Chickens are omnivores, and as omnivores they eat both plant and animal matter.
Some of their favorite foods happen to be many of the same herbs and vegetables that we use to prepare our own meals, and anyone who has an at-home garden and keeps chickens will testify to that!
There’s hardly anything that can do more damage to your crop than chickens breaking in through the fence.
But all kidding aside, we are here today to talk about fennel as it relates to our chickens. Can chickens eat fennel safely?
Yes, fennel is completely safe for chickens, and also extremely nutritious, making it a great addition to their diet. Fennel contains tons of vitamins and minerals that they need.
Fennel is used to impart an earthy, licorice-like flavor to all kinds of dishes, and because this is a low-growing, flowering shrub it’s just the sort of thing that chickens like.
If you are growing fennel for your own use, you’ll need to take pains to keep your chickens well away from it, but otherwise you should rejoice if they eat it because it is so good for them.
There’s a lot more to learn about giving fennel to your flock, and I’ll tell you about it down below…
What Benefits Does Fennel Have for Chickens?
Fennel has a tremendous amount of benefits for chickens thanks to its superb nutritional profile. Fennel can improve nearly every aspect of a chicken’s health, including:
- skeletal growth and repair,
- feathering after an injury or during the molt,
- all kinds of cellular and organ functions,
- and electrolyte balance for proper muscle function.
Fennel can also play a great part in improving the circulatory health of chickens, both by assisting in the production of new red blood cells and also the oxygenation of the bloodstream as a whole.
This total improvement of the circulatory system has many secondary effects throughout a chicken’s body.
Fennel also has tremendous benefits for laying hens thanks to its abundance of calcium. Fennel can help hens produce strong, healthy egg shells that will make eggs more viable whether or not they are fertilized.
Soft eggshells are more likely to get stuck and make a hen egg-bound, or even break while inside her body, potentially threatening her life.
What’s more, certain compounds in fennel actually promote egg laying in hens, stimulating hens to lay more eggs more quickly, which means leads more eggs for you!
Fennel Nutritional Info
Fennel is an immensely nutritious plant, and the seeds in particular are absolutely packed with vitamins and minerals. It is rare to see anything so nutritious, to say nothing of these little bitty seeds!
Looking first at the vitamin content, we see that most of the B vitamins are present and in tremendous quantity, specifically thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B6.
Fennel seeds also contain a great amount of vitamin C, and those chickens don’t need tons of it in their diet it certainly helps.
But it is the mineral content of fennel that is truly spectacular, with tremendous amounts of manganese, iron and calcium along with magnesium and phosphorus, and lesser but still huge amounts of potassium and zinc.
It should be noted, however, that fennel seeds do contain a fair bit of sodium so this should be accounted for if you are making them a regular supplement in the diet of your chickens.
Is Fennel Safe for Chickens Raw?
Yes, all parts of the fennel plant are safe for chickens to eat raw, including the seeds. Most chickens seem to like it just fine when it’s raw, and this is the best way to serve it to them if they will eat it.
Raw fennel maintains the maximum amount of nutrients, whereas cooking starts to deplete its nutritional profile in proportion with how long it’s cooked.
Are Fennel Seeds Safe for Chickens?
Yes, fennel seeds are entirely safe for chickens and most chickens truly love them. This is doubly great news because it is the seeds, as mentioned above, that are so full of nutrients.
If your birds eat no other part of the plant, make sure they at least eat the seeds.
Are Fennel Bulbs Safe for Chickens?
Yes, the bulb, or root part, of fennel is safe for chickens to eat. However, they are dense and can be pretty tough when raw, and some chickens might not mess with them.
In that case, you might consider chopping it up into small pieces or cooking it to make it more appealing to them.
Are Fennel Leaves Safe for Chickens?
Yes, they are. As mentioned above, every part of the fennel plant is safe for chickens to eat, including the leaves.
Can You Cook Fennel to Give it To Chickens?
Yes, you can. Cooked fennel is still completely safe for chickens, and it might be a good way to make it more appealing to birds that don’t seem so enthusiastic about it.
However, cooking fennel will greatly deplete its nutritional profile. Make no mistake, it will still be highly nutritious when cooked, but the losses are significant!
Is Fennel Still Safe for Baby Chicks?
Fennel is safe for chicks, but there are definitely a few reservations about giving it to them. First, you should let your chicks grow up to about 6 weeks of age before you allow them to try fennel for the first time and that includes the seeds.
Fennel is tremendously nutritious, but it is so packed with nutrition and other compounds it can actually be a little distressing for a chick’s digestive system.
That, and baby chicks tend to struggle with many seeds and leafy vegetables when they’re young. Your chicks will be just fine if you want to leave them on their usual diet of starter feed until they reach adulthood.
How Frequently Can Fennel be Fed to Chickens?
Fennel is remarkably, incredibly good for chickens, and most chickens really seem to like the stuff. Even so, it’s not something they should eat all the time, and fennel is only ever going to be a supplement in their diet…
You can give your chickens a small portion of fennel, or a small handful of fennel seeds, once or maybe twice a week as a component and a well-rounded diet. As with all good things, too much can become harmful.
As good as fennel is, it is not nutritionally complete for chickens, lacking protein and some other macronutrients they need. So keep it in balance with the rest of their diet and you will definitely notice the health benefits in your flock!
What’s the Best Way to Serve Fennel to Your Flock?
If you’re going to give your chickens raw fennel, assuming they will eat it, giving them the seeds to eat is of prime importance, and you can chop up the rest of the plant to make it a little easier for them to swallow.
Concerning the root and the lower part of the stalk, it might prove to be a little tough for some birds, so consider either throwing it out or chopping it up into tiny pieces.
Cooking fennel is also a worthwhile approach, but you should try to cook it as gently as possible. A quick, light roast in the oven or in a skillet on your stovetop is all that is needed to soften the tougher parts of the plant.
Try to Only Feed Fennel to Chickens if it is Pesticide-Free
Beware if you are serving fennel to chickens that was purchased from the grocery store. Fennel, like all modern produce, is heavily treated with pesticides to protect it until it can be harvested.
These pesticide residues can build up in your chickens over time, leading to serious health problems. Buy organic if you can, or even better, just grow your own for your flock.
Fennel Is Safe, But Only Safe By Itself: No People Food!
Fennel is an extremely popular herb used around the world in all kinds of dishes, both sweet and savory.
But as good as fennel is in these things, they are nothing that you should feed to your chickens. Ingredients like butter, salt, sugar, oils, and the like are all bad news for chickens and can lead to serious illnesses which can be fatal.
Your chickens will like fennel just fine when it is plain whether it is raw or cooked. Don’t give your chickens any “people food” if you care about them!
Don’t Leave Fennel Scraps Around the Run or Coop
When you feed your chickens fennel, or rather parts of the plant besides the seeds, make sure you clean up the scraps when they are done.
Fresh fennel will spoil quickly, and if it starts to rot or goes moldy and your chickens come back around and eat it later then it could make them sick.
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.