Chickens are enthusiastic and highly adaptable eaters, partaking in produce, both vegetable, and fruit, with equal enthusiasm.
In fact, they can eat so many fruits they can sometimes surprise their owners by gobbling up a completely novel offering that they ordinarily wouldn’t have access to.
Take quince for instance. Can chickens eat quince?
Yes, chickens may eat the skin and flesh of quince safely, though they should avoid the seeds because of the potential risk of cyanide poisoning. Though quince is edible, it has a paltry nutritional complement compared to many other fruits. It could make for an interesting treat for chickens, but they will not derive much nutrition from it.
Most people living in North America are completely unfamiliar with this fruit that was once beloved by royalty and is most famously known for being the original marmalade.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about giving quince to your chickens.
What is Quince?
If you have never heard of quince before, you aren’t alone. Quince is in the same family as apples and pears, explaining its similar, if lumpy and slightly misshapen appearance. It is, however, the only member of its genus within that family.
Quince fruits are a bright, sunny yellow color and are highly aromatic but unfortunately are so hard they usually cannot be eaten out of hand and tend to be extremely tart, bordering on bitter.
However, quince fruits have a long and distinguished history of being processed into various sweet confections, including jams, jellies, and marmalades.
Nutritional Profile of Quince
There’s not much good news to report concerning the nutritional profile of quince fruit. Compared to many other fruits, especially apples and pears, the lineup of vitamins and minerals is lackluster.
They contain only a little bit of the usual B vitamins and a near-trace amount of folate. Vitamin C is reasonably well represented, however.
Concerning minerals, they only have iron in any significant quantity, with calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium present in lesser amounts.
Health Benefits of Quince for Chickens
Though the nutritional value of quince is lacking for humans, chickens may nonetheless benefit from them.
B vitamins, for example, are essential for proper metabolism, and folate is important for cellular growth and repair.
The vitamin C content might also be beneficial as it is a powerful antioxidant that can help to protect cells from damage, but chickens don’t really need this vitamin from their diet; they make it themselves internally.
The iron present in quince can help to prevent anemia, and phosphorus and potassium can contribute to maintaining proper fluid balance in the body.
Magnesium is important for helping chickens to metabolize calcium properly.
Can Chickens Eat Quince Raw?
Yes, although some species are so hard and dense that chickens might struggle to eat them, even though the skin is soft.
Also, make it a point to thoroughly check the fruit prior to preparation and remove the seeds, as they can be harmful to chickens.
Can Chickens Eat Quince Seeds?
No, they shouldn’t, and most chickens will instinctively avoid them. The main potential risk associated with feeding quince to chickens is the presence of cyanogenic glycosides in the seeds.
When these seeds are ingested and processed in the stomach, they release hydrogen cyanide, which can be toxic, even in small amounts.
Though a few seeds will hardly trouble an adult human, owing to the minuscule amount of cyanide gas produced when eaten, the same cannot be said for chickens, which can be adversely and seriously affected from eating even a few.
Signs of Cyanide Poisoning in Chickens
Cyanide affects the body by preventing cells from utilizing oxygen, leading to rapid cellular death.
Cyanide poisoning is particularly insidious and can result in death or permanent injury before keepers notice anything is amiss. Death may occur in as little as 15 minutes if a sufficient dose is ingested.
Be on the lookout for labored breathing or a characteristic bluish or purplish comb and wattles in affected birds. It might be too late to save any birds affected that suddenly keel over.
Cyanide is nasty stuff, and poisoning progresses very quickly in birds, so if you think your chicken has eaten quince seeds, it’s important to seek veterinary attention at once. It is difficult, but possible, to save birds that have been affected by it.
Can Chickens Eat Quince Cooked?
Yes, and cooking it is a great way to make it more appetizing to your birds. It can soften the normally tough flesh and make it even more aromatic.
Never Feed Quince to Chickens that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
Quince is probably most notable for being prepared as sauces, jellies, jams, preserves, a fruit spread and other sweet dishes and toppings.
However, just because humans can have these delicacies does not mean that your chickens can.
You should never feed your chickens quince that has been prepared with or used as an ingredient in something they should not eat. Butter, sugar, salt, oils, and so forth are all bad for birds.
At best, they will be facing substantial weight gain and eventually obesity from high-calorie foods.
At worst, they might develop health problems like fatty liver disease, sour crop, sodium poisoning and more.
These latter conditions can be fatal or entail lifelong complications, so you don’t want to inflict them on your beloved birds.
To be on the safe side, only feed your chickens quince that has been cooked “plain.” This way you can be confident they are getting the nutritional benefits without any of the risks.
Beware of Pesticides on Grocery-bought Quince
Though you will rarely see it in most grocery stores, you should still be cautious of feeding quince to your chickens that you have purchased from a store.
Fruits and vegetables are often sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals that can be harmful to your birds if ingested.
The best way to avoid this is to grow your own quince or purchase them from a farmers market where you can ask the vendor about their spraying practices.
If you do purchase quince from the store, be sure to wash it thoroughly before feeding it to your chickens. This will help remove any residual chemicals that might be lingering on the surface.
How Often Can Chickens Have Quince?
Quince is a generally healthy snack for your chickens, but it is far, far from nutritionally complete, and is therefore categorized as a “novelty” food or treat for them.
Chickens should be getting 90% of their calories from a well-rounded chicken
Preparing Quince for Your Flock
The best way to give quince to your chickens is to remove the seeds and then offer them the flesh of the fruit, either on its own or as part of a mixed fruit treat.
You can also cook quince and mix it in with other healthy items; this may be necessary since quince is often quite hard, even for the sharp beaks of chickens.
Can Baby Chicks Have Quince, Too?
Yes, but this is generally not a good idea. Quince is extremely tough for chicks to eat, and also very astringent. Together these factors set the stage for digestive problems like crop impaction, diarrhea, and more.
Make Sure You Clean Up After Feeding Quince to Your Chickens
Though quince is rarely thought of as a sweet treat, it will nonetheless rot quickly after being cut and that can attract pests of all kinds.
Both insects and rodents will show up looking for this fragrant fruit and that can spell trouble for your flock.
To avoid this, remove any uneaten quince from the chicken coop and surrounding area as soon as possible once they are finished with it. This will help keep your chickens safe from these would-be predators.
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.