Most chicken owners already know that they’re precious birds can enjoy a very diet consisting of all kinds of wholesome foods. They can even eat many different fruits, though these are typically served as treats.
However, not all kinds of fruit are safe or healthy for chickens, even some of the most seemingly wholesome ones around for us!
Today, we’ll be looking at one of the most popular fruits around the world, the humble orange. Can chickens eat it safely?
Yes, chickens can safely eat oranges in very small amounts as an occasional treat. However, oranges are very sugary and highly acidic, two things that can cause them indigestion. Also, most chickens seem not to like oranges very much.
Oranges are a subject of much ado when it comes to feeding two livestock generally and chickens particularly.
Some people assert that citrus fruits are patently harmful for them and while that is not the case assuming they don’t get too many, it’s something of a moot point because I’ve rarely encountered a chicken that seems too enthusiastic about eating an orange.
At any rate, some birds are bound to like them, and they can be a nutritious and energizing treat if they will eat them. There’s a lot more you’ll need to know before you serve them, though, so keep reading.
Nutritional Profile of Oranges
Oranges have a reputation for being a healthy fruit, with a tremendous amount of vitamin C and a good complement of other vitamins and minerals. And, of course, they’re a good source of quickly accessible energy thanks to the high sugar content.
Aside from the vitamin C, oranges have a little bit of vitamin A and an assortment of B-complex vitamins, including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and folate rounded out by just a little bit of vitamin E and choline.
The mineral content is likewise pretty varied but also pretty lacking compared to other fruits and pretty much every vegetable, though it still has calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc to offer chickens.
If your birds will eat them, they have some definite health benefits…
Benefits of Oranges for Chickens
Oranges are mostly beneficial for chickens as a source of quick energy, electrolytes, and hydration owing to the water content. Definitely an advantage on hot days or when the flock is stressed for whatever reason.
However, the single best nutritional attribute of oranges, a ton of vitamin C, is wasted on chickens because they synthesize their own internally and don’t need much in their diet as a matter of course.
The rest of the vitamins and minerals are definitely beneficial, and can aid in all sorts of bodily processes from organ function to skin and feather health, circulatory health, metabolic stabilization, and a lot more.
But, oranges aren’t a great source of any vitamin, owing to the drawbacks- namely they are way too sugary, and most chickens just don’t seem that interested in eating them.
The other problem is that oranges are quite acidic as with all citrus fruits, though not nearly as acidic as lemons or limes. Too much acidic food in their diet can easily cause crop or gizzard irritation for chickens.
Can Chickens Eat Oranges Raw?
Yes, absolutely. And assuming your chickens will eat oranges, this is the very best way to serve them. Raw oranges are certainly easy for them to eat and digest, and they also have the maximum amount of nutrients that will benefit them.
Can Chickens Eat Oranges Cooked?
Yes, but there’s no reason whatsoever to go through the trouble and time of cooking them. It won’t make them any easier for chickens to eat or any more appealing, but it will deplete your already fairly limited vitamins and minerals in them.
Can Chickens Eat Canned Oranges?
No. Canned oranges are often packed in syrup, and this is nothing but a ton of added sugar. It might make the orange slices more appealing to your birds, but the downsides of the extra sugar make these a no-go.
Can Chickens Eat Navel Oranges?
Yes, chickens can eat navel oranges assuming they like them.
Can Chickens Eat Mandarin Oranges?
Yes, they can. This tiny orange variety is also safe for chickens if they will eat it.
Can Chickens Eat Valencia Oranges?
Yes. Valencia oranges are another safe variety for chickens.
Are Orange Peels Safe for Chickens?
Yes, they are, contrary to popular conception. Orange peels are not very acidic or toxic in any way for your flock, but I can promise you that it is highly unlikely any of your chickens will show the least bit of interest in them. You can peel your oranges and throw the skin away prior to serving.
Is the Pith of an Orange Safe for Chickens?
Yes. The white pith of an orange, which is just beneath the peel or skin, isn’t harmful to chickens. You need not be meticulous about removing it from any sections.
Can Chickens Eat Orange Seeds?
Yes, they can. Orange seeds won’t hurt chickens. Some might like the seeds a lot more than the flesh!
Never Feed Oranges to Chickens that Have Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
Oranges are already problematic enough for chickens when fed in excess, so you don’t need to make the situation even more complicated by giving them anything like orange marmalade or oranges prepared with any other ingredients like chocolate, syrup, sauces and so forth.
Anything that adds a ton of calories, a lot of sugar, extra salt, or any artificial ingredients is to be avoided completely in the diet of your flock.
Avoid Pesticides on Grocery-bought Oranges
Bear in mind that any oranges you purchase from the grocery store are highly likely to have been blasted with pesticides at all phases of growth.
Even though you should be removing the peel from the oranges prior to giving them to your chickens, some residues will persist in the flesh over time these can build up in their bodies with potentially serious health consequences.
If possible, grow the oranges yourself, buy them from a trusted provider who doesn’t use pesticides, or buy organic to reduce these risks when feeding oranges or any other kinds of fruit to your chickens.
How Often Can Chickens Have Oranges?
Rarely, one small serving a week assuming they will eat them. Oranges are too sweet and too acidic to be fed to your chickens more often assuming that they like them.
Preparing Oranges for Your Flock
Any oranges you are going to serve to your chickens should be peeled and cut into small segments to make them somewhat more attractive. Again, don’t expect your birds to show a lot of interest although a few might.
Discard the peel, but you don’t have to remove the seeds.
Can Baby Chicks Have Oranges, Too?
I don’t recommend it. Baby chicks have incredibly sensitive digestive systems, and if they get upset, develop crop problems, or get diarrhea that can easily spell death for the poor little thing.
Oranges are too sugary and too acidic, along with being very moist, a triple threat that is bound to cause problems for a chick.
Clean Up Orange Scraps Around the Coop and Run When They’re Done
Whether your chickens like and eat the oranges or not, make it a point to clean up the leftover scraps and segments: oranges are very sweet and fragrant, and will definitely attract attention from pests and predators that you don’t want hanging around, namely mice and rats but also a variety of insects.
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.