One thing that is kind of funny about the fruits and veggies we eat is that sometimes only the fruits of the plant are safe, while all the other parts of the plant are harmful or even dangerous…
Talk about watching what you eat! And of course, some things that we eat safely are dangerous for our animals, or vice versa.
Let’s look at eggplants for instance, as they concern feeding our chickens. Is the eggplant safe for chickens, and what parts can they eat?
Eggplant fruits are safe for chickens, but the rest of the plant is toxic: the leaves, vines, roots, and calyx of the fruit itself. All parts of the plant except the fruit contain harmful levels of solanine, a glycoalkaloid toxin.
Concerning the fruit itself, eggplants are completely safe for chickens, and a healthy addition to their diet since they contain a variety of useful vitamins and minerals.
However, you must keep your chickens from eating any other part of the plant, or it might kill them!
What Benefits Does Eggplant Have for Chickens?
Eggplants do have some legitimate benefits for chickens, enough to make it a worthwhile inclusion to their usual diet.
The nutrients found in eggplants can help with the formation and healing of tendons and ligaments, promote good skin health, enhance feathering as a response to injury or as usual during the molt, and promote overall good immune system function.
Many of the vitamins present in eggplant are necessary for proper cellular and metabolic function, the production of red blood cells and other functions vital for circulatory health, bone growth and healing, and even the synthesis and maintenance of DNA.
That’s an impressive list of proven health benefits, and chickens seem to like the taste of eggplant too!
Eggplant Nutritional Info
Compared to many other popular vegetables, especially ones grown in at-home gardens, eggplants seem somewhat lacking in the number of vitamins and minerals, but don’t let that fool you: they are still quite healthy, and a worthwhile food for your flock.
Considering the vitamin content, the best attribute is a solid assortment of the B complex vitamins, with a decent amount of thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6 and folate.
Vitamins E, K and C are also present, though somewhat smaller amounts. It should also be pointed out that eggplants contain a fair amount of carbohydrates, and can give chickens some quick and easily digestible energy.
The mineral content is similarly varied, but also uneven when it comes to quantity, with lots of manganese being present and a good amount of potassium, and significantly less magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and iron along with just a little bit of calcium.
Be Careful: All Parts of the Eggplant Plant Except the Fruit are Toxic
Okay. Eggplant toxicity; let’s talk about it…
Without going too far off the rails into a chemistry lesson, all you need to know is that eggplants, believe it or not, are actually a member of the nightshade family which includes other beloved vegetables like tomatoes and potatoes.
That same family also claims some seriously dangerous plants like belladonna and henbane. Yikes, with a name like henbane you know it’s bad for chickens!
But surely eggplants just fit into that family on a technicality, right? They can’t be toxic like those dangerous plants, not in the same way, surely?
Wrong again: eggplants have exactly the same toxins as those plants, specifically a glycoalkaloid called solanine.
The difference is that in eggplants, only the fruit lacks this toxin; all other parts of the plant have it!
For this reason, you must never let your chickens eat any other part of the plant, including the little green cap, or calyx, that connects the fruit to the vine.
If you do, your chickens are going to suffer terribly and possibly die. Solanine basically results in the disruption of cell membranes in the chicken which will eventually lead to a spiraling and out-of-control inflammation response.
That will culminate in symptoms such as pronounced diarrhea, a loss of coordination and then the inability to stand.
This is bad enough and complications can cause death, but significant poisoning will usually cause death on its own.
I don’t mean to scare you, and you can give your chickens eggplant but only the actual eggplant, nothing else!
Is Eggplant Safe for Chickens When Raw?
Yes, raw eggplant is safe for chickens and is a good option (assuming they will eat it) because it maximizes the nutrition they will gain from it.
Cooking significantly depletes the relatively few vitamins and minerals that eggplant has…
Is Eggplant Skin Safe for Chickens?
Yes, the skin of the eggplant is safe for chickens and doesn’t contain solanine, though quite a few chickens seem to avoid it.
Can Chickens Eat Eggplant Seeds Safely?
Yes, the seeds of the eggplant are safe for chickens to eat.
Are White Eggplants Safe for Chickens?
Yes. White and for that matter purple and black eggplants are all safe for chickens as long as they’re eating only the fruit, and no other part of the plant!
Can You Cook Eggplant to Give it To Chickens?
Yes, cooked eggplant is fine for chickens and a great way to incentivize reluctant eaters to give it a try.
However, cooked eggplant loses out on a lot of vitamins and minerals, and it doesn’t start out with a lot, so try to serve it to them raw if possible.
Is Eggplant Still Safe for Chicks?
Eggplant is safe for chicks once they are old enough to eat it, around 6 weeks or so. Eggplant has a typically dense, chewy, and almost spongy texture and this can make it challenging for developing chicks to eat.
If you have any reservations about feeding it to them or getting them to eat it, just forget it as they’ll be fine on their starter feed or you can try to give them some other kind of vegetable.
How Frequently Can Eggplant Be Fed to Chickens?
Eggplant is healthy and safe for chickens, again assuming they are eating only the eggplant itself.
But just because it is healthy and has vitamins and minerals they need does not mean it should be a majority component of their diet.
Eggplant is very dense and filling, and it is not out of the question that chickens might fill up on it, and miss out on other nutrients from other foods that they desperately need.
Accordingly, you only want to feed your chickens eggplant about once a week and in relatively small quantities. This allows them to take maximum advantage of the nutrition it has without overdoing it.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Eggplant to Your Flock?
You have two options for serving eggplant to your flock: raw or cooked. Raw is best if they will eat it; just make sure you remove the green calyx from the eggplant. Peel it (recommended) and then slice it into discs or strips.
If you want to cook it, lightly pan fry it or roast it in slices or “steaks” cut lengthwise. Allow it to cool before handing it over to your chickens and make sure you don’t prepare it with any harmful ingredients. See below.
Try to Only Feed Eggplant to Chickens if it is Pesticide Free
The best way to get your chickens high-quality eggplant is to grow it yourself or purchase it from a farmer or other local supplier that grows them.
If you purchase them from the grocery store, know that they have been heavily treated with pesticides the entire time before reaching store produce bins.
Washing and even peeling eggplant is insufficient to completely eliminate these chemicals which can build up in the tissues of your chickens with potentially harmful results over time.
If you’re forced to buy store-bought eggplant, try to get a certified organic and pesticide-free variety.
Eggplant Is Safe, But Only By Itself: No People Food!
Eggplant can be made truly delicious with the right preparation thanks to its delightful tendency to absorb oils, butter, seasoning and more.
This can turn it into a vegetarian dish capable of rivaling meat when it comes to flavor and texture, but unfortunately, chickens shouldn’t have any of the great things that we enjoy with our eggplant.
Salt, sugar, butter, oils, and all those things can make chickens terribly sick and potentially even kill them.
Salt poisoning is a real thing, and fatty liver syndrome will invariably end in a terribly painful death for your poor bird that’s affected.
Only give your chickens plain eggplant, whether you cook it or not.
Don’t Leave Eggplant Scraps Around the Run or Coop
The last piece of advice I will give you about eggplant is to make sure you clean up quickly after your chickens once they are done eating it.
Eggplant has a tendency to rot very quickly, and when it does it will do two things: stink horrendously and attract pests, including rodents which might prey on chicks, eggs, or smaller birds.
Keep this from happening by cleaning up the skins and any other bits lying around the coop or run.
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.