Pretty much every chicken keeper knows by now that chickens can eat fruit, and many chickens seem to love the stuff. However, not all fruits are safe for chickens, and some are downright controversial.
Citrus fruits are one such example, with some folks claiming that they are overtly toxic for chickens while others say they are totally safe.
Is there any way to get to the bottom of this? What’s the real story? Are limes safe for chickens?
Yes, limes are safe for chickens to eat as long as they get them sparingly in a well-rounded, complete diet. Limes have vitamins and minerals that chickens need, but the amount of acid and vitamin C that they contain can cause problems if eaten excessively.
And that’s the truth. There’s nothing that is overtly toxic or outright harmful to chickens in limes or other citrus fruits so long as they don’t get too much of them in their diet.
To be clear, they don’t need very much at all, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot use limes as a good supplement or snack for your chickens. I’ll tell you what you need to know about serving limes to your flock below.
What Benefits Do Limes Have for Chickens?
Limes have quite a few benefits for chickens so long as they eat them in moderation. Limes can help improve overall cellular function and immune system health, and also help to balance electrolytes in a chicken’s body.
The vitamins and minerals present in limes can also improve feathering after an injury or during the molt, and also enhance circulatory health by promoting oxygenation of the blood and the production of new red blood cells.
Overall, limes are certainly wholesome and definitely healthy when fed to chickens in moderation. Just don’t overdo it, and your flock can benefit…
Lime Nutritional Info
Limes are only reasonably nutritious, but they do have a decent variety of vitamins and minerals, and also carbohydrates which can provide chickens with a little energy.
Assessing the vitamin content, we see that most of the B-complex vitamins are here, but in very limited amounts.
Limes have a little bit of all of them, including thymine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, and folate.
As you probably already know, vitamin C is the standout, and limes are a great source of this one though chickens don’t really need it since they make their own vitamin C inside their body.
Mineral content is frankly pretty lackluster, but still beneficial for chickens: calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium are all present.
Are Limes Safe for Chickens Fresh?
Yes, fresh limes are safe for chickens, once again as long as they are only fed to them in strict moderation. Fresh limes also offer chickens the maximum benefit from their somewhat meager nutritional content.
Are Lime Peels Safe for Chickens?
Yes. Lime peels, or skins, are safe for chickens and won’t hurt them. However, most chickens don’t care about this part of the fruit at all and will opt for the tender flesh instead.
Are Lime Seeds Safe for Chickens?
Yes. Lime seeds are safe for chickens, unlike apple and pear seeds, and peach pits.
Can You Cook Limes to Give Them to Chickens?
You can, though there is no good reason to do this. Cooking a lime in any way will seriously reduce its already-limited vitamin and mineral levels, making it a questionable option for your birds’ diet.
But, if you want to feed them for whatever reason, cooking won’t make limes harmful to chickens.
Be Careful: Excess Consumption of Citrus Can Cause Issues for Chickens
There is some truth to the warnings against feeding chickens citrus fruits, including limes. Excess consumption of limes, or any other citrus fruit, can first lead to upset stomachs and digestive issues.
The acidity level present in citrus fruits is too much for chickens to handle in large quantities or even small quantities daily. Other issues like sour crop and irritation of the throat or gizzard are also possibilities.
But a far worse concern is that posed by excess vitamin C intake…
Too much vitamin C can start to impede or totally block the absorption and use of calcium in a chicken’s body, which can lead to positively disastrous consequences for growing chicks and laying hens.
Particularly in the case of hens, loss of calcium will cause gravely weakened or even entirely absent eggshells.
This is a total loss of the egg, obviously, but can also endanger the hen’s life if she becomes egg-bound, or gets a clogged oviduct.
In short, only give your chickens limes periodically as a tiny part of a balanced diet.
Are Limes Still Safe for Chicks?
Limes are safe enough for chicks with a few guidelines. First, don’t even think of giving limes to chicks until they’re at least 6 and preferably 8 weeks old; before that, their digestive systems will be too sensitive to handle them.
When you do give limes, start with a really tiny piece and observe the chick closely for any negative reactions. Any issues, discontinue limes at once.
If you have any reservations, just hold off on limes for chicks entirely; there are plenty of other things they can eat that are far better suited to them when it is time to expand their diet.
How Frequently Can Limes be Fed to Chickens?
Infrequently at most; perhaps once a week, and better every two weeks. As you should have ascertained by now, limes are not something chickens should have all the time.
Limes are safe, but only when fed sparingly, and for that reason you should only give them to your chickens on occasion, as a sort of treat or specialty supplement.
Remember, too, to keep the portions small: every adult chicken in your flock should get no more than a few small segments of lime when you do feed them.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Limes to Your Flock?
Fresh limes are best. The easiest way to give them to your flock is to cut them up into tiny segments (or eighths at largest), and then place them so each chicken only gets a small portion, a few bites worth.
You can peel the limes entirely if you want, but so long as the flesh is exposed, your chickens should have no major issues.
If you have large and strong birds that are enthusiastic and eager eaters don’t bother with peeling them at all and just offer the whole lime to their flock.
Try to Only Feed Limes to Chickens if They are Pesticide Free
If you aren’t growing your own limes and are instead buying them from a store, make sure to buy organic limes, as this greatly reduces the likelihood of pesticide contamination.
Regular store-bought limes will contain traces of dangerous pesticides that could be hazardous to your flock’s health and well-being even if you wash or totally peel them.
These chemicals have a nasty way of accumulating and building up in a chicken’s system, eventually resulting in devastating health issues. Accordingly, it is best to avoid them entirely.
Limes are Safe, But Only Safe By Themselves: No People Food!
When it comes to us humans, limes are rarely eaten as-is; they are just too sour! But we have mastered using limes as ingredients in all kinds of incredibly refreshing and delicious dishes, with desserts foremost among them.
But do keep in mind that chickens aren’t people, so don’t go giving them any of those lime-infused foods.
Things like sugar, salt, butter and oils present in human food can be very harmful to chickens by themselves, and in conjunction with the acidity of limes can potentially have ruinous consequences.
If you are going to give your chickens limes, remember: limes only, only rarely, only small portions.
Don’t Leave Lime Scraps Around the Run or Coop
Lastly, make it a point to clean up any lime scraps when your chickens are done with them.
The scent of lime has a way of drawing pests, and that’s the last thing you want your chickens to deal with be they insects or rodents…
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.