If you have been following this series for any length of time, you know already that chickens can eat cucumbers.
It naturally follows this you might wonder if chickens can have pickles, which are basically preserved cucumbers. It’s a logical question. But can chickens safely eat pickles?
Probably not. Pickles are bad for chickens due to their high salt and preservative content. Excess salt consumption can actually result in poisoning which can have long-term health consequences or even be fatal for chickens. Small bites are unlikely to cause harm, but you shouldn’t willfully give pickles to your chickens.
Unfortunately, many chicken owners have a laissez-faire attitude towards salt consumption in their chickens, especially when it comes to giving them scraps or treats.
This can result in serious harm, up to death, and is very likely to result in egg defects in laying hens. Keep reading to get the full story.
Pickles Have Several Ingredients that Chickens Shouldn’t Eat
No pickles are often thought of as a natural, salty snack, being mostly cucumbers with some seasonings in a vinegar or souring mixture, this does not change the fact that they are very bad for chickens.
Chickens, especially young chicks, are extremely sensitive to salt, and salt toxicity or salt poisoning is a genuine condition that can result from excess salt in a chicken’s diet.
Though this usually takes place over time, it can occur in short order if you give your chicken extremely salty food. Salty food like pickles, for instance…
Aside from the salt, pickles often contain added sugar and, of course, the preservatives themselves which are also bad for chickens.
At the very best, you are likely to wind up with some digestive upset that will lead to diarrhea and bladder incontinence, but you might be setting your chickens up for something far worse.
Can Chickens Eat Pickles Raw?
Chickens can, in the strictest sense, eat pickles raw as they are, and a single bite or two is unlikely to cause any serious harm if it causes harm at all.
But a chicken that is allowed to fill up on pickles could become gravely sick or even die. Again, you should not give pickles to your chickens.
Can Chickens Eat Pickles Cooked?
Cooking does nothing to improve the nutritional profile of pickles for your chickens.
It might, maybe, result in a net loss of salt but this is unlikely because the brine completely suffuses the flesh and rind of the cucumber, turning it into a pickle.
Don’t give your chickens cooked pickles thinking it will make it safer or better for them.
Excess Salt Intake Can Cause Severe Health Problems in Chickens
How serious is salt poisoning for chickens?
Extremely serious, and something as simple as a slight malfunction at a chicken feed factory can result in too much salt going into chicken feed that subsequently causes massive harm to entire flocks.
What do you think will happen if you give one of the saltiest side items around to your chickens?
Like most toxic effects, things get progressively worse the more the toxin is ingested.
Things don’t start out too bad, with lethargy, general depression, and diarrhea or incontinence taking place.
This is usually immediately noticeable by a change in behavior or noticeably wet litter or ground covering in and around the coop when chickens are at rest.
But things get worse from there. As salt concentration builds up in the bloodstream, you might find chickens and chicks in particular lying on their back “bicycling” their legs.
This sort of looks like they are running in place, but upside down. It sounds funny, but it is essentially a seizure that is gripping your chicken. Not funny at all.
Beyond this, your chicken can fall into a coma or suffer from outright cardiac arrest or other organ failure. That’s it, game over for the poor bird.
However, even if your chicken does not die from salt poisoning other serious health effects can occur, especially for laying hens.
Excess salt degrades the quality of eggshells precipitously, meaning eggs will come out deformed, extremely fragile, or might even be laid without a shell at all.
That’s terrible, and all of the above will further stress an already stressed bird.
Salt poisoning is serious, and you are responsible for monitoring the diet of your birds and strictly limiting their salt intake according to vet-prescribed standards.
Giving your flock pickles is doing the exact opposite of that.
How Often Can Chickens Have Pickles?
Chickens should never, ever have pickles if you want to know the truth about it.
But if you are bound and determined to let your chickens try a pickle, you should feed them only a single bite each no more than once a month.
In no way do pickles fit into a healthy nutritional plan for your birds.
Can Baby Chicks Have Pickles?
Chicks should never have pickles, as alluded to thoroughly above. In fact, giving pickles to chicks is tantamount to murder because they are far more sensitive to salt intake than adult birds.
Even a few bites of a pickle could be enough to send a chick into shock, and you’ll see it lying on its back kicking its legs as described in the previous section. There’s also a high probability of death.
This is going to be extremely traumatic for the bird and likely for you, so don’t do it.
If you Must Give Pickles to your Chickens, Make Sure You Provide Plenty of Fresh Water
The only thing worse than excess salt intake for chickens is excess salt intake without a source of fresh water to drink from.
Just like people, chickens get thirsty when they start getting more salt in their system.
This is because salt begins to upset blood volume levels, cellular function, and all sorts of other things in the body.
If you are determined to give your chickens pickles, or just a bite of a pickle, against the advice of this article you must provide a source of fresh water for them to drink from.
Make sure their water is clean and fresh and nearby because they are going to need it.
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.