Chickens, like most birds, love all sorts of seeds and nuts. People also like to snack on seeds and nuts, and since the almond is one of the most commonly cultivated “nuts” (actually a seed) it makes sense that some owners would think to feed their beloved birds a treat from their own supply.
But the question is, can chickens safely eat almonds?
Yes, chickens can eat almonds. Store-bought, plain almonds are a safe and healthy snack food for chickens, and are rich in nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamin E, and magnesium. However, chickens should never be fed salted or seasoned almonds, or wild growing “bitter” almonds as they can make them very sick.
This nutritious, tasty little seed is a great treat for your chickens and is packed with good stuff that will nourish their bodies.
It will also entertain them for a while. However, as with all things, moderation is key, and knowing what kinds of almonds your chickens can and cannot have. Don’t worry, we will tell you everything you need to know just below.
Nutritional Profile of Almonds
Almonds are a type of “nut” (again, really a seed) that grows on Prunus amygdalus trees. They are technically classified as drupes, which is a type of fruit that has a hard outer shell and a single seed.
Almonds are native to the Mediterranean region, and they have been cultivated for centuries. Today, they are one of the most popular snack nuts in the world, and more importantly for us a good nutritional supplement for chickens!
Almonds are an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals, including protein, fiber, vitamin E, and magnesium.
Almonds also contain small amounts of calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium. All of these nutrients are important for proper health and growth in chickens.
Health Benefits of Feeding Chickens Almonds
Almonds are a good source of protein, which is essential for proper growth and development in chickens, and also a good source of fiber which helps keep chicken’s digestive systems functioning properly.
Almonds are also abundant with vitamin E. This important vitamin helps keep chickens’ immune system strong and helps protect their cells from oxidative damage.
Magnesium is another important mineral found in almonds and is involved in many different biochemical processes in the body and is necessary for the proper function of muscles, nerves, and enzymes.
Calcium, iron, phosphorus, and potassium are all vital minerals that chickens need in proper amounts to thrive. Calcium has beneficial effects on bones and egg production, while iron promotes immunity.
Magnesium is important for muscular function, phosphorus is required for cell development and repair, and potassium aids in the maintenance of fluid balance in the body.
All in all, almonds are a great supplement to a chicken’s diet and can provide many important health benefits.
How Often Can Chickens Have Almonds?
Chickens can have almonds as a treat, but like all good things, moderation is key. Too many almonds can lead to obesity and other health problems in chickens.
A general rule of thumb is to offer your chickens no more than the equivalent of 3 or 4 almonds each a couple of times per week.
Unsalted Almonds Only
You can safely give your chickens standard, grocery-store bought almonds with no issues, so long as you follow one simple rule: Only give them unsalted almonds!
Salted or seasoned almonds can make chickens very sick, so it is important to only give them the plain, unsalted variety.
Excess sodium is not good for chickens and can cause electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, and other health problems.
If you are unsure whether or not the almonds you have are salted or seasoned, it is best to err on the side of caution and not give them to your chickens. It is better to be safe than sorry!
How to Prepare Almonds for Chickens
Now that you know it is safe to give your chickens almonds, let’s discuss how to prepare them.
The best way to give chickens almonds is to lightly crush them so that they are easier for the birds to eat. That’s it.
You don’t need to shell or blanch them. We are only trying to make the almonds a bit easier to eat so the chickens won’t have to peck them as much.
Remember, chickens don’t really chew their food; their gizzard does that for them. But because they swallow coarse chunks of their food whole, so to speak, there is a slight risk of choking when feeding them whole almonds.
There is no need to go overboard with crushing the almonds before handing them over, either. Just give them a light tap with a mallet, a pass with a rolling pin, or a quick pulse with a coarse food processor blade.
You can either offer the crushed almonds to your chickens as-is or mix them in with their regular feed. Either way, they are sure to enjoy them.
Can Chicks Eat Almonds?
Yes, chicks can eat almonds! In fact, they can eat nearly any of the same foods as an adult chicken. We recommend waiting until your chicks are 3 to 4 weeks old before their first treat of almonds.
However, it is important to further crush the almonds into even smaller, finer pieces before giving them to chicks, as they may have serious difficulty eating them otherwise.
Aim for a sand-like consistency for best results and safety, and your chicks should have a ball. Once more, just be sure that they are not salted or seasoned in any way.
The Dangers of Bitter Almonds
Bitter almonds are the fruits of certain species of the almond tree. They contain high amounts of a toxic compound called amygdalin, which breaks down into hydrogen cyanide when ingested.
Though bitter almonds have a long history of somewhat dodgy medicinal and even culinary use (with treatment), today they are only known as a hazard that occasionally sneaks in with sweet almonds sold in groceries.
Eating even a few bitter almonds is enough to cause vertigo and other symptoms of cyanide poisoning in humans, and it is way worse for chickens.
Chickens are particularly vulnerable to cyanide, and if they were to eat even a small number of bitter almonds, they can quickly become gravely sick and die.
Symptoms of cyanide poisoning in chickens include labored breathing, increased heart rate, weakness, tremors, and convulsions. In severe cases, chickens may also experience paralysis and coma.
If you suspect that your chicken has eaten bitter almonds, it is important to seek veterinary care at once. With prompt treatment, chickens may recover from cyanide poisoning. However, if left untreated or if intervention is too slow the poison is fatal.
Bitter almonds are rarely encountered in the wild but not unheard of in the U.S., so make sure you stay alert for any instances if you live in an area where almonds are grown.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.