As most of their owners already know, chickens are prolific eaters of grains and seeds. One of the most nutritious seeds around, and one of the most exotic if you live in the United States, is quinoa.
Quinoa is renowned for its nutritional profile but is it safe for chickens? Can your chickens eat quinoa?
Yes, quinoa is safe and extremely healthy for chickens to eat. Cooked or raw, quinoa is easy to incorporate into a chicken’s diet and packed full of beneficial vitamins A, B complex, and C, minerals like phosphorous, magnesium and iron, and amino acids.
There you have it. Quinoa is phenomenally healthy for people and also for your chickens. Although it is a seed, quinoa is treated culinarily as a grain.
No matter what you want to call it, it is one of the most nutritious around, and well worth including in the diet of your chickens. Keep reading to learn what you need to know.
Nutritional Profile of Quinoa
Quinoa has been famed for years as an extremely nutritious “grain.” for once, the hype is well deserved, so much so that it is easier to list what nutrients quinoa doesn’t have!
Full of protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates, the only vitamins the quinoa does not have are vitamins A and C. it is abundant with all B complex vitamins including folate and vitamin e.
It gives up very little when it comes to minerals, too. Quinoa has tons of manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc, potassium, and a little bit of calcium. Notably, it contains virtually no sodium.
Perhaps most notably, quinoa contains nine essential amino acids, including lysine, tryptophan, valine, and histidine.
It is no wonder it has garnered a reputation as a genuine superfood!
Health Benefits of Quinoa for Chickens
Quinoa has many health benefits for chickens. The B complex vitamins are essential for all sorts of metabolic processes along with cellular upkeep and regeneration.
The magnesium in quinoa is responsible for promoting the absorption of calcium which is a vital for a healthy skeleton and for laying hens to produce strong, healthy eggs. Manganese is furthermore vital in skeletal health and digestive processes.
Phosphorus is vital for organ health and cellular operation. A lack of phosphorus can cause harm and a lack of proper function in the heart, liver, and kidneys.
Copper is essential for the absorption of iron, which helps red blood cells move oxygen throughout the body. Lacking either copper or iron, anemia can result.
Lastly, folate promotes the healthy growth and repair of all kinds of tissues throughout the body.
furthermore, quinoa is quite energy dense and will give your chickens a pep in their step or a boost of nutrition when there are molting, healing from an injury or just going through a growth spurt.
Can Chickens Have Red Quinoa?
Yes, chickens can have red quinoa. All varieties of quinoa, and there are many, have slightly varying amounts of vitamins and minerals, but all common cultivars are safe and nutritious for chickens.
Can Chickens Have Black Quinoa?
They sure can. Black quinoa, although not commonly encountered at most supermarkets, is nonetheless safe and nutritious for chickens, although it is notably denser and crunchier. Still, it will be no impediment for your birds.
Can Chickens Have White Quinoa?
Yes, chickens can have white quinoa, one of the most common and popular types. Again, the only distinction of significance between these quinoas is the color and slight variations in nutritional content, but all of them are excellent, safe, and healthy for your birds.
Can Chickens Eat Quinoa Raw?
Yes, chickens can eat raw quinoa seeds, though you should make it a point to rinse them first.
Raw, natural quinoa seeds are covered in a chemical compound that, while not harmful, does taste bitter and will disincentivize your chickens from eating them.
A quick rinse under running water, about half a minute, is all it takes to get rid of it.
Can Chickens Eat Quinoa Sprouted?
If you care to go through the trouble of sprouting quinoa seeds, your chickens can still eat them and will love it. Sprouted quinoa maintains much of its nutritional profile and is even easier for chickens to digest.
Can Chickens Eat Quinoa Cooked?
Yes, your chickens can eat cooked quinoa though it will lose some of its nutritional value from the cooking process.
Both vitamins and minerals are lost during cooking usually as a result of high heat. Remember to let the quinoa cool before serving it to your chickens if you want to cook it.
Never Feed Quinoa to Chickens that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
Speaking of cooking, you must never serve your chickens any quinoa that has been prepared with harmful ingredients that they should not eat.
Things like oil, salt, sugar, excess butter, and the like are all bad for chickens and can cause health problems.
If you are lucky, it will only lead to poor digestion, diarrhea, and weight gain but more serious problems may result, particularly fatty liver syndrome or salt poisoning, both deadly conditions.
How Often Can Chickens Have Quinoa?
As good as quinoa is, it is not something that they should eat all the time.
Despite being a seed, quinoa is still firmly classified as a supplemental food item and should be served periodically, maybe once or twice a week, alongside or as part of a chicken’s usual feed.
Most experts recommend that only 10% of a chicken’s total calorie intake be made up of these supplemental foods, and quinoa should be a fraction of that 10%.
Preparing Quinoa for Your Flock
However you choose to prepare quinoa for your flock, it is easy to serve it to them. You can set out a tray or bowl of cooked seeds, or scatter raw seeds around for them to scratch and peck for.
Or you could just incorporate raw quinoa seeds into their diet by mixing them up with their usual feed.
Quinoa is highly adaptable and versatile, and you can use it as a periodic treat or supplement or add it to their existing food in order to crank up the nutrition.
Can Baby Chicks Have Quinoa, Too?
Yes, chicks may have quinoa but you’ll want to wait for them to get at least 6 weeks old before serving it to them.
Chicks have strict nutritional requirements, and though quinoa is highly nutritious these babies should be living pretty much only on their early life chicken feed starting out.
But, if you want to give them a little bit of variety, quinoa works fine. So long as they are big enough that they don’t risk choking on the seeds, you may give them raw quinoa or gently cook it to make it a little bit easier for them to swallow.
However, keep an eye out for choking, which is always a danger for chicks, and also watch out for signs of a crop impaction, particularly if you are giving them cooked quinoa.
Quinoa is one of these safer supplemental foods for chicks but as always they should be eating primarily their chicken feed.
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.