Last year, I had a superb harvest of cantaloupe melons from my garden. I absolutely love cantaloupe melons but they don’t store well for the long-term, so I gave many away to my friends and family.
With lots remaining, I turned to my friends for suggestions on how to use the rest. I hated to waste them! Several friends were quick to point out that since I own chickens, I should just feed the extra cantaloupe to them.
So, can chickens eat cantaloupe?
Yes – chickens can and love eating cantaloupe, but should only be fed to them in moderation (because of the high sugar content).
This food is not only enjoyable for them, but it can also help keep them hydrated. It also has good levels of protein, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and healthy fats.
Can Chickens Eat Complete Cantaloupes?
Chickens are not fussy eaters – that is certainly part of why so many people choose to raise them. Fortunately, they can eat pretty much the entire cantaloupe plant.
The Cantaloupe Flesh
The flesh of the cantaloupe, as you know, is the juiciest, tastiest, and freshest part of the cantaloupe. Therefore, it is not surprising that chickens love it!
It is the most popular part of the cantaloupe – and it will likely be the part your chickens fight each other for. The high water content of this portion of the cantaloupe makes it a great treat for chickens, especially during the summer months.
Chickens have no problems eating whole seeds straight from the cantaloupe. They can also eat them when dried and ground down to a powder. Cantaloupe seeds offer numerous health benefits in and of themselves, too!
The rind of the cantaloupe is not as moist, sweet, or as tasty as the flesh, so it is often not as popular. They will eat the rind but given the choice will prefer the flesh first. Since it is not as tasty and can be tougher, often, the rind will be left until last.
Next, let’s take a look at the main nutrients that cantaloupe to see what makes this food tasty treat such a healthy choice for chickens.
Chickens can generate enough vitamin C for good health from a normal diet comprised of a formulated feed and fresh grass. However, in stressful situations (even just the stressors imposed by laying eggs!), a little extra can be beneficial.
As with humans, vitamin C is great for the immune system, as well as the well functioning of the body.
Vitamin A keeps the skin, eyes, and digestive tract of a chicken in excellent condition. Most importantly, a deficiency of vitamin A can cause lead to an increased likelihood of developing certain unpleasant diseases.
When chickens eat food that has beta-carotene, it is naturally converted by the body into vitamin A (retinol). Vitamin A helps to support a strong immune system.
It also supports healthy vision and keeps the eyes healthy. It can keep skin and feathers along with mucous membranes healthy.
Folate helps chickens grow larger and to develop healthy feathers. Folate helps with blood flow and formation, so deficiencies in folate can cause your chickens to become anemic.
Folate is also influential in the general growth and well-being of your chickens, particularly those who are laying eggs.
The amount of fiber that a chicken eats is a delicate balance. Too little fiber can lead to constipation and internal blockages while too much can cause diarrhea and other digestive problems.
As you can see, fiber is essential in that it can support a productive, well-functioning digestive system.
And as you likely know, a chicken needs to have a healthy digestive system just as we do. It helps them get the most nutrients and calories out of their food as possible. A healthy digestive system can boost your chickens’ growth and egg production.
Potassium is important for chickens that live in hot environments. It helps them to take in and utilize water efficiently, which in turn affects their electrolyte balance.
Calcium helps a chicken develop a strong skeletal structure. It is also vital in the production of strong, uniform colored eggshells.
While you likely provide your chickens with supplemental calcium with an oyster shell supplement, adding more calcium with foods like cantaloupe is a great idea to give them a bit extra, too.
Free radicals created by chemical reactions can cause oxidation. Oxidation can cause damage to a chicken’s body and its DNA.
Antioxidants such as Vitamins A and C along with beta carotene help to prevent this damage.
Flavonoids also have antioxidant properties. They have the added bonus of having anti‐inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. These combine to help keep the cardiovascular system functioning correctly.
Polyphenols help to stimulate the production of insulin. This helps to protect the body from high blood sugar levels. These are also antioxidants that support the proper blood pressure levels.
High blood pressure can cause damage to the internal organs, especially the heart, so keeping the blood pressure of your chickens low is key.
The humble cantaloupe is approximately 90% water. When chickens eat lots of cantaloupe, particularly in the summer or in hot climates, it can help them stay hydrated when other sources of water are scarce or rapidly consumed.
It’s a particularly good idea to feed your chickens cantaloupe if you are feeding a pelleted food (as most chicken keepers do). This kind of food dries them out a bit more and will require more water to digest.
The sugar in cantaloupe is a natural form called fructose. Natural sugars such as fructose do not have any adverse effect on sugar levels and can instead provide your chickens with the long-lasting energy they need to power through their day.
How to Feed Cantaloupe to Chickens
If the cantaloupe is store-bought, it may have traces of harmful chemicals, like pesticides, on the skin. Because of this, it’s a good idea to gently wash the cantaloupe first to scrub off any remaining residues.
These chemicals, if left on the peel, can cause your chickens to become ill, or even affect the quality and safety of the meat and eggs. Don’t forget – if you’re eating eggs or meat from your chickens and feed them anything with chemicals on it, those chemicals are going to wind up in your diet, too.
Although your chickens wll enjoy pecking and clawing at the melons, it’s not a great idea to give them a whole cantaloupe. They may have a hard time cracking into it.
Not only that, but since the skin is the least desirable part of the melon, your chickens might be deterred from eating the whole thing if they can’t get inside – especially if you have other, more palatable foods available at the same time.
A better way to feed out the cantaloupe is to cut it in half. If you have more time on your hands, you can cut the flesh and the skin into more manageable, bite-sized cubes.
These cubes can be stored in a refrigerator to allow them to last longer. The seed and rind can be used to supplement the chickens’ normal pelleted food after you dry them.
The chickens will not take long to eat the cantaloupe. However, you should ensure that any uneaten parts are not left on the ground or in the coop too long before you remove them.
Cantaloupe is moist and will spoil, developing bacteria, in warm weather. Any food that is contaminated with bacteria is dangerous for chickens to eat.
Contaminants will cause the chickens to become ill. Bacteria could also make their eggs unsafe for people to eat.
Clearing any leftover food will help to prevent any health problems. Clearing debris will also help to avoid attracting unwanted rodents and other pests like flies, so get rid of it as soon as you can.
Chickens are easy to keep and are an excellent source of food. Since they are an important addition to our diet, we must take care of what we feed them. You are what you eat, they say – and that’s true both for us and for our chickens.
We have seen that chickens can eat cantaloupe – and that they enjoy eating this type of food! Not only do they enjoy this food, but it is also beneficial for them.
This is not a food that will be available for chickens all the time. If you’re buying cantaloupe from the store, getting some for your chickens could become quite expensive in a hurry!
However, in times of excess, it can be used to supplement their diets. It will help their development by protecting them from free radical damage.
The high water content within a cantaloupe helps to reduce the risk of dehydration. It also has a variety of crucial vitamins and minerals. When combining cantaloupe with a chicken’s normal diet, we can keep the chickens fit and well.
The vitamins and minerals affect their muscles, skin, feathers, and internal organs. The nutrients will also ensure that the chickens will create and lay high-quality eggs.
Not only can chickens eat cantaloupe, but they should eat it whenever it is available!
Three years ago, I bought an off-grid Cortijo in a small valley in the Andalucian mountains. Although, perhaps the lifestyle is in my genes as my grandfather and his four brothers were Homesteaders in Alberta Canada in the 1900s.
The mountains of Spain are a difficult place to grow many of the flowers that I was used to in the UK. However, veggies grow well year-round. Peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, cucumber, melons and chard all fare well in the Mediterranean climate. Almond trees provide me with a cash crop of around 1 ton while still retaining some to make almond milk and flour.