Chickens eat all sorts of fruit, and many kinds can be a valuable source of nutrients when given to them and in moderation. But other kinds of fruit tend to be too problematic to be worthwhile, being too sweet, too acidic, or too moist.
Even though chickens can have most fruits, you may want to abstain from some to prevent problems, just in case. How about dates? Can chickens eat dates safely?
Yes, dates are safe for chickens and fairly nutritious, but they should only eat them sparingly. Dates are very sweet, chewy, and moist, factors that can cause trouble for chickens.
There’s nothing overtly wrong with dates. They aren’t poisonous or toxic or anything like that, but they are so sweet and so chewy that they have a tendency to cause crop problems, indigestion, weight gain, and other issues if you feed them to your birds too often.
But, so long as you moderate the quantity, dates can be a wonderful treat for your chickens and they have vitamins and minerals that they need.
Keep reading and I’ll tell you all the important facts about serving dates to your flock…
What Benefits Do Dates Have for Chickens?
Dates have several nutritional benefits for chickens, but first and foremost they are an excellent source of energy because they are basically concentrated sugars.
That being said, the vitamins and minerals present in dates can do good for chickens, namely promoting good feathering after injury or during the molt, and even improving overall immune system function.
Dates can also help:
- promote proper electrolyte balance and energy management in a chicken’s body,
- support bone growth and healing,
- good organ function and good cardiovascular health, both by helping out a chicken’s heart,
- and also increasing the uptake of iron which can be used to create new red blood cells which will further benefit oxygenation of the bloodstream.
Not too bad for a fruit that is considered a delicacy across much of the world, and one that most chickens really enjoy.
Date Nutritional Info
Dates are most well-regarded for their delicious taste, but they offer a surprisingly decent variety of vitamins and minerals.
Looking at the vitamin content, we see that dates contain trace amounts of vitamin A and beta carotene but a respectable amount of the B-complex vitamins, particularly pantothenic acid, and B6.
They also have a good shot of thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and folate. Dates also contain a little bit of vitamin K which chickens do need.
The mineral content is more impressive all around, with a good amount of magnesium and manganese along with plenty of potassium, a good amount of iron and phosphorus, and a little bit of calcium and zinc.
All good things, and all are nutrients that will benefit your chickens…
Are Fresh Dates Safe for Chickens?
Yes, fresh dates are just fine for chickens. In fact, fresh dates are ideal for chickens assuming they will eat them.
Fresh dates have the best possible nutrient levels (cooking and drying depletes nutrients from dates) and their greater bulk and water content will somewhat offset the intense sugar load.
Are Dried Dates Safe for Chickens?
Yes, dried dates are safe for chickens, but do keep in mind that dried dates are more sugary by weight, and also have a moist, almost sticky texture.
This can lead to crop issues pretty easily in chickens, or at best overeating and suffering indigestion from too much sugar.
Can Chickens Eat Date Pits?
No! Date pits are rock-hard and inedible to chickens. Most are smart enough to leave them alone after a cursory peck or two, but if you find them trying to swallow date pits, it’s best to intervene.
Date pits can cause internal damage or intestinal blockage in chickens if they are consumed.
Can You Cook Dates to Give Them to Chickens?
You can, though cooking will reduce the nutrient content some, and it’s better to give chickens fresh dates if they’ll take them.
Cooking may further soften the texture a bit which can make them more appealing to some chickens.
Are Dates Still Safe for Chicks?
Dates are nominally safe for chicks, but they are not foods that they should be eating when very young. They are too sugary and too rich for chicks that are less than a month old or so.
Once they reach about 5-6 weeks, it’s okay to start giving them tiny bites of dates but still keep the quantity much lower than what you’d give an adult chicken.
Chicks don’t cope well with a few things that are inherent to dates: moisture and sugar.
Sugar can easily result in a yeast infection or indigestion (read: diarrhea), and the moisture can cause crop issues.
As they get older, they will be able to handle dates much better, but it is best to keep everything in strict moderation while they are young.
How Frequently Can Dates be Fed to Chickens?
Dates are best served to chickens only occasionally, as either a sweet treat or a supplement to help them fight heat stress.
Chickens should be subsisting on a diet of mostly chicken feed (approx. 90% of their total calories) with a small percentage of their diet consisting of whole foods like fruits and veggies. Of this smaller percentage, dates are only a tiny fraction.
So, I would recommend only serving your flock dates once a week at most, and even then keep the portions small.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Dates to Your Flock?
If you are giving your chickens fresh dates, then it is best to chop them into small pieces that are easy for chickens to eat.
Larger birds can tear off bits from whole fruits assuming they know what they are. You can also offer halved dates with the pits removed.
If you’re giving your flock dried dates, then it’s better to soak them in warm water first for a few minutes before serving them.
The rehydrated date will be moist, yes, but also less dense and sticky than it would be otherwise, and this can help prevent choking or crop impaction.
Once again, consider chopping the dates up into small bits that are easier for your birds to eat.
Try to Only Feed Dates to Chickens if it is Pesticide Free
Dates, like pretty much all modern produce, will usually come home with you from the store laden with pesticide residues.
These chemicals can be seriously bad news for your chickens and will not be totally removed by washing or peeling.
Over time, if chickens are exposed to or eat them enough, they will build up in their bodies to the point they can cause some horrendous diseases.
I know you don’t want to see that happen, so if you aren’t growing your own dates, then it is best to only give them to your flock if they have been verified as free from chemical residues.
Organic dates are a good start, but can still be sprayed with some organic-friendly pesticides so it’s best to read the labels to find out what you can before buying.
Dates Are Safe, But Only By Themselves: No People Food!
Dates are certainly delicious enough by themselves, just as they are, but that hasn’t stopped humanity from using them as ingredients in some truly delicious creations.
Unfortunately, these marvelous date desserts are just for you, not for your chickens: Ingredients like butter, cream, salt, sugar, and chocolate may all taste great to us, but they are definitely not good for chickens.
Feeding “people food” to your chickens is a huge mistake, so simply stick to plain dates, whether they are fresh or dried.
Don’t Leave Date Scraps Around the Run or Coop
Dates, like many fruits, are super sweet and aromatic, two qualities that make them appealing to bugs and other critters, including mammals.
This is bad news for you and worse news for your chickens if you leave them or their scraps lying around the coop and run.
If you serve dates to your chickens, make it a point to clean up afterward, and never give them so many that they will leave a surplus behind.
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.