If you want to supplement the usual diet of feed that you give your chickens with fresh produce, it’s hard to go wrong with leafy greens.
Many of the salad greens that we prepare and eat in our own homes happen to be very good for chickens and are quite similar to things that they would naturally eat in the wild.
How about Swiss chard? It’s quickly making a comeback as a highly nutritious and interesting salad green, but is it something that chickens can have? Can chickens safely eat Swiss chard?
Yes, Swiss chard is totally safe for chickens and is a great addition to their diet. Most Swiss chard varieties have many vitamins, and minerals that are beneficial for chickens, including vitamins A and K, iron, and potassium.
Among leafy vegetables, you can hardly do better than Swiss chard.
Although the leaves are a little tougher than common varieties of lettuce and cabbage, most chickens won’t struggle with them and even better, most chickens seem to really enjoy the stuff.
But all you need to know is that you will enjoy the health benefits it can provide to your flock.
There is a lot more to know about serving it to your chickens, though, and I’ll tell you all about it down below.
What Benefits Does Swiss Chard Have for Chickens?
Swiss chard is so packed with nutrients that chickens need that a truly thorough overview of all the health benefits would be an entire article on its own.
But we can at least cover the most important benefits now…
It is no understatement to say that Swiss chard is truly a total body benefit for chickens, and can help improve everything from metabolic processes and overall cellular health to the maintenance of nervous system tissues including the eyes.
Swiss chard can also do wonders for skeletal health and assist laying hens by fortifying eggshells.
Good, sturdy eggshells are of course a great thing for improving the viability of eggs, whether or not they are fertilized, but also for protecting your laying hens…
If an egg breaks while inside the hen, it could threaten her life, and becoming egg-bound will quickly turn fatal.
But there is even more good news because Swiss chard is wonderful for circulatory health.
Aside from improving overall heart condition and strengthening the muscle itself, Swiss chard will help chickens produce new red blood cells and oxygenate the bloodstream.
Swiss chard is even a champ for preventing heat stress in chickens since it can help your birds maintain proper levels of electrolytes, critical for coping with hot weather.
That is an awful lot of benefit from one vegetable, and if you aren’t feeding Swiss chard to your chickens, you’ve already got a bunch of reasons to start.
Swiss Chard Nutritional Info
As mentioned above, Swiss chard is highly dense with all sorts of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals alike. You’ll find:
- tons of B complex vitamins in Swiss chard, with B3, B5, B6 and folate being particularly abundant,
- lots of vitamin a, beta carotene,
- a tremendous amount of vitamin K,
- and rounding it all out a good shot of vitamin E.
But we’re not done yet because the mineral content is similarly impressive. Swiss chard contains tons of zinc, iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus.
If I have one thing against it, it is that it has a surprising amount of sodium for a vegetable.
Though not harmful for chickens, it is something to keep an eye on since too much sodium in a chicken’s diet can start to cause problems, but as long as you aren’t feeding them lots of other salty stuff it won’t be an issue.
Is Swiss Chard Safe for Chickens Raw?
Yes, Swiss chard is completely safe for chickens when served raw. As a matter of fact, it’s actually preferable to serve them the leaves raw as opposed to cooked.
This is because cooking will seriously deplete the nutrient content, so if you want your chickens to get all of the health benefits from Swiss chard it’s best to feed it to them raw.
Can You Cook Swiss Chard to Give It To Chickens?
Yes, but this is suboptimal. Chickens can eat cooked Swiss chard, but you will be sacrificing a lot of the nutrient content in the process.
So if you want your chickens to get all of the amazing benefits from Swiss chard it’s best to feed them the leaves raw and freshly harvested.
That said, if you do decide to cook Swiss chard for your chickens, try and keep it as light and quick as possible.
What Colors of Swiss Chard are Safe for Chickens?
There are all kinds of Swiss chard varieties that you can grow or buy these days, and they come in nearly all the colors of the rainbow.
All of them are safe for chickens to eat: green, white, purple, and more.
Is Swiss Chard Safe for Baby Chicks?
Yes, Swiss chard is safe for chicks, but despite how healthy it is, it’s not something you should serve to young chicks until they grow up a bit, and even then limit the quantity.
Baby chicks are just too delicate and can’t handle the same amount of greens as adult birds without risk of choking or crop impaction, so serve them only tiny bits of chard once they reach about 4 weeks old, or a little bit older if they are growing slowly.
How Frequently Can Swiss Chard Be Fed to Chickens?
As good as Swiss chard is, you are probably thinking it is something you should serve to your flock all the time, but that is actually not a good idea!
Despite its amazing nutritional content, Swiss chard is a supplemental food, not a primary item like your flock’s feed.
Most experts assert that your chickens should get no more than 10-15% of their daily food intake from greens and other supplemental sources, with the rest coming from feed.
Even if they are very fond of Swiss chard (which many birds are) you should still restrict it to a few times a week, mixed in with other fruits, vegetables, mealworms, and the like.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Swiss Chard to Your Flock?
You have a few ways to prepare chard for your flock. As mentioned, the best way is to either hand it over whole or cut it up into small bits, served raw.
Otherwise, you can lightly steam it or blanch it ahead of time, letting it cool before serving.
Try to Only Feed Swiss Chard to Chickens if it is Pesticide-Free
One issue with Swiss chard is shared by pretty much all of our modern produce, namely the fact that it’s almost invariably bombarded with pesticides.
These chemicals keep chard safe from bugs so it can make it to market, but the residues can harm chickens over time, and they don’t come off totally when washed…
If you can, grow your own Swiss chard or buy it locally from a trusted source that doesn’t use pesticides, which is the best way to guarantee that your flock will be safe from chemicals.
Make sure to buy organic and preferably certified pesticide-free brands. It is a pain and extra expense, but it can make a big difference for your chickens.
Swiss Chard Is Safe, But Only Safe By Itself: No People Food!
As I mentioned way back at the beginning of this article, Swiss chard is a popular salad veggie, and a safe food to feed your chickens.
That said, the only way it can stay safe for your birds is if you keep it plain – that means no other “people foods.”
Many human staples like salad dressings have bad ingredients like onions, butter, salt, sugar, oils, artificial flavorings and the like which can be lethal for chickens.
It might make Swiss chard wonderful for you, but you should never serve these things to your precious birds!
Don’t Leave Swiss Chard Scraps Around the Run or Coop
When your chickens are done with their chard, make sure to take it away and dispose of it properly.
Chard starts to rot and mold quickly, and any chickens that come back around to nibble on it again could get seriously sick, and no one wants to see that happen.
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.