If you know anything at all about chickens, you know that their wild ancestors, the red jungle fowl, had a highly varied diet. Furthermore, our own chickens will eat all sorts of things if you let them free-range.
The trick is that chickens can’t eat everything just because it grows in nature, and some things are harmful to them. Take mushrooms for instance. Is it safe for chickens to eat mushrooms?
Yes, chickens can eat non-toxic mushrooms, but it seems that most chickens don’t like them. If they will eat them, mushrooms are a fairly nutritious addition to their diet. Chickens should never be fed unknown wild mushrooms!
You might be surprised to know that most chickens instinctively avoid mushrooms in the wild. This is for obvious reasons, because there are an awful lot of them that will prove to be harmful or even fatal to them if ingested!
That’s obviously not a problem with safe kitchen mushrooms that you and I would eat, but the stigma is hard to shake, and most chickens will still avoid eating them.
Anyway, keep reading and I’ll give you all the info you need to know if you want to try to serve them to your flock.
What Benefits Do Mushrooms Have for Chickens?
Mushrooms that have several health benefits for chickens – assuming you can get your flock to start eating them regularly.
The vitamin content of your average mushroom can help a chicken’s digestive and circulatory systems, promote proper metabolism, improve bone growth and repair, and help balance electrolytes in the body.
Mushrooms are often rich in iron which is vital for proper red blood cell function and oxygenation and the calcium present in mushrooms is similarly essential for bone health, but also in laying hens to help them produce healthy eggs with strong shells.
There are lots of good benefits associated with eating mushrooms, but getting your chickens to actually eat them is the trick, and that’s easier said than done.
We’ll talk more about that very soon, maybe I can help…
Mushrooms Nutritional Info
There is no quick and easy nutritional info profile for mushrooms since there are so many species that are cultivated for human consumption, and even more wild mushrooms that are safe to eat with expert care.
In other words, the amount of vitamins and minerals present will vary, but the following is a reliable baseline more or less.
The mineral content of mushrooms is usually pretty impressive, and you can expect all them to contain a good amount of potassium, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, calcium and iron.
Mushrooms also usually contain lots of the B-complex vitamins, particularly B2 and B5, along with folate.
Mushrooms also provide some protein, carbohydrates and other macronutrients that chickens need for energy and growth, so you can rest assured that they’ll be getting a good shot of nutrition if they will eat them.
Warning: Never Feed Unknown Wild Mushrooms to Chickens!
It should go without saying that you must never, ever, not in your wildest dreams, give your chickens wild mushrooms that you haven’t 100% positively identified, or had identified by a trusted mushroom expert.
The reason is obvious, I hope: there are many wild mushrooms that are highly toxic, and can cause death in humans and much larger animals.
Feeding them to your chickens would be a cruel and sure fate indeed, so please doesn’t risk it!
Stick to safe mushrooms you grow yourself from a kit, or store-bought varieties, though the latter has a drawback I will tell you about later…
Are Mushrooms Safe for Chickens Raw?
Yes, assuming the mushrooms in question are known to be safe, i.e. non-toxic.
However, most chickens just flat-out don’t like them raw and will not eat them, so you may have to get creative with how you serve them.
My theory is that it has something to do with the texture of them. That slightly rubbery, dry texture seems to repulse most chickens.
Can You Cook Mushrooms to Give Them to Chickens?
Yes, you can, though this will hurt the overall nutritional value of the mushrooms, and will of course take some extra effort and time on your part.
If you want to give cooked mushrooms to your chickens, it is best to gently cook them in order to soften them and help eliminate that weird texture that chickens detest.
Is it Safe to Give Canned Mushrooms to Chickens?
Yes and no. Canned mushrooms you buy at the store will be safe, of course, but they will also in all likelihood contain a significant amount of salt or other additives.
Not to mention, they also tend to be low in vitamin and mineral content compared to fresh mushrooms.
So if you do decide to give your chickens canned mushrooms as an occasional treat, make sure you rinse them well first and go for the lowest-sodium varieties possible.
Giving them ones with high salt content especially can cause serious health issues like hypertension or even salt poisoning! Either can kill, so think twice and feed them sparingly.
Are Mushrooms Still Safe for Chicks?
Yes, again, assuming they will eat them. Most chicks won’t. In any case, wait until the chick is at least 4 weeks old before you see if they will eat a tiny tidbit of the mushroom.
Don’t overload them as they have delicate digestive tracts, and can easily become sick if given too much of a certain food at once. They should be living mostly on their starter feed, anyway.
How Frequently Can Mushrooms be Fed to Chickens?
Mushrooms might be all natural and healthy, but they are never going to be the majority part of a chicken’s diet, and should only serve as a supplement or treat for those flocks that will eat them.
If you give your birds mostly feed, you can leave 10% or so of their total calorie intake in the form of supplemental whole foods like fruits and veggies, and mushrooms should only be a small fraction of that 10%.
So, in other words, one or two small servings a week is more than adequate…
What’s the Best Way to Serve Mushrooms to Your Flock?
Oh, to get your chickens to eat mushrooms; that is the task. If you are very lucky, your birds will just take to them, in which case you can feed them as you would any other food: diced or left whole or else in large chunks.
They aren’t tough, so chickens can easily tear them up.
In most cases though, your chickens won’t eat them right away, so here are some methods you might try to help get them started:
- 1. Cook the mushrooms if they don’t like the texture of raw ones.
- 2. Dice and toss them in with some foods the chickens like.
- 3. Grate or mince them small, and mix in with their usual feed.
- 4. Gently cook then mash to make a sort of porridge for mixing with other produce.
In the end, if your birds won’t eat mushrooms just give up. I promise there are other healthy, wholesome veggies out there that chickens will eat with a lot less fuss!
Try to Only Feed Mushrooms to Chickens if You Know They’re Pesticide Free
One more word of caution about store-bought ‘shrooms: you always want to make sure that the mushrooms you buy are either organic or free of pesticides.
Chickens are especially vulnerable to the effects of chemicals, like most birds, and even if you wash mushrooms treated with them any residual traces can be equally harmful over time.
This is a bit of a dilemma if you don’t grow them yourself: store-bought mushrooms are super safe, but pesticides can be a tradeoff you might not want to make.
Don’t Try to Make Mushrooms More Appealing with Other Ingredients
The very last piece of advice I will give you about feeding mushrooms to your flock: Resist the temptation to whip up some mushrooms cooked with butter, oil, salt, garlic, or any other seasoning.
Yes, I know it makes them delicious to us — but chickens don’t need all that fat and sodium in their diet!
Any of the ingredients that you and I eat can lead to serious short- or long-term health problems for chickens. No matter how bad you want your birds to like eating mushrooms, it’s best to keep the mushrooms plain, raw, 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.