Dates are one of the most delectable and delicious fruits around, especially when dried. These succulent morsels are wonderful as a snack, in salads, and as an ingredient in sweet or savory dishes.
If you have chickens, you know they are always ready to try new foods. So what about dates? Can chickens eat them?
Yes, chickens can eat dates. Though they should be kept as occasional sweet treats. Dates are a nutritious fruit that chickens can enjoy as a snack or as a carefully chosen supplement to their regular diet. Dates contain abundant vitamins and minerals that are good for chickens, but their high sugar content offsets the benefits.
If you want to give your birds a little taste of the good life you can give them a few dates to nibble.
They will get some good energy and needed vitamins from them, but you should be cautious as they are loaded with sugar, and it is easy for chickens to eat too many. Not to worry, though, we will tell you what you need to know below.
Nutritional Profile of Dates
Dates are a varied and plentiful source of vitamin C, vitamin B6vitamins and several minerals, including potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and copper. They are also a good source of fiber and antioxidants.
Dates are also packed with natural sugars like fructose and glucose. While they are high in sugar, dates are a healthy alternative to processed sugars because of their essential nutrients.
Benefits of Feeding Dates to Chickens
Chickens can benefit from the nutrition found in dates. The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can help boost the immune system, improve digestion, promote healthy feathers and skin, and increase energy levels.
The high sugar content in dates that can give your chickens a quick boost of energy is especially beneficial for chickens during colder months.
When they may not be as active outside they will need to rely on food to generate body heat and dates will help them stay warm.
Can Chickens Eat Fresh Dates?
Chickens can eat fresh dates. If you give them to your chickens whole, they will most likely try to peck at them until they can extract a bit of the softer fruit. It is perfectly safe for them to eat dates this way.
Can Chickens Eat Dried Dates?
Dried dates are also safe for chickens to eat. Your chickens will love the chewy texture and sweetness.
Note that dried dates have higher sugar content by weight than fresh, so you should limit the amount your chickens eat. It will be easy for them to gobble up too many dried dates and get sick.
Can Chickens Eat Cooked Dates?
Cooked dates are also safe for chickens to eat, though cooking reduces their nutrition a bit and often concentrates sugars.
You can puree them or chop them up into small pieces before adding them to your chicken’s food. Also keep in mind that moist, sugary foods may cause sour crops in your chickens!
Can Chickens Eat Date Pits?
No, chickens cannot eat date pits. They are just too hard and sharp, and can cause your chickens to choke or block up their digestive system.
Luckily most chickens seem to instinctively leave them well alone. Many owners have reported feeding their chickens a small pile of whole dates only to find a scattering of the pits left behind!
Be Wary of Pesticides on Store-bought Dates
Dates, like many grocery store fruits, are often heavily treated with pesticides. These pesticides are harmful to chickens, people, and animals, and may build up in tissues gradually over time.
Though they are supposed to be washed before being brought to market or packaged, some traces or residues might remain.
If you are feeding your chickens store-bought dates, try to purchase organic ones if you can find (and afford) them.
If not, that’s okay, just make sure to wash them thoroughly first to eliminate any traces left on the fruits.
How Often Can Chickens Have Dates?
As mentioned before, dates are high in sugar and calories despite their nutritional profile, so they should only be given to chickens very sparingly.
A good rule of thumb is no more than 5% of their allotted calories should come from sweet treats like this, even though they are natural.
Risks of Feeding Chickens Dates
The biggest risk of feeding your chickens dates is that they will eat too many and become overweight or obese. These little fruits are sugary and calorie-dense!
This can lead to endemic health problems, including fatty liver syndrome. In the short term, sugar foods and moist, sugary foods (like dates) in particular can often lead to crop and other digestive problems.
The most common is sour crop, which is when the crop (a sac near the chicken’s throat where food is stored before digestion) becomes full of moist sugar and starts to ferment. This can cause pain, discomfort, and even death in chickens if not treated quickly.
The best way to avoid problems with sour crop is to sharply limit or eliminate sweet foods from your chicken’s diet, and make sure they have access to plenty of fresh water at all times.
How to Serve Dates to Your Chickens
The best way to give your chickens dates is whole, either fresh or dried. If you have a lot of chickens, you can put out a dish of whole dates for them to peck at as they wish.
If you only have a few chickens, you can hand-feed them whole dates as a special treat. Smaller or picky chickens might prefer dates split in two or chopped into pieces.
Can Baby Chicks Have Dates?
Yes, baby chicks can have dates starting at around 6 weeks old. Start with just a few tiny pieces, and see how they like it.
Baby chicks are significantly more prone to crop problems than adult chickens, so be sure to keep an eye on them.
As your chicks grow, you can gradually increase the size of the pieces you give them, keeping in mind that they should not have more than 5% of their calories coming from sweet treats. Chicks especially should be eating mostly early-life chicken feed.
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.