When it comes to livestock, chickens are just about the most varied eaters there are. Chickens are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and meats, and when it comes to plants they eat all sorts of things, including many of the same vegetables that people eat.
Most things that humans eat are safe for chickens, but not quite all. How about potatoes? Can chickens eat potatoes safely?
Yes, potatoes are safe for chickens but only if they are fresh and ripe, but not green. Green potatoes, along with all other parts of the plant, contain the toxic compound solanine which can kill chickens.
Potatoes are one of those things that can be a good supplement to a chicken’s diet, but you’ll usually need to inspect and prepare them before you hand them over to make sure they are safe and easily edible for your birds.
I’ll tell you a lot more about giving potatoes to your flock below…
What Benefits Do Potatoes Have for Chickens?
Potatoes have all sorts of health benefits for chickens. That’s because they are abundant and vitamins and minerals that chickens need.
Potatoes provide nutrients that are crucial for all sorts of cellular processes, organ health, skeletal growth, healing and more.
Particularly, potatoes can improve circulatory health by promoting the creation of new red blood cells and subsequently improved oxygenation of blood.
With improved circulatory health many other processes throughout the chicken’s body are likewise improved.
Bone growth is also particularly important not just for young chickens, but also for any chicken that might be healing from an injury, and is especially important in older chickens to help them maintain bone density.
Similarly, potatoes can help chickens grow their feathers back in, which is similarly important for dealing with injuries that result in broken or lost feathers, and also during the yearly molt.
There’s no doubt about it, potatoes are definitely beneficial for chickens so long as you are careful to avoid giving them any green ones or any other part of the plant. We’ll talk more about that in just a minute…
Potato Nutritional Info
Potatoes are often derided as just empty carbs, but they are actually jam-packed with both vitamins and minerals along with important macronutrients like protein and fiber.
Looking at the vitamins first, we see that most of the B-complex vitamins are present and accounted for, including thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and B6 along with folate.
Potatoes also have a lot of vitamin C, vitamin A, a little bit of vitamin E, and a good amount of vitamin K.
The mineral content is roundly excellent, with tons of potassium, a good amount of iron, phosphorus and magnesium, calcium, zinc, and a little bit of copper and manganese.
Notably potatoes also have some selenium, and they do contain a little bit of sodium, so you want to keep an eye on that to make sure chickens aren’t getting too much in their diet from other sources.
All in all, a great source of energy and nutrition for chickens.
Are Potatoes Safe for Chickens Raw?
Yes, raw potatoes are safe for chickens as long as they are fresh, ripe, and unspoiled. Know that some potatoes can be hard, and might be difficult for chickens to eat, so chopping them up or cooking them may be necessary.
Are Potato Skins Safe for Chickens?
Yes. Contrary to popular belief potato skins are safe for chickens, but you never want to feed rotten, moldy or green potato skins to your flock.
As mentioned above, raw potato can be tough for chickens to eat, and the skin can be surprisingly hard and chewy which makes it of little interest to most chickens.
Are Sweet Potatoes Safe for Chickens?
Yes, they are. A sweet potato isn’t actually a potato, despite what we call it, because it belongs to an entirely different botanical family but nonetheless sweet potatoes are safe and nutritious for chickens, though even harder than normal potatoes.
Are Green Potatoes Safe for Chickens?
No! This is the single biggest danger associated with feeding potatoes to chickens.
Any potato that is green, or any seemingly normal potato that has a green spot of skin or green flesh, contains dangerous levels of solanine, a toxin which can hurt or kill your chickens.
You must always cut off and trash any green part of a potato before giving it to your chickens, and never give them any portion of a potato that is totally green.
Are Potato Leaves Safe for Chickens?
No! Every other part of the potato plant, from the sprouts and vines to the leaves, contains the same dangerous toxin that green potatoes do.
Giving any to your birds might make them gravely sick or even kill them.
And don’t trust your chickens to avoid them either: they might be pretty smart about dangerous food most of the time, but your chickens still need you to watch out for them, so keep them away from every other part of the potato plant.
Can You Cook Potatoes to Give Them to Chickens?
Yes, you can. But, there are two things you should know…
One, cooking the potato will significantly degrade its nutritional quality, reducing vitamins and minerals alike, though it might make it more appealing and edible for some chickens.
Two, cooking does not neutralize or degrade any solanine that might be present, so don’t think you can cook up a green potato to make it safe for giving to your birds.
Are Potatoes Safe for Baby Chicks?
Yes. Potatoes are safe for baby chicks with just a couple of reservations. First, it’s best to wait until your chicks grow up a little bit before you give them any supplemental whole foods, even one as healthy as a potato.
Chicks should be living mostly on their diet of starter feed until they are around 6 weeks old. Also, avoid giving potato skins to chicks because this is likely to upset their stomach.
Next thing is to be damn sure you never give a chick any bit of green potato for any other part of the plant.
Chicks are underdeveloped, frail and have very little body mass which means they are highly vulnerable to all kinds of toxins and poisons. Getting even a little bit of solanine in their system can easily kill them!
How Often Can I Fed Potatoes to Chickens?
Potatoes are definitely a healthy part of a chicken’s diet, but they should only be a part, and never the main course.
90% of a chicken’s diet should be made up of a nutritionally complete and well-rounded feed. The remaining percentage can be made up of all sorts of other whole foods, including potatoes.
However you prepare them, you can give your chickens one or two small servings of potato a week for them to get maximum benefit without overindulging.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Potatoes to Your Flock?
If serving potatoes to your flock raw, all you need to do is cut it into quarters or eighths, or chop it up into cubes before giving it to them. Most chickens are more than capable of biting off tiny bits of the flesh after that.
If you do want to cook your potato, you’ll have more options. You can cook it and chunk it as described above, or mash it. Surprisingly, chickens seem to love mashed potatoes!
Try to Only Feed Potatoes to Chickens if Pesticide-Free
Potatoes, like pretty much all modern commercial crops, are as a rule treated with various pesticides to protect them from insects until they can be harvested and sold.
The residues from these pesticide chemicals are not entirely removed by peeling or washing, and if ingested by your chickens they can build up in their bodies over time.
This can have disastrous health consequences later on. If you can, only buy organic potatoes for giving to your chickens, or even better grow your own.
Potatoes are Safe, But Only Safe By Themselves: No People Food!
Potatoes are a true staple food, and they show up in all kinds of recipes and are prepared in countless ways as a side dish or even as a main course.
But, most of the time our potatoes are either deep-fried or else heavily seasoned and flavored with all sorts of butter, oil, salt, cheese and more.
As delicious and cravable as these things are, they aren’t foods that chickens should ever have.
All of these “people food” ingredients can make chickens awfully sick, and potentially result in life-threatening diseases like hypertension, fatty liver syndrome and salt poisoning, which can kill them dead as a doornail.
If you love your chickens, don’t share any of these foods with them. I can appreciate the sentiment, but I promise that your flock will love plain potatoes just fine.
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.