If you let your chickens free-range, you probably already noticed they have a preference for flowering plants. Turns out those bright, attractive blooms don’t just attract insects!
And on this topic, many chicken keepers also do a little bit of landscaping or gardening around the homestead have probably endured the misfortune of your chickens getting at your prized ornamentals.
But not all flowering plants are safe for chickens to eat, and you never want to let them eat something that’s toxic.
Let’s look at zinnias for instance: can chickens eat zinnias and are they safe?
Yes, zinnias are completely safe for chickens, and no part of the plant is toxic for them. Although they don’t have a great nutritional profile, zinnias can still give chickens energy and some vitamins and minerals.
Zinnias are among the most popular ornamental flowers grown throughout the United States, and it’s good to know that your birds can eat them safely even if you would rather them not eat them at all!
But all jokes aside, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about zinnias when it comes to chickens eating them in the rest of this article…
What Benefits Does Zinnias Have for Chickens?
Zinnias can supply chickens with a few vitamins and minerals that they need along with a little bit of protein and carbohydrates.
In short, it is an okay supplemental food for chickens when they are allowed to forage, or if you want to harvest them yourself and serve them.
But because the true nutritional profile of the zinnia plant is pretty much unknown in the public sector, we can’t say for sure exactly what the benefits are. What we do know that they are completely non-toxic and safe for chickens.
Are Zinnias Safe for Chickens Raw?
Yes, raw zinnias are totally safe for chickens, and this is the best way to serve them to your flock since they will have the maximum amount of nutrition.
This is also convenient because this is the most likely way that your chickens are going to encounter: fresh and raw, growing where they are planted, be that in the ground or in a container!
Are Zinnia Flowers Safe for Chickens?
Yes. The entirety of the flower including the petals is safe for chickens, and this is the preferred part of the plant as far as most chickens are concerned.
They’re delicate, tasty, and highly attractive to chickens meaning they will probably be the first to go if your chickens can reach the plant.
Are Zinnia Stems Safe for Chickens?
Yes. The stems of the zinnia plant are completely safe for chickens, but depending on the age, any variety might be fairly tough and woody and so some chickens are probably going to avoid them.
If they do, that’s fine; you don’t need to force them to eat them. Keep in mind that young zinnia seedlings or sprouts are quite tender and very attractive to chickens, and they’ll usually gobble them up whole.
Are Zinnia Leaves Safe for Chickens?
They sure are. The leaves, like every other part of the plant, are completely safe for chickens, and non-toxic. Most chickens will start on the leaves as soon as they are done with the flowers…
Can You Cook Zinnias to Give Them to Chickens?
Yes, but this is wasteful. Zinnias remain safe for chickens even after having been cooked, but cooking them will only destroy what few nutrients they have…
You don’t ever need to go out of your way to cook them for your chickens, but if for whatever reason you do have cooked as any as on hand, you can serve them to your flock safely.
Are Zinnias Still Safe for Baby Chicks?
Yes, zinnias are safe for chicks but with a few reservations. First, let your chicks grow up a little until they are at least 4 weeks of age before you let them try zinnias or any other leafy plant.
Leafy greens have a tendency to cause choking and crop impaction in baby chicks, and either can be fatal.
Additionally, zinnias just aren’t that nutritious, and chicks grow rapidly during the early phases of their life, and they need lots of all the nutrients that they do require.
And something else that shouldn’t be discounted is the fact that chicks will often get an upset stomach when eating any new, novel food and that includes something as natural and wholesome as zinnias.
Indigestion can lead to diarrhea, and diarrhea can lead to dehydration which, once again, may be fatal.
You aren’t depriving your chicks of anything by keeping them on feed until they reach adulthood when they can eat zinnias and other plants with greater safety.
How Frequently Can Zinnias be Fed to Chickens?
Zinnias are healthy and safe, that’s for sure, but they are only a supplemental or incidental food for your chickens.
You don’t want to make it a point to serve it to them all the time, and if they are allowed to free-range, there should be other foods in their environment that can provide them with greater and more varied nutrition.
If you’re harvesting zinnias to serve your chickens, giving them a small portion once a week is entirely enough. Any more than that, and they will be filling up on zinnias when they should be eating other foods that are better for them.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Zinnias to Your Flock?
You really don’t need to do much to serve zinnias to your flock. If you’re letting them free-range, simply let them have at the zinnias wherever they are growing and eat to their heart’s content.
If you are harvesting zinnias to serve them, you have two basic options. The first is to simply pull the flowers and then hand them over. Your chickens will peck at them and tear them apart easily, eating the bits that they want.
Ultimately, you can roughly chop up the flowers and then mix them in with other food or serve them to your chickens as a sort of salad.
Be Careful: Zinnias Might Have Been Sprayed with Pesticides or Other Chemicals
One more thing to be aware of with zinnias that is a factor for all wild plants or even plants that are grown by people.
Zinnias, like many other ornamental flowers, might have been treated with pesticides to keep them safe from insect predators that can degrade those beautiful and showy blooms.
There’s also a non-zero chance that zinnias might have been deliberately or accidentally exposed to other chemicals like fertilizers or even herbicides.
None of these chemicals are good for chickens, and over time, they have a way of building up in bodily tissues before causing some really horrendous health problems down the line.
To avoid this terrible outcome, make sure you know whether or not any zinnias you allow your chickens to eat have been treated with any chemicals, and if they have been, don’t let your birds eat them.
Also keep in mind that many such chemicals, particularly pesticides, persist in the tissues of the plant even after washing, and if your chickens eat them they could still be getting dosed with them.
If you grow zinnias yourself and you know exactly what you did, and more importantly did not, use on them that’s your best bet.
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.