So, Can Chickens Eat Juniper Berries?

Juniper berries are definitely an acquired taste, but have a distinguished culinary history and are a vital component of making gin.

chicken eating some juniper berries
A chicken eating some juniper berries

Certain animals eat juniper berries in the wild as part of their usual diet, so maybe our chickens can also. Can chickens eat juniper berries?

Yes, chickens may eat juniper berries safely, and they are healthy. However, too many juniper berries can easily lead to serious digestive upset and kidney harm, so you don’t want to let your chickens overindulge on found berries or serve them too often.

Whatever you might think about the taste of juniper berries, your chickens will probably like them and they contain a fair bit of nutrition.

But like with all supplemental foods, moderation is important if you want to avoid trouble.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about feeding juniper berries to your chickens.

Nutritional Profile of Juniper Berries

Juniper berries are known for a “clear”, resinous, and usually bitter taste. They must be skillfully implemented in a dish if you want to improve the flavor profile, but regardless of how they taste juniper berries are fairly nutritious.

The berries are a good source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They also contain compounds that can help to protect chickens from disease.

Some of the most important nutrients in juniper berries include vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, and calcium.

100g Juniper BerriesAmount
Calories252.3 kcal
Total Fat3.5 g
Cholesterol0 mg
Sodium20 mg
Total Carbohydrates65.3 g
– Dietary Fiber25.2 g
– Sugars0.4 g
Protein10.4 g
Calcium435 mg
Iron9.6 mg
Potassium1329.7 mg
Source: Nutritionix

Benefits of Juniper Berries for Chickens

Juniper berries offer plenty of health benefits for chickens so long as they don’t eat too many. Vitamin C is an important nutrient that helps to boost the immune system and protect the body from infection.

Vitamin A is essential for vision and skin health. Iron helps to transport oxygen in the blood, and calcium is necessary for strong bones and, for laying hens, healthy eggshells.

Juniper berries are an excellent source of these and other nutrients, making them a viable part of a chicken’s healthy diet.

Can Chickens Eat Juniper Berries Raw?

Yes, chickens may eat raw juniper berries. However, as with any food that has the potential for strong side effects, it’s generally a good idea to introduce new foods slowly to avoid digestive upset.

Start by offering a small number of berries and see how your chickens react before increasing the amount.

Can Chickens Eat Juniper Berries Cooked?

Yes, they can. In fact, cooking juniper berries before feeding them to your chickens may help to reduce the risk of side effects by leaching out or neutralizing compounds that can cause stomach trouble.

If you cook the berries, be sure to let them cool completely before giving them to your chickens.

Never Feed Juniper Berries to Chickens that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients

Since we are on the topic of cooking, you should never feed juniper berries to your chickens if they have been prepared with ingredients that are harmful to them.

For example, many recipes for juniper-flavored dishes call for adding sugar, salt, alcohol and other items that are a strict no-go for your birds.

A tiny bit of sugar won’t hurt, but too much can lead to obesity and other health problems.

Salt should be avoided entirely since it can cause dehydration and other, more severe issues like salt poisoning, which can be fatal. Alcohol should never be given to chickens under any circumstances.

So, if you’re going to cook juniper berries for your chickens, be sure to only prepare them with ingredients your flock can have, or else just gently cook the berries by themselves with no additions.

How Often Can Chickens Have Juniper Berries?

Juniper berries are tricky. On the one hand, they are entirely natural and healthy for your chickens.

On the other hand, they contain compounds that can potentially cause problems in large amounts. So, how often can chickens have juniper berries?

A good rule of thumb is to offer them no more than once or twice a week in small quantities, or allow your chickens to graze on them freely only if they demonstrate they eat them sparingly.

This will give your chickens the benefits of the nutritional content without running the risk of major digestive issues or worse issues.

If you are going to gather juniper berries and serve them to your chickens, keep in mind that only 10%-20% of their total calorie intake should come from treats like this.

The rest of their diet should be a high-quality chicken feed that contains all the essential nutrients they need. Just because something is healthy and generally safe does not mean that more is better.

Excess Consumption of Juniper Berries Can Cause Harm

Juniper berries are generally considered to be safe for chickens. However, if consumed in large quantities, juniper berries can become poisonous.

The berries contain compounds, called thujones, that can be toxic to the liver, kidney, and nervous system.

In large doses, these compounds can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and even death.

While most contain only a small amount of these harmful compounds, it is important to be aware of the potential risks.

If you suspect that your chicken has consumed too many juniper berries or is showing any symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Certain Species of Juniper Berries are Seriously Toxic

There are over 60 species of juniper, and many of them produce berries that are safe enough for humans and animals.

However, some species of juniper, namely juniperus drupacea, juniperus californica, and juniperus sabina all produce intensely nasty berries, with the latter being straight-up poisonous.

It is up to you to make sure you are only feeding your chickens juniper berries from safe species. If you’re not sure, it is always better to be safe than sorry: don’t feed them any at all.

Preparing Juniper Berries for Your Flock

If you’re certain that the juniper berries are safe for your chickens and you want to give them a try, there are a few things you should keep in mind when preparing them.

First of all, as mentioned, introduce juniper berries to your flock slowly. Start with only a couple of berries per chicken and see how they react.

If they seem to enjoy them and have no adverse effects, you can gradually increase the amount you give them. Be sure to watch your chickens closely for any signs of distress after eating juniper berries.

If junipers grow where your chickens graze, you should see if your birds know when to say “enough” if they eat junipers.

A few berries are all they should be eating before moving on. If you collect junipers for your flock to eat, only give them a few at a time.

Can Baby Chicks Have Juniper Berries, Too?

I’d advise against giving juniper berries to chicks at all. Their little bodies are still developing, and they are far more susceptible to the harmful compounds in juniper berries. Remember that excess consumption can lead to organ damage!

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