When it comes to supplementing your flock’s diet of the usual chicken feed with whole vegetables, the leafy ones are usually your best bet.
Chickens, left to free range, are naturally drawn to many leafy vegetables as a source of nutrition, and they can also safely eat many of the same veggies that we do.
Let’s look at spinach. It’s a nutritional powerhouse, for sure, but is it safe for chickens to eat?
Yes, spinach is totally safe for chickens so long as they only get it as a supplement to their usual diet. Spinach is very nutritious, but it also has high levels of oxalic acid which can hinder the absorption of other nutrients for chickens.
There’s hardly any leafy vegetable that is more nutritionally well-rounded than spinach, and it has a reputation as a health food for a reason.
It’s also a health food for your chickens, but this isn’t something you can give to them all the time.
Turns out, it is possible to get too much of a good thing, and too much spinach could lead to dangerous levels of oxalic acid building up in a chicken.
I know it sounds scary, but it’s really a minor concern, and I’ll tell you everything you need to know down below to keep that from happening.
What Benefits Does Spinach Have for Chickens?
Spinach, even when fed to chickens in moderation, can work wonders for them. Spinach has an immense variety of vitamins and minerals alike they can improve a chicken’s health in many ways.
Circulatory health can be improved, red blood cell production increased and the overall oxygenation of blood likewise improved.
Bone growth and healing will be accelerated by the minerals present in spinach, and the antioxidants can greatly boost immune function, fighting off diseases and cellular degradation it can make your birds sick and shorten their life.
Plus, all the many vitamins that are present in spinach are needed for all sorts of functions at the cellular level, including the regulation of metabolism and organ function.
There are many more benefits besides, from maintenance of the nervous system and eye health to an improvement in feathering and overall skin condition.
I’ll put it to you this way; there is almost no reason that you shouldn’t be supplementing your flock’s diet with spinach!
Spinach Nutritional Info
As you probably inferred from the above section, spinach is absolutely, positively packed with macro and micronutrients, and there are very few vegetables that can compete with it when it comes to a spread of vitamins and minerals.
Taking a look at the vitamins first, we see that spinach has a tremendous amount of vitamin K, plenty of vitamin E and C, vitamin A, beta-carotene and a great assortment of the B complex vitamins, including lots of thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B6 along with a humongous amount of folate. Notably, only pantothenic acid is missing.
And there is more to like when looking at the minerals. Spinach is one of the best vegetables in its class when it comes to manganese, magnesium and iron levels, and this is backed up by plenty of potassium, phosphorus, calcium and iron along with a good shot of zinc.
Something else to be aware of is that spinach has significantly more sodium than you might expect, though this isn’t a problem for chickens so long as you feed it to them sparingly as you should.
And remember, you have another reason to feed it to the sparingly thanks to the high levels of oxalic acid present in spinach. I’ll tell you all about that in just a minute.
Is Spinach Safe for Chickens Raw?
Yes, it sure is. Chickens won’t have any problem with eating spinach raw, though they might shy away from it until you get them used to it.
Chickens love variety in their diet, and especially enjoy leafy greens, so it shouldn’t be hard for you to introduce it to them.
Also, raw spinach contains the highest possible amount of nutrients; spinach, like most veggies, loses quite a bit of its vitamins and minerals when it is cooked, with the amount of loss corresponding to how long and how intensely.
Can You Cook Spinach to Give it To Chickens?
Yes, you can. Cooked spinach is still a great option for chickens, and a good way to warm them up to it if they are showing disinterest in the raw stuff.
Even though there is a loss in vitamins and minerals, it still has plenty of those to provide your chickens with the nutrition that they need.
Do remember to let it cool prior to serving them, though! Also, cooking is a great way to incorporate spinach with other foods or even with their feed if you want to mix up their usual diet a bit.
Be Careful: Too Much Spinach Can Hurt Chickens
Now, we come to the chief drawback of spinach. Spinach contains high levels of oxalic acid.
We won’t get into a chemistry lesson, here; all you need to know is that oxalic acid is bad for chickens in high quantities since it ties up calcium in the body, blocking its absorption.
Too much oxalic acid will basically halt a chicken from getting calcium from other food, with obvious consequences for bone growth and healing.
It’s especially terrible for laying hens since they need so much, continually, for their eggs. High oxalic acid levels in hens can lead to soft-shelled eggs, deformities and even egg binding. Not good!
For this reason, spinach should be used sparingly and occasionally, as enrichment to their typical diet rather than a full-time staple or side dish.
Is Spinach Still Safe for Chicks?
Yes, but cautiously, and only once they have reached 4 weeks of age or so.
Spinach has all of the health benefits for chicks that it does for fully-grown chickens, but their (still developing) digestive system is sensitive and their growing skeletons could be seriously harmed if they eat too much.
Stick with small amounts as a treat only, and only once a week at most…
How Frequently Can Spinach Be Fed to Chickens?
Once or twice a week, at most, and in limited quantities. Spinach is a great option for chickens, but only good for them overall in moderation.
Domestic chickens are not exactly known for their sense of moderation, so be sure to portion it out for them to prevent trouble from overconsumption.
Overall, only 10%, plus or minus, of any given chicken’s total calorie intake should be made up of whole produce, and of that, 10% spinach is only an even smaller fraction.
Treat spinach like a treat, though, and it can do great things for the health of your flock.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Spinach to Your Flock?
You have two basic options for serving spinach, both of them good.
The first and best way is raw. Remember, this will get the most nutrients to your chickens. You can tear off some leaves and chop them up, or even give them the entire stalk to peck at. Just make sure to watch the portions!
The second is cooked, and it’s totally viable. Steam or boil the spinach until it is fully wilted, let it cool, squeeze out as much excess moisture as you can, and then serve.
Alternatively, you can mix cooked spinach with other things chickens like, including their usual feed.
Try to Only Feed Spinach to Chickens if it is Pesticide-Free
If you aren’t growing you own spinach (and why not? it is super easy!) then you should take care to only buy your chickens organic spinach if you can find it. Why?
Common spinach, like all of our produce these days, is heavily sprayed with chemical pesticides that are no good for chickens.
Even if you wash it, soak it, or peel off the outer leaves, some of these residues will linger in the rest of the plant, and poison your birds over time.
Organic spinach is free of these, or at least freer, so it is a better bet if you have the option and money.
Spinach Is Safe, But Only Safe By Itself: No People Food!
And lastly, no matter how you like your spinach prepared – with garlic, butter, salt, lard, or anything else – it’s not good for your chickens.
“People food” has far too many ingredients that are dangerous to birds, so make sure you stick with feeding them only plain spinach, be it raw or cooked.
All the added stuff can make them really sick, or even kill them; that’s especially likely with salt, and that’s why you should avoid giving chickens canned spinach, too.
Sodium poisoning is a real thing!
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.