I don’t know about you, but one of the best things concerning the changing of the seasons is seasonal produce. Especially when fall rolls around, I love the variety of pumpkins, squashes and all the rest.
But whether you grow your own or not, not all pumpkins are destined for being turned into jack-o’-lanterns.
Many wind up as pies of course, and thinking about pies I, naturally, wonder if our chickens can eat pumpkins too…
They eat all kinds of other fruits and vegetables, why not pumpkins? So can our chickens eat pumpkins safely?
Yes, all parts of a pumpkin, except the stem, are safe for chickens. Pumpkins contain many vitamins and minerals that chickens need, and can make a nutritious supplement to their usual diet.
Believe it or not, most chickens seem to genuinely enjoy getting some fresh, wholesome pumpkin during the cooler months of the year.
Though they might have trouble breaking through that tough outer rind, the seeds, guts and flesh are all easy pickins’ for chickens.
I’ll tell you a whole lot more about giving pumpkin to your chickens below.
What Benefits Does Pumpkin Have for Chickens?
Pumpkins are a lot more for chickens than just an interesting treat to shake them out of menu fatigue.
The vitamins present in pumpkins play many important roles in their overall biology, including:
- the laying of healthy eggs with viable yolks,
- regulating metabolic function,
- improving nervous system health,
- fighting disease,
- and regulating various cellular processes necessary for good organ function.
Even better, the minerals that pumpkins contain in abundance will improve skeletal growth and repair, promote good circulatory function by enhancing the oxygenation of blood cells and improving skin health and feathering, which is doubly important for young chickens, and also critical for chickens that are injured or molting.
All together, these are substantial benefits for your birds, and a great reason to give them some pumpkin every now and then…
Pumpkin Nutritional Info
Considering that most people only think of pumpkins as food in the context of delicious homemade pumpkin pie or the ubiquitous and overplayed pumpkin spice latte.
You might be surprised to learn that these large and festive squash are surprisingly nutritious, and stuffed with a great selection of vitamins and minerals alike.
Considering the vitamins, the single most standout nutrient present in pumpkins is vitamin A and beta carotene, and concerning both of which pumpkins are nearly unrivaled.
Absolutely essential for good eyesight and also nervous system health, this is reason enough alone to serve pumpkins to your chickens.
But the vitamin profile keeps going, with vitamins E and K, many of the B complex vitamins represented including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, and folate.
The mineral content, too, shows us a lot to like, with good amounts of manganese, phosphorus, potassium and iron backed up by a little bit of calcium and zinc.
Pumpkins are also surprisingly hydrating, and though your birds aren’t likely to need too much help dealing with heat stress at the time of year when pumpkins are ripe and available, it is nice to know it will help slake their thirst.
Is Pumpkin Safe for Chickens Raw?
Yes, and raw pumpkin is the best bet for your birds: raw pumpkin contains the most intact and most available nutrients.
Raw pumpkin may be difficult for chickens to break into, but you can handle that little problem for them so that they should by all means get the most nutrition they can from this seasonal treat.
Are Pumpkin Seeds Safe for Chickens?
Yes, and larger chickens tend to like them. However, the large seeds of most pumpkin varieties can be a choking hazard for smaller birds.
To prevent this risk, you can either remove the seeds before serving your chickens the pumpkin’s flesh.
Are Pumpkin Innards Safe for Chickens?
Yes, they are! Those stringy, gross guts that are so fun to chase your kids with are only an obstacle to jack-o-lantern or pumpkin pie perfection, but your chickens can and usually will eat them.
Now, if your flock ignores the stuff, don’t worry: the flesh contains pretty much everything they need from pumpkin.
Is Pumpkin Rind Safe for Chickens?
Yes, though most chickens ignore it. The tough, thick rind of a pumpkin is most times an obstacle to all but the most adventurous birds, and few chickens will attempt to breach it.
That being said, any chicken that makes a crack at it and takes a nibble won’t be harmed by it. And on this note, make it a point to open up or chop a pumpkin into pieces before serving it to your flock.
Can You Cook Pumpkin to Give it To Chickens?
Yes, you can. Cooking is a great way to soften a tough pumpkin or make it easier to eat, and also breaks down some of the cell walls in order to make it more readily digestible.
However, cooking will reduce its nutritional value somewhat.
As a result, it’s best not to cook pumpkin that you plan on giving your chickens unless they absolutely will not eat it raw.
Is Pumpkin Still Safe for Chicks?
Yes, but with some limitations. Definitely wait until your chicks have matured a little bit before letting them try pumpkin. The stringy guts, large seeds, and dense flesh can all spell “choking hazard” for a small chick.
For this reason, let them wait until they’re at least 6 weeks old before you let them sample this seasonal treat.
When you do, give them just tiny tidbits of the flesh you have cut off just for them. This way, your chicks will definitely benefit from the nutrients present in pumpkin!
How Often Can Pumpkin be Fed to Chickens?
Pumpkin, as good as it is, should not be a major part of your flock’s diet. Limit your chickens to one or two modest servings of pumpkin a week, at most, as too much can cause digestive upset.
Pumpkin is quite moist, and chickens don’t deal with a steady intake of moist food very well as it can lead to issues like diarrhea.
For these reasons, pumpkin should be thought of as an occasional treat and supplement for your chickens, not a staple.
As long as you keep them to small servings, backing up their usual diet of feed, it’s nothing but good for your birds.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Pumpkin to Your Flock?
Serving pumpkin to your flock boils down to one fundamental choice: to cook, or not to cook. That is the question!
First, figure out if your chickens will eat pumpkin raw. If they will, great. Bust it open, expose the flesh, and let them have at it.
You can discard the guts and seeds if you want to, which is probably a good idea for smaller breeds.
If your flock won’t eat raw pumpkin, you’ll need cooking it. Cooking will make it more appealing to most chickens, but you should wait for it to cool and then serve them slices or chunks of the flesh.
As an alternate, you can cook pumpkin then mash the flesh to mix it in with their feed. This works especially well with smaller breeds, who may find the flesh of raw pumpkin too difficult to eat.
Only Feed Pumpkin to Chickens if It Is Pesticide-free
As a reminder, you should try to only serve your chickens pumpkins that were raised without the use of pesticides.
Even when washed and peeled, this chemical residue will remain in the flesh to a degree.
The good news is that pumpkins seem highly resistant to this process, but less is always best. Buy organic or grow your own if you can.
Pumpkin Is Safe, But Only Safe By Itself: No People Food!
In the fall, pumpkin is a regular fixture in all kinds of desserts. Most notably, pumpkin pie! As much as you might love pie, your chickens should not have any or other pumpkin desserts for that matter.
“People food” invariably contains ingredients such as tons of sugar, oils, butter and preservatives that are simply not okay for chickens, and could make them deathly sick.
Save the desserts for you and your family, and let your chickens enjoy only plain, fresh pumpkin.
Don’t Leave Pumpkin Scraps Around the Run or Coop
If you feed your chickens pumpkin, especially a whole, intact one, make sure you dispose of the leftovers properly.
You don’t want to leave pumpkin guts and seeds lying around your run or coop, as they can attract rodents, bugs, and other pests that will then torment your chickens.
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.