Can Chickens Eat Poison Ivy? Is it Safe?

Chickens are well known to be highly adventurous and enthusiastic eaters. In the wild, or just left to free roam, chickens will eat a little bit of everything, including plants.

a chicken eating poison ivy leaves
a chicken eating poison ivy leaves

Some of these plants fall way outside the norm by human standards when it comes to ediblity, yet chickens can eat many with no issues whatsoever…

But how about plants that you and I consider genuinely toxic, or even plainly harmful? How about poison ivy, one of the most dreaded of all irritating plants? Is it really possible for chickens to eat poison ivy, and can they do it safely?

Yes, chickens can eat poison ivy safely, believe it or not. Poison ivy can even provide chickens with some nutrition in the form of calories, vitamins and minerals.

But be warned, poison ivy sap will stick to chickens and can be transferred to people, other animals, tools and surroundings.

I had a hard time believing this myself when I first learned it, but I promise you it’s true. Chickens can, and will, nibble on poison ivy if you give them a chance.

Now, whether you should let them, or not, is an entirely different question, and I say no for a lot of good reasons. I will tell you what they are down below…

What Benefits Does Poison Ivy Have for Chickens?

As hard as it is to believe, poison ivy can provide chickens with some health benefits, although these are thought to be somewhat marginal.

It can provide chickens with calories, and the vitamin and mineral content will give them what their bodies need to grow and recover.

But according to what we know, and plenty of observation, poison ivy does not seem to have any special health benefits for chickens, either nutritionally or even fringe benefits. It is safe, and can provide them with some energy, but that is it.

Poison Ivy Nutritional Info

Sadly, but understandably, we don’t have a ton of information about the nutritional profile of poison ivy. The stuff is just not studied that much as a food source even for animals that can eat it without harm.

But based on extrapolating some data from other, similar safe plans, we know it will provide chickens with a tiny bit of protein, carbohydrates, and they smattering of vitamins and minerals that they need, most likely vitamin A, a few B-complex vitamins, iron, calcium and others.

In any case, it is no nutritional powerhouse, that I can guarantee, so you shouldn’t go out of your way to supply this stuff to your chickens or to let them eat it when they encounter it.

Be Careful: Poison Ivy Sap Can Rub Off of Chickens, and On to You

And we come to it at last: the elephant in the room as far as we are concerned with poison ivy. Poison ivy is absolutely infamous for causing a nasty, weeping, itchy, scabby rash on any tissue that gets exposed to even trace amounts of the sap it secretes.

The active ingredient in this defensive sap is urushiol, and your chickens are totally immune to it.

But for any unfortunate mammals that happen to brush up against the plant, touch any broken part or rub against other surfaces that have been in contact with the substance, a terrible outbreak is sure to follow.

What’s worse, this stuff will last a long time even when it has been removed from the plant itself, and even if the plant is dead the active compounds will remain! Not good!

You can see where this is going: your chickens can eat the stuff freely, but by breaking open the leaves and vines, and rubbing up against any other part of the plant they’ll be getting urushiol on their beak, on their combs, their feathers and their feet.

And then, everywhere your chickens go, and everything they touch to include you, will also come into contact with urushiol, and be affected.

In a way, any chickens that eat poison ivy wherever it is growing will become carriers, and will transmit the stuff, even if it’s only trace amounts, to everything else that they touch.

This can make your life a whole lot worse, and your job of taking care of your chickens a whole lot harder…

If you needed a reason to keep your chickens from eating it, this is it.

Is Poison Ivy Safe for Chickens Raw?

Yes, raw poison ivy is completely safe for chickens to eat, and will not hurt them.

Can You Cook Poison Ivy to Give it To Chickens?

It’s a strange question. Cooking poison ivy will not make it harmful for chickens, but you would have to be completely out of your mind to even try. There’s nothing to be gained from cooking poison ivy for chickens.

Is Poison Ivy Safe for Baby Chicks?

Poison ivy and chicks don’t mix. Poison ivy is not harmful to chicks, just like it isn’t harmful to adult chickens, but giving it to chicks is a bad, bad idea.

First and foremost, chicks shouldn’t be allowed to eat poison ivy or any other novel plant until they’re at least 4 weeks old so their systems have time to develop, and also to reduce the chances that they can choke on it or suffer from an impacted crop.

But on a strictly practical level, you will have cause to handle chicks a lot more than you will adult chickens, and baby chicks that get urushiol all over them are certainly going to get it on you, and after you handle them, on everything else you touch.

Just don’t do it, seriously.

How Frequently Can Poison Ivy be Fed to Chickens?

If you aren’t persuaded by any of the points I’ve made above and want to let your chickens eat poison ivy, you can let them nibble on small portions once or perhaps twice a week at most.

Poison ivy is not particularly nutritious and it definitely isn’t nutritionally complete, so it serves as a supplement or snack for chickens assuming they have a properly balanced and nutritionally complete diet.

This diet should consist of mostly chicken feed for around 90% of their total calorie intake, with the remaining 10% being made up of whole foods and supplements.

Poison ivy is only a tiny fraction of that smaller portion.

What’s the Best Way to Serve Poison Ivy to Your Flock?

Far and away, the best approach to serving poison ivy to your chickens is not to serve it to them at all. Collecting poison ivy all but guarantees that you’re going to be seriously exposed and suffer terribly for your efforts.

Instead, if you have poison ivy growing on your property you can let your chickens free-range and eat it if and when they encounter it.

And, if you have a larger flock and your chickens take a liking to the stuff, they might actually be able to reduce the presence of the plants somewhat.

Be Wary of Poison Ivy that Might Have Been Hit with Plant Killer

You don’t need any more things to worry about concerning your chickens eating poison ivy, but I’m coming at you with one more anyway. Never, ever let your chickens eat any unknown poison ivy plant.

The reasoning behind this is that poison ivy, being a huge pain in the ass and generally an immense nuisance wherever it’s found, is it disproportionately likely to be targeted for destruction by the application of plant killers.

Although rarely totally successful, these chemicals can be harmful for chickens and can persist in the affected plant for a surprisingly long time.

When your chickens eat a plant that has been treated, they will also be eating the chemical residues and that can lead to some serious health problems.

If you aren’t completely certain that any given poison ivy plant has not been sprayed with herbicides, don’t let your chickens eat it. Not like you needed another reason to keep them away from the stuff, but still.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *