Every chicken owner probably knows by now that these birds have wide-ranging appetites, particularly concerning fruits and vegetables.
It is much easier to list the kinds that they won’t eat compared to the kinds that they will.
Nonetheless, it is worth investigating whether or not chickens can safely eat some less common produce. How about zucchini? Can chickens eat zucchini?
Yes, chickens can safely eat all parts of zucchini, including the skin and seeds. Zucchinis are hydrating and healthy, with a good amount of B vitamins, vitamin A, manganese and potassium. However, zucchinis may occasionally contain toxic cucurbitacins, so discretion is advised when feeding chickens homegrown zucchini.
These cucumber lookalikes are technically fruits, and not vegetables, but are so often lumped in the category with other summer squash that their culinary use is indistinguishable from their erstwhile relatives.
Aside from a few concerns about toxins, zucchini are a healthy and hydrating treat for your chickens. Keep reading and we will tell you everything you need to know.
Nutritional Profile of Zucchini
Cool, firm and juicy, zucchini are another iconic summer vegetable. They’re also one that has a surprisingly robust nutritional profile.
Zucchinis contain a good assortment of vitamins, everything from vitamin A equivalent and significant beta-carotene to most of the B complex vitamins, including B5 and B6.
Zucchini’s also contain folate, quite a lot of vitamin C and vitamin K to round things out.
Zucchinis also have quite a few minerals to offer, including manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium in abundance. They also have a little bit of calcium, iron and zinc.
As mentioned, zucchinis are quite juicy and this makes them highly hydrating in warm weather, being 95% water by weight.
Health Benefits of Zucchini for Chickens
Chickens generally seem to enjoy zucchini quite a lot, and they will enjoy it even more on hot, dry days when this pretend vegetable will help hydrate them.
The B complex vitamins that are abundantly found in zucchini are vital for metabolic processes, cellular health and for the utilization of other vitamins and minerals in the body.
Vitamin A and beta carotene are essential for nervous system tissues, particularly those of the eyes.
Vitamin C, zucchinis best attribute, is somewhat wasted on chickens because they make their own internally. Even so, a little bit extra never hurts!
The minerals, too, are valuable for chickens. Potassium is essential for the balancing of electrolytes, calcium is critical for strong bones and healthy egg shells, and iron is vital for the production of red blood cells and the oxygenation of blood in the body.
Can Chickens Eat Zucchini Raw?
Yes, chickens may eat zucchini raw and you’ll find it is the best way to serve it to them. Raw zucchini is generally easy for chickens to eat, and also maintains the best nutritional profile.
Can Chickens Eat Zucchini Skins?
Yes, chickens may eat zucchini skins, though most chickens seem not to prefer them.
Zucchinis as it is are usually harvested when they are technically still quite young, as their skins harden and firm up considerably as they age. For this reason, older fruits might have skins that are entirely too tough for your chickens to eat.
Can Chickens Eat Zucchini Seeds?
Yes, chickens may safely eat zucchini seeds as there is nothing in there that is harmful for them. As always, keep an eye on small or infirm birds to make sure they don’t choke on them.
Can Chickens Eat Zucchini Cooked?
They sure can. Cooked zucchini is still entirely safe for your birds, though you might find the flesh turns a little too jealous depending on how you cook it.
It is worth noting, however, that cooking significantly changes the taste of zucchini and usually for the better, so that might get picky birds to start eating it.
However, cooking also depletes the vitamins and minerals present in the zucchini meaning that it won’t be quite as healthy for your birds as it would be raw.
Never Feed Zucchini to Chickens that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
Since we are talking about cooking, now is a good time to point out that you should never, ever feed zucchini to your flock that has been prepared with other, harmful ingredients they shouldn’t eat.
Things like salt, sugar, butter, oils, and so forth might all be a part of making a zucchini taste wonderful for you or incorporating it into a more complex dish, but none of these things are good for the health of your chickens.
At best, they’ll be facing significant weight gain and digestive problems. But at worst, they could be facing life-threatening or deadly ailments like salt poisoning or fatty liver hemorrhagic syndrome.
If you’re going to give your flock cooked zucchini it should be entirely plain!
Beware of Pesticide on Grocery-bought Zucchini
Like most store-bought produce, zucchinis that are intended for consumer consumption are heavily treated by a variety of pesticides from germination all the way through harvesting.
This is supposed to keep the zucchini free of damage and other harmful infestation, but despite being washed prior to sale these residues often persist.
Therefore if you are going to purchase grocery store zucchini for your flock, you must thoroughly wash them yourself to remove all traces of these chemicals.
If you have any doubts, simply peel the zucchini entirely or purchase organic if you can afford it and find it.
Many common pesticides have a way of slowly building up in the tissues of chickens with repeated ingestion, and that means that serious health effects might sneak up on you over time.
A Word on Possible Toxins in Zucchini
One thing to keep in mind when feeding zucchini to chickens, or eating it yourself for that matter, is that they can possibly contain toxins that can cause serious stomach and intestinal upset.
These toxins are known as cucurbitacins, if you have never heard of them before now that is because they are quite rarely found in zucchinis at all.
They usually only occur when the zucchini grows in highly stressed conditions, or when they are cross-pollinated with certain other ornamental squashes.
This rarely, if ever, happens with most store-bought zucchini, but is significantly more likely to happen if you grow your own and the plants are struggling.
Luckily, it is easy to know when zucchini are contaminated in this way: an extremely bitter taste is all the indication you will need that you should spit out that bite and discard the zucchini.
If you grow your own zucchini, be sure to give them a taste test in this way prior to serving them to your birds.
How Often Can Chickens Have Zucchini?
Zucchini is wholesome and healthy, but should still only be served to your chickens once or twice a week as part of a well-rounded diet.
90% of a chicken’s calorie intake should come from their nutritionally complete chicken feed, with the remaining 10% coming from a variety of supplemental foods and treats, including zucchini.
Preparing Zucchini for Your Flock
It is a snap to prepare zucchini for your flock. Simply cut off the woody stalk end and then it split the fruit in half lengthwise.
You can chop these halves again in order to spread them out more if you need. Set them out for your birds to pack on, and they should eat up all the soft flesh in no time.
Can Baby Chicks Have Zucchini, Too?
Yes, baby chicks can have zucchini but you’ll want to wait until they are around 6 weeks old before serving it to them.
Zucchini is healthy, but young chicks have extremely delicate systems and nutritional requirements, and even something as plain as zucchini could cause them upset.
Furthermore, chicks are particularly vulnerable to crop impaction and diarrhea when eating moist food and zucchini definitely fits into that category. You’ll want to sharply limit their intake and keep an eye on them after you serve it to them.
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.