In most parts of the country, gourds are thought of more as decorations or raw materials for various arts and crafts than actual vegetables, but as it turns out, many gourds are edible and actually have a fairly distinguished culinary history.
But what we need to know is whether or not our chickens can eat gourds. So, are gourds safe for chickens?
Yes, gourds are safe and edible by chickens though many varieties have an extremely hard or tough outer skin that is almost impossible for chickens to get into.
Splitting them open, and potentially cooking them, will make them more appealing to chickens. Gourds are nutritious, however, and have several vitamins and minerals that chickens need.
Maybe you’ve never had a gourd yourself before, or you’ve only ever used one to make a festive seasonal display.
That’s okay, because gourds are safe for your chickens as long as they get a little bit of help from you in preparing them. I’ll tell you more about feeding gourds to chickens below…
What Benefits Do Gourds Have for Chickens?
Gourds have several health benefits for chickens, namely in promoting good cellular function and the upkeep of nervous system tissues.
Gourds also have several antioxidant compounds that can help boost a chicken’s immune system function and protect its organs and other tissues from damaging free radicals.
Gourds can also benefit a chicken’s overall metabolism and help them balance electrolytes which are essential for dealing with heat stress or stress brought on by any other condition, including sickness.
Lastly, gourds can promote good circulatory health by helping chickens oxygenate the bloodstream and also by helping them to create new red blood cells.
With all of these benefits combined, gourds are actually a surprisingly nutritious supplement in a chicken’s diet, though they are not nutritionally complete.
Gourd Nutritional Info
Gourds have a pretty decent nutritional profile, though few truly standout nutrients. Most gourds have lots of vitamin A, a good complement of the B-complex vitamins, a fair amount of vitamin C and a little bit of vitamin E.
Mineral content varies depending on the cultivar, but potassium, magnesium and iron are typically present in abundance.
Are Gourds Safe for Chickens Raw?
Yes, raw gourds are safe for chickens but they have one serious drawback: many gourds have extremely tough skins that are difficult or impossible for chickens to break into, and some have a hard shell which is even worse!
If you want your chickens to eat these gourds, they will need help from you to prepare them; you’ll need to split them open at the very least.
But, the reward for preparing raw gourds for your chickens is that they will contain the maximum amount of nutrition. Cooking gourds does deplete both the vitamins and minerals they contain.
Can You Cook Gourds to Give Them to Chickens?
Yes, cooked gourds are safe for chickens and this is one veggie where cooking them might be best.
Although they will lose some nutrients, cooking gourds will dramatically soften the sometimes tough flesh and make it even more appealing to chickens, and it will also give you more options for preparing and serving it to them.
You should always try to get your chickens to eat raw gourds if they can do so, but if they can’t, don’t hesitate to cook them…
Are Gourds Still Safe for Chicks?
Yes, gourds are still safe for chicks but they are definitely challenging for them to eat, even if you split them open. Because of this, you should wait for your chicks to reach at least 6 weeks of age before preparing and serving gourds to them.
Also, keep in mind that even though gourds are nutritious they are still a new food for chicks that might cause digestive upset. Also, firm, moist foods have a tendency to cause crop issues in chicks which can also be highly problematic or even fatal.
Even if your chicks just come down with diarrhea from eating gourds, this might prove to be enough to dehydrate and kill them.
Accordingly, only give your chicks a tiny amount of any gourd you serve to them and then observe them closely after they tried to make sure they aren’t in distress.
If you have any concerns whatsoever, it’s okay to wait until your chicks reach adulthood before letting them try gourds.
How Frequently Can Gourds be Fed to Chickens?
Gourds are a surprisingly nutritious food for chickens, and definitely a viable option for supplementing their diet. But that’s the catch; they are a supplement and should never be a primary part of their diet.
Despite being wholesome and despite the nutrition they have to offer, they are far from nutritionally complete for chickens and should not take the place of their more nutritious feed.
Because of this, you can give small portions of gourd to your chickens once or maybe twice a week as a sort of a side dish or treat as you would with any other vegetable or whole food.
As long as your chickens are getting about 90% of their total calories and other nutrients from their feed, the remaining 10% can be a variety of produce and other foods, gourds included.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Gourds to Your Flock?
How you serve gourds to your chickens is probably going to be dictated by what kind of gourd it is.
If the gourd has softer flesh, consider simply splitting the gourd in half, slicing it into rings or chopping it into segments and allowing your chickens to pick at the soft, nutritious flesh inside.
But, if you want to serve them a harder variety of gourd, particularly one with very firm flesh, face the fact that you’ll need to cook it first to soften it.
You have options here, and steaming, roasting, or even boiling are all acceptable and will produce a tasty finished product that your chickens will love.
Just make sure you allow it to cool first, and don’t add any extra ingredients to it that your chickens shouldn’t eat.
Try to Only Feed Gourds to Chickens if it is Pesticide Free
One other thing to be aware of concerning gourds is a problem that is shared by all of the other modern produce we buy at grocery stores. Gourds are highly likely to have been treated with a variety of pesticides prior to harvesting.
These sprays, despite the promises of manufacturers, have proven to have significant long-term health consequences for chickens and other animals that ingest them.
Washing gourds, and even peeling them, is not necessarily enough to completely eliminate these residues.
Accordingly, it’s in the best interest of your chickens and also you to purchase organic, certified pesticide-free gourds whenever possible.
Of course, the very best option is to grow them yourself or to get your gourds from a trusted supplier that does not use such chemicals.
Gourds are Safe, But Only Safe By Themselves: No People Food!
Although you don’t encounter them very often, gourds can be prepared in a variety of delicious dishes, both sweet and savory. As tasty and interesting as these dishes might be, your chickens should not have any of them.
Extra ingredients like oil, butter, salt, sugar and other flavorings are only going to spell trouble for your birds and can lead to devastating health consequences and diseases…
Fatty liver syndrome, sour crop, hypertension and kidney failure are all potential outcomes that can be fatal for your poor birds, and all of them are agonizing.
If you care about your chickens, only give them gourds that are raw and plain, or cooked fresh with absolutely no other ingredients.
I know it’s easy to feel bad if you think you are depriving them, but I promise your chickens will like plain gourds just fine.
Don’t Leave Gourds Scraps Around the Run or Coop
And one last tip about serving gourds to your chickens: make sure you clean up any leftover scraps and bits when they are finished with them.
These leftovers will rot quickly, especially when left out in the open, and if your chickens come back around and eat a spoiled piece could make them sick.
What’s worse, potentially, is that these pieces will attract pests in the form of insects, rodents, and potentially larger predators for your chickens like raccoons and possums.
All are bad news, and all can make life miserable for your chickens, hurt them, or even kill them. Keep this from happening by simply picking up the scraps after your they’re finished.
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.