Most chicken owners already know that there are birds that enjoy the occasional bit of fruit, and one of the most popular among many chickens seems to be grapes.
But how about the rest of the plants that they grow on, specifically the vines? Can chickens eat grape vines?
Yes, chickens may safely eat grape vines and grapevine leaves. Though not particularly nutritious, they are safe for adult chickens to eat, and will provide some vitamins and minerals. However, infirm birds or chicks should not eat grape vines or leaves because they might present a choking risk.
As it turns out chickens will eat just about anything, and they are pretty good about eating only things that are safe for them.
Considering that grapevines are one of those things you might not want your chickens to eat (if you want your grapes to come back next year) you’ll need to know the ins and outs of how best to serve them. Keep reading to learn more.
Health Benefits of Grape Vines for Chickens
Grapevines, like any other fruit or vegetable, offer some health benefits to chickens. They are a good source of vitamins A, some B vitamins and C as well as some antioxidants.
Vitamin A is important for a chicken’s immune system, skin, and feathers. Vitamin C helps with wound healing and tissue repair while antioxidants help protect cells from damage.
It should be noted that chickens don’t need plenty of vitamin C in their diet as we do; chickens make their own vitamin C inside their bodies!
Grape vines also provide a good shot of fiber and hydrating food, being mostly water. Both of these are important for a chicken’s overall health, and the water content in particular will help keep your birds cool on hot days.
Can Chickens Eat Grape Vines Raw?
Yes. Chickens can and will eat grapevines raw if given a chance. Some birds seem to shy away from them, but most will happily nibble on them if there aren’t any grapes to distract them!
Can Chickens Eat Grape Vine Leaves?
Yes, chickens can eat grape vine leaves, too. However, like most broad, glossy leaves they can pose a choking hazard to young or infirm birds.
Leaves of this type are particularly likely to cause crop impaction in some chickens, so keep a close eye on them. Be sure to remove the leaves before serving any vines to your flock if you have any doubts.
Can Chickens Eat Grape Vines Cooked?
Yes, though this is not necessary to serve them to your flock. Cooking grape vines might make them more interesting or palatable for picky eaters, but it will also harm the fairly meager nutrients they offer.
Beware of Pesticide or Herbicide on Wild or Unknown Grape Vines
If you’re foraging for grape vines to feed your chickens, try to ensure that they have not been sprayed with any pesticides or herbicides. These chemicals can be harmful or even fatal if ingested by your chickens.
Pesticides in particular have a way of building up incrementally in the tissues of birds over time, and rarely fail to lead to serious health complications down the road.
If you have any grape vines growing on your property, and you use any kind of pesticide or herbicide on them, it is best to not allow your chickens to eat the vines unless you wash them thoroughly prior to serving.
To be absolutely certain that the grapevines you are feeding your chickens are safe, it is best to grow them organically, if you can. This way you’ll know for certain that they won’t harm your birds.
How Often Can Chickens Have Grape Vines?
Grape vines are safe for chickens to eat, and reasonably healthy, but they still shouldn’t eat them all the time.
A small serving a couple of times per week is more than enough. Chickens should be living mostly on their chicken feed, with about 90% of their calories coming from it.
The remaining 10% of their diet can be made up of treats and supplemental foods like grape vines, but anything more than that and you’re likely to see some health problems crop up eventually.
Your chickens might still seem healthy even while eating an unhealthy diet, but it will take its toll over time.
In a way, eating safe but nutritionally deficit foods hurts chickens twice: they don’t provide the nutrition they need, and they also fill them up so they don’t eat their feed.
Preparing Grape Vines for Your Flock
The best way to offer grapevines to chickens, assuming you won’t let them graze where they are, is to cut them into manageable pieces and strip the leaves off.
You can then scatter the bits around the coop or yard for your chickens to peck at or place them in a feeder with other food.
The vines can also be gathered and hung from the ceiling of the coop so your chickens can nibble away.
Again, a word of caution about the leaves: take care that your young and ailing chickens don’t eat them if you want to dodge possible problems with choking or crop impaction. If you have any doubts, chop them up small or just discard them.
Can Baby Chicks Have Grape Vines, Too?
No, baby chicks should not have grape vines. Though not overtly harmful or toxic, their digestive systems are not mature enough to handle them, and they can cause serious health problems as mentioned above.
Chicks are especially vulnerable to choking and crop impaction, and grape vines can be a common culprit.
Just like with any other treat or supplemental food, grape vines should only be given to baby chicks once they are plenty old enough. I wouldn’t consider feeding them grape vines or leaves until they are at least 9-10 weeks.
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.