Chickens can eat all sorts of foods, including many plants, vegetables, and fruits. Though chickens can eat many of the same vegetables that people can, there are a few surprises that owners will need to be aware of.
How about something like beans? Can chickens safely eat beans?
Chickens can only safely eat beans that have been thoroughly cooked. Raw or uncooked beans contain dangerous amounts of lectins which can easily cause severe illness or death in chickens. Properly cooked, beans can be a nutritious supplement to your chickens’ diet.
This is one of those things you really cannot afford to get wrong. Even a couple of raw beans, particularly red kidney beans, could prove fatal to chickens.
But, so long as you are cautious and thoroughly cook the beans in question they won’t have any issues. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about feeding beans to chickens.
Health Benefits of Beans for Chickens
Assuming they are properly and safely prepared, beans have some pretty great nutritional benefits for chickens. Beans contain a lot of protein as well as essential vitamins and minerals.
Considering black beans, they contain lots of B vitamins and folate along with vitamins E and K.
The mineral profile of most beans is similarly strong, with black beans containing ample amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, and zinc.
Eating beans as part of a well-rounded diet can help chickens maintain a healthy weight, produce strong eggshells and even improve the quality of their feathers.
All in all, they are a good source of nutrition and a worthwhile inclusion in the diet of your birds.
Can Chickens Eat Beans Raw?
No! Chickens must never eat raw or undercooked beans of any kind. Raw beans contain a harmful compound called lectin (specifically phytohaemagglutinin) that can cause severe digestive distress and even death in chickens.
Raw Beans Contain Dangerous Quantities of Lectins
Lectins are found in the seeds of plants as a defense mechanism against being eaten by animals.
When an animal tries to eat lectin-containing seeds, the lectins bind to carbohydrates in the gut wall and start poking holes in it.
This can cause a number of issues, including severe dehydration, diarrhea, and even death.
In short, you should never feed raw beans to your chickens. If you have any raw beans in your home or growing on your property, make sure to keep them well out of reach of your birds.
Beans Must be Cooked Before Serving to Chickens!
The only way to make beans safe for chickens to eat is to cook them first. This denatures the lectins and makes them safe for chickens (and humans) to consume.
You can cook beans in a number of ways, but boiling is generally the best method. This helps to ensure that the beans are cooked evenly and thoroughly.
You’ll need to soak the beans for at least 30 minutes and then boil the beans for at least 20 minutes in fresh water to be sure that they are properly cooked.
Note that other methods like roasting or slow-cooking have been shown to leave at least some of the lectins intact, meaning they will be just as harmful even though the bean itself is made more palatable.
You really cannot take a chance when it comes to the preparation of beans!
Never Feed Beans to Chickens that Have Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
On the subject of cooking, it is worth mentioning that you should never feed your chickens beans that have been prepared with any harmful ingredients. This includes garlic, onion, and anything else that might be toxic to chickens.
Though these added ingredients help make beans delicious, they also make them harmful for birds.
Things like oils, salt, sugar, butter, artificial seasoning, and the like are all bad for your chickens. At best, they could result in an upset stomach or weight gain.
But at worst, they could bring on potentially fatal conditions like fatty liver syndrome, salt poisoning, hypertension, and more.
Many beans already contain a relatively high amount of sodium, so added salt in particular is a bad move.
So, to recap, never feed raw beans or undercooked beans to your chickens, and don’t doctor your cooked beans with any added spices or seasonings.
How Often Can Chickens Have Beans?
Assuming the beans are thoroughly cooked and free of any harmful ingredients, you can feed them to your chickens once or twice a week in small servings.
Just remember that, like any other food (aside from their chicken feed), beans should only make up a small part of your chickens’ diet.
As nutritious as beans are they are not nutritionally complete and should not be the only food you give your chickens.
A diet that consists primarily of beans or any other single food for that matter will not provide your birds with the nutrients they need to stay healthy and thrive for very long.
Preparing Beans for Your Flock
Assuming you have properly cooked the beans first, you can then mash them up or cut them into small pieces before feeding them to your chickens.
Some people also like to add dry feed or other food to the beans to make a nice treat for their flock.
Alternatively, just put the beans out in bowls or trays for your chickens to eat, or even scatter a couple of handfuls in their enclosure so they can track them down.
Can Baby Chicks Have Beans, Too?
Baby chickens can have beans, but with a couple of caveats once they are at least 8 weeks old.
You need to make sure the beans are thoroughly cooked and free of any harmful ingredients as mentioned above. You should also only give them a very small amount at first to see how they react to them.
Also, keep in mind that chicks are terribly vulnerable to the lectins in beans. If they were to eat even a small amount of raw or undercooked beans the consequences could be disastrous.
For that reason, you must be fanatical about proper preparation if you plan on serving them to your chicks. You are totally justified if you want to withhold them entirely!
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.