If you own chickens, you probably know by now that chickens can eat all kinds of fruits and other produce, though there are a few examples that are distinctly off-limits.
Surprisingly, there are many exotic or tropical fruits that are good for chickens, but not quite all. How about kumquats? Can chickens eat kumquats?
Yes, chickens may eat kumquats safely. Though many chickens seem to avoid citrus fruits, kumquats are a reasonable source of nutrition, and definitely small and soft enough for chickens to handle easily. Kumquats can give your chickens a boost of vitamins and minerals, as well as extra hydration and energy on hot days.
Certainly one of the fruits with the strangest name, at least to Western ears, kumquats are nonetheless a viable option for supplementing the diet of your chickens.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about feeding kumquats to your flock.
What is a Kumquat?
Kumquats are not particularly common in most supermarkets, and outside of specialty or health food stores you may never have encountered one.
If you’re unfamiliar, kumquats I remember of the citrus family, and closely resemble a tiny orange, averaging the size of a large olive or small rubber bouncy ball.
Usually only slightly sweet, most cultivations range anywhere from very tart to extremely sour.
Nutritional Profile of Kumquat
Kumquats are wholesome and nutritious, and though they contain ample amounts of vitamins and minerals they fall well short of the nutritional profile of related citrus fruits.
Kumquats contain a little bit of vitamin A equivalent, and a fair bit of vitamin B2 and B5. Vitamins B1, B3, B6, and folate are present in lesser amounts, along with a little bit of choline.
There’s a small amount of vitamin E present as well, but plenty of vitamin C, though chickens cannot make much use of it.
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However, concerning minerals the news is somewhat happier. Kumquats contain a well-rounded profile of calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and potassium, with slightly lesser amounts of phosphorus and zinc.
As you might expect, kumquats are mostly water by weight.
Health Benefits of Kumquat for Chickens
Kumquats offer some interesting benefits for chickens, most notably their high water content which, combined with natural sugars, can help keep your flock hydrated and energized on hot days by warding off heat stress.
The vitamin A in kumquats can also help improve feather quality and growth, while the B vitamins present can help with metabolism, energy production, and feathering.
Kumquats are also a good source of antioxidants, which can help protect your chickens from disease and illness.
The minerals in kumquats are equally helpful, particularly the calcium which can help improve bone density and eggshell quality.
Magnesium is essential for proper enzyme function, while iron helps with oxygen transport and metabolism, and potassium supports healthy muscle function.
Can Chickens Eat Kumquat Raw?
Yes, and all parts of the fruit are safe for chickens. The skin is edible, and in fact is often eaten by chickens along with the fleshy interior. Kumquats can be fed to chickens whole, or cut in half or quarters if desired.
Can Chickens Eat Kumquat Cooked?
Yes, and cooking can help to make the fruit more appealing to your birds, though it should be noted that cooking will further reduce its already lacking nutritional profile.
Never Feed Kumquat to Chickens that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
Kumquats are popularly used to make all sorts of sweet dishes and confections in various cultures, and there is no shortage of specialty store-bought products containing kumquats.
However, it is important that you do not feed your chickens any kumquat-based dish or product that has been prepared with sugar, salt, butter, oil, spices, or any other ingredient that might be harmful to them.
At best, highly caloric ingredients and dishes can lead to significant weight gain and then obesity, itself a big problem for chickens.
At worst, you could be courting such conditions as fatty liver syndrome, sour crop, salt poisoning, hypertension, and more. All of these conditions have serious consequences and may be fatal.
No matter how delicious your kumquat-based dish is, don’t feed it to your chickens if it isn’t safe for them!
Beware of Pesticide on Grocery-bought Kumquat
One more thing you’ll need to be alert to is the likely presence of pesticides on your kumquats if you buy them from the grocery store.
Pesticides can be very harmful to chickens, so it is important to wash your kumquats thoroughly with mild soap and water before feeding them to your flock.
This is especially true with kumquats compared to other citrus fruit since the kumquat is more likely to be eaten whole instead of peeled.
You may also want to consider buying organic kumquats, which are less likely to be sprayed with harmful chemicals.
Kumquats are a delicious and nutritious treat that your chickens may enjoy, but as will all store-bought produce you’ll need to be diligent in ensuring its safety.
How Often Can Chickens Have Kumquat?
Kumquats are healthy, but they are not nutritionally complete and should not be used as a primary food source for your chickens.
As with all treats, moderation is key and kumquats should only be fed to your chickens in small amounts as part of a well-rounded diet. A couple of times a week is plenty.
Your chickens should be living mostly on their chicken feed for 90% of their calorie intake, with the remaining 10% coming from treats like kumquat.
Preparing Kumquat for Your Flock
Kumquats are small, soft, and easy for chickens to eat, so you can simply give them whole to your flock.
However, you may want to consider slicing them in half or quarters first, especially if you have younger birds, as this will make them easier to eat.
You can also cook kumquat for your chickens if you wish, though this is not necessary.
Some chicken keepers find that their flock enjoys kumquats more when they are cooked, so you may want to try offering them both cooked and raw to see which they prefer.
Can Baby Chicks Have Kumquat, Too?
Yes, but you should wait for them to grow up a bit, around 6 to 8 weeks of age.
Chicks have very delicate digestive systems and are more susceptible to digestive upset, so it is best to wait until they are a bit older before introducing them to new foods.
When you do give kumquat to your chicks, start with just a small piece and see how they tolerate it before offering more.
If they seem to enjoy it and have no digestive problems, then you can feel free to treat them with kumquat infrequently.
Keep in mind: kumquats, like most citrus fruit, are intensely acidic and even in the best of times can be hard on a bird’s stomach.
Also remember that chicks have especially stringent nutritional requirements, and should be eating mostly starter feed for the beginning weeks of their life, no treats necessary!
Always Clean Up After Serving Kumquats to Your Flock
Kumquat, like most fruit, will rot quickly and can furthermore attract pests like fruit flies and ants, along with rodents.
For these reasons, it is important to clean up any uneaten kumquat after your chickens are done with their treat.
Your chickens will happily deal with any small insects, but you don’t want an infestation around the coop, and you definitely don’t need the problems brought on by rodents or other mammals that might prey on your birds.
Let your chickens get their fill and then cleanup right away to avoid issues.
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.