The Iris is one of the most beautiful and abundant flowers in the world and its popularity is matched only by its cultural significance.
The Iris has been revered throughout history for its beauty and symbolism, and it has been used as a motif in art, literature, and mythology.
You might even have some growing on or around your property right now. Chickens love to nibble on all sorts of plants, including flowers. Can your chickens have irises?
No, chickens should not eat any part of an iris. The iris plant contains glycoside toxins that can be harmful to your chickens. If ingested, these toxins can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and even death. Chickens will usually avoid eating them, but it’s best to keep your chickens away from any and all irises just to be safe.
It seems a cruel twist that so many beautiful plants are full of harmful toxins, but that is the just the way things are.
You should never feed iris to your chickens, and you’ll need to be extra careful if you have them on your property where chickens could gain access to them.
Keep reading and we will tell you everything you need to know about these lovely, but potentially deadly, flowers.
All Parts of the Iris Contain Toxins
All parts of the iris plant, including the leaves, stem, roots, bulb and flowers, contain toxins that can be harmful to your chickens, irisin, iridin or irisine depending on the species.
These toxins are called glycosides, and they can cause a range of symptoms if ingested by your chickens.
The most common symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea, but more serious cases can lead to paralysis or even death.
Chickens are usually smart enough to avoid eating any part of the iris plant, as they can usually tell what plants are harmful.
But, if your chickens have free range of your property and can access the irises, it’s best to keep an eye on them, just in case.
Can Chickens Eat Iris Flowers?
No, chickens should not eat iris flowers. All parts of the iris plant contain glycoside toxins that can be harmful to your chickens.
Can Chickens Eat Iris Stems?
Nope. Again, every single part of the iris is toxic. Most species are not extremely toxic, at least not for larger animals, but your chickens don’t have mass on their side.
Can Chickens Eat Iris Leaves?
No. The leaves are just as bad as most other parts of the plant.
Can Chickens Eat Iris Bulbs?
Definitely not. The bulb contains the most toxins of any part of the plant, and it is the bulbs that seem to be most enticing to curious chickens and other animals. Ingesting a bulb will likely result in serious poisoning.
Can Chickens Eat Irises Cooked?
No. Cooking does not meaningfully reduce the toxin load of any part of the iris.
Some plants are harmful until they are cooked, but the iris is not one of them. Chickens should not eat any part of the iris plant, raw or cooked.
Symptoms of Iris Poisoning
Glycosides are a type of natural poison found in many plants. These poisons work by inhibiting enzymes that are essential for cellular respiration, and as a result, they can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
In severe cases, glycoside poisoning can lead to organ failure and death. Sluggishness, breathing difficulty and inability to stand are all signs of poisoning in chickens.
It should be noted that these poisons are usually only toxic to humans when they are consumed in large quantities.
But your chickens don’t have the mass that a human, dog or even cat has. Though irises are only mildly toxic they are toxic enough to seriously harm or even kill your chickens should they eat them.
What Should You Do if You Suspect Your Chickens Have Eaten Irises?
If you think your chickens have eaten any part of an iris, it’s important to act quickly. The first thing you should do is remove them from the area where they had access to the plant.
If they are showing any signs of illness, such as vomiting or diarrhea, take them to a vet immediately.
Vomiting, lethargy, and difficulty breathing are all signs that they may be suffering from poisoning and need medical attention.
If they show no ill-effects whatsoever, that’s good, but you should still monitor them and be prepared to act immediately.
If your bird needs treatment, it can be a tricky situation. Vets have to be careful not to worsen the poor chicken’s condition while also trying to get the poison out of its system, or just treat the symptoms with supportive care.
The vet will likely give it a medication to make it vomit. This will help to get rid of any iris that is still in the bird’s stomach.
The bird will also be given fluids to prevent dehydration and support its kidneys. In some cases, the bird may need to be hospitalized so that it can be closely monitored.
With prompt treatment or minimal ingestion, most birds will make a full recovery from iris poisoning.
If you have chickens, it’s important to keep them away from these plants. Some chickens are attracted to the colorful flowers but eating even a small amount of an iris can have serious consequences for them.
Baby Chicks are Especially Vulnerable to Poisoning
Compared to adult birds, chicks are far more vulnerable to iris poisoning. This is because their digestive systems are not fully developed and they are more likely to suffer from dehydration.
If you have chicks, it’s even more important to make sure they don’t have access to any part of an iris plant. While irises are beautiful plants, they can be especially dangerous for chicks.
Keeping Your Chickens Safe from Irises
The best way to keep your chickens safe is to provide them with a well-fenced area where they can free range, one where any and all harmful plants are removed.
This will allow them to get the exercise they need while also keeping them away from any potentially dangerous plants.
You can also grow some safe plants in their enclosure for them to nibble on. Some good options include grass, weeds, and leafy greens.
The more “good” options there are that chickens prefer the less likely they are to eat something toxic.
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.