If you own chickens, do you let them live on just chicken feed, or do you take the time to feed them a variety of whole foods, too? If you do feed them whole foods, you should know that there are all kinds of things that chickens can eat, including many common fruits.
However, chickens can’t eat everything that’s out there. How about apples? Are apples safe for chickens to eat?
Yes, apples are safe for chickens to eat, and healthy, but the seeds should be avoided since they contain compounds that will turn into cyanide when ingested. This can harm or kill birds.
Apples are probably the most ubiquitous fruit around, and there are many kinds each with a different taste and different qualities.
All of them, however, are safe and healthy for chickens to eat, and a great way to supplement their diet with some whole food. But there is more you’ll want to know before you add it to their diet, so keep reading and learn more.
What Benefits Do Apples Have for Chickens?
Apples are something of a fixture in popular culture as a very healthy fruit. We’ve all heard the jingle: an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Not entirely true, but can an apple a day keep the vet away for your flock?
It can definitely help. Apples are great for improving overall health in chickens thanks to a great assortment of vitamins and minerals.
Apples can improve cellular function, and help prevent disease, boost circulation and digestion, and help with growth, healing and feather quality.
Apples are also quite sweet, and will give chickens a much-needed burst of energy if they are run down, and all chickens that seem to love the taste so this is bound to help their mood if you want to treat them.
Though apples are healthy, there are also pretty sugary, so this is not something you want to feed the chickens all the time.
Apple Nutritional Info
Apples contain a good assortment of vitamins and minerals that chickens need, but you might be surprised to know that they are far from the most nutritious of fruits.
That being said, there’s no reason not to allow your chickens to have some as they are definitely healthy.
Looking at vitamin content, we see that the best micronutrient inside an apple is the vitamin C, which is sadly somewhat wasted on our chickens because they make their own vitamin C.
Too bad, but to back this up we have a solid if relatively meager assortment of B vitamins, including B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6, folate, and rounding this out a little bit of a vitamins E and K.
The mineral content is slim, but still pretty impressive with magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and potassium bringing up the front trailed by a little bit of iron and calcium.
Are Apples Safe for Chickens when Fresh?
Yes, definitely, and this is the best way to give them to chickens since any given apple will have the most vitamins and minerals when fresh and uncooked.
Chickens won’t struggle too much to eat most cultivars, but small or sick birds might benefit from a softer variety or a quick, gentle cooking to soften them.
Careful: Apples are Very Sugary
It is hard to imagine anything more wholesome than an apple when it comes to fruit, and they are.
But apples, like most fruit, are pretty sugary, and sugar is one thing chickens don’t need much of even in the form of fructose.
With that in mind, it is important to remember not to feed apples too often or in too large a portion. Apples are great for occasional treats, but should be fed sparingly as part of a healthy and varied diet.
Too much sugar can cause health issues for chickens, so be sure to measure how much you give them.
Is it Safe for Chickens to Eat Apple Seeds?
No. Apple seeds are toxic for chickens, and are commonly said to contain cyanide. This isn’t technically true, but they do contain chemical compounds which break down into cyanide as the seed is digested, so the end result is pretty much the same!
Though one or two apple seeds is unlikely to harm chickens, you should never allow them to eat any quantity.
Cyanide will prevent the cells of your chickens from receiving oxygen from the blood, causing death in short order with a high dose.
Signs of cyanide poisoning in chickens include labored breathing, bluish or purplish combs and wattles, and collapse. Sudden death is a distinct possibility.
If you suspect cyanide poisoning, rush the affected bird to a vet ASAP: prompt intervention and administration of an antidote might save them.
Take the time to core and remove the seeds from an apple before serving it to your chickens. Don’t trust your birds to avoid eating them!
Can Chickens Eat Apple Skin?
Yes, but some chickens will avoid it. They can take it or leave it: there’s nothing nutritionally speaking wrong with the skin, but it can be a little hard for chickens to digest, so you might want to give peeled apples at any rate.
How About Apple Cores?
No. Chickens will tend to avoid the hard core of an apple, though some diligent birds will peck off every scrap of sweet flesh that they can.
You can leave the cores in if you want your birds to have something to nibble on (seeds removed, remember?), or core them prior to serving.
Can You Cook Apples to Give it To Chickens?
Yes, and this is a good option for softening apples to make them more appealing to picky birds or any chicken that struggles with firm food.
However, cooking will also remove some of the already marginal nutritional benefits, so if you can use fresh apples that is always preferred.
Are Apples Still Safe for Chicks?
Yes, apples are safe for chicks that have grown up a bit; let’s say around 4 weeks old.
Chicks will do alright eating tiny bites from small chunks of apples, seeds removed, but do make it a point to feed them very sparingly even compared to adult birds: chicks are very sensitive to novel foods, and any nutritional excesses or deficits, and apples might be too much for them.
As always, give them just a nibble or two and then keep a close eye on them so they can be sure to adjust healthily and safely.
If you have any doubts or concerns at all, let them stick to their specialty chick feed.
How Frequently Can Apples be Fed to Chickens?
Periodically. Apples are healthy and chickens like them, but you’ll want to mind the quantity on account of the sugar as described above.
In general, a few small servings of apple perhaps twice a week at most are more than enough to reap the benefits and reward your birds.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Apples to Your Flock?
I prefer dicing apples into small bites or tidbits, and either mixing them in with feed or other produce as a sort of chicken salad (Not that kind of chicken salad!).
This makes it easier for me to measure the right portion while preventing a larger and stronger bird from hogging a big piece and thus eating too much. Remember to core and remove the seeds.
But if you have larger and stronger chickens, consider bigger pieces or even whole apples (cored and seeded) that they can peck at for a stimulating meal.
Try to Only Feed Apples to Chickens if They are Pesticide Free
Apples, like all modern produce, is drenched in pesticide through every stage of growth, and if you are buying from the store this is probably going to be true for your apples.
If you can get them, buy organic or certified pesticide-free apples to help cut down on the toxins making their way into your chickens’ bodies. At any rate, wash them well, and consider peeling to maximize reduction of harmful chemical residues.
Apples are Safe, But Only By Themselves: No People Food!
If you want to give apples to your chickens, feed them only fresh or gently cooked, plain apples. Never feed them any “apple products” or human food containing apples since all the extra ingredients are guaranteed to be bad for your birds.
This means no apple juice, no apple pie, no applesauce, no canned apples… nothing! Plain apples only. Salt, sugar, and all that jazz can result in serious illness if your birds eat it.
You don’t want them to suffer, do you?
Don’t Leave Apples Scraps Around the Run or Coop
Once your chickens are done with their apples, be sure to clean up any remaining scraps.
Leaving bits and skins around can attract insects, rodents and other pests, and that will create bigger issues for the flock – so always dispose of them promptly.
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.