Do you ever wonder who had the first taste of honey ever? It’s a funny thing to think about, because who would ever think to eat something made by insects, and who could get past that swarming cloud of stingers anyway?!
But when you think about chickens, it kind of makes sense that they could eat honey. They already eat bugs and maybe their feathers will protect them from the stingers of bees.
It’s an interesting thought, but enough daydreaming. Can chickens really eat honey, and is it safe for them to do so?
Yes, honey is totally safe for chickens. It’s a great source of energy and is also highly beneficial for combating heat stress and chickens.
However, honey is extremely calorie dense and should only be fed to chickens on a limited basis for specific purposes.
It seems like everything alive loves honey, and your chickens are no exception. Honey is a lot more than just a sweet treat for your birds.
It might actually prove to be your secret weapon if you want to help them gain some weight, recover from injuries, or deal with seriously hot weather.
But, you’ve got to get it right when serving it to them because if you don’t you’re going to have a flock of sticky, dirty birds to deal with. I’ll tell you what you need to know below.
What Benefits Does Honey Have for Chickens?
Honey has a few vital benefits for chickens, aside from being an easily digestible and excellent source of energy for all occasions.
It’s a lot more than just a treat for chickens because the natural sugars in honey are especially easy to digest and can be consumed by chickens and quantities that they should really avoid when we’re talking about other refined sugars.
Honey can be added to the food or water of chickens to help them cope with heat stress.
Unlike other energy-dense foods, honey has special qualities that have been proven to improve chickens’ overall heat tolerance and reduce instances of heat-related illness.
That’s pretty awesome, but more than this honey also improves digestive system health because of its antimicrobial compounds.
Honey is also a great supplement for feeding high-volume egg-laying hens since many of these hard-working birds struggle to take in enough calories reliably enough during peak output.
Adding some honey to their food, or just sweetening their water with a little bit of honey might make all the difference in their health and productivity.
Honey Nutritional Info
Honey is, as you probably already guessed, mostly sugar but it’s not all sugar. Honey also has a decent if highly limited array of vitamins and minerals that can contribute to the overall health of chickens.
Looking at the vitamins, we see most of the B complex vitamins present, including niacin and riboflavin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, and folate with just a tiny bit of vitamin C to round it out.
The mineral content is similarly varied but lacking an overall quantity, with iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc present.
Also worth mentioning is that, although honey is a viscous liquid at room temperature, its water content is shockingly low, averaging just a little over 17% water by weight.
Is Raw Honey Safe for Chickens?
Yes, raw honey is 100% safe for chickens, with no issues. Whatever your reasons for feeding honey to your flock, as long as you stick to raw honey in moderation you’ll be fine.
Raw honey has unprocessed enzymes and other compounds that are great for chickens’ health, but if you opt for certain kinds of processed honey then these beneficial properties will likely have been lost entirely.
Is Honeycomb Safe for Chickens?
Yes, honeycomb is safe for chickens, but chances are your birds won’t show much interest in it unless it is slathered in honey.
Honeycomb is just the wax “containers” that bees build to store their honey, and it contains no real nutritional value for chickens, though it is not harmful.
Is Processed Honey Safe for Chickens?
It depends on the kind. Honey that is naturally spun, whipped or merely crystallized from age is still totally safe and edible for chickens.
However, processed honey with added ingredients, preservatives, flavorings, and the like are definitely not suitable for feeding your flock.
Make sure you know what kind of honey you’re buying and that it’s free of any potentially harmful additives before you serve it to your chickens.
Is Honey Still Safe for Chicks?
Yes, honey is safe for chicks but only when they are old enough. Honey is a great source of energy for chicks once they have reached around 6 weeks of age.
I wouldn’t advise serving honey to chicks younger than this as their digestive systems are not yet developed enough to process the sugars in honey.
Even when they’re old enough, honey is so rich and sugary that it can easily lead to digestive upset.
That might result in diarrhea, and that can mean death for chicks since it can lead to dehydration. As always, just a little dab will do it!
Be Careful: Honey Can Turn into a Major Mess!
If you’ve ever had honey- and who hasn’t by now? – you know how preposterously, unbelievably sticky the stuff is.
It does not take much imagination to see how it might turn an entire flock and the whole area into a sticky, gooey mess. So what can we do about it?
Well, I’ll tell you more about how best to serve it to chickens in the next sections, but you should simply be prepared for some messes…
Chickens will wipe and swipe their beaks on convenient edges and plants to clean them, they will take dust baths to try and rid their feathers of the sticky stuff, and they might start acting a little odd when they get it on their feet.
These outcomes can be reduced, but not eliminated totally when giving them honey.
How Frequently Can Honey be Fed to Chickens?
Honey is a great source of calories for chickens, and an ideal way to help out laying hens with calorie demands or any of your birds when the weather is hot.
Even so, it is not something they should have all the time or whenever they want.
You should give your chickens small servings of honey twice a week at most as a dietary supplement, unless you are giving them a steady drip of it in their water during really hot weather (see next section).
Honey should never take the place of feed or other whole foods: it is nowhere near nutritionally complete for chickens!
What’s the Best Way to Serve Honey to Your Flock?
Okay, this is where the rubber meets the road, or rather where the honey meets the comb! You have several ways to feed honey to your chickens, and only a couple of them are likely to reduce the possibility of a sticky disaster.
The first way, and my preferred way, is to simply mix the honey with their water. 1 part honey, 9 parts water, stir until totally dissolved and clear, and then add to their waterer as normal.
This won’t completely eliminate stickiness, but chickens are far less likely to make a mess when drinking as opposed to eating.
The next way, and still an acceptable one, is to mix in a pre-measured amount of honey into their feed or other dry food that will help to bind it and dry it out, to a degree.
Chickens will still get the benefits, and the worst of the mess will be curbed.
If you want to give honey to your chickens as-is, or still on a fresh piece of comb, just get your wet wipes ready!
Honey Is Safe, But Only Safe By Itself: No People Food!
As mentioned above, never feed honey to chickens that has any added ingredients. Chocolate, for instance, is highly toxic for chickens.
Stick with pure honey, preferably organic and raw, to be sure that you are not feeding them anything that could harm their health.
And of course, never feed your chickens any people food that has honey as an ingredient! Cakes and other baked sweets sure are delicious, but also bad for chickens. Don’t share!
Don’t Leave Honey Around the Run or Coop
Be warned: there’s nothing else on this earth that will attract insect pests, and potentially rodents or even predators, like honey will.
If you leave a mess of honey in the coop or run, all sorts of critters will be drawn to it. Always make sure to clean up after your flock when they have had some honey.
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.