Carrots are among the most ubiquitous vegetables out there: they’re featured prominently in our own food, and also as food for various species of livestock.
Chickens are among the most varied and adventurous eaters that you’re likely to find on a farm or homestead, but even they cannot eat everything. But how about carrots? Is it safe for chickens to eat carrots?
Yes, it is totally safe for chickens to eat carrots, root greens and all. Carrots are very nutritious with plenty of vitamins and minerals but, when raw, they can be a little hard for some chickens to eat easily.
Most chickens love getting fresh food to shake up their usual diet of a dry feed (assuming you don’t let them free-range).
Carrots are a great way to give them a good nutrition and also treat them at the same time, but you’ll need to know more if you want to get the most out of the carrots and also make them easy for your flock to eat. Keep reading, and I’ll tell you more.
What Benefits Do Carrots Have for Chickens?
I’m happy to report that carrots offer tons of health benefits for chickens. They are rich and vitamins and minerals of all kinds and can greatly improve the wellness of birds young and old.
The vitamins present in carrots help everything from a chicken’s skin and feathers to organ function and digestive system health.
Carrots also contain many antioxidants that can reduce inflammation, and help neutralize free radicals in the body that can disrupt cellular processes and lead to disease.
Carrots are also known to be great for boosting immune system function, promoting bone healing and growth, and a healthy metabolic rate.
On top of everything else, carrots contain electrolytes that can help chickens deal with hot weather and dehydration better.
There are only a few vegetables out there that are better overall than carrots, and that’s the truth!
Carrot Nutritional Info
Parents are so jam-packed full of vitamins and minerals it’s almost easier to talk about what they don’t have than what they do have.
First things first, looking at macronutrients. Carrots contain just a tiny bit of protein and fat, but a good amount of carbohydrates which can provide chickens with energy.
The vitamin content is excellent, and carrots are one of the very best sources of vitamin A and beta carotene that you can get your hands on, two things that chickens need just like we do.
The B vitamins in carrots are also pretty abundant, and you’ll even get some folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin K.
There’s even more to love when you assess the minerals in carrots, although it is not quite as impressive as the amount of vitamins that they have.
You’ll find a lot more that your chickens need, particularly manganese, phosphorus, calcium and iron but also zinc, potassium and magnesium. Also notably, carrots contain a surprising amount of salt naturally, so you want to account for that when feeding them to your flock.
Are Carrots Safe for Chickens when Fresh?
Yes, definitely. Your chickens will like fresh, raw carrots though some birds will struggle with them if they are left whole.
Proper preparation will make things a lot easier. I will tell you about several ways to do just that later…
Are Carrot Tops Safe for Chickens, Too?
Yes, they are! In fact, carrot tops are super nutritious also; a great source of iron, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium and various B vitamins.
Your chickens are a lot more likely to go for the leafy greens first rather than the hard, tough root, so don’t hesitate to chop your greens when prepping the carrots, or you can even go ahead and toss them to them whole.
Can You Cook Carrots to Give Them to Chickens?
Yes. Cooking carrots is a great way to make them softer and easier to consume for your chickens.
You can cook them in boiling water, grill them, steam them, roast them, whatever. Just let them cool a bit before handing them to your eager flock.
And I have good news on this topic: compared to many other veggies, carrots lose relatively little vitamins and minerals during cooking (so long as they are cooked lightly) so you won’t be making a choice between appeal and health benefits when cooking them for your chickens.
Don’t Cook the Carrots Too Soft
The one thing to be cautious of is if you are boiling or steaming carrots to be really soft: super soft, moist food is not great for chickens as it actually poses a risk of crop impaction or choking.
Even if it doesn’t, too much moist food can cause an upset stomach or give them diarrhea, so you should only cook carrots enough to soften them a bit and no more.
Are Carrots Still Safe for Chicks?
They are, but you should wait until they hit about four weeks of age before letting them try them, and consider grating or “flossing” the carrots into teeny-tiny shreds so they can eat them easily without struggling or choking.
Also, keep in mind that chicks will do just fine on a diet of starter feed, so you don’t need to supplement with vegetables until they’re adults if you don’t want to mess with it.
How Frequently Can Carrots be Fed to Chickens?
Carrots are 100% healthy for chickens, but they cannot be the only or even majority part of their diet.
Assuming your chickens are eating a well-rounded diet of feed supplemented with a few choice “real” foods, you can give your flock a couple of servings of carrots per week. That will be more than enough to ensure they’re getting their full daily vitamin and mineral needs.
You can also give carrots to your chickens as a treat on an occasional basis, but try not to overdo it. As with all foods, moderation is key.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Carrots to Your Flock?
You have all sorts of ways to give carrots to your chickens, and all of them work wonderfully.
If you have large, strong birds, you can give them whole carrots, and they will peck away at the root part and the greens with no problem.
Otherwise, you are advised to cook the carrots in order to soften them, and then serve them in smaller chunks or slices.
If you want to feed raw carrots to smaller birds, consider grating them, and either letting them peck at them at leisure or consider tossing the shreds in with their feed to make a meal of it. A little dash of olive oil will help the shreds stick to the pellets.
Try to Only Feed Carrots to Chickens if they are Pesticide Free
Assuming you aren’t growing your own carrots, make it a point to only give your chickens carrots that are labeled as “organic” or “pesticide-free”.
You never know what kind of chemicals and pesticides may have been used on conventionally grown carrots, and those toxins can be harmful to your chickens even if you wash and peel them.
These insidious compounds have a tendency to build up in a chicken over time with repeated exposure, and that can lead to serious health problems and disease down the road.
It’s better to go with the safe option, and get organic instead… even if costs a bit more.
Carrots are Safe, But Only Safe By Themselves: No People Food!
Like I mentioned way up in the beginning of this article, carrots are totally ubiquitous as food. They’re in all kinds of dishes and other processed foods.
But, just because your chickens can eat carrots doesn’t mean they should be eating “people food” that contains carrots!
Carrots cooked in butter or oil, or prepared with salt, sugar and other things chickens shouldn’t eat is a great way to give your poor birds a bad time.
The same goes for carrots that are canned, pickled, or otherwise adulterated in any way. These things can all cause life-threatening problems for your beloved flock members
When it comes to feeding anything to your chickens, carrots included, raw or plain cooked it always best!
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.