Kale. Love it or hate it, there is no doubt you have heard of it by now. This cabbage cultivar is famed for its excellent nutritional payload, but reviled by some because of its tough, bitter and chewy texture.
Whether you like it or you don’t, what we need to know is whether or not our chickens can eat it.
Can chickens have kale?
Yes, chickens can have kale and generally like it. It is also an excellent nutritional supplement for chickens, packed with vitamins and minerals and a high water content to keep chickens hydrated.
You might make kale a regular feature on your own menu or you might not, but whatever the case there are plenty of good reasons for feeding this tough stuff to your birds.
We will tell you everything you need to know in the rest of this article.
Nutritional Profile of Kale
It is difficult to overstate just how nutritious kale is.
One of the very best and most commonly available sources of many vitamins and several minerals, this stuff has earned its status as a “superfood” despite the hype and despite its reputation among health food enthusiasts.
Kale is absolutely loaded with vitamins, including a colossal amount of vitamin K, A tremendous amount of vitamin C and B vitamins in abundance.
And also contains plenty of folate and vitamin A equivalent.
It has plenty of nutritional minerals, too, including manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, iron, zinc and potassium. It even contains trace amounts of selenium.
Among vegetables and especially among leafy vegetables it also contains quite a bit of protein, plenty of fiber and enough sugars to provide meaningful energy.
It is no exaggeration to state that kale is a true nutritional powerhouse among vegetables and something that you, as well as your chickens, should be eating.
Health Benefits of Kale for Chickens
Kale is of tremendous benefit to chickens, and they will thrive when you feed it to them. Vitamin K is important for chickens because it helps with blood clotting and bone metabolism.
Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that helps boost the immune system, while the B vitamins are essential for energy production, cell growth and metabolism.
Folate is important for pregnant chickens, as it helps to prevent birth defects. Vitamin A is essential for vision and healthy skin and feathers.
The minerals in kale are also highly nutritious, and vital for strong, healthy bodies in your birds. Manganese is involved in the metabolism of energy and the production of enzymes.
It is also necessary for healthy bones, feathers, and blood clotting. Magnesium helps with calcium absorption and plays a role in energy metabolism.
Phosphorus helps with bone growth, kidney function, and the production of enzymes. Calcium is important for strong bones while iron is necessary for the production of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood.
Zinc is further involved in growth and metabolism, while potassium helps with muscle function and electrolyte balance.
Selenium is a vital mineral (one not easy to get in veggies!) that is involved in the metabolism, as well as being an antioxidant.
Whew! As you can see, kale is a supremely healthy supplement to your flock’s diet, and one you’d be well-advised to implement immediately!
Can Chickens Eat Kale Raw?
Yes, chickens can eat kale raw and this is the very best way to serve it to them.
Even though cooking kale might make it more appetizing for you, it’ll be depriving your chickens of some of the vital nutrients it contains.
High heat to say nothing of actual cooking can destroy significant amounts of vitamins and reduce mineral levels.
Make no mistake, kale is still extremely healthy even after it has been cooked but if you want the best nutritional bang for the buck, serve it raw.
Can Chickens Eat Kale Cooked?
Yes, your chickens can eat kale cooked with no ill effects.
Although your chickens should not have any difficulty tearing through raw kale, if you have a sick bird, small birds or old and infirm members in your flock cooking it might make it a little easier for them to consume.
Never Feed Kale to Chickens that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
It should be noted that if you are planning on cooking the kale before serving it to your chickens or if you are going to give them leftover kale that you have prepared you must not give them any that has been prepared with other ingredients that might harm them.
This includes salt, sugar, oils, butter, salad dressings and things of that nature.
At best, these ingredients will only result in digestive issues and weight gain, but at worse they could actually lead to significant health problems particularly with your chickens crops or kidneys.
Beware of Pesticide on Grocery-bought Kale
Another thing owners should be aware of regarding kale, particularly grocery store bought kale, is the likely presence of pesticide or other chemical residues.
Pretty much everything you buy in the produce section at the grocery store has been heavily treated with some form of pesticide in order to protect it until it reaches market.
Though this produce is supposed to be thoroughly washed prior to making it to the shelf, it doesn’t mean they are completely free of pesticides.
You must take it upon yourself to thoroughly wash your kale that you buy from the grocery store prior to serving it to your birds, as many of these chemicals can prove to be quite harmful over time.
If at all possible, purchase organic kale or grow your own so that you know exactly what your flock will, or rather will not, be ingesting.
How Often Can Chickens Have Kale?
Kale is pretty much the Holy Grail of vegetables when it comes to nutrition, that much is true, but does that mean you can give it to your chickens all the time? Surprisingly, no it does not.
Your chickens need a well-rounded diet, but the pillar of that diet must be a nutritionally complete chicken feed that has everything they need to thrive.
90% of their calories should come from their chicken feed, and the remaining 10% should be made up of wholesome, healthy supplements, snacks and treats, including kale.
Accordingly, you should give your chickens kale a couple times a week as part of a balanced diet.
Preparing Kale for Your Flock
There’s not much to do to prepare kale for giving to your chickens.
As stated above, you are advised to leave it raw and any chicken should be able to make short work of these tough leaves, tearing off little bites and swallowing them.
You can stuff a stalk of kale into the fencing around their enclosure, hang it from overhead or just leave it on the ground for them to peck at.
Ultimately, you can roughly chop up a bunch of kale leaves and leave them on trays, in bowls or scatter them around.
Can Baby Chicks Have Kale, Too?
Yes, chicks may also have kale, and it is quite good for them but you must take some precautions owing to their smaller stature and underdeveloped systems compared to adult chickens.
You’re advised to wait until chicks are at least 6 weeks old before feeding them kale and we recommend chopping it up into small pieces they can tear even smaller bites off of.
Chicks are vulnerable to choking and to crop impaction, so keep an eye on.
And, just like adults, chicks should be subsisting primarily on chicken feed, specifically early-life chicken feed just for them.
You can get them kale and other healthy produce as a treat or occasional supplement, but don’t overdo it.
Clean Up Leftover Kale After your Chickens are Done With It
Your chickens will be quite eager to gobble up the kale when you give it to them, but invariably there is usually some left over, or else some ravaged stalks that are too hard for them to eat.
Make sure you clean up after them when they are finished.
The reason why is that, even though it is natural, kale that begins to rot or otherwise spoil can make your chickens sick if they come back around to nibble on it after it takes place.
Furthermore, rotting vegetation or other food is likely to attract pests, insects along with metals, and you don’t want either hurting your chickens or setting up shop in the coop.
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.