If you own chickens, you know by now that these birds are adventurous eaters. They will scarf up just about anything, from fruits and veggies to worms and bugs.
Nothing is off the table for these robust yard birds! How about something like honey? Is that something your chickens can have, and is it good for them?
Yes, chickens can eat honey, and it is surprisingly beneficial for them. Honey is naturally sweet and provides many health benefits for chickens aside from being a delicious treat for them. Your chickens will certainly enjoy eating honey, but you’ll want to limit their intake since it is so calorie-dense.
Honey is perhaps one of the most surprising health foods for your chickens.
This golden sweet stuff has lots of benefits for your birds, but you’ll need to give it to them sparingly since it is so calorific and has the potential to make a severely sticky mess.
We’ll tell you what you need to know in the rest of this article.
Nutritional Profile of Honey
Honey is a natural sweetener that is derived from the nectar of flowers. It has a unique flavor and contains a variety of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Additionally, honey is an abundant source of energy and has been shown to have considerable antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
When it comes to the nutritional content of honey, it is important to note that it is high in calories and sugar, though the form of sugar found in honey is far better, health-wise, than other forms.
Honey also contains trace amounts of other nutrients, including vitamin C, iron, and calcium.
Health Benefits of Honey for Chickens
While honey is not a typically nutrient-rich food, it does provide significant health benefits to chickens. Honey is first and foremost an excellent source of energy for chickens.
The natural sugars found in honey are quickly converted into ATP, which is the main form of energy used by cells. This makes honey a great addition to chicken feed, particularly for laying hens.
It can also improve digestive health in chickens. The probiotics found in honey can help to increase the number of good bacteria in the gut, which aids in digestion and prevents gastrointestinal issues.
Additionally, honey has been shown to have antimicrobial properties, which can help protect against harmful bacteria that can cause infections.
Honey has also been shown in multiple studies to help alleviate heat stress in chickens.
When given to chickens prior to and during periods of heat stress, honey has been shown to improve their heat tolerance and help reduce the incidence of heat-related mortality.
Honey is also one of the best ways to induce healthy weight gain in underweight chickens compared to a “dirty” diet of less healthful high-calorie foods.
Can Chickens Eat Raw Honey?
Yes, chickens can eat raw honey of any grade with no ill-effects. However, you’ll want to use raw honey sparingly since it is so calorie-dense. A little bit goes a long way!
Can Chickens Eat Processed Honey?
Chickens may nominally eat processed honey, but you’ll want to be cautious that it is only processed naturally with no additives that might be harmful to your birds.
Spun, crystallized, or whipped are fine, just stay away from preservatives and other stabilizers.
Can Chickens Eat Honeycomb?
Your birds probably won’t eat the honeycomb, but the comb itself will not harm them.
Larger birds might enjoy pecking the sweet stuff out of a chunk of comb, and this can help you to reduce mess, too. See the section on preparation.
Can Chickens Eat Things Made with Honey?
Generally no, they cannot. Baked goods, pastries, toppings, and the like that use honey as an ingredient often have other ingredients that are not safe for chickens.
Stick with giving your flock honey as-is, or adding the honey to things that you know they can have.
How Often Should You Feed Honey to Chickens?
Honey is definitely good for your flock’s health and mood, but you cannot give it to them all the time.
When used in moderation, honey can help to improve the health of your chickens and make them happier, but too much honey can lead to weight gain and digestive upset.
A good meal plan for your chickens is to give them supplemental foods comprising no more than 10% of their total calorie intake.
This means that 90% of their total food should be nutritionally complete chicken feed. You can give your birds honey a couple of times a week while adhering to this plan.
Honey Gets Messy Quickly!
You should have already anticipated this: where there is honey, there will be a sticky mess.
When feeding your flock honey, it is best to do so in a way that minimizes the amount of honey that gets wasted and the mess that gets made.
But no matter how you try to do it, some honey is going to end up on your birds- on their beaks, on their feet, on their feathers. Be prepared for this, and also be prepared for their own cleaning efforts.
They will swipe their beaks on the ground and on objects to clean them, and will likely try to take a dust bath if things got really out of control.
You can, however, prevent the worst of this by giving your flock honey in a few tested methods to cut down on mess. See the next section.
Preparing Honey for Serving to your Flock
You generally don’t want to serve honey to your chickens in a bowl or in a little puddle; that way lays sticky disaster! But there are three ideal ways to give honey to your birds in a way they’ll enjoy while cutting down on the mess.
The first way is to mix it in their water. This is good for two reasons:
- Firstly, it allows them to get a good dose of honey without making too much of a mess.
- Secondly, it encourages them to drink more water, which is important for keeping your chickens healthy. To do this, simply mix 1 part honey with 9 parts water before stirring until it is completely dissolved.
The next way is to hang up a chunk of honeycomb dripping with honey and let them peck at it.
This helps keep them from getting it on their feet and feathers and also allows them a little activity to get at it.
Lastly, consider mixing honey into other food that they can have, even their chicken feed. A dry substrate that allows the honey to clump together will prevent a sticky disaster and won’t affect the benefits of the honey at all.
Can Baby Chicks Have Honey?
Baby chicks can have honey, but use discretion. Too much honey can give them diarrhea, which can quickly lead to dehydration in young chicks.
Wait until they are at least 6 weeks old, start with a very small amount and increase slightly as they grow. Chicks should live almost entirely on early life feed when they are that young.
Always Clean Up After Serving Your Chickens Honey
The biggest downside to serving your chickens honey is the mess it will make. But there are ways to cut down on the mess, and it is always important to clean up any sticky residue after they have finished their treat.
Honey attracts bugs and other pests like nothing else, so it is important to make sure that you remove any honey that your chickens have not eaten.
This includes wiping down any areas where they have been pecking at honeycomb, as well as sweeping or vacuuming up any errant bits of honeycomb or honey that have been dropped on the ground.
And be sure your chickens are adequately clean and their feathers are in good shape after this delicious snack.
You might need to give a few baths after it is over! Even so, it is a small price to pay in order to make sure they get all the benefits of honey.
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.