Japanese knotweed is a shockingly persistent invasive species that has spread from Asia to Europe, North America and most other parts of the world. It grows in abundance, fast and deep, and proves difficult to eradicate.
Most methods of control prove futile, but a few lucky folks are having success by letting their livestock to the knotweed down to nothing. But can chickens eat knotweed?
Yes, chickens may eat the sprouts and blooms of knotweed safely, although mature stems will prove too tough when raw. Knotweed is fairly nutritious, and for this reason can make for an acceptable supplement to a chicken’s diet while the chickens prove to be an effective control measure.
This bamboo like weed is such a problem that some countries have actually started classifying it as controlled waste, lest the pulled plants escape containment and cause an outbreak somewhere else.
Here’s hoping you never have to deal with the stuff on your property, but if you do, you can enlist your chickens in the fight to help you.
Keep reading to learn what you need to know about chickens eating Japanese knotweed.
Health Benefits of Knotweed for Chickens
Japanese knotweed is high in Vitamin C, carotene, zinc, selenium, and iron. As a result, it can help improve your chicken’s health in a number of ways.
Vitamin C helps the body to better absorb iron and helps protect cells from damage. Carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, helps keep vision sharp and skin healthy.
Zinc is essential for proper growth and development as well as a strong immune system.
Selenium, often difficult to come by in typical veggies, is an important antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage. Iron is as always vital for red blood cell production and oxygen transport throughout the body.
In addition to these vitamins and minerals, Japanese knotweed also contains a number of compounds with known health benefits.
Resveratrol is an antioxidant compound that has been shown to have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects while quercetin has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer as well.
As you can see, there are many good reasons to let your chickens munch on Japanese knotweed. Not only is it safe for them to eat, but it can actually provide some health benefits.
Can Chickens Eat Knotweed Sprouts?
Yes, chickens can safely eat Japanese knotweed sprouts. In fact, the young shoots are actually quite tasty and nutritious.
Just be sure to remove any mature stems or leaves before offering them to your chickens as these can be tough and difficult to digest.
Can Chickens Eat Knotweed Flowers?
Yes. Chickens can also safely eat Japanese knotweed flowers, though they don’t offer much nutrition.
These pretty white flowers are actually one of the ways that this plant spreads so rapidly, so allowing chickens to deal with them will slow the spread of this invader.
Can Chickens Have Knotweed Stems?
Yes, but they can be too tough to eat when raw, and highly fibrous.
Can Chickens Eat Knotweed Raw?
Yes, knotweed is safe to eat raw, and allowing your chickens to graze on what parts are soft enough to eat is one of the best ways to control the plant.
Can Chickens Eat Knotweed Cooked?
Surprisingly, yes. Cooking knotweed is a way to make it more interesting or palatable to your flock, and is pretty much the only way to make the tough stems edible.
Never Feed Knotweed to Chickens that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
But since we are talking about cooking, make sure you never give your chickens any knotweed that has been prepared with harmful ingredients.
Things like salt, sugar, butter, oil, garlic, onions and the like are all outright harmful for chickens or can cause digestive trouble and weight gain at best.
You don’t want your chickens to get fat or sick at any rate, but these harmful ingredients could lead to more serious trouble like sour crop, fatty liver syndrome, sodium poisoning or even liver or kidney damage.
If you prepare knotweed in any such way for yourself or family, you shouldn’t give any leftovers to your chickens, no matter how tasty it is.
How Often Can Chickens Have Knotweed?
Knotweed is safe and reasonably nutritious for chickens, but they shouldn’t eat it all the time. It is not nutritionally complete, and like all green things, too much of it can cause digestive upset.
A good rule of thumb is to offer knotweed a few times a week as part of a varied diet for your chickens. This will allow them to enjoy the benefits without any negative effects.
Generally, knotweed and all other supplemental foods (those besides chicken feed) should make up only about 10% of a chicken’s calorie intake in any given interval.
Of course, you don’t have to be perfectly precise, but it’s important not to overdo it either.
A little bit of knotweed is good for your chickens, you just don’t want to let them graze on it day in and day out, or set them loose on it in the hopes that they will wipe out an infestation.
Preparing Knotweed for Your Flock
The best way to let your chickens eat knotweed is simply to let them pick and nibble on it where it grows.
If you have an infestation, this can actually help to control it. But if you want to serve knotweed as part of a meal, there are a few ways to prepare it.
One is to chop up fresh greens and mix it with their food or feed it to them in small pieces. This is a good way to add some interest to their diet.
Another option is to lightly steam or roast the edible parts before mashing them up and adding it to chicken feed. Grinding and mashing will make the tough stems more palatable and easier to digest.
Can Baby Chicks Have Knotweed, Too?
Yes, baby chicks can have a little bit of knotweed but you should let them grow up a bit first.
Once they are around 6 to 8 weeks of age you can let them have some small bites of knotweed that you harvest and prepare.
You’ll want to start slowly, offering only a tiny bit at first, and giving them time to adjust to the new food. As always, any signs of trouble or indigestion, discontinue immediately!
A Word of Caution
Japanese knotweed is an invasive plant species, meaning it can crowd out native plants and disrupt local ecosystems.
If you have this plant growing on your property, it’s best to contain and remove it completely. Do not compost it or let it go to seed, as this will only spread the problem.
If you must dispose of it, the best way is to pull it and bag it up before it matures.
The roots of established plants can go down more than 10 feet, making digging it out almost impossible, and even a few inches of missed root can lead to the whole thing aggressively reestablishing itself.
If you have knotweed growing on your property, check with your local extension office or Department of Agriculture to see what regulations there are regarding its removal and disposal.
In some areas, it may be considered a controlled noxious weed and there could be monetary fines for letting it go to seed or not properly disposing of it.
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.