make sure that there are no other ingredients, and find a type that is packed with water with the minimum amount of salt.
Are Beans Still Safe for Baby Chicks?
Assuming beans are properly cooked they are nominally safe for chicks once they reach about 6 weeks of age.
However, you should know that chicks are extremely vulnerable to the effects of lectins, and if you make any error in preparation and feed these beans to your chicks… it will probably kill them.
Also keep in mind that, even in a best-case scenario, baby chicks have highly sensitive digestive systems that are vulnerable to upset, and even something like diarrhea can be enough to push a little chick close to the brink.
Once again, if you’re in doubt, just let your chicks get by on their usual diet of starter feed until they grow up.
How Often Can Beans be Fed to Chickens?
Feed them beans one or two times per week, keeping the portions small. Cooked, safe beans are highly nutritious and filling for chickens, and there are many health benefits associated with them.
Even so, they are not a feed replacement for chickens and chickens should not be allowed to eat them whenever they want.
Beans, whatever kind, are a supplemental food that should be fed in moderation periodically to round out a chicken’s diet.
So long as your chickens are eating mostly feed and getting occasional extras in the form of produce and beans, they’ll be living their best lives.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Beans to Your Flock?
As mentioned several times, beans must be cooked prior to preparation. But once the beans are properly cooked and safe, you have options.
For medium or large-breed chickens, you can simply scatter the beans and let them gobble them up.
You can further chop or dice cooked beans to make them easier for smaller breed birds to handle.
You might also consider mashing the beans and mixing them in with feed or other foods to make an interesting treat for your flock.
Cooked Beans are Safe, but Don’t Add Any Extra Ingredients
Just a reminder: never serve beans to your chickens that have any added ingredients like oils, seasonings, salt, sugar, butter, and the like.
All these things can make for a great blend of beans, especially when the beans themselves are incorporated as part of another dish like chili or something, but they’re also all harmful for chickens.
Disastrous consequences like sodium poisoning, hypertension and liver problems may result even if the beans are themselves safe.
Stick with plain, cooked beans for your birds, and there won’t be any issues.
Don’t Leave Beans Around the Run or Coop
And one last tip from me. If you serve beans to your birds, never give them so many that leftovers are lying around.
Beans can easily attract pests and other animals, some of which may be predators for your chickens.
Raccoons, possums, and rats, they will all show up looking for their share. If they hang around, you’ll have chicks and eggs going missing and maybe even attacks on adult birds.
Plus, you don’t want those beans lying around rotting, and your chickens coming back around nibbling at them and getting sick that way. Clean up when they are done with the beans.
Tim is a farm boy with vast experience on homesteads, and with survival and prepping. He lives a self-reliant lifestyle along with his aging mother in a quiet and very conservative little town in Ohio. He teaches folks about security, prepping and self-sufficiency not just through his witty writing, but also in person.
Find out more about Tim and the rest of the crew here.