When it comes to fruit, it is no secret that chickens can eat pretty much all kinds. That being said, there are a few fruits that have controversial reputations when it comes to feeding our birds.
One of the most controversial are citrus fruits, and lemons in particular.
Depending on who you ask, lemons are entirely safe and a worthwhile supplement to a chicken’s diet or they are plainly harmful, and could potentially even kill our chickens.
What are the facts on the matter? Are lemons safe for chickens to eat or not?
Yes, lemons are safe for chickens but only in limited quantities. Lemons have vitamins and minerals that chickens need, but they are acidic and very juicy, which can cause health issues for chickens if they eat too much.
It turns out that the only secret, if you want to call it that, when it comes to feeding lemons to your chickens is moderation.
That’s true of most things, I guess, since too much of a good thing can often be harmful.
Lemons are no exception, but there is more you will want to know before you give them to your chickens for the first time. I’ll tell you everything below.
What Benefits Do Lemons Have for Chickens?
Lemons have a fairly respectable profile of vitamins and minerals, all of which can benefit chickens.
Most notably, lemons contain nutrients that can promote skin and muscle health, circulatory health by way of producing new red blood cells, and the oxygenation of the bloodstream.
Lemons also have proven immune system-boosting qualities and other micronutrients that can improve overall cellular health and metabolism.
Lemons are also known to improve digestive system health, and help to eliminate free radicals in the body which can cause disease.
Not bad at all for such a common fruit!
Lemons Nutritional Info
When we dig into the actual types and quantities of the nutrients present in lemons, we find that they have a little bit of everything.
The most notable vitamin present in lemons is vitamin C, which is something of a letdown for chickens since they make their own vitamin C internally.
That said, getting a little bit extra in their diet certainly doesn’t hurt.
The B complex vitamins are also present in varying amounts, with pantothenic acid, vitamins B6 and B1 being most abundant backed up by somewhat less riboflavin, niacin and folate.
The mineral content in lemons is nothing to write home over but still useful for chickens.
You’ll find calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc, all of which play important roles in chicken biology.
Are Lemons Safe for Chickens when Fresh?
Yes, lemons are just fine for chickens when fresh. Fresh is in actuality the best way to serve lemons to your chickens since they will get the most of the nutrition that lemons have to offer; cooking reduces the already lean amounts of vitamins and minerals both.
Are Lemon Seeds Safe for Chickens?
Yes, lemon seeds are safe for chickens. Lemon seeds won’t harm chickens assuming they don’t choke on them.
Consider discarding the seeds if giving lemons to any smaller breeds of chicken.
Are Lemon Peels Safe for Chickens?
Yes! Lemon peels are not really edible to people, but they are to chickens. However, most chickens tend to ignore them in favor of the juicy, tender flesh.
If your chickens do have an interest in the peels, they will get a few extra vitamins and minerals from eating them.
Can You Cook Lemons to Give Them to Chickens?
You can. Cooking lemons is almost always unnecessary, though. Lemons are already very soft, and cooking will reduce their nutritional content for no real gain.
Still, if you want to add some variety, then by all means, cook them for your chickens. Just don’t add any special ingredients like sugar or salt.
Are Lemons Still Safe for Baby Chicks?
Sort of. Lemons are technically safe for chicks, but they present some serious challenges to them, enough that maybe you should hold off until your chicks grow up.
The biggest issue with lemons, for chicks, is that they are highly acidic. This can easily upset the delicate balance of their stomachs or irritate their crops, leading to digestive problems and malnutrition which could prove fatal for the little guys and gals.
Then there is the moisture content of lemons. Chickens of any age, but especially baby chicks, don’t need a lot of very moist food.
Too much moisture in their diet can further compromise their digestive process, sometimes with deadly results.
If you’re going to try and serve lemons to your chicks, give them only tiny tidbits once they have reached about 8 weeks old.
How Frequently Can Lemons be Fed to Chickens?
Lemons are a wholesome option that most chickens seem to like, but not something they should be having all the time owing to the acidity and the moisture content.
Assuming your flock is already being fed a well-rounded diet of feed and a few other whole foods, you can give them lemons about once a week in small amounts.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Lemons to Your Flock?
Your chickens should gobble up fresh lemons that are cut into small wedges or even tidbits.
Larger birds will be capable of tearing through the soft skin with their claws or beak, but smaller and weaker birds might lose interest before they get to the good stuff.
Help them out by splitting the lemon at the minimum, or processing it as described above.
Try to Only Feed Lemons to Chickens if They are Pesticide-Free
Lemons have another issue to be aware of, but one that they share with lots of other produce these days.
Commercially sold lemons are constantly sprayed with pesticides, the residues of which can harm chickens and other livestock, even people, over time.
It is not enough to peel or wash lemons since these chemicals get taken up into the flesh of the fruit itself.
If you want to make sure your flock is safe from these chemical cocktails, buy organic lemons at the store, get them from a trusted supplier, or grow your own.
Lemons are Safe, But Only By Themselves: No People Food!
The tart tang of lemons and their indescribable, delicate aroma have made them a fixture in countless desserts and even seen them used in marinades for meats and other foods.
And while lemons are indispensable in this role, they produce delicious foods that our chickens simply must not have.
Things like salt, sugar, spices and more are all very bad for chickens, and combined with the acidity of lemons can cause real issues for our flocks.
Major illnesses like hypertension, sodium poisoning, and sour crop are all possible outcomes, and each can easily kill your poor bird.
Don’t risk it: if you are giving your chickens lemons, give them only plain lemons with no added ingredients.
Don’t Leave Lemons Scraps Around the Run or Coop
Your chickens will probably love getting some lemons from time to time, but you must be sure to clean up after them when they are done.
Lemons can quickly rot and attract insects and even rodents that could make your chickens sick or even prey on them directly.
If not, they will still rot and harbor bacteria that could still sicken your chickens if they nibble on them later. So, be sure to take their scraps away as soon as they are done with them.
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.