Can chickens eat peppers? Bell Peppers and all types

Can chickens eat peppers

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Whether chickens eat peppers or not all depends on the type of pepper you are talking about. There are so many different types of pepper available to eat. At least 25 can be found in your local store or farm shop. Not all of them are tasty and sweet. Many are hot and not suitable for your chickens to eat.

Let’s run through the main kinds of peppers you may want to offer your chickens.

can chickens eat peppers

Can chickens eat bell peppers?

If you enjoy keeping a kitchen garden alongside your hens you may find yourself overrun with these tasty fruits which are great in salads and stir-fry. Ripe red peppers and their seeds can be a nutritious and wholesome snack for your birds. 

Are the stems and stalks safe for chickens?

Not all owners will feed their chickens bell peppers but the only caution you need to have is with the leaves, stalks, and stems of the bell pepper plant. This is because bell peppers are part of the nightshade family of plants that contain the glycoalkaloid poison solanine.

Solanine is deadly to chickens who can quickly sicken and even die from ingesting the leaves and stems of bell pepper plants. Underripe green pepper may also harbor this toxin which is unaffected by cooking.

It is therefore best to feed them only very ripe red peppers and keep them away from any pepper plants you have. Similar cautions apply to tomatoes and potatoes for this reason.

Can chickens eat chilli peppers?

Chickens lack the ability to taste capsaicin, the substance in chilies that give them that stinging heat. This means that you have a free pass to include them in feeds. However, some chili plants and leaves also contain solanine so the same cautions apply as with bell peppers.

Can hens eat black pepper?

If you are worried about feeding the chicken’s spicy scraps, you will be pleased to know that spices like black pepper and ginger for chickens are perfectly safe. In fact, many old-time keepers encourage some spices in the diet to ward off parasites, though there is no clear evidence this is the case. 

Always make sure you wash and clean peppers before feeding them to your chickens

What do chickens like to eat?

If this has gotten you thinking about what your chooks can and can’t tuck into, let’s take a look at interesting foods chickens can eat and those foods that it would be best to avoid offering backyard hens.

Many owners of backyard chickens advise that you exercise moderation in feeding hens strange and unusual foods or treats as you need to ensure chickens are eating a balanced diet rather than what the chickens love. This is best done by providing a complete ration and supplementing their diet with goodies.

More on this topic here: “Chicken feeding guide | Complete guide to feeding backyard chickens”

What do chickens eat in the wild?

The diet of contemporary domestic chickens is largely similar to that of their wild ancestor the Jungle Fowl of southeastern Asia. This formidable bird would have been a keen forager partaking of:

  • Plants and shoots
  • Seeds
  • Earthworms and grubs
  • Spiders and other insects

Many free-ranging chickens achieve this kind of diet. Chickens are not fussy eaters but you will be very sure when you have hit upon something they love to eat. Here are some great treat foods for hens:

  • Corn: Chickens love corn and will eat these tasty golden kernels in preference to other types of food. However, moderation is essential as, like children, your chickens may not be able to hold themselves back from tucking into large quantities. Corn can be fattening and if it becomes a large proportion of your hens’ diet nutritional deficiencies can develop. Feed it to them as scratch a treat that they can forage for. 
  • Oats: A warm bowl of oats is tasty and satisfying for you and it is just as good for your chickens. Oats make a nutritious meal in any form whether rolled or cooked. Chickens that eat oats are found to be less aggressive and more resilient to stressors so it is a great food to go ahead and give.
  • Mealworms: These wrigglers pack a serious protein punch for hens and are well worth adding to their regular diet for this reason as it should improve the quality of your eggs. They do not need many of these as they are very rich in nutrition. A scattering of 8-12 per hen is more than enough in a day!
  • Berries: These goodies will boost your hens’ health by adding great antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to their diet. They will love the taste of blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries and these pigment-rich foods should improve the color and flavor of your yolks!

Here is an important list of foods you must never feed to your hens.

  1. Onions. Excessive quantities of onions in a chicken’s diet can precipitate a condition known as Heinz anemia where the chicken’s body starts to break down vital red blood cells, leading to a drop in number. Symptoms include weakness of the legs, listlessness, and collapse.
  2. Avocados. Persin is a fungicidal compound that is present in avocado skins and seeds. It can also leach into the flesh of this fruit. Chickens can die within 24 hours of eating avocado, which causes heart and respiratory problems among its damaging symptoms.
  3. Apple seeds contain cyanide which is lethal to chickens if eaten.  Cherry and other stone fruit kernels are similarly harmful. The fruit itself is fine, but take care that no seeds a slip in.
  4. Raw beans. Uncooked beans contain a substance called haemagglutinin which is poisonous to both chickens and humans. Kidney beans are especially bad. Always ensure that beans are well cooked before eating and don’t let your fluffy friends forage near where they are being grown. 
  5. Coffee grounds. Caffeine’s stimulatory effects can harm chickens due to increased heart rate, hyperactivity, and seizures. It also has diuretic effects and chickens can rapidly become dehydrated and collapse.
  6. Chocolate. Like caffeine, chocolate has a range of stimulatory effects due to theobromine, which causes hyperactivity, diarrhea, overheating, stomach pains, and seizures.
  7. Rhubarb. The oxalic acid in rhubarb is poisonous to chickens. If they eat the leaves and stems they can be poisoned quickly, experiencing tremors, jaundice, and collapse. 
  8. Amaranth.  This pseudocereal is high in protein and therefore it has been considered by many as a suitable poultry feed. However, untreated amaranth contains growth inhibitory substances such as saponins, tannins, and trypsin inhibitors that make it harmful if used as a poultry feed. 
  9. Maggots. Maggots are not the same as mealworms and have usually grown by feeding on dead or diseased flesh. This means that they may carry diseases and parasites that can be transmitted to your flock.
  10. Salt. Never add salt to your chickens’ food or water, and avoid salty foods as these can severely dehydrate your birds.

5 Staple Feeds for your chickens

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Can chickens eat grapes?

A. Yes. Chickens, like us, will relish refreshing grapes. You will probably be shocked by their enthusiasm and you will need to ensure the entire flock gets a taste or you could have a fight on your hands! It also important to introduce them slowly as of gobbled down your hens can choke on them.

Q. Chickens and watermelon – a good mix?

A. You can go on ahead and give your hens watermelon flesh rinds and seeds. The watermelon vine and leaves are also non-toxic.

Q. Is popcorn for chickens ok?

A. Yes. Air-popped corn without sugar, salt, or butter is fine, but you should avoid feeding your hen’s fatty snacks in general.

Rounding up

Backyard chickens are definitely partaking of more than the standard poultry ration these days as owners are gaining more confidence in varying their diet.

However, certain foods are extremely harmful and though it may be tempting you should hold back feeding your hens improperly prepared food scraps or snacks. With proper care, you will begin to know the foods your family chickens love, and find new treats to pamper your flock with!

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