Pretty much every chicken owner knows that their birds can eat all sorts of foods safely, including many of the same fruits and vegetables that we eat.
But something that’s kind of surprising is that you don’t hear certain entirely common foods mentioned very much in the context of serving them to chickens. Can’t think of one? How about beans, for instance?
Beans are one of the most common foods around the world, and kidney beans are among the most popular in the United States. Can chickens eat kidney beans, and is it safe for them to do so?
Kidney beans are only safe for chickens when they’ve been properly prepared and thoroughly cooked. Improperly prepared or raw kidney beans contain dangerous levels of lectins which can easily kill chickens.
Wow, scary stuff! Who knew that humble beans had such a dark side? I don’t blame you if you thought you shouldn’t even worry with trying to make beans safe for feeding to chickens.
However, I promise that this can be done with complete safety as long as you’re careful, and kidney beans also happen to be very nutritious for chickens when properly prepared. I’ll tell you everything you need to know below…
Be Careful: Improperly Prepared Kidney Beans Can Kill Chickens!
Before we go any further, we must address that shocking revelation about the dangers of beans! Kidney beans and most other types of beans contain compounds called lectins.
Kidney beans contain a lot of a particular one, phytohemagglutinin, that is especially dangerous, and even a little bit can make a chicken terribly ill or even kill it outright!
So what do these compounds do? Lectins bind to red blood cells, and as they build up on red blood cells, the chicken’s immune system will view them as foreign to the body, basically as germs.
This leads to the immune system attacking the red blood cells. As red blood cells are destroyed, the bloodstream loses the ability to carry oxygen to tissues throughout the body, resulting in anemia.
Acute lectin poisoning from eating raw or improperly prepared beans will easily kill chickens, so you must always ensure the proper procedure is followed when prepping and cooking them. I’ll tell you about that procedure in just a bit.
What Benefits Do Kidney Beans Have for Chickens?
Kidney beans are primarily a great source of protein and also some essential minerals that chickens need along with some vitamins. Iron, manganese and folate are abundant in kidney beans, and I also have a good shot of copper.
These are all resources that chickens need for good health, and beans are a dependable and inexpensive source of all of them – you just have to make sure you properly prepare them before you give them to your chickens!
Kidney Bean Nutritional Info
Kidney beans have a surprisingly great nutritional profile, even after cooking. Many of the vitamins and minerals they contain are of benefit to chickens, so there are definitely worth the trouble to prepare properly.
Looking at the vitamins, we see that most of the B complex ones are present, with good levels of thiamine and folate, and slightly lesser levels of riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and B6. Kidney beans also contain a good shot of vitamin K.
Moving on to minerals, there is even more to like, with great amounts of phosphorus and iron along with magnesium and copper backed up by plenty of zinc and a little bit of calcium and potassium.
Kidney beans are a well-rounded source of nutrition, made even better by their low cost. But, as mentioned, you must use extreme care when preparing them to ensure that they are properly cooked before feeding them to your birds.
Proper Preparation of Kidney Beans
Proper preparation of kidney beans is mandatory because only by cooking them at a high temperature for a required amount of time can those dangerous lectins be neutralized and made safe to eat.
By the way, that’s for all animals: lectins are harmful to people, other mammals, and of course our chickens.
Thankfully, the preparation and cooking process is simple if somewhat lengthy. Starting with raw, dry kidney beans you must first give them a long soak in water for at least 5 hours, and preferably you’ll change out the water halfway through that time for fresh.
Once that is done, change out the water again and then boil the beans for at least 30 minutes and preferably a little longer. There should be a hard, roiling boil, and is the most proven way to make them safe for consumption.
As an alternative, kidney beans may be prepared in a pressure cooker with no soaking required. Pop them in the pressure cooker set to 15 psi for 45 minutes, and they’ll be all set and ready to eat.
Caution: under no circumstances should you try to prepare kidney beans in a slow cooker or crock-pot! These devices do not attain the temperatures needed, even over time, to neutralize the dangerous lectins in the beans!
People and animals have died eating improperly prepared beans cooked in a slow cooker! Don’t risk it!
Are Kidney Beans Safe for Chickens Raw?
NO! Raw kidney beans are not safe for chickens or any other animal to eat! As mentioned above, the lectin proteins in raw beans can cause serious harm and even death, even in very small amounts. Always follow the proper procedure outlined here when preparing kidney beans for your birds.
Can You Cook Kidney Beans to Give Them to Chickens?
Yes, and you must. This is the only way to make sure that the potentially dangerous lectin proteins are neutralized and not present in any quantity.
Once again, there is a safe procedure for cooking these beans and it must be followed every time in order to avoid harm or even death. Refer back to the previous section for proper preparation.
Are Canned Kidney Beans Safe for Chickens?
Safe, yes, but not a good idea. Canned kidney beans are already cooked, but they are sitting in a liquid that may contain preservatives, colorants and other ingredients like sugar or salt.
These added items are certainly unhealthy for chickens, so it is best avoided. Cook your own dry beans instead to ensure the quality of what you feed to your birds.
However, if you can find some organic, canned kidney beans low in salt and other additives, they may be a decent option.
Are Kidney Beans Still Safe for Chicks?
Yes, but only if properly prepared. Kidney beans are safe for chicks only if they have been cooked as outlined elsewhere in this article.
And be warned: even the tiniest amount of lectin protein can kill chicks, so take extra care when serving them.
Also, regardless you will want to wait until your chicks are older than 6 weeks before you introduce kidney beans into their diet. Beans are moist and somewhat mushy, two factors that can lead to crop and digestive issues in chicks.
How Frequently Can Kidney Beans be Fed to Chickens?
It is important to keep in mind that while kidney beans can be an excellent source of nutrition for chickens, they should only make up a small part of their diet.
Kidney beans are supplemental foods, not the main part of their diet. A few small servings of properly prepared kidney beans, perhaps once or twice a week, are all they should get.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Kidney Beans to Your Flock?
Once the beans are properly cooked, the best way to serve them is in a bowl or on a tray, something that will keep them off the ground.
Depending on the size of your flock, you should prepare no more than half a handful per bird, per serving.
Don’t Serve Chickens Kidney Beans with Any Added Ingredients
As I alluded to above regarding the canned kidney beans, you never want to give your chickens anything with added ingredients.
Never add anything to them, not spices, not salt, not sugar. The added ingredients will only cause other serious health issues for your flock. Stick with plain kidney beans, cooked thoroughly, and served as-is.
Don’t Leave Kidney Beans Around the Run or Coop
The last tip regarding kidney beans and chickens: make sure that you clean up any leftover beans from the run or coop immediately.
Don’t leave them sitting around as they can potentially attract rodents and other pests, both of which bring with them their own set of problems.
Bugs can potentially infest your chickens, causing them pain and distress, and rodents will also spread disease and can even directly hurt your flock by killing chicks, stealing eggs, and even attacking adult birds. Not good!
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.