One of the best things about eating vegetables is the sheer variety that is on display in nature. All the kinds, colors, shapes, tastes, and textures mean there is something for everyone.
This counts for your chickens, too, as they will eat pretty much any kind of veggie that we can. How about eggplant? Can your chickens eat eggplant?
Yes, chickens can eat all parts of the eggplant fruit. Leaves and vines are all highly poisonous for chickens, however. Eggplants are a great source of vitamins and minerals, including potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C, and can be served to chickens periodically in order to supplement their diet.
Eggplants are completely safe and healthy for your chickens so long as they don’t get at the actual plant itself. If you grow your own, you’ll need to be careful. We will tell you everything you should know in the rest of this article.
Nutritional Profile of Eggplant
Eggplant is a nutrient-dense food that is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. It is an excellent source of manganese, and a good source of vitamins B5, B6, and folate. Eggplant is low in calories and fat, and it is a fairly good source of antioxidants.
Eggplant is another “juicy” option for feeding chickens, and contains 92% water by mass on average.
Health Benefits of Eggplant for Chickens
Eggplant contains a wide variety of vitamins and minerals that can be beneficial for your chickens’ health and a few that make it a great supplement.
Eggplant is a particularly good source of manganese, which is an essential mineral for many different bodily functions.
It helps to form bones and connective tissue, aids in wound healing, and boosts the immune system.
Eggplant also contains a variety of antioxidants, including quercetin, kaempferol, and anthocyanins. These antioxidants can help to protect cells from damage
Eggplant is also a decent source of vitamins B5, B6, and folate. Vitamin B5 (also called pantothenic acid) is essential for the proper function of the adrenal glands, and it helps to synthesize and metabolize fats.
Vitamin B6 is involved in over 100 different enzyme reactions in the body, including the metabolism of amino acids and glycogen, and the synthesis of hemoglobin. Folate is important for cell growth and DNA synthesis, and it helps to promote egg health.
The high water content of eggplant can also be beneficial for your chickens, as it can help to keep them hydrated. This is especially important in hot weather, or if your chickens are sick or laying eggs.
Caution: Eggplant Vines and Leaves are Poisonous
Believe it or not, eggplant is a member of the nightshade family, which also includes potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers.
All parts of the plant except the fruit itself are poisonous to chickens. Yes, eggplant is a fruit, actually a berry if you want to get really technical.
The leaves, vines, and calyx (the green “cap” on the fruit) contain solanine, a glycoalkaloid poison that can be harmful to chickens in consumed in quantity.
Solanine is found in all members of the nightshade family, and it is thought to be the plant’s defense against pests.
Solanine is a nerve poison that can cause paralysis, and it is also a diuretic. In high enough quantities, it can be fatal.
A few bites of any part of the eggplant containing solanine will trigger a hot, burning sensation in the throat of your chickens. Hopefully, this is enough to deter them from eating anymore but you must not take the chance!
Any store-bought eggplant should be ready to eat as-is, but you’ll need to use extra caution if you grow your own eggplant.
If you do, make sure to keep your chickens away from the plant itself and take great care when picking and prepping the fruit.
Can Chickens Eat Eggplant Raw?
Yes, chickens can eat raw eggplant with no ill effects. In fact, eggplant is actually more nutritious when it is raw. Cooking eggplant can cause some of the nutrients to be lost.
Can Chickens Eat Eggplant Skin?
The skin of an eggplant, though quite thick and tough, is perfectly safe for chickens to eat, and it is actually very nutritious.
Eggplant skin contains high levels of the mentioned antioxidants- quercetin, kaempferol and anthocyanins- so it is a health booster for your birds.
Eggplant skin is also a good source of fiber, which can help to promote digestive health when eaten as part of a well-rounded diet.
Can Chickens Eat Eggplant Seeds?
The seeds of eggplant are totally safe for chickens to eat, but they can be a choking hazard for small or sick birds. If in doubt, cut the eggplant open and scoop them out before serving.
Can Chickens Eat Eggplant Cooked?
Yes, chickens can eat cooked eggplant with no ill effects, just like raw eggplant.
In fact, some chicken owners prefer to cook eggplant before feeding it to their birds, as it can make it more appetizing to them. Roasted, grilled, or boiled, anything goes. Do keep in mind that some nutrients are usually lost when cooked.
Never Feed Eggplant Cooked with Harmful Ingredients to Your Chickens
If you are feeding your chickens cooked eggplant, make sure it is plain and has no harmful ingredients added, such as oil, sugar, or salt. These ingredients can be toxic to chickens in high quantities, and at best they are quite unhealthy.
Beware of Pesticides on Store-bought Eggplant
If you are feeding your chickens store-bought eggplant, it is important to wash it thoroughly before giving it to them.
This is because most commercial produce is heavily sprayed with pesticides, which can be harmful to your birds if ingested.
If available and you can spring for it organic is always the best option, but if not, a thorough washing should suffice. If you have any doubts, just peel the eggplant before serving.
How Often Can Chickens Have Eggplant?
Eggplant can be fed to chickens periodically as part of a well-rounded diet. This will usually work out to a once or twice a week as a treat or supplement depending on how many other foods your chickens get.
Generally, you’ll want fresh, healthy produce to make up anywhere from 10%-20% of your chickens’ calorie intake in any case. Too much eggplant can cause trouble by filling up your birds before they eat their more nutritionally complete feed.
Eggplant is good for them, no doubt, but it is not nutritionally complete. All chickens should be fed a steady diet of chicken feed as their primary staple.
Preparing Eggplant for Your Chickens
You have a couple of tested options for serving eggplant to your chickens. Raw and whole, peeled, sliced, chopped, or cooked- it is up to you.
If feeding raw, just give them a good wash and slice them into halves or chunks of manageable size for your chickens.
Big and capable birds might enjoy pecking and hacking at a whole eggplant to open it up. If you have smaller birds, you may want to cut them into cubes or grate them to avoid any choking hazards.
Cooked eggplant can be given to your chickens as above, just make sure you let it cool first!
Can Baby Chicks Have Eggplant Too?
Eggplant is perfectly safe for baby chicks to eat, but as with any novel food you should wait for them to grow a bit. 6 weeks old is probably fine.
Add a little bit of grated or chopped eggplant to their feed and observe them closely. Keep in mind that chicks might have more trouble with the seeds than adult chickens, so to be on the safe side you can discard them entirely.
Make Sure to Clean Up After you Give Your Chickens Eggplant
As with all fresh foods you give your chicks, you don’t want to leave uneaten portions or scraps lying around the run or in the coop.
Eggplant can rot quickly, especially in warm weather, and it will attract rodents and other pests if left out. Additionally, any chicken that decides to come back for more after it has spoiled may get sick!
Once your flock has had its fill, clean up after them and trash the remains.
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.