Chickens can eat all sorts of vegetables, including many vegetables that we humans eat. And while a choice veggie here and there can be a great supplement to your chickens’ usual diet, they can’t eat quite everything that we can or eat things the way that we usually prepare them.
Let’s look at pickles. Pickles are just cucumbers at the end of the day, even though they’ve been soaked in a brine solution.
Is this something our chickens can have, and might like? Are pickles safe for chickens to eat?
No, pickles aren’t safe for chickens. Pickles contain way too much salt, preservatives, and other ingredients that can cause harm to chickens. Even a small quantity of pickles could be enough to cause potentially fatal sodium poisoning.
However much you might like pickles, this isn’t something you should ever give to your chickens.
Whether you just want to treat them or give them some scraps out of your own kitchen to prevent waste, feeding pickles to chickens could have life-altering consequences for them.
Just don’t do it, but if you need answers I’ll tell you more about it down below..
Pickles Have Many Ingredients That are Bad for Chickens
When you stop to think about the ingredients that are found in pickles, it just makes sense that they would be bad for chickens.
The number one thing that makes pickles, well, pickles is that they’re invariably packed into brine or some other solution that is extremely salty, sometimes sugary and often has other preservatives besides.
None are okay for chickens, and salt in particular if ingested in high quantities can cause serious illness or even death.
Chickens, like most birds, are particularly sensitive to salt intake. Sodium poisoning, also known as salt toxicity, is a known condition that occurs whenever a chicken gets too much salt in their diet all at once or over time before the body can get rid of it.
Whether it is acute or chronic does not matter, because the effects on your birds are always horrible.
We’ll talk more about the symptoms and effects of salt poisoning in just a bit, but for now, all you need to know is that you shouldn’t feed your chickens pickles at all, and even small quantities can cause issues.
If you’re lucky, they might just get diarrhea or serious indigestion, but if you’re unlucky they could die.
Are Pickles Safe for Chickens Raw?
No, pickles are not safe for chickens when raw. Now, if you want to get really technical about things, a few small nibbles off of a pickle is unlikely to cause lasting harm or serious illness in chickens.
However, this is no excuse to give them pickles, because even one sizeable serving could result in substantial health problems.
Can You Cook Pickles to Give Them to Chickens?
No. Cooking pickles is not going to reduce or eliminate the salt and other ingredients enough to make them safe for consumption by chickens.
Are Plain Cucumbers Safe for Chickens?
Yes! Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is nothing that is genuinely harmful in fresh cucumbers alone.
If you ever wanted to give your chicken a pickle, they can have much the same experience without any of the danger by eating a cucumber spear that you cut up for them.
Pickles Can Easily Cause Sodium Poisoning in Chickens
I’ve mentioned sodium poisoning, or salt toxicity, several times throughout this article already. But what exactly are we dealing with?
Sodium poisoning is exactly what it sounds like: the ingestion of salt, or sodium, in quantities that it becomes toxic.
Sodium poisoning can be acute, meaning chickens ingest a large or fatal dose all at once, or it can be chronic, a creeping build-up of salt in the body over time.
If you have just a few too many salty foods in your flock’s diet, they might be at risk of chronic sodium poisoning.
Serving your chickens salty human foods, like pickles, for instance, is a way to give them acute sodium poisoning.
So what symptoms should you look for? Like many afflictions, a mild case will have less serious symptoms while I severe case will be worse.
Symptoms start out with general malaise and sluggishness and will escalate to severe diarrhea.
Since chickens usually try to avoid pooping where they rest or sleep, if you notice them making a mess in the coop or anywhere else they typically relax, you should pay close attention.
Likewise, any noticeable change in a chicken’s attitude or behavior in the aftermath of a potentially salty meal is cause for concern.
When sodium levels in the body start climbing, you’ll see even more distressing and irregular behavior.
A particularly scary one is a seizure that results in bicycling of the legs, a condition where a chicken is laying on its side or back, unable to stand, but is moving its legs like it is walking or running.
Much beyond this point, a chicken’s life is in grave danger. Many will fall into a coma, while others will suffer from a heart attack or other organ failure.
In all cases, the chicken will suffer terribly and even if they survive there might be consequences they could live with for some time, potentially even the rest of their life.
For laying hens in particular, eggshells can be horrendously degraded or even absent entirely, increasing the chances of egg-laying mishaps that could imperil her life.
As you can see, sodium poisoning is absolutely no joke and is a terrible fate for any chicken, one made worse by being inflicted on them by an ignorant or well-meaning owner who gives them pickles.
Are Pickles Safe for Baby Chicks?
No, pickles are absolutely not safe for chicks. All the negative effects that salt can have on adult chickens are exponentially worse for baby chicks.
A few tiny bites of pickle could potentially be enough to kill a young chick.
How Frequently Can Pickles be Fed to Chickens?
Ideally never. But, for whatever reason, if your chickens are accidentally fed pickles or somehow get at pickles that you just happen to have lying around and they take a couple of bites you probably don’t need to worry.
As long as they get back to their usual diet with a minimal level of salt in it, they should be all right.
What Should You Do if Your Chickens Do Eat Pickles?
If your chickens eat a larger quantity of pickles, or any other known salty food, you need to keep a close eye on them.
First things first, make sure they have plenty of fresh water on hand to help offset the salt intake. They’ll probably want it.
After that, observe: if you notice them acting a little depressed or less active than usual, that’s to be expected, but if that’s the worst thing that happens your chickens will probably be fine.
If you notice serious instances of diarrhea, particularly if it goes on for some time, you probably want to act. Contact your vet and follow their instructions.
Any chicken that is unable to stand or demonstrates bicycling is in critical condition and must be attended to as quickly as possible to minimize negative outcomes. Again, veterinary intervention is required.
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.