So, Can Chickens Eat Nightshade?

The lore surrounding what chickens can and cannot eat can be confusing from time to time. You’ll hear some keepers swear that chickens can eat this or that while others say just the opposite.

four chickens eating red bell pepper

One category of plants that I see pop up regularly in this context is nightshade. Can chickens eat nightshade?

Chickens, as a rule, cannot eat plants from the toxic nightshade family, with a few exceptions. Some common and safe vegetables fall into the nightshade classification, including ones that chickens can eat like tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes, and eggplant.

As you might expect, this is not something you can afford to get wrong unless you want to wind up with a lot of dead chickens on your hands.

Keep reading, and read carefully, to learn everything you need to know about chickens and nightshade plants.

Nightshade Plants are Deadly for Chickens

Generally speaking, plants in the nightshade family are deadly for chickens due to the present of toxins like solanine, tropane, and nicotine.

It is thought that these plants evolutionarily developed these toxins as a defense against herbivores.

Certain plants in this category have only comparatively small amounts of any given toxin which might cause simple digestive upset, diarrhea, vomiting, and the like or they might have enough of one or the other to be absolutely deadly.

Certain varieties, like belladonna, black henbane, and devil’s snare are particularly toxic and have long been responsible for deaths through ingestion by animals.

As a rule, with only the exceptions below, you never, ever want to feed your chickens any part of a plant in the nightshade family.

With Only a Few Exceptions

However, not all nightshade plans are inherently deadly, and several common, nutritious foods belong to the category.

Tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes, eggplant, and chili peppers are all nightshades, and so long as the fruits or berries of these plants, what we call the vegetables, are ripe and properly prepared they are entirely safe for humans and chickens alike.

However, just because these parts are safe to eat does not mean that all parts of the plant are, and indeed many of them retain dangerous levels of the toxin throughout their entire life cycle.

Symptoms of Solanine Poisoning

Considering the common vegetables above that people in chickens are likely to eat, or the chickens are likely to encounter in someone’s outdoor garden, the toxin solanine will be present in various parts of the plant.

If chickens are allowed to ingest solanine, the effects can quickly become fatal.

Solanine poisoning typically results in a burning sensation and pain in the mouth and trachea, nausea, intense diarrhea, and cramping.

A high dosage can result in internal bleeding and deterioration of the stomach or intestinal walls. Coma and death are likely, but people and animals that survive are likely to be paralyzed.

Solon poisoning is serious stuff, and is a grueling way to die.

If you don’t want your chickens to suffer such a fate, you’ll have to be serious about keeping them away from any plants containing solanine, and always use caution and good judgment before serving them any fruits or vegetables in the nightshade family.

Can Chickens Eat Nightshade Plants Raw?

No. Chickens may not eat any dangerous part of any plant in the nightshade family raw without a risk of severe injury or death from poisoning.

Can Chickens Eat Nightshade Plants Cooked?

No. Virtually every at home cooking method has shown to have minimal to no effect on a solanine level present in various parts of nightshade plants.

Only sustained and intense heat of above 410° Fahrenheit has shown to have any measurable and meaningful effect on solanine levels, and at any rate the remaining dosage is still likely to be harmful to people and animals.

Any part of a nightshade plant that is safe for chickens to eat will be safe raw or cooked, as cooking has no effect on the toxicity.

Can Chickens Eat Tomatoes?

Chickens may eat ripe, red tomatoes from the tomato plant, but they should not eat the calyx, vine, leaves, roots, or any other part of the plant. All contain significant solanine.

Can Chickens Eat Bell Peppers?

Chickens may eat the skin, flesh, and seeds of a bell pepper, but once again, they should not eat the calyx, stem, branches, or roots of the pepper plant.

Can Chickens Eat Chili Peppers?

Unlike bell peppers, chickens may safely eat all sorts of chili peppers, and furthermore they are not disturbed by the capsaicin present in these spicy fruits.

However, all other parts of the chili pepper plant contain solanine.

Can Chickens Eat Potatoes?

Chickens may safely eat potatoes that are not green, and are also preferably peeled. Any eat green parts of potato flesh contain significant amounts of solanine, as does the skin.

As you might expect, all other parts of the potato plant contain abundant solanine and should never be fed to chickens.

Can Chickens Eat Sweet Potatoes?

Yes, chickens may eat sweet potatoes with complete safety. Sweet potatoes are not really potatoes and not in the nightshade family.

Can Chickens Eat Eggplant?

Chickens may eat eggplant fruit except for the green parts. Every other part of the plant is highly toxic.

Baby Chicks are Especially Vulnerable to Solanine

You should be aware that baby chicks are far more vulnerable to solanine poisoning and nightshade toxicity in general than adults because they are far smaller.

Accordingly, it only takes a little bit of the poison in order to cause devastating health effects or outright death.

Therefore, you must be especially careful to protect baby chicks and keep them from getting into any nightshade plants that might be growing around your property, and use strict diligence when feeding them any safe fruits or vegetables from the nightshade family.

Even a slight lapse in proper preparation procedures could result in the death of a chick.

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