It is hard to say exactly what a chicken’s favorite food is, but if you take the time to observe them when you allow them to forage on their own you’ll notice they eat from a variety of plants on your property.
It makes sense that nutritious greens would be on the menu for chickens if they are left to their own devices, and supplementing their diet with various leafy vegetables is a good idea to ensure they get all the nutrition they need.
Let’s look at lettuce. Is lettuce safe for chickens?
Yes, all kinds of lettuce are safe and nutritious for chickens, though the vitamin and mineral content will vary from type to type.
Lettuce might be the last thing you want to eat unless it is on a giant sandwich or adorning your cheeseburger, but believe it or not, most chickens seem really enthusiastic about it.
Don’t believe me? Try giving your chickens a head of lettuce the next time you are treating them and see what happens to it.
It really is that easy, but there’s still more you should know about it, so read on and I will tell you everything below.
What Benefits Does Lettuce Have for Chickens?
The health benefits that lettuce can provide for your flock varies somewhat depending on the exact type of lettuce because they all have different nutritional profiles.
That being said, most contain similar levels of vitamins and minerals, so we can say with authority that any given cultivar will have many benefits, including:
- promoting skin health and proper feathering,
- nervous system and eye development,
- bone growth and repair,
- and a whole host of various cellular and organ processes.
But that’s not all, because lettuce has proven immune system boosting qualities that can help stave off disease and it can even help promote the formation and oxygenation of red blood cells, greatly fortifying circulatory performance.
Some types of lettuce are even known to help promote regular laying of eggs, making things easier for you and safer for your hens; subpar eggshells can lead to a hen becoming egg-bound!
And last but not least, most types of lettuce contain a lot of moisture and that can help keep your chickens hydrated and deal with heat stress on hot days.
Combined with the vitamins and minerals, this will also help them keep their electrolytes in balance.
Lettuce Nutritional Info
As I mentioned above, there is no single profile for the vitamins and minerals you’ll find in a head of lettuce, because there are many varieties out there, including ones you can grow yourself or buy at the grocery store!
But if we take a look at Bibb lettuce, one of the more popular and healthy varieties, you’ll find an excellent assortment of nutrients that can supercharge your chickens.
The majority of the B-complex vitamins are present, including niacin, riboflavin, and folate along with a good amount of vitamin K and vitamin E.
We also find the ever-important vitamin A, necessary for nervous system and eye health, alongside some beta-carotene.
The mineral content of Bibb lettuce is also impressive, you’ll find lots of calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, magnesium and zinc, and only a little bit of sodium which, in the amounts present, will only further help your chickens stabilize their electrolytes.
They’d have to eat a huge amount of lettuce for the salt content to become a problem!
Is Lettuce Safe for Chickens Raw?
Yes, it is, and raw lettuce is tops for chickens: raw lettuce is plenty easy for them to eat, and it also has the maximum amount of vitamins and minerals.
Cooked lettuce rapidly loses lots of nutrients, robbing your birds of resources their bodies need for no benefit.
What Kinds of Lettuce are Safe for Chickens?
Pretty much every lettuce you can think of, and several that you can’t. There is no known type of lettuce that is overtly harmful to chickens. The only harm that might result is from overeating.
Chickens can eat all of the following types safely, so long as it is in moderation:
- Red Leaf
Can You Cook Lettuce to Give it To Chickens?
You can, but there is no reason to do so. Cooking lettuce typically turns it into a stringy, nasty mass, and what’s worse is that much of the nutrition it otherwise had will be lost.
There’s no reason to do it, so I say don’t.
Are there Any Downsides to Feeding Lettuce to Chickens?
A couple. First up, even though lettuce is hydrating, too much moisture in chickens’ food is likely to upset their stomach; runny, loose stools at first and then proper diarrhea after that.
This is seriously bad news, and not just on account of the mess and smell!
Chickens will dehydrate and lose electrolytes rapidly if they get diarrhea, so you will want to make sure that you sharply limit the amount of lettuce they can get at any one time.
Next, lettuce, for all of its health benefits, is not nutritionally complete and is actually a bit sneaky.
Chickens will happily fill up on it, and since it is so green and wholesome you might think they are getting everything they need.
But you’d be wrong: they will be missing essential amino acids, proteins, and fats. In other words, you need to make sure that your chickens have quality chicken feed as a base for their diet with lettuce (and other whole foods) as an occasional addition.
Is Lettuce Still Safe for Chicks?
Yes, lettuce is safe for chicks so long as they get a little older before you feed it to them.
Chicks have sensitive digestive systems, and highly specific nutrient requirements, so you should wait until they are at least 4 weeks old before giving it to them, and preferably 6 weeks old. Otherwise, their bodies may not be able to process it properly.
Also, easy does it on the quantity! Chicks are very prone to loose stools or diarrhea if they eat too much moist food, and all types of lettuce are mostly water.
How Often Can Lettuce be Fed to Chickens?
Once or twice a week, with one large leaf or a rough equivalent thereof per bird. That’s all it takes for them to benefit, and you will greatly reduce the chances that they get an upset stomach.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Lettuce to Your Flock?
Whole, as leaves or shredded. Only serve it to them whole if you know most of your birds get a roughly equal share when eating.
Hanging it from the fence or overhead so they can peck at it is a great way to give them some entertainment while they eat.
I like to shred it, like coleslaw, so that it is easier to portion out and easier for them to eat without too much mess or waste.
Try to Only Feed Lettuce to Chickens if it is Pesticide Free
Lettuce is much like every commercial crop these days; highly likely to be treated with pesticides and other chemicals that are not good for chickens, or anyone.
Growing your own is best, that way you’ll know precisely what is on it, but if you don’t, try to only feed them organic lettuce if you can find it and afford it.
It seems like a small thing, but these pesticides tend to build up in the bodies of animals (and humans, for that matter), and can cause all sorts of health issues down the line.
Lettuce Is Safe, But Only Safe By Itself: No People Food!
Whatever you like on your salad, or whatever you like to put lettuce on, spare your birds pain and suffering by not giving them people food.
Things like dressings, bacon, oil, salt, vinegar and the like are all bad for chickens, and at the very least, will give them a seriously upset stomach.
In some cases, they could even die from eating this stuff! I promise you that your chickens will like lettuce perfectly fine plain.
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.
Find out more about Tim and the rest of the crew here.