Dogwoods make up an entire family of woody plants, both trees, and shrubs, which are known for their plentiful, distinctive blossoms and most notably their berries.
Growing in bunches and in many different colors depending on the species, dogwoods are a common sight in many parts of the world and all around North America.
Since they are so common, you may want to know if chickens can eat the berries that grow on dogwood trees or shrubs. Can chickens safely eat dogwood berries?
Yes, the vast majority of dogwood species produce berries that are safe to eat for chickens. Many chickens seem to enjoy them when they are ripe, and they are reasonably nutritious fare, providing modest amounts of vitamins and minerals.
The good news is that unlike so many flowering, ornamental trees most dogwoods are completely safe for your chickens, at least if they are just eating the berries.
You can learn everything there is to know about giving dogwood berries to your chickens in the rest of this article.
Nutritional Profile of Dogwood Berries
Dogwood berries are not going to be a major part of your chicken’s diet, but they can eat them without any problems.
The nutritional value of dogwood berries is also not very high, so they will not provide a significant source of vitamins and minerals for chickens. Nonetheless, all berries, including dogwoods, are a good source of antioxidants.
The antioxidants present in dogwoods can help protect your chickens from free radicals, which can damage cells and lead to disease.
Dogwood berries are also a good source of dietary fiber, which is important for digestive health. In addition, dogwoods contain small amounts of vitamins C and E, as well as potassium and magnesium.
Health Benefits of Dogwood Berries for Chickens
The most important benefit of feeding dogwood berries to your chickens is the antioxidants they contain.
As mentioned above, these compounds can help protect cells from damage and reduce the risk of disease.
Some studies have even shown that antioxidants can help extend the lifespan of chickens and, in addition, they can also help reduce inflammation throughout the body, including in the digestive tract.
Vitamin C is another important nutrient found in dogwoods that can offer health benefits for chickens.
This vitamin is essential for a strong immune system and can help prevent or treat respiratory infections.
Vitamin C is also important for the formation of collagen, which is a protein that helps keep bones and joints healthy.
Chickens make their own vitamin C, but some extra won’t hurt! The vitamin E present in dogwoods can also help improve joint health in chickens and reduce the risk of arthritis.
Potassium is a mineral that is important for many different bodily functions, including regulating blood pressure, heart function, and muscle contraction.
Magnesium is another mineral found in dogwoods that plays a role in these same functions, as well as in energy production. Both of these minerals are beneficial for chickens, especially as they age.
Finally, the fiber present in dogwood berries can also be beneficial for digestive health. This is due to the presence of dietary fiber, which helps keep the digestive tract moving properly.
Possible Side Effects of Dogwood Berries for Chickens
While dogwood berries are generally safe for chickens to eat, there are a few potential side effects to be aware of.
Dogwood berries from most species are intensely astringent, and though most chickens don’t seem to mind (unlike people!) this can lead to some stomach troubles if they overindulge.
The most common side effect is diarrhea. This is most likely to occur if your chickens eat too many dogwood berries at once or if they are not used to eating them.
If your chickens do experience an upset stomach after eating dogwoods, it should resolve on its own within a day or two, tops.
Can Chickens Eat Dogwood Berries Raw?
Yes, and this is actually the best way to feed them to your chickens. This is because raw dogwood berries contain the most nutrients and also because your flock is likely to pounce on the ripe berries whenever they encounter them.
If you do cook dogwood berries, however, they can still be given to your chickens but they will not be as nutritious.
Can Chickens Eat Dogwood Leaves?
Yes, but chickens seem to avoid them entirely. This is likely because the leaves of most dogwood species contain tannins, which act as a repellent. Chickens will usually only eat dogwood leaves if they are desperate for something to eat or if there is nothing else available.
Can Chickens Eat Dogwood Berries Cooked?
Yes, but cooking the berries is unnecessary. Cooking the berries also reduces what scant nutrition is found in them.
If you do cook the berries, they can still be given to your chickens but they will not be as good for them.
Never Feed Dogwood Berries to Chickens that Have Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
On the subject of cooking, it’s important to never feed dogwood berries to your chickens that have been prepared with harmful ingredients.
This includes things like oil, butter, salt, sugar and the like. These ingredients might render dogwood berries into something more palatable for humans, but they can actually be harmful to chickens.
At best, your birds could be facing indigestion, diarrhea and weight gain from excess calories, but at worst serious health complications could arise.
Things like fatty liver syndrome, salt poisoning, sour crop and hypertension are no joke, and can kill chickens or leave them with health issues for life.
Don’t give your flock any scraps or other dishes that have been made with things they should not eat!
Beware of Pesticides and Herbicides on Wild or Unknown Dogwoods
While dogwoods are generally safe for chickens to eat, it’s important to be aware that they can absorb pesticide and herbicide residues they have been in contact or treated with.
The berries in particular are capable of holding significant amounts of chemicals on their skin.
These chemicals are often toxic and can build up over time in the tissues of your birds and eventually lead to serious illnesses.
If you are feeding your flock berries from wild dogwoods, make sure they come from an area that has not been treated with any harmful chemicals. If you are in doubt, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and not feed them the berries.
The same goes for dogwoods in your own yard or garden. If you have treated them with any pesticides or herbicides, make sure they are completely dry and wash the berries free of residue before letting your chickens near them.
How Often Can Chickens Have Dogwood Berries?
Dogwood berries are a wholesome if not seriously nutritious snack, and so chickens should have them only occasionally.
If given the opportunity, they will likely eat as many as they can find, but this is not necessarily a good thing.
As mentioned, too many dogwood berries can give your chickens diarrhea, but they will also fill up on them and miss out on the nutrition they need in other foods.
A good rule of thumb is to offer dogwood berries to your flock no more than once or twice a week, and only sparingly.
90% of a chicken’s calories should come from their chicken feed, with the remaining 10% being made up of other foods.
Preparing Dogwood Berries for Your Flock
The best way to feed dogwood berries to your chickens is to wait until they are ripe and then offer them as a treat, if you pick them yourself, or let them graze them right off the tree or shrub.
You can also add the berries to chicken feed to spice up their usual meal a bit, although this is not necessary.
Can Baby Chicks Have Dogwood Berries, Too?
Tentatively yes, but you should wait until the chicks are quite a bit older, around 8 weeks of age at the earliest.
You should also only give them a few nibbles from a berry at a time to start with and see how they react.
Diarrhea is more likely and more dangerous for young chicks, so it’s best to be cautious when introducing new foods.
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.