You’ve likely noticed that chickens are notaries for eating just about anything you give them, or more commonly, anything they happen to find for themselves and tomatoes are something that many wonder whether or not chickens can eat due to the fact that they are part of the ‘nightshade’ family.
As omnivores and foragers, chickens not only can but will eat a large variety of foods and it’s, therefore, important to note not only which foods they like but also which foods are actually good for your chickens from a nutritional point of view.
Chickens can eat tomatoes and while they are a healthy treat, they should be consumed in moderation alongside a healthy, balanced staple diet. Chickens love tomatoes and while they are rich in vitamins and minerals, you should be careful that they only eat ripened tomatoes and never green/moldy tomatoes or the plant, leaves or flowers as these can be poisonous for chickens.
Can Chickens Eat Tomatoes
Tomatoes are a healthy food option for chickens when they are fed it in moderation. It’s always important to monitor a chicken’s diet when they are left to roam freely as chickens are both omnivores and foragers/scavengers.
This means that not only will they eat almost anything but that they will constantly be on the hunt for food sources which when left unmonitored, can lead to a very unbalanced and rather unhealthy diet, particularly when it comes to the quality of the eggs they lay.
As omnivores, chickens will eat both meat and fruit & vegetable sources and tomatoes are definitely something that is not only safe to eat, but also something that most chickens will go crazy over as a treat.
While it’s true that chickens love tomatoes, rumors certainly circulate the internet giving very mixed messages as to whether or not tomatoes are good for chickens.
Are Tomatoes Healthy or Dangerous for Chickens
The confusion over whether or not tomatoes are dangerous for chickens stems from the fact that they are members of the ‘nightshade’ family. As such, they contain solanine which is poisonous for chickens and will make them unwell, though this information can be slightly misleading.
Firstly, it’s the tomato plant, leaves and flowers that are high in solanine and not the actual tomato itself. It’s therefore the tomato plants that can be poisonous for chickens and not necessarily the tomato, especially when the tomato is ripe and free from solanine.
Secondly, much like humans, chickens have an innate understanding of what foods they can and can’t eat for the most part. While they are curious when it comes to pecking and testing for food sources, they also naturally have instincts that let them know a specific food isn’t good for them.
When pecking around a tomato plant, if they eat the plant or leaves to test it as a food source they will only take a single bite or two before realizing that the bitterness of the plant is not a suitable (or tasty) food source and will often ignore it from then on as a food option.
When looking at tomatoes in isolation, they are actually rich in vitamins and minerals which include vitamin C, K & B9, fiber, potassium and antioxidants.
Do Chickens Like Tomatoes
Chickens love tomatoes and will go crazy over them as a tasty treat or snack and if you don’t want to take our word for it, then take a look at this video which shows some chickens literally devouring tomatoes for some visual proof of their appeal.
While chickens love tomatoes, we wouldn’t advise that they are part of a staple diet and should instead be used as a tasty treat from your chickens from time to time. This can be intentional by providing them with some fresh, ripened tomatoes or as a way to get rid of some table scraps or leftovers rather than them going to waste (or compost).
The reason they should be consumed as a treat is to discourage them from overindulging in the tomatoes which will result in a reduced frequency of the eggs that they lay. This, for example, can be particularly problematic if you have tomato plants that are easily accessible for your chicken.
As a treat, you should feed your chickens ripe tomatoes that are chopped up finely into smaller, bite-sized chunks which will have less resemblance to a whole tomato and will also make it much easier for portion control.
What Tomatoes Should You Avoid
While ripe tomatoes can be a healthy and tasty treat for your chickens, unripened, green tomatoes can actually be damaging to their health and should be avoided at all costs.
This is because the greener and more similar in color the tomato is to the plant the more solanine it will contain and ultimately, the more poisonous and hazardous it can be for your chickens to consume.
If you observe your chickens in a vegetable patch or free-roaming garden/farm then you’ll soon notice that they have a natural tendency to know what foods are suitable for eating as we mentioned earlier and bitterness (caused by the solanine as a natural deterrent for eating the plant) is often enough for chickens to learn to avoid them after a few instances of sampling them.
Unripened and green tomatoes however can be slightly trickier to monitor as the taste and bitterness will vary depending on how ripe the tomato is. Therefore we’d advise that the chickens don’t have access to green tomatoes or the tomato plant if possible and that they are only fed fully ripe tomatoes in moderation.
Recommended Chicken feed
Tomatoes are a delicious and nutritious treat for your chickens and we’d like to emphasize the word treat. They should be consumed in moderation a few times per week and should always be ripe to avoid any potential for poisoning which could occur when consuming unripened or green tomatoes.
Alongside a nutritious and balanced diet, tomatoes can be a great treat for your chickens and something that we’d certainly encourage feeding them on occasion to supplement their staple diet and give them a treat that they will noticeably enjoy.