One of the best things about owning chickens is that they can eat just about anything. But that’s also one of the worst things about them…
Most chicken owners have experienced the pain of finding out that their chickens flew the coop, hopped a fence, and then chowed down on the garden produce they had spent so much time tending to.
If you grow your own zucchinis, chances are that they were one of the first things targeted by your chickens. The little looters!
Sure it’s funny now, but could those zucchinis have harmed them? Are zucchinis safe for chickens?
Yes, zucchinis are safe for chickens, and healthy thanks to a good assortment of vitamins and minerals. But use caution, because wild or homegrown zucchinis might contain high levels of toxic cucurbitacins which can hurt or kill chickens.
Now, this talk about toxins is generally nothing to worry about and seldom happens if you get your zucchinis from the grocery store.
If you grow your own, or get some grown by others in your area you’ll need to use just a little caution to make sure that the zucchinis aren’t toxic before feeding them to your flock.
But I promise it’s really easy to do, and virtually foolproof. Read on, I’ll tell you all about it below…
What Benefits Does Zucchini Have for Chickens?
Many chickens seem to have a distinct preference for zucchini. That wasn’t a humorous anecdote I just made up above…
I myself have witnessed chickens that could have happily free-ranged on whatever they wanted, deliberately hop over a tall fence into a garden, and then make a beeline for the zucchinis growing therein- to the exclusion of all else!
It seems a little crazy, but they really do like these juicy summer squashes.
And there’s probably something to that because zucchinis are very nutritious.
Zucchini contains vitamins and minerals that will support nervous system and eye health:
- promote all sorts of regular cellular functions,
- balance electrolytes,
- improve bone growth and repair,
- promote the production and oxygenation of red blood cells,
- and a lot more besides.
Zucchini also contains antioxidants that can help eliminate free radicals in the body that can cause disease and degrade organ function, so that’s a great perk right there.
In short, your chickens will love eating zucchinis, and you’ll appreciate the benefits that they can provide them.
Zucchini Nutritional Info
Zucchinis contain an impressively well-rounded complement of vitamins and minerals the chickens need.
Starting with the vitamins, we find a great amount of vitamin A, beta carotene, and vitamin C.
Most of the B complex vitamins are also present, including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6, though vitamin B4 is absent. Zucchinis also have a good shot of vitamin K and folate.
Moving on to the minerals there is more to like, with manganese, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium all being present in abundance with slightly lesser amounts of iron, calcium and zinc respectively.
Zucchini has something of a reputation as a veggie used mostly for flavor, or as a critical ingredient in some dishes, but is rarely thought of as particularly healthy. I’m happy to report that that is just not the case!
Be Careful: Rare Zucchinis Can Be Toxic!
I know that plenty of readers have been waiting for me to get to this part since making the claim that zucchinis might be toxic borders on the outrageous – and they no doubt want an explanation.
I promise you, it’s true, but just like I said up above, it isn’t that big of a deal as long as you take some common sense steps.
First, zucchinis may indeed, occasionally, contain dangerous levels of toxins that can cause serious gastrointestinal distress in chickens, and in humans for that matter.
This toxin is cucurbitacin, a compound that some plants utilize as a defense mechanism against any herbivorous animals that might eat them.
I can promise you it works, and occasionally zucchinis have enough of it to cause major problems for people and potentially kill chickens.
But how do they wind up in zucchini? The reason you’ve probably never heard of this phenomenon before is that it almost never occurs with varieties sold in stores.
But, it’s far more likely to occur when homegrown or wild zucchinis have produced fruit while under considerable stress and especially if they are cross-pollinated with other squashes. If those conditions are met, there is a chance that a given zucchini will contain a lot of the toxins in question.
But, even though they don’t look any different there is one surefire way to tell: sample the zucchini, just a tiny bite.
If the zucchini tastes profoundly bitter, soapy and metallic you know it contains tons of these toxic compounds and you should spit it out and avoid giving it to your chickens.
Is Zucchini Safe for Chickens Raw?
Yes. Most chickens love raw zucchini, and raw zucchini contains the most vitamins and minerals, so this is the ideal way to give it to them.
Are Zucchini Seeds Safe for Chickens?
Yes, assuming the zucchini is safe. Zucchini seeds, like most squashes, nominally contain higher concentrations of cucurbitacins than the flesh, but in the case of safe zucchinis it is still a trace amount, and won’t harm chickens unless they eat a ton of them.
Is Zucchini Skin Safe for Chickens?
Yes, but few chickens seem to like it. They will just unzip the skin and eat the flesh or peck through it. If your birds do like the skin for whatever reason you can let them eat it with no issues.
Can You Cook Zucchini to Give it To Chickens?
Yes, it is safe, but not wise. Zucchini is already soft enough to be easily eaten by chickens, so there is no point in cooking it.
Additionally, most of the vitamins and minerals will be destroyed by the heat. It’s best to just give them raw zucchini if you want your birds to get maximum benefits…
Is Zucchini Still Safe for Chicks?
Yes, but with some reservations. First, know that any toxic zucchini is highly likely to kill a chick if they eat it.
It is hard enough on adult chickens, but chicks are even and even more delicate, meaning any serious toxin is going to hit them harder.
Second, zucchini are so moist and juicy that that alone is enough to cause an upset stomach or loose stools in a chick. Both are bad news!
For these reasons, you are well advised to wait until your chicks they are at least six weeks old before letting them try it.
How Frequently Can Zucchini Be Fed to Chickens?
Zucchini is a healthy food option for chickens, but it should only be fed as a supplement, not a main course.
A small serving of zucchini twice a week is more than enough to keep your birds healthy and happy.
Any more than that and you may start seeing issues due to the high water content in zucchini – and it is not nutritionally complete, so don’t let them fill up on it.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Zucchini to Your Flock?
The very best way is raw. How you slice it, and if you slice it, is up to you. You can peel zucchini and cut it into chunks for picky eaters, or just cut it in half and let them peck away at the halves.
But do remember what I said about home-grown zucchinis: you must check them via taste test to determine if they’re safe prior to serving!
Try to Only Feed Zucchini to Chickens if it is Pesticide Free
Another thing to potentially worry over with store-bought zucchini is a risk shared with all commercial produce: pesticides. You must be sure to get organic zucchini or clean it thoroughly before giving it to your chickens.
A little bit of pesticide won’t immediately harm an adult chicken, but these chems can build up in their bodies over time!
Zucchini Is Safe, But Only Safe By Itself: No People Food!
Zucchini, as you likely already know, is quite tasty and even tastier when used in pasta dishes, soups, and even breads.
All delicious foods to be sure, but not ones your chickens should eat thanks to the presence of oils, salt, sugar, fats, dairy, and sometimes worse things.
These are all major no-nos for chickens, so in the end, you should only feed your chickens plain zucchini whether it is fresh or cooked.
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.