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Can Chickens and Ducks Eat Root Vegetables?


Autumn is the season for harvesting root vegetables from the garden. I love growing things underground because they are the one crop the rabbits, deer and wild turkeys don't eat - and they are largely protected from insect damage also.



I love planting the seeds in the spring, then it's always so exciting to tug gently on the greens and watch as a beautiful vegetable emerges from the warm soil in the late summer. 

 Of course I plant extra to share with the chickens and ducks, now that the summer garden is depleted and their supply of lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers has dwindled. 

Root vegetables are not only nutritious for the chickens and ducks, but nibbling on them through the winter gives your flock something to do to keep them busy!  

Stored root vegetables make wonderful fall and winter chicken treats!But not all root vegetables are good choices. So here are some of my flock favorites and also some you should steer clear of when it comes to feeding chickens and ducks.

 

Root Vegetables Safe for Chickens and Ducks


Beets

Beet greens and stalks are a favorite of both our chickens and ducks and both also like the beet itself. They can eat them raw or cooked.  The ducks have an easier time if you chop or grate raw beets, but the chickens will happily peck away at them whole or halved.

Beets are extremely nutritious and have blood cleansing properties, so they are a good treat choice for your flock.  Just don't panic if you see hot pink or teal poop in the run after a beet-fest! 



Carrots  

We always used to have carrots on hand for our horses in Virginia.  We also grow them in our garden. The chickens and ducks love the carrot tops and will also eat carrot peels and greens. 

 
Whole raw carrots should be chopped or grated, especially for the ducks to manage, but cooked carrots are fine for them all to eat in any shape or size.  As an added bonus, the beta-carotene in the carrots will turn their egg yolks a brilliant orange.

I also add carrots to the twice yearly pumpkin seed, garlic natural worm preventative I feed our flock.


Garlic 

There is a lot of conflicting information online about feeding garlic to chickens. Although garlic IS part of the allium family which includes shallots, onions and chives, all of which can be toxic, garlic has only 1/15th of the toxin that onions have and excellent natural antibiotic and immune system boosting properties.  It also helps repel parasites such as ticks, fleas, mites and lice

I feed my chicks minced fresh garlic in the brooder. I also add garlic powder to my laying hens daily feed. I  also float whole garlic cloves in the waterers.  In fact, I consider garlic to be one of the foundations of raising a healthy flock


Could garlic be toxic in large quantities? I suppose it could, but couldn't almost anything? I can only tell you what works for me and how I choose to raise my flock, and I can tell you unequivocally that small amounts of garlic are not toxic - and are most likely extremely beneficial.

In fact, we go through so much garlic here on our farm between the chickens and my cooking, we grow our own. Garlic is super easy to grow.

Parsnips

Parsnips are a nutritious food source for your flock.  They are related to carrots and parsley and can be fed raw or cooked. But again, raw parsnips are more easily consumed if they are grated or chopped.

 

Radishes

The chickens will love both radishes and radish leaves.  Again, radishes are much easier for the chickens to eat if they are grated or chopped first.


Sweet Potatoes  

Oddly enough, sweet potatoes are not a member of the nightshade family like the white potato (see below). They are a member of the morning glory family and do not contain the toxin solanine, so they are perfectly safe to feed to your chickens and ducks, along with the leaves.

Sweet potatoes contain loads of vitamins and nutrients.  Your chickens will love sweet potato fresh or raw, but like most other hard veggies, cooked or grated is going to be the easiest way for the ducks to eat them.

Turnips 

Turnips and turnips tops are a great healthy treat, although the chickens have an easier time with them if the turnips are grated or cooked and mashed.

You can also toss a halved turnip in the run and it will keep them busy for quite some time pecking at it or put a whole turnip in a hanging basket. As with any new food, your chickens might view these root vegetables with much suspicion and you may have to try offering a particular treat several times before a few brave souls will give it a try.  

But be persistent and they will eventually dive in!


Root Vegetables to Steer Clear of 

Onions 

Onions, shallots and other root vegetables in the onion family contain a toxin that destroys red blood cells. Excessive amounts can cause jaundice or anemia in your hens. Onions don't have the same health benefits as garlic, so any possible positives gained by feeding onions are far outweighed by potential risk.


I never knowingly feed our flock onion, but if they end up eating small amounts, in restaurant leftovers for example, it probably won't kill them (although I have noticed they'll usually leave any onion pieces that manage to slip into any leftovers or treats I feed them.

Bottom line, try to avoid onion in any form, but don't worry if they  inadvertently eat some.


White or Red Potatoes 

Potatoes are a member of the nightshade family. The leaves and vines are toxic to chickens.  To make matters worse, the skins, especially green skins, contain the toxin solanine.   

The green color signals higher concentrations of the toxin. The flesh also contains solanine, although in smaller quantities.  I feed potatoes very infrequently, if ever, and never any green potatoes, peels, leaves or vines.

Fortunately, solanine is poorly absorbed and rapidly excreted by mammals, so small amounts of potato flesh as long as it isn't green most likely won't be fatal, but potatoes have very little nutritional value anyway, so they aren't an optimal treat. 

I would recommend refraining from feeding red or white potatoes to your flock, but like onions, if they eat some cooked potato mixed in with leftovers it probably won't kill them.


Here's a handy list of other "toxic treats" that chickens shouldn't be fed. As well as a much larger list of healthy chicken treats, my favorite crops to grow for my chickens and healthy duck treats!

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