If there’s one type of food that is most commonly associated with birds, including chickens, it is probably seeds and nuts.
Looking at nuts in particular, it is easy to see why they are such a choice of food for birds, being easy to swallow and absolutely packed with macro and micronutrients that birds need.
Our own chickens can benefit from the nutrition that various tree nuts have to offer, but before we serve them there’s one thing we must know: are nuts safe for chickens to eat?
Yes, most kinds of nuts are completely safe for chickens, but there are a few that require cooking or other special preparation to neutralize toxins that may harm them. Good nuts can provide chickens with lots of protein, fats, vitamins and minerals.
Nuts can be a great addition to the diet of your chickens, but even though they are a type of food virtually synonymous with birds of all kinds, your chickens shouldn’t be allowed to eat as many as they want, or just any kind that they want…
Some nuts are toxic and others require special preparation to make them safe. This is generally a small concern so long as you’re paying a little bit of attention, but I will tell you everything that you need to know down below.
What Benefits Do Nuts Have for Chickens?
Nuts have tons of health benefits for chickens when added to a well-rounded diet. Namely, nuts are highly concentrated sources of protein, fats and calories which are great for giving chickens a boost of energy and this can also serve them well as a warming feed during very cold weather.
Most types of nuts are also absolutely packed with vitamins and minerals, and they all have equally diverse benefits for your birds.
Nuts have been shown to improve the healing of muscles, skin, and connective tissue while also enhancing proper feathering for healing after an injury or just during the yearly molt.
Nuts improve circulatory health by helping to create red blood cells and also improving the oxygenation nation of the bloodstream so it can better serve organs and tissues throughout the chicken’s body.
Aside from this, the nutrients present in all kinds of nuts have many benefits for all sorts of cellular processes, metabolic rate, and a lot more.
If you’re going to add only one or two more choice items to the diet of your chickens, you can make a great case for nuts!
Nuts Nutritional Info
The vitamin, mineral and macronutrient profiles of nuts vary by species, but generally all nuts have lots of fat, protein and carbohydrates and offer a great assortment of vitamins and minerals, with mineral levels being typically very high compared to other plant-based foods.
B-complex vitamins are often found in abundance, and looking at minerals, most nuts contain high levels of magnesium and manganese, phosphorus, copper, calcium, and zinc.
Are Nuts Safe for Chickens Raw?
Most nuts are safe for chickens to eat raw, but some are not since they have toxins that can be harmful or fatal.
As a general rule of thumb, if you know that a given type of nut is safe for chickens when raw you should give it to them raw if they will eat it that way: raw nuts always have higher levels of nutrients than cooked ones.
Can You Cook Nuts to Give Them to Chickens?
Yes, cooked nuts are also safe for chickens, and in the case of some nuts such as peanuts, chestnuts and beech nuts they must be cooked to make them safe for consumption.
But even if you are starting with nuts that are inherently safe for chickens, cooking them may make them more appealing to your birds, but you should also know that it will reduce the nutrient levels.
In any case, never give your chickens cooked nuts that have been prepared with harmful ingredients they can’t have like sugar, syrup or extra salt. More on that in a little while.
Are Almonds Safe for Chickens?
Yes, almonds are safe for chickens and one of the healthiest varieties around.
Are Peanuts Safe for Chickens?
Yes, peanuts are safe for chickens only if they are cooked. Make sure you don’t give salted or seasoned peanuts to chickens either.
Are Walnuts Safe for Chickens?
Yes, walnuts are safe for chickens raw or cooked.
Are Pecans Safe for Chickens?
Yes, they sure are. The iconic pecan is totally safe for your chickens, and most seem to really enjoy them.
Are Pistachios Safe for Chickens?
Pistachios are safe for chickens, but you must take the time to shell them before serving them like most nuts.
But concerning pistachios in particular, the sharp point on one end of the shell is a serious choking hazard for chickens.
Are Hazelnuts Safe for Chickens?
Yes, the ever-festive holiday hazelnut is totally safe for chickens…
Are Chestnuts Safe for Chickens?
Chestnuts are safe for chickens only if cooked, though you don’t have to roast them over an open fire to cook them effectively.
You’ll also need to completely remove the sharp, urchin-like shell around the nut to make them edible for chickens.
Are Beech Nuts Safe for Chickens?
Beech nuts are one type you don’t hear talked about very often for human consumption, but they are safe for chickens as long as they have been properly prepared by leaching the tannins out of them and then cooking.
Never feed raw beech nuts to your chickens!
Are Nuts Still Safe for Chicks?
Any nut that is safe for an adult chicken is technically safe for chicks but, because they are so delicate and sensitive, you generally want to let chicks grow up a bit before you serve them nuts for the first time.
Once your chicks have reached at least 6 weeks of age you can let them try a few tiny morsels of safe nuts.
You want to make an appointment to grind or crush the nuts down into a much smaller size to make it easier for them to eat and help reduce choking risks.
Also keep in mind that chicks can easily get an upset stomach after being introduced to any new, novel food and that includes nuts.
If you notice anything like loose stools or other problems, stop feeding them the nuts and, in any case, they should always be getting plenty of nutritionally complete feed.
How Frequently Can Nuts be Fed to Chickens?
Nuts are a great and healthy food for your chickens, there’s no doubt about that, but they should never be the main part of their diet.
As good as they are, nuts are not nutritionally complete, and a steady diet of nuts can actually lead to overconsumption of some nutrients.
For this reason, only give your chickens a few small servings of nuts, perhaps twice a week.
This is more than enough when given as a part of a varied diet to keep chickens happy and interested, and also let them benefit from the really excellent nutrition that nuts have to offer.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Nuts to Your Flock?
When serving any nuts to your flock, assuming they have been properly prepared and cooked if necessary, you’ll want to first shell the nuts and then break the nuts down by grinding, crushing or chopping so they are small enough for chickens to eat easily without risk of choking.
Keep in mind that many nuts have peculiar shapes that are not easy to swallow whole. Unfortunately, this is how our chickens swallow their food, leaving it in the gizzard to be ground before digestion.
Because of this, certain nuts like walnuts and cashews have a bad reputation for blocking the crop of a chicken which can prove potentially fatal.
It’s in your best interest to break down nuts into small and roughly regular-shaped chunks before serving them to your flock.
Nuts are Safe, But Only Safe By Themselves: No People Food!
You surely know by now that nuts are an extraordinarily popular snack food around the world, and can be had in a dizzying variety of preparations.
Mixed nuts, salted nuts, honey-roasted nuts, bold, and spicy nuts and more are all delicious, but they shouldn’t be fed to chickens.
All of the ingredients that we like in our nuts like salt, sugar, syrups, spices and the like are not good for your birds.
Eating even a relatively small amount of these super salty nuts could lead to problems with hypertension, sodium poisoning or organ failure.
You definitely don’t want to inflict that on your beloved birds, so make an appointment to only feed them plain nuts, whether or not they are cooked.
Don’t Leave Nuts Around the Run or Coop
And one last tip: if you scatter nuts for your chickens to eat, don’t ever give them so many that they won’t be able to eat them all up in one go, and in any case don’t leave nuts lying around the run or coop.
Many chicken pests and a few predators are attracted to nuts, most obviously rodents but also larger critters like possums and raccoons.
These animals might show up looking for an easy meal of nuts, but they will stick around picking off eggs and chicks, and potentially hurting adult chickens.
You don’t need to go raking through the ground cover for one or two stray walnuts, but don’t ever throw out so many that your chickens can’t or won’t find 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.
Find out more about Tim and the rest of the crew here.