Chickens, as most of their owners know, are omnivorous, and enjoy eating all kinds of meats, fruits, and veggies.
One of the most enjoyable things about having a flock of your own is seeing how they react to various kinds of produce.
Your birds will often enjoy an exotic treat on occasion from your own kitchen. How about something tropical, like avocado; Can chickens eat avocado?
No, chickens should not eat avocado. The skin, pits, and potentially the flesh of avocados contain persin, a compound highly toxic to chickens. Even with careful preparation, trace amounts in flesh or cross-contamination could make your chickens deathly ill. The leaves of avocado trees also contain persin, so owners should take great care to keep their chickens away from avocado trees, too.
That’s a bit of a bummer, but it is better to know than inadvertently feed your beloved birds something poisonous to them. We’ll talk a little more about the specifics in the rest of this article.
If You Want to be Safe, Don’t Feed Your Chickens Avocado
The primary concern with feeding chickens avocado is the presence of a compound called persin. This toxin is found in the leaves, skin, and pit of avocados, as well, potentially, in the flesh of the fruit itself.
Chickens are particularly susceptible to toxicity from persin, and even trace amounts can cause serious illness or death.
When ingested by chickens, persin can cause heart tissue damage, breathing difficulties, fluid accumulation in the chest cavity, and death. In short, it’s something you definitely don’t want your chickens to ingest
Even if you’re careful to remove all the skin and pits from an avocado before feeding it to your chickens, there’s still a risk of cross-contamination and avocado flesh does contain trace amounts of the harmful stuff.
Though avocado flesh does not contain as much persin as the other parts of the fruit there is still enough to potentially cause serious problems for your birds, including agitation, fatigue, or restlessness.
If you want to be on the safe side, it is best not to feed them avocado at all.
Persin is Especially Harmful to Chicks and Old Birds
While all chickens are susceptible to the harmful effects of persin, some are more vulnerable than others.
Chicks and old birds, for example, can be especially sensitive to the toxin and may develop severe respiratory distress or die from ingesting even the smallest amounts of avocado containing the toxin, including the flesh.
Chickens that are already sick or have a weak immune system are also at an increased risk of serious complications from ingesting persin, or might straight-up die from it.
If your flock is dealing with any kind of illnesses or other stressors, it’s best to err on the side of caution and not feed them avocado at all.
The Leaves and Stems of Avocado Trees are Also Highly Toxic
Plenty of people who enjoy avocados and live in an appropriate climate find that growing their own avocado tree is a rewarding and easy way to keep their pantry full of them.
However, in addition to the fruit itself, other parts of the avocado tree can also be harmful to chickens.
The leaves and bark of avocado trees contain high amounts of persin, so it’s important to make sure your chickens can’t get to them.
If you have an avocado tree, the best way to protect your chickens is to keep them penned up in an area well away from the tree.
If that’s not possible or practical, you might consider putting a chicken-proof fence around the tree itself.
No matter what, make sure your flock can’t get to any part of the avocado tree, including fallen leaves or fruit, to avoid any potential problems.
Chickens are said to instinctively avoid vegetation containing persin, including avocado skins, pits, and parts of the tree, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the safety of your beloved birds.
So Can Chickens Eat just the Flesh of the Avocado?
The safe answer is no, chickens should not eat avocado at all. The more nuanced answer is maybe if you are cautious.
Plenty of farmers and owners of backyard flocks report that they give their birds avocado flesh after carefully preparing it to ensure there are no parts of skin or pit in it. Most chickens seem to enjoy the flesh and will eat it eagerly.
Avocado flesh does contain nutrients that are good for chickens, such as vitamin E, which helps to support the immune system.
Additionally, avocados contain high levels of monounsaturated fats, which is essential for the health of chickens, too; this type of fat helps to keep feathers healthy and prevents skin problems.
Finally, avocados also provide a good source of iron and copper, which is necessary for proper development and growth.
But, avocados are calorie dense and when fed to chickens regularly with other treats can promote weight gain, so easy does it.
Also, far more important, remember the flesh does contain trace amounts of persin, and this can build up to a harmful dose for chickens over time.
Even sustained trace amounts can cause lingering health issues. For this reason, you’d be wise to leave behind the flesh closest to the skin of the fruit if you do decide to feed it to them.
So, can chickens eat avocado? The skin and pits: absolutely not. The persin in these parts will kill them. The flesh: yes, but only if you are cautious and only if you feed it to them sparingly.
Avocado flesh does contain nutrients that are good for chickens, however, avocados are calorie dense and can promote weight gain. Additionally, the flesh also contains trace amounts of persin, which can build up over time and cause major health issues in chickens.
So, if you’re going to give your chickens avocado, only give them the soft flesh in highly limited quantities and make sure there are no pieces of skin or pits in it. Also, be sure to keep your birds well away from the leaves and bark of the tree.
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.