If there’s one thing you can count on your chickens to eat, it’s vegetables. Left to forage on their own, there are all sorts of plants out in the wild, or just around your property, that your birds will nibble on.
Every chicken keeper that also has a garden knows the frustration, even anger that results when your birds break into the garden to help themselves.
Speaking of vegetables that people usually grow, how about cabbage? Can chickens eat cabbage safely?
Yes, cabbage is safe for chickens and highly nutritious, making it a great supplement to their usual diet. It has lots of vitamins and minerals that they need, particularly vitamin K and magnesium.
And unlike some other foods that require special preparation to entice chickens to tuck in, most chickens I’ve ever known it seem to love cabbage and will eat it at every opportunity.
This can make your life easy if you’re going to serve cabbage to your birds but, as you’d expect, there is more you will need to know. I’ll tell you about all of it below…
What Benefits Does Cabbage Have for Chickens?
Cabbage is highly nutritious, and has many important health benefits for your birds. It’s known for encouraging hens to lay eggs, and also enhancing the quality of the eggs, shells and yolks alike.
Cabbage also contains unique compounds that boost immune system function and help to reduce inflammation, potentially keeping your chickens from getting sick (and speeding their recovery time).
Between all the other vitamins and minerals present in cabbage, this plant can improve everything from the feathering of chickens that are molting or healing to bone growth and repair, and even circulatory health.
Cabbage is a great supplement for your flock, and one that you should not hesitate to feed them although you will want to feed it to them sparingly.
Cabbage Nutritional Info
Cabbage shows on excellent assortment of micronutrients, most notably vitamins. Vitamin B6, folate, vitamin C, and K are all present in abundance, though the ample vitamin C is slightly wasted on chickens since they can make their own.
The rest of the B complex vitamins are also here in reduced but still significant amounts, including thiamine, niacin, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin.
The spread of minerals is likewise impressive and all are needed by chickens, among them manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, calcium and iron along with just a little bit of sodium.
Concerning the sodium content of cabbage, it’s nothing to worry about for your chickens’ sake so long as you’re feeding it to them infrequently (like you should be).
Also worth pointing out is that cabbage is approximately 92% water. This can help to keep your flock hydrated on hot days, especially when they are already sick or stressed, and in conjunction with the potassium present in cabbage will help them to properly balance their electrolytes.
Is Cabbage Safe for Chickens Raw?
Yes, completely. Chickens love raw cabbage, and will eat it at every opportunity. Raw cabbage also has the best possibly nutritional value; cooking it will deplete its supply of vitamins and minerals to a degree.
Can You Cook Cabbage to Give it To Chickens?
Yes, you can, and this is a smart way to entice picky chickens, or to mix cabbage in with other foods on the menu. Cooking cabbage will make it softer and more palatable, but as mentioned above, it will result in some nutrient loss.
Also, cooked cabbage tends to stay very soft and moist which can cause issues for your birds. Foods of this type can present an elevated risk of choking or crop impaction, and can also result in diarrhea, so do keep an eye out for runny stools if you feed your chickens cooked cabbage.
Is Pickled Cabbage Safe for Chicken?
No! Picked cabbage, be it sauerkraut or kimchi, is not good for chickens.
Pickled cabbage includes many ingredients that can harm birds, from salt to vinegar, and even some things like garlic and onion. These are all harmful and potentially toxic for chickens, so avoid feeding them pickled cabbage.
Is Cabbage Still Safe for Baby Chicks?
Yes, cabbage is totally safe for chicks, but you should let them grow up a little bit before you give it to them for the first time, and I also recommend holding off on the cooked cabbage.
Once your chicks hit the three to four-week-old mark, they should be ready try it but make it a point to tear it up into tiny pieces they can manage.
As always, baby chicks will do just fine on a diet of starter feed, so don’t feel inclined to give them cabbage as a supplement, or to make their diet more interesting.
How Frequently Can Cabbage be Fed to Chickens?
Cabbage, as healthy as it is, is not a mainstay of any domestic chicken’s diet. It is rightly a supplemental food, one that is indeed wholesome, but one that should be fed on a limited basis.
If you feed your chickens cabbage once or twice a week that should be more than enough. You should also rotating it with other vegetables and fruits to keep your flock’s diet varied and balanced, as well as to keep them from getting bored at the prospect of yet another scheduled serving of cabbage.
As long as your birds are getting most (appx. 90%) of their calories from a complete chicken feed, they can have fresh produce and other foods in the remainder, including cabbage.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Cabbage to Your Flock?
My preference for serving chickens cabbage is raw and as a sort of coarse coleslaw. Shred the cabbage then serve it in a bowl, or scatter a bit with other fresh veggies. Your flock should gobble it up.
Now, if you’re dealing with chickens that just don’t seem to like it, you can try cooking it to make it softer and more appealing, but be sure to let it cool way down before you serve it to your chickens.
If you have a flock of larger or just more “enthusiastic” eaters, you might give them a whole or half head of cabbage to eat.
Stronger chickens will not have much trouble pecking it apart and this is a great way to get them engaged and keep them entertained.
Try to Only Feed Cabbage to Chickens if it is Pesticide Free
Cabbage, like all produce, is heavily treated with chemical pesticides before it is brought to market. This can be very dangerous for chickens, as they are quite sensitive to many chemicals.
Even if you remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and then wash the remainder, some of these chemical residues will persist in the tissues of the plant, and they will start to accumulate in your chickens with repeated feedings.
Eventually, it can result in serious health problems down the line…
To prevent this grim fate for your flock, grow your own cabbages (it isn’t hard!) or buy only organic, pesticide-free cabbage from trusted providers.
Cabbage Is Safe, But Only Safe By Itself: No People Food!
I touched on pickled cabbage earlier, but it bears repeating that you should never feed any cabbage – cooked or otherwise – to your chickens if it has questionable ingredients such as sugar, salt, butter, oils, or sausage. The same goes for all people food!
These ingredients are in no way good for your chickens, and can result in serious diseases. Some of them, like sour crop, could result in salt poisoning. Hypertension can be fatal, and will usually result in a grueling end for your poor bird.
Your chickens will love cabbage enough just as it is; don’t feed them any made with extra ingredients.
Don’t Leave Cabbage Scraps Around the Run or Coop
And one last tip from me. Pick up the cabbage scraps around the run and elsewhere when your chickens are done with them.
If left out for too long, they will stink horribly, and fungus or mold may start growing on them, putting your poultry at risk of respiratory infections. So, do clean up after feeding cabbage to your birds!
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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.