If there is one vegetable that is a love it or leave it proposition for most people, it has to be squash, of all kinds.
They are either beloved seasonal vegetables suitable for all kinds of dishes or disgustingly slimy, depending on who you ask.
But however you might feel about them, we need to know if our chickens feel the same way. So, can chickens eat squash?
Yes, chickens can eat all kinds of squash, including pumpkins, acorn squash, zucchini, and others. The tough skin of squash will make it difficult for chickens to access the soft flesh and seeds within, but assuming you can prepare it for their chickens will benefit from the ample nutrient profile, including B vitamins, folate, vitamin k, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and potassium.
It turns out squash isn’t just a seasonal decoration after all, and it might be a valuable source of nutrition and an interesting treat for your chickens.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about serving squash to your flock.
Nutritional Profile of Squash
The nutritional profile of squash varies somewhat depending on the exact cultivar, but the following represents a baseline average.
|Total lipid (fat)||0.32 g|
|Carbohydrate, by difference||3.11 g|
|Fiber, total dietary||1 g|
|Sugars, total including NLEA||2.5 g|
|Calcium, Ca||16 mg|
|Iron, Fe||0.37 mg|
|Magnesium, Mg||18 mg|
|Phosphorus, P||38 mg|
|Potassium, K||261 mg|
|Sodium, Na||8 mg|
|Zinc, Zn||0.32 mg|
|Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid||17.9 mg|
|Vitamin B-6||0.163 mg|
|Folate, total||24 µg|
|Vitamin A, IU||200 IU|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)||0.12 mg|
|Vitamin K (phylloquinone)||4.3 µg|
All squashes are surprisingly rich and vitamins and minerals, and typically contain ample B vitamins, particularly vitamins B2 and B6, along with a good amount of folate, vitamin K, vitamin B3, B5, and a little bit of vitamin A, and beta carotene.
Their mineral profile is similarly good, with plenty of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, and zinc.
Squashes are a decent source of carbohydrates for quick energy and are mostly water, over 95% on average by weight.
Health Benefits of Squash for Chickens
The health benefits of squash for chickens are many and varied.
As mentioned, squashes are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, particularly B vitamins which are essential for proper metabolism, energy production, and nerve function.
Vitamin K is important for blood clotting and bone health, while folate is critical for cell growth and development.
The high magnesium content of squash can support proper muscle function while the potassium can help regulate electrolyte levels and fluid balance.
Phosphorous is vital for cell growth and repair, and iron is essential for the production of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood. Zinc is also important for a strong immune system.
Finally, the high water content of squash can help keep chickens hydrated, especially in hot weather.
Also, the seeds of squash contain cucurbitin, a compound with insecticidal properties that may help keep parasites like mites and lice at bay.
Can Chickens Eat Squash Raw?
Yes, and this is the preferred way to serve it to them. However, only the most hardcore chickens will have a chance of breaking through the thick, tough outer rind of a squash to get at the edible flesh within, so make it a point to prepare it for them.
Can Chickens Eat Pumpkins?
Yes, and most chickens seem to love all parts of a pumpkin except the stringy, slimy “guts”.
Can Chickens Eat Acorn Squash?
Yes, they can. Just like with pumpkins, they’ll probably enjoy all parts of the acorn squash except the slimy internals. The seeds in particular are good for chickens.
Can Chickens Eat Zucchini?
Yep. Most chickens seem to love zucchini, especially the flowers. Unlike most other squashes, chickens who take a liking to zucchini may be able to piece the skin and take bites of it even when whole.
Can Chickens Eat Straightneck Squash?
They sure can. As with all other squashes, the skin and seeds are the most nutritious parts, so make sure your chickens have access to them.
Can Chickens Eat Crookneck Squash?
Yes. Chickens seem to enjoy all varieties of squash, and crookneck squash is no exception.
Can Chickens Eat Squash Seeds?
Yes. Squash seeds are healthy and most chickens seem to love them. Though with larger cultivars like pumpkin the big seeds might pose a choking hazard, so keep an eye on your birds.
Remember that chickens don’t chew their food. They simply swallow it whole to be ground down in the gizzard, so anything you give them should be small enough to fit through their esophagus.
Can Chickens Eat Squash Cooked?
Yes, they can and will. There are many tasty, simple ways to cook squash to make it more appealing to your chickens. Keep in mind that cooking will reduce the nutrient content somewhat.
Never Feed Squash to Chickens that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
On the topic of cooking squash, it’s important to note that you should never feed your chickens squash that has been prepared with harmful ingredients like garlic, onions, salt, sugar butter, or other ingredients that can be harmful to them.
All those things are fine for people, and as yummy as they might make squash they are not going to do your feathered friends any favors.
Aside from weight gain (from sugar or butter) the other, common ingredients might result in serious health complications like sour crops, fatty liver syndrome, sodium poisoning, and more. Any of those conditions can be fatal.
If you cook squash for your chickens, never add anything to it they shouldn’t eat.
Beware of Pesticides on Grocery-bought Squash
If you buy squash from the grocery store, beware that it may have been treated with pesticides.
These can be harmful to your chickens, so it’s best to either buy organic squash (if you can find it) or wash conventionally-grown squash thoroughly before giving it to your flock.
Pesticides are supposed to be safe for people and animals, but studies have shown time and time again that they have a tendency to build up in tissues and eventually lead to serious health problems.
Cancer, nervous system disorders, and organ damage are among the worst outcomes.
The good news is that most squashes will be prepared without their skins for eating, and they generally don’t absorb as much pesticides as other, more porous produce.
How Often Can Chickens Have Squash?
Squash is a healthy option for chickens, and one they will enjoy eating, but it is still a supplemental food item or treats. This means it shouldn’t make up the bulk of their diet.
Most of a chicken’s calories, around 90%, should come from their chicken feed, which has all the nutrients they need. The other 10% can come from treats and wholesome additions like squash.
This means that if you have a flock of six chickens, you should only be feeding them the equivalent of about half a squash per day. If you have more than six chickens, you can increase the amount accordingly.
Preparing Squash for Your Flock
Chickens can eat squash raw, but you’ll need to split the skin or smash it open for them to eat the tender flesh inside. Cooked squash may be more appealing to them, however.
One simple way to cook squash for chickens is to cut it into small pieces and gently bake it until it softens up a bit, seeds and all. Serve as is in a bowl or tray.
Alternately you can roast as described and then mash the flesh before mixing in some other things they enjoy as a sort of casserole or squash salad.
Can Baby Chicks Have Squash, Too?
Yes, but you won’t want to let them try to swallow the seeds. Also let chicks get a little older, around 6 weeks, before feeding them squash for the first time, and then only some tiny but firm bites.
Chicks are always vulnerable to choking, crop impaction, and general digestive problems, so you’ll want to take it slow and easy when first introducing any new food items.
Make Sure You Clean Up After Serving Squash to Your Chickens
After letting your birds dig in on some squash, of any kind, make sure you clean up the mess and leftovers when they are finished- don’t leave them lying to rot!
Squash, like any other plant material, can rot and harbor bacteria that can make your chickens sick if they come around for another bite later.
In addition, if it’s left to rot it will attract rodents and other pests looking for an easy meal. These pests might prey on your chickens or even steal eggs, and you don’t want that.
Keep your flock healthy and your coop free of vermin by promptly removing any squash scraps and seeds after feeding time.
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.