Compared to most other livestock species, chickens can enjoy a surprising variety of foods. Yes, they subsist mostly on chicken feed but it’s possible they can have grass, bugs, meat, vegetables, and even fruit.
But like most birds, chickens can only have fruit and limited quantities, and even then, only the kinds that are safe. Not all of them are! How about cherries? Can chickens have cherries safely?
Yes, chickens can safely eat cherries. Cherries are very sweet and a good source of energy, and even have some vitamins and minerals in the bargain. However, they’re very moist and too sugary for them to eat regularly.
Like so many other fruits, cherries make a great once-in-a-while treat or supplement to the usual diet of our flocks.
You should never give your birds unlimited amounts of cherries or too many in one sitting because it can easily cause indigestion or potentially even crop and gizzard problems because of all the sugar.
So long as you’re careful about that, there’s no reason why your birds can’t enjoy them. I’ll tell you more in the rest of this article…
Nutritional Profile of Cherries
Cherries are most known and loved for their delicious, fragrant and sweet flavor but they also have a few vitamins and minerals to offer in addition to being a good source of energy because of all the fructose they contain.
If you look at the lineup of vitamins, we see that cherries have trace amounts of vitamin A and beta carotene along with a decent smattering of the B-complex vitamins in the form of B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and folate.
Other than this, they have a little bit of vitamin C, sadly wasted on chickens for the most part, along with a tad bit of choline and vitamin K.
The mineral content is similarly varied but also pretty low compared to other fruits, with iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc being present in low amounts although the potassium is abundant enough to make cherries a decent source of electrolytes for chickens.
Benefits of Cherries for Chickens
Aside from being a decent source of quick and easily digestible energy as mentioned, the combination of various B vitamins along with a decent amount of potassium makes cherries a pretty good source of electrolytes for our birds.
This makes them an even better option for a sweet snack when it’s very hot outside, when your chickens are stressed for any other reason, or if you have a chicken that is recovering from an injury or illness and needs a little bit of extra pep.
Other than that, the rest of the nutrients will improve their overall health and well-being, particularly when it comes to organ function, circulatory health, feathering, and healing.
Definitely worthwhile benefits, but cherries are too sweet and not nutritious enough for chickens to have them all the time as a mainstay in their diet.
Can Chickens Eat Cherries Raw?
Yes, they can. Raw cherries are ideal for chickens because they are easy enough for them to eat as is, and they’ll contain the best possible amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Can Chickens Eat Cherries Cooked?
Yes, chickens can eat cooked cherries but there’s no reason for them to get them. Cooking a cherry doesn’t make it significantly easier for a chicken to eat, but it will deplete the vitamin and mineral content. That’s a losing proposition, so don’t waste your time.
Can Chickens Eat Dried Cherries?
Yes, chickens can have dried cherries but be cautious: dried cherries contain way more sugar by weight, and this makes them much more likely to cause digestive problems and other health issues in chickens. Don’t make it a point to serve your flock dried cherries.
Can Chickens Eat Frozen Cherries?
Yes, they can, but let them thaw first. Also, double-check and make sure the frozen cherries haven’t been treated with any added sugar, syrups, or other things that your chickens should not get.
Can Chickens Eat Cherry Pits?
Yes, at least larger chickens can, but this isn’t a good idea. They’re very hard and potentially a choking or impaction risk, meaning they can get caught in the crop, gizzard, or intestines.
Worse than that, though, is the fact that the pits contain compounds that are cyanide precursors.
When digested, they form cyanide-hydrogen gas which can poison chickens! Scary stuff, but don’t worry too bad because chickens would have to eat quite a few cherry pits to be at risk.
Even so, I prefer to get rid of the pits before serving them to my own flock, although I have noticed that most chickens are careful to pick off the flesh and discard the pits on their own.
Can Chickens Eat Cherry Stems?
Yes, they can, but from what I’ve seen, most chickens ignore the stems though they are reasonably healthy. If you want to increase the chances that your flock will eat the stems, chop them up into small bits and mix them in with other food.
Never Feed Cherries to Chickens that Made with Harmful Ingredients
You should never, ever give your chickens any cherries that are prepared with ingredients they can’t have, or bad foods that are made with cherries. We’re talking about preserves, desserts, chocolate-coated cherries, stuff like that.
Added ingredients like butter, oil, salt, and so forth are very bad news for chickens and will make them sick or even cause life-threatening diseases like fatty liver syndrome. Just don’t risk it! Fresh cherries only!
Beware of Pesticides on Grocery-bought Cherries
Another consideration is the presence of pesticides on grocery store-bought cherries.
Sadly, pretty much every kind of produce in the modern world is utterly bombarded with pesticides and other chemicals at all phases of growth and collection, and these chemicals have a way of building up in body tissues.
Worse, many of them are especially devastating to the sensitive biology of birds.
Washing is not sufficient to remove all traces of these chemicals, so if you aren’t growing the cherries yourself or buying them from a trusted provider, consider buying organic.
How Often Can Chickens Have Cherries?
Chickens can have cherries occasionally, one or two very small servings a week as a treat. They are a great source of energy for chickens, and provide them with a little shot of vitamins and minerals, but are too sugary and too moist to be a regular part of their diet.
Preparing Cherries for Your Flock
To get cherries ready for serving to your flock, remove the stems and chop them up or throw them away. Then I highly recommend you pit the cherries before handing them over.
You can leave the pits in if you want to, but keep an eye on your birds to see how they handle them. If they’re diligent about leaving the pits alone, you need not worry about removing them in the future.
Can Baby Chicks Have Cherries, Too?
Yes, but cautiously. Chicks are extremely sensitive to different foods at this young age, and moist, sugary cherries can definitely throw a wrench into the works.
I recommend you wait until your birds are at least five and preferably six weeks old before you let them try a tiny tidbit or two of a cherry for the first time. If you see any signs of diarrhea or loose stools, stop feeding them right away!
Make Sure to Clean Up Cherry Scraps Around the Coop and Run
One last thing, make it a point to clean up any scraps, bits, and leftover chunks of cherries from the run or around the yard when your chickens are done with them: the sweet fragrance of cherries will attract several predators of like raccoons, rats, and the like.
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.