It is no secret that chickens love all kinds of produce, fruits and vegetables alike. One type of treat that most chickens enjoy is a juicy, perfect piece of fruit.
However, certain fruits and in particular berries can be harmful to chickens. How about strawberries? Can chickens eat strawberries?
Yes, chickens may eat strawberries, but only the flesh itself, and not the leaves or stems (they might cause significant digestive upset). The berries are healthy and hydrating, with a good nutrient profile including magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, vitamin C, E, and K.
If you want to get really scientific about it, strawberries are not berries at all, but that matters little to the people and birds that enjoy them.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about giving strawberries to your chickens.
Nutritional Profile of Strawberries
Strawberries are juicy and delicious, but they are also surprisingly healthy with a good complement of vitamins and minerals.
Strawberries are over 90% water by weight, and also contain an assortment of minerals that chickens need to be healthy, including manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, and calcium with a little bit of zinc for good measure.
The distribution of vitamins is similarly well represented, and though they are not the most vitamin-packed fruit around there is definitely a good source of nutrition for chickens.
All of the B complex vitamins are represented, including a good dose of folate, a little bit of choline, vitamin e, and vitamin k.
The standout vitamin that strawberries contain is vitamin C, which they have in abundance.
Health Benefits of Strawberries for Chickens
Strawberries are a healthy snack for chickens, containing enough carbohydrates to give them a quick boost of energy and plenty of water, which will help them stay cool and hydrated on hot days.
Concerning the nutritional profile, chickens can’t really make use of the vitamin C present in strawberries, although a little extra helps.
Chickens actually synthesize their own vitamin C internally so you won’t need to worry about supplementing their diet much with it.
The remainder of the B series vitamins is important for all kinds of metabolic processes, organ health, and the maintenance of nervous system tissues.
The minerals, particularly manganese and phosphorus, are essential for the upkeep and repair of bones, connective tissues, and more.
Iron is essential for the production and oxygenation of red blood cells. Calcium is as ever important for skeletal health and strong, solid eggshells and laying hens.
Particular importance, especially in conjunction with the water content of strawberries, is potassium which can help to manage electrolyte levels in the body.
Can Chickens Eat Strawberries Raw?
Yes, chickens may eat strawberries raw, and this is the preferred way to serve them. Raw strawberries are juicy, providing chickens with hydration, and also maintaining the entirety of their nutritional profile.
Can Chickens Eat Strawberry Leaves?
There is some argument as to whether or not chickens should eat strawberry leaves.
Some anecdotal evidence asserts that the antibacterial properties of certain compounds found in the leaves are beneficial for the health of chickens, but other opinions state that these leaves can cause significant digestive upset and diarrhea in chickens.
The jury, ultimately, still seems to be out and accordingly we recommend that you do not feed your chickens the leaves off of strawberries.
Can Chickens Eat Strawberry Stems?
Similar to the leaves of the strawberry above, the stems of the plant contain the same compounds that either help or hurt chickens depending on who you are listening to.
Although not genuinely toxic, there nonetheless might be the possibility of serious gastrointestinal distress in chickens.
Can Chickens Eat Strawberries Cooked?
Yes, chickens may eat cooked strawberries with no ill effects, though it must be pointed out that cooking strawberries degrade the vitamin and mineral profile somewhat.
High heat can destroy certain vitamins and minerals are also lost during the cooking process.
You won’t be hurting your birds by giving them cooked strawberries, but you also won’t be maximizing their nutrition taken from them either.
Never Feed Strawberries to Chickens that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
Since we are talking about cooking, it is imperative that you avoid giving strawberries to chickens that have been prepared with any other ingredients that could be harmful to their health.
This is particularly likely when considering jellies, jams, preserves, and things of that nature that are usually made with tons of extra salt, sugar, preservatives, butter, oils, and so forth.
Strawberries can make for some truly delicious desserts, but you don’t need to share those desserts with your precious birds if you want them to prosper.
Just because those desserts contain strawberries doesn’t mean they are healthy all of a sudden!
If your birds are allowed to eat foods like that freely, they will gain weight and start suffering from the problems related to obesity.
Even worse, they might come down with a truly horrible condition like salt poisoning or fatty liver syndrome.
Beware of Pesticide on Grocery-bought Strawberries
One of the best ways to provide strawberries for your chickens is to grow your own. That way you’ll know exactly where they came from and exactly what was used to grow them.
But if you buy strawberries from the grocery store for the purpose of giving to your chickens, you must be aware that they have been grown since inception with heavy applications of pesticide sprays.
Some fruits and strawberries are one of the very worst, tend to hold on to these pesticide residues even after washing them prior to delivery.
Many commonly used pesticides can prove to be quite harmful to chickens if they are allowed to build up in their tissues over time.
Therefore, you must thoroughly wash any strawberries you get and preferably soak them before giving them to your birds.
Even so, in the case of strawberries, the ingestion of harmful pesticides might be unavoidable unless you choose to buy organic.
How Often Can Chickens Have Strawberries?
Strawberries are a healthy and hydrating snack for chickens, but that doesn’t mean they can have them whenever they want them.
Your chickens should only have strawberries once or twice a week as part of a well-rounded diet.
Specifically, 90% of a chicken’s calorie intake should come from chicken feed, with the remaining 10% being made up of healthy supplemental foods like produce, meats and so forth. Strawberries should be a part of that 10%, but not the only part!
Preparing Strawberries for Your Flock
You’ll find it easy to prepare strawberries for giving to your chickens. Simply pluck them off the stem, if present, remove the leaves, and then hand them over.
Your birds’ sharp beaks will make short work of the soft flesh of the strawberries.
However, depending on the attitude of your birds and the size of your flock you might make your life a little bit easier by slicing or chopping the strawberries and setting the pieces out in several bowls or trays so that every bird has a chance to get at them without squabbling.
Can Baby Chicks Have Strawberries, Too?
Yes, chicks may have strawberries but you’ll want to let them reach about 6 weeks of age before giving them to them for the first time.
The digestive tract of chicks is quite sensitive to foods that adult chickens don’t have any problem with, and that includes moist, sugary foods in particular.
Once your chicks are old enough to try strawberries, give them some small slices that they can take tiny bites out of.
Clean Up After Your Flock Has Finished with the Strawberries
Just a reminder, make sure you clean up after your chickens when they are finished with the strawberries. Strawberries decompose quickly, and their fragrant aroma will quickly attract pests, insects, and rodents alike.
That can cause significant problems for your birds and for you, so clean up the mess when they are done.
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.