Chickens eat all sorts of plants, including a lot of the same fruits and vegetables that we enjoy. However, just because something is okay for people to eat and healthy doesn’t mean it is healthy or even safe for our chickens.
For instance, let’s look at avocado. Can chickens eat avocado, and is it safe for them to do so?
No, avocado is not safe for chickens! All parts of the avocado contain varying but dangerous amounts of persin, a toxin which can be fatal for chickens ingested.
Even a little bit of persin can make chickens definitely deathly sick, so you shouldn’t feed them avocados.
This is pretty shocking to hear, and even more shocking when you learn that some owners, despite the warning, do indeed feed their chickens the flesh of avocados.
I’ll tell you now, though: bottom line, it’s a bad idea and I don’t think you should do it, but I’ll explain all of the factors below.
Is Avocado Safe for Chickens When Raw?
No. Avocado is not safe for chickens when raw. All parts of the fruit, including the stem, skin, pits and perhaps even the flesh of avocados contain persin, a dangerous toxin.
It does not take much of this toxin to kill a chicken, and it typically kills quickly!
Will Cooking Avocado Make It Safe To Give to Chickens?
No! Cooking an avocado in any way does nothing to significantly reduce the amount of toxins present in the fruit.
Never give your chickens any cooked avocado!
Symptoms of Persin Poisoning
Persin, the toxin present in all parts of the avocado, is actually used by the plant as a fungicide but it just so happens to be extremely deadly to birds.
It is also dangerous to many other animals, including mammals, but notably it is completely harmless to people.
Even a tiny amount of persin can be lethal to chickens!
After ingestion, symptoms will very typically develop fast often between 15 and 30 minutes but depending on the part of the plant that was eaten maybe delayed more than a day.
Symptoms typically escalate quickly, and include general depression, weakness or lethargy, ruffling of the feathers, and an odd reluctance to perch.
Respiratory difficulties are usually a sure indicator of death, which often quickly follows after labored breathing begins.
Avocado is among the most dangerous toxic foods for chickens because persin is so lethal.
Although swift medical intervention might be enough to save the affected bird, this is unlikely unless you find out immediately that a chicken has eaten avocado and take action at once.
Warning: Persin is Deadly to Chicks
As bad as persin is for adult chickens, it is way worse, and way deadlier for chicks. Owing to their delicate constitutions and greatly reduced body mass, even a tiny bit of persin is enough to kill a chick stone-dead.
Never risk it! Under no conditions should a chick be allowed to eat avocado, or let near an avocado tree.
Old and Infirm Chickens Are Also More Vulnerable to Persin
In the same way as chicks, any adult chicken that is already weak or ill is also more vulnerable to persin and its lethal effects.
If you have any such chickens, be double sure to keep them away from avocados. Similarly, elderly birds will be more vulnerable to all toxins in general, and persin in particular.
Can Chickens Eat Just the Flesh of an Avocado or Not?
Despite these warnings about the dangers of avocados, some people persist in feeding them to their chickens.
This is because the flesh of the avocado usually, but not always, contains very, very little persin or sometimes not at all.
Then again, sometimes it has a dangerous amount of persin and this might be affected by the condition of the pit or any damage dealt to it prior to ingestion.
Of course, this won’t help your chickens, and there’s no way for you to easily test the status of the fruit because humans are immune to persin. Your chickens are not…
Some chicken owners that persist in giving their chickens the flesh of avocados do so because, aside from the lethal toxin, the flesh of the fruit is packed with fats, vitamins and minerals that would otherwise help chickens stay healthy.
Also, even if the flesh is nominally safe the toxin can build up in the body of a chicken over time, potentially leading to a deadly outcome if you continually give avocados to your flock.
Additionally, non-lethal doses of persin that accumulate can significantly impair the health and wellness of your chicken even if it doesn’t kill.
Bottom Line: Avocados Aren’t Safe for Chickens
For all of the reasons outlined prior, I think it is just plain stupid and borderline malicious to feed avocados to your chickens.
Sure, the flesh is healthy if it doesn’t kill the bird, and since the flesh is technically unlikely to do so you could give it to them and hope for the best but I think this is frankly irresponsible.
There are dozens and dozens of supplemental foods and treats that you can give your chickens that are healthy, fortifying, tasty and absolutely 110% safe. Avocados are not one of them…
As far as I’m concerned, willfully feeding avocados to your chickens is akin to pulling on a tame tiger’s tail: sure, probably nothing bad will happen but when it does it is going to be a doozy.
If any of your chickens are affected by persin present in an avocado the odds are very, very high but they will die horribly and do so before you or vet can intervene and save them.
Why would you risk such a thing with an animal that you claim to love?
Keep Chickens Well Away from Any Avocado Trees
As said above near the beginning, all parts of the avocado contain persin and all parts of the tree or shrub likewise contain persin – and even more than the fruits!
Now, most chickens are pretty good about instinctively avoiding eating things that will kill them- most of the time- but avocado trees are so damn dangerous you cannot risk your chickens taking even a single nibble from a leaf.
If you have an avocado tree on your property, do whatever is required to keep your chickens away from it.
If you own chickens are considering planting an avocado tree, think twice: even if you manage to successfully keep your chickens away from the tree, there is still the possibility that they will eat a fallen fruit or leaf and suffer the tragic consequences of persin poisoning.
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.