If you own chickens, you probably already know they are big fans of getting novel produce in their diet.
All sorts of fruits and veggies can make for interesting and enjoyable treats for your birds. How about figs? Can your chickens eat figs?
Yes, figs are safe for chickens to eat. Figs are a tasty, exotic fruit that chickens can enjoy as a treat or snack for energy raw or cooked. Figs are a decent source of fiber, potassium, and vitamin B6, and other vitamins besides. However, other parts of the fig tree are irritating or toxic to chickens.
Figs are not super, nutritionally, but they are wholesome, sweet and filling. At any rate, they are completely safe for your chickens to eat, and they’ll definitely enjoy them as a periodic snack or treat.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about giving figs to your chickens.
Nutritional Profile of Figs
Figs are a wholesome and healthy fruit with a fair complement of vitamins and minerals.
Its best attributes are a decent amount of potassium, fiber, vitamins B1, B5 and B6. They are also mostly water and carbohydrates (sugar) and have little fat or protein.
Compared to other fruits and veggies, figs are lacking in the nutrition department but that doesn’t mean your birds won’t love them.
Health Benefits of Figs for Chickens
Figs provide a few health benefits for chickens. The fruit is mostly water, so it can help your chicken stay hydrated in hot weather. Figs are also a decent source of fiber which can help with digestion.
The minerals and vitamins in figs, while not present in large amounts, can contribute to your chicken’s overall wellbeing.
Potassium, for example, is essential for cardiovascular health, B1 is necessary for a healthy nervous system, B5 helps with stress and B6 is important for metabolism.
Figs also contain a fair amount of sugar, which can give your chickens an energy boost when they need it.
Figs are also quite tasty, and most chickens seem to enjoy them. Giving your flock the occasional fig could be just the thing to beat food boredom and put a little pep back in their step.
Caution: Fig Trees are Irritating or Toxic for Chickens
Fig fruits are completely safe for chickens, inside and out, but the same cannot be said for any other part of the tree itself.
The leaves and twigs of the fig tree contain a milky, sticky sap that can be irritating to your chicken’s skin.
This sap contains ficin, a proteolytic enzyme which has an antagonistic relationship with many proteins.
If the chickens ingest this sap, it can cause irritation of the throat and crop, vomiting and diarrhea. Significant quantities may cause organ failure.
The bark of the fig tree is also toxic to chickens and other animals if ingested.
Even small amounts of fig tree bark can cause serious health problems for your chickens so be sure to keep your birds well away from any fig trees on your property, especially if they have learned to like figs!
Can Chickens Eat Fresh Figs?
Yes, chickens can eat fresh figs with no problem. Your birds will probably like this exotic fruit when it is fresh and ripe. Figs that are overripe may be rejected by chickens, however, as they develop a sour taste.
Can Chickens Eat Dried Figs?
Dried figs are also safe for chickens to eat. Dried figs are more concentrated in sugar and calories than fresh figs, by weight, so they should be given sparingly as a treat rather than part of a regular diet. They also last much longer than fresh figs.
Can Chickens Eat Fig Seeds?
Yes, fig seeds are tiny and crunchy, and they will not harm your birds.
Can Chickens Eat Cooked Figs?
Cooked figs are also safe for chickens. However, cooking figs reduces their nutritional value somewhat.
Never Give Figs Prepared with Harmful Ingredients to Chickens
You should never give your chickens figs that were prepared with or turned into harmful foods. This is most prevalent with sweets- jams, preserves, spreads, etc.
High levels of sugar are not good for chickens and other ingredients like chocolate, alcohol and excess salt are toxic as well.
How Often Can Chickens Have Figs?
Figs can be given to chickens as an occasional snack or treat. Because they are high in sugar, they should not be given every day. A couple of times per week as part of a well-rounded diet is generally adequate.
Care and feeding experts recommend that fresh fruits and vegetables, despite being wholesome and healthy, should make up no more than 10%-20% of your chicken’s diet.
That means that 90% of their calories should be coming from their chicken feed.
Figs, like most sugary, moist foods may also lead to problems with sour crop when given too frequently, even in small amounts.
Sour crop is a condition caused by fermentation of food in the crop, and is more common in baby chicks and young birds though it can definitely affect adult chickens as well.
Beware of Pesticides on Grocery Store Figs
Figs, like the vast majority of grocery-sold produce, are almost certainly sprayed with pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
If you are going to give your chickens figs, it is always best to grow purchase them from a local organic farmer’s market or an organic brand from your grocer.
Standard figs, fresh or dried, may still be given to your chickens but you must make sure to wash them thoroughly first to eliminate any residues from the pesticide applications.
Preparing Figs for Your Chickens
The preferred way to feed figs to your chickens is to give them fresh, ripe figs as a treat. Hang them from their fencing or place them in a bowl to help keep them in place while the chickens work on them.
If desired, you can split or chop the figs into smaller chunks to help birds eat them more easily.
Dried figs can also be given to chickens whole as a treat. These may be soaked in water for about 10 minutes to rehydrate them and make them easier to eat before being fed to your flock.
In hot weather, you might try giving your chickens frozen figs to entertain them. Your birds should still be able to pick them apart, and the frozen bits will help cool your birds down when the weather is sweltering.
Can Baby Chicks Have Figs?
Yes, chicks can have figs but in moderation. Baby chicks have delicate digestive systems and are more prone to developing sour crop so care should be taken when feeding them any sweet, moist foods, including figs.
As a precaution, it is best to wait until baby chicks are at least 8 weeks old before giving them figs for the first time.
Keep quantities small and sizes tiny to make them easier to eat and head off any bad reactions or digestive issues.
Clean Up After You Serve Figs to your Flock
There is a good chance that your chickens will eat up figs entirely, but if they leave leftovers or scraps behind make sure you clean them up. Figs are highly sugary, and this can attract insects like no tomorrow.
Ants, wasps, and bees may all be attracted to leftover figs. Now, your chickens can eat these insects in turn, no problem, but you don’t want to be dealing with infestations around their run or coop!
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.