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Can Chickens Eat Potatoes?

Can chickens eat potatoes? Cooked? Raw? Well, that depends on what kind.

Did you know that despite sharing a name and often being prepared in similar ways, white potatoes and sweet potatoes aren't actually even related?

And one is perfectly safe for chickens to eat, while the other should be avoided for the most part.

Chickens can, and do (and should), eat a wide variety of foods, including many root vegetables. Since chickens are omnivores, their natural diet includes grains and seeds, fruits, vegetables, and even meat. But can chickens eat potatoes?

Can Chickens Eat Potatoes?

Truthfully, it depends on the type of potato. Not all potatoes are created equal - and some are perfectly safe for your chickens, while others are not. 

And you're probably wondering whether it's safe to feed raw potatoes to your chickens, or only cooked potatoes. And what about the skins? Or leaves of the plant?

Because white potatoes, sweet potatoes (and yams) all belong to completely different families of plants, the simple question "Can chicken eat potatoes?" doesn't have a simple answer.

So let's dig in (pun intended!).

Let's start with white potatoes.

White Potatoes

Chickens shouldn't eat white potatoes.

White potatoes (as well as the red and yellow varieties) are part of the nightshade family, along with tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, and because of this, all parts of the plant contains a toxic substance called solanine.

While it's true that the highest levels of the toxin are found in the skin of green potatoes, and in the eyes and the leaves, it's best to stay away from feeding all parts of the white potato including the flesh, skins, vines, flowers and leaves to your chickens.

The Toxin Solanine in Plants in the Nightshade Family

Solanine which is a natural pesticide and neurotoxin found in all plants in the nightshade family can lead to respiratory distress, convulsions, neurological damage, diarrhea or paralysis and can even be fatal if ingested in large enough amounts.

Does Cooking Kill the Toxins? 

Although solanine is partially killed by cooking the potatoes at high heats (400+ degrees F), boiling potatoes barely reduces solanine levels at all. So boiled potatoes still contain high levels of the toxin.

Toxic Doesn't Mean Fatal

Remember, "toxic" doesn't always mean "fatal". Toxins can build up in the body and can do damage to internal organs or cause other health issues not immediately noticeable.

While the toxin solanine isn't well-absorbed by humans or animals, it can build up in the body, and livestock deaths have been attributed to ingesting raw white potatoes and/or leaves.

In humans, generally the symptoms of overeating potatoes would be limited to vomiting or diarrhea, however depending on much of the toxin a chicken eats, too much could pose a health problem.

The very young, very old or those with compromised immune systems will often be affected by lesser amounts of a toxin than a perfectly healthy individual, who generally can eat potatoes without any problem.

It's best to avoid the few foods that can be toxic to chickens.

White Potatoes Probably Won't Kill your Chicken

I'm sure someone will comment that their chickens ate their entire potato crop and were fine. Of course they were fine.

Very few foods will kill a chicken - or any living being - right on the spot, but toxins accumulate and do invisible damage and also affect each individual differently, so why take a chance?

I choose to err on the side of caution on this one.

My recommendation: Avoid feeding all parts of the white potato to your chickens, but if you must, stick with well-cooked (preferably baked), peeled, fully ripened potatoes. No green skins.

Sweet Potatoes

Chickens can eat sweet potatoes. 

Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are members of the morning glory family and all parts of the plant - leaves, stems, vines, flowers, peels and flesh (cooked or raw) - are perfectly safe to feed your chickens. 

Sweet Potatoes are more Nutritious

Another benefit to feeding sweet potatoes is that they have more vitamins and nutrients than white potatoes. They're packed with antioxidants and beta carotene. 

They're also lower in calories and carbs than white potatoes, and contain loads of fiber. They're also a great source of Vitamin B, Vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and thiamin.

Sweet Potatoes are a Super Food

Since sweet potatoes are also more nutritious for humans than white potatoes, and in fact are considered a "super food", it's a no-brainer to switch.  

I happen to prefer sweet potatoes to white potatoes anyway, when we started raising chickens and I learned that white potatoes could be potentially harmful to them, I switched to eating sweet potatoes almost exclusively. I even grow sweet potatoes here in Maine.

This way, I can feed the chickens all the sweet potato peelings, scraps and leftovers without worry.

And I can share my leftover sweet potato fries with them too on occasion! Or make them homemade sweet potato treats (these we share with our corgi as well).

My recommendation: Add all parts of the sweet potato plant to your chickens' diet.


Chickens can also eat yams. 

Yams, while they look and taste very similar to sweet potatoes, aren't actually related to them at all. Yams are part of the lily family, but are also perfectly safe to feed to your chickens.

However, yams should always be peeled and cooked before offering them to your chickens. They contain a natural plant protein that is toxic when raw. Yams also contain oxalic acid which can cause health problems in humans and animals. 

Yams are a good source of fiber, potassium, manganese, and Vitamin B5. They're a great anti-oxidant and help with bone health and heart function.

My recommendation: Yams are fine to feed to your chickens, as long as they have been cooked.

So in summary, switching out the white potatoes in your family's diet for sweet potatoes or yams is a healthy option for both you and your chickens! 

Chickens can eat sweet potatoes, either cooked or raw, yams as long as they have been cooked, but shouldn't be fed white potatoes or allowed to eat any parts of the white potato plant.

One final caution: moldy potatoes of any kind can be toxic to your chickens, so it's always good practice never to feed anything moldy to your flock.

And remember, regardless of what you're feeding to your chickens, and how nutritious the treats are, treats should be limited to about 10% of your chickens' diet - so that's about 1 Tablespoon per hen per day.

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