Can Chickens Eat Kale? Is it Safe?

Kale is one of those vegetables that is highly divisive despite how nutritious it is. Kale is known for being fairly tough and unusually bitter when compared to many other types of cabbage, and this has led to a lot of people hating it…

a hen trying some kale
a hen trying some kale

But other people who are more concerned with good health than good taste eat it regardless of its somewhat lackluster flavor.

However you might feel about it, what we need to know is how our chickens like it, and more importantly what foods are safe for chickens to eat. Is kale safe for chickens?

Yes, chickens can eat kale safely, and they should as part of a balanced diet. Kale is absolutely bursting with many vitamins and minerals that chickens need.

Kale might show up regularly in your kitchen, or it might not ever appear again at all, but in either case you’d be wise to feed this leafy vegetable to your chickens.

It can greatly improve their health, and even better most chickens seem to really like it.

But there is more you should know before you feed kale to your flock, and I will tell you all about it below.

What Benefits Does Kale Have for Chickens?

Kale is famous for the tremendous amount and variety of vitamins and minerals that it has. As you should expect, it has broad and varied benefits for your chickens’ health.

Kale has been shown to help prevent defects in both eggs and chicks for laying hens, it can improve feather and skin health, and especially promote feathering in birds that have been injured or are molting.

It also improves circulatory health by boosting the production of red blood cells, and enhancing the oxygenation of blood.

Skeletal and connective tissue health is likewise improved, and kale can promote the growth and healing of both.

Kale’s effects on the metabolism and overall cellular health of chickens are likewise well-known, and it can improve everything from the absorption of nutrients to the overall electrolyte balance of the body.

Kale is also a good immune system booster and can help keep your birds from getting sick while also neutralizing free radicals that can lead to various diseases and to cellular degradation.

When it comes to overall health benefits, it really does not get much better than kale, and if you’re only going to feed a few choice vegetables to your flock as supplements, you are well advised to make kale one of them.

Kale Nutritional Info

Speaking frankly, the amount and variety of vitamins and minerals that kale contains are almost unbelievable.

Although it does not have a perfect macronutrient profile, when it comes to micronutrients it has nearly anything you could ask for. Truly, the list is almost exhaustive!

Let’s start with the vitamins. First up we see that kale has a huge amount of vitamin A, more than nearly any other vegetable, and is among the best in class for leafy green vegetables.

The B complex vitamins are also present in high amounts, with the notable exception of B4. But we have thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6 and folate in abundance.

There’s a little bit of vitamin E in a tremendous amount of vitamin K, along with quite a bit of vitamin C though this is slightly wasted on chickens since they make their own.

Moving down to the mineral content it is similarly impressive though they aren’t found in quite the same quantities as vitamins.

Calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus are all fairly abundant and found in approximately the same qualities, while manganese is the standout mineral on offer with more than double the amount of the others.

But that’s not all, because we also have a little bit of selenium, zinc and sodium.

Chickens eating Kale

Is Kale Safe for Chickens Raw?

Yes, it is, and this is the best way to give it to them if your birds will eat it raw. Raw kale has the best possible amount of nutrients, as cooking will deplete them somewhat.

And, while kale is tough and a little chewy, this is not much of an impediment for most chickens…

Can You Cook Kale to Give it To Chickens?

Yes, you sure can. Cooking kale is a great way to mix it in with other foods, or make it slightly more palatable for fussy or picky chickens.

However, cooking kale will reduce the nutrient profile somewhat as vitamins and minerals are lost during the process.

But on the other hand, because kale contains such high quantities of both it doesn’t suffer as badly as many other veggies.

It still loses a lot, don’t get me wrong, but it remains highly nutritious even after cooking!

Don’t hesitate to cook kale for your flock if that will encourage them to eat it…

Is Kale Still Safe for Chicks?

Yes, it is. But there are a few things to know before you offer it to them.

Kale is just as healthy for chicks to eat as it is for adult birds, but be aware that their digestive systems are more delicate and may not handle new foods well, even wholesome ones like kale.

Plus, due to the tough texture of kale, it can be difficult for them to actually tear off a bite and swallow it.

For these reasons, you should offer very small pieces or shred your kale before feeding it to them, and ideally wait until they are about 6 weeks old before you let them try it.

Don’t worry; your chicks will do just fine with starter feed until they reach true adolescence.

How Frequently Can Kale be Fed to Chickens?

Kale, as amazingly healthy and nutritious as it is, is not fit to be the primary part of your birds’ diet. Kale should be a supplement to their diet, instead.

You can feed it to your chickens once or twice a week, and they should be able to get the nutrients they need from it…

As good as it is, kale is not nutritionally complete and is notably lacking in protein and other macronutrients chickens need to thrive, so don’t get any ideas of making your chickens involuntarily vegan and having them live on kale alone!

What’s the Best Way to Serve Kale to Your Flock?

Kale can be served raw or cooked, as described above. If you are serving it to them raw, you can let the flock pick on stalks of whole kale if they can handle tearing off their own pieces.

If not, simply chop it up or shred it before scattering it or handing it over in bowls or on trays.

If you do decide to cook it, be sure to squeeze out as much moisture as you can and then let it cool before offering it to your flock.

Alternatively, you can add cooked kale to other foods your chickens like, even their usual feed.

Try to Only Feed Kale to Chickens if it is Pesticide Free

There is one major drawback to know about with kale. Actually, it applies to really any veggie you might buy from the grocery.

I am referring to the presence of pesticides that are likely to be sprayed on them during their growth.

Though necessary to protect commercial crops from insect predation, there is a mounting body of evidence that these chemicals, while nominally safe, are dangerous to birds, and can cause damage to their organs as they accumulate in their bodies over time.

Washing or soaking kale, or removing the outermost leaves, is not enough to rid the vegetable of these toxic residues.

For this reason, if you are going to give store-bought kale to your chickens make sure it’s certified organic and grown without the use of any chemical pesticides or fertilizers.

This way, you can ensure that your flock stays safe and healthy, and enjoys all the fantastic benefits without concern.

Kale Is Safe, But Only Safe By Itself: No People Food!

As you might have guessed, people have endeavored to make kale more palatable by adding all sorts of ingredients to it, or else incorporating the kale with other foods.

Sometimes, the results are pretty good, but unfortunately, most things people enjoy are not healthy options for your chickens: sugar, salt, dressings, fats, oil, butter, etc.

These ingredients, even in small doses, are very bad for chickens, and can cause them to become sick or worse if consumed.

So, stick to plain kale only. No need to get fancy here if you care about your birds!

Don’t Leave Kale Scraps Around the Run or Coop

One last thing to know about giving kale to your flock: remember to pick up any leftover scraps when they are done eating.

Kale is highly prone to rotting quickly, so leaving it around the run or coop can lead to the spread of bacteria and diseases that can be harmful or even deadly for your chickens.

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