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Can Chickens Eat Cabbage? Diet & Health Advice


Chickens typically eat a varied diet based on the food available for grazing. This can include different types of grasses, weeds, seeds, slugs, worms, and insects. They also need grit, as in dirt or sand, which helps them grind their food since they don’t have teeth as humans do. If you raise chickens, you may be wondering if you can feed your chickens your household scraps. Feeding scraps to your chickens has advantages for both you and the chickens: the chickens get a varied, well-rounded diet, and you have the opportunity to cut down on household waste.

But what about cabbage? Since they are omnivores, chickens can eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Cabbage is a nutritious treat that can complement your chickens’ diet. In this article, we will explore the types of cabbage your chicken can eat, how often they should eat cabbage, and what fruits and vegetables you should avoid giving to your chickens.

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What Types of Cabbage Can Chickens Eat?

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Image credit: rhianjane, Pixabay

If you buy cabbage for your family, you are probably already aware that cabbage is packed with nutrients. Cabbage contains vitamin C, folate, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin K, and other nutrients. Like humans, chickens need a variety of nutrients to stay healthy. In order to preserve these nutrients, it’s best to feed your chickens raw or steamed cabbage. Avoid giving your chickens cabbage that has been prepared with ingredients that contain lots of added sugar, fat, or salt, such as coleslaw.

Chickens can all types of cabbage, and all types of cabbage are very nutritious. If you want to maximize the nutritional benefit, however, give your chickens red cabbage. Red cabbage is a particularly wonderful source of vitamin C, as it contains about 30% more than its green cousin. Unlike humans, healthy chickens are actually capable of making their own vitamin C, but supplementing chickens’ diets with vitamin C can be helpful when they are under stressful conditions, including heat stress. A supplement of vitamin C can also contribute to a healthy immune system in chickens.

What Parts of the Cabbage Can Chickens Eat?

Your chickens can eat the whole cabbage. One great way to feed your chickens this healthy snack and make sure they get some exercise is to make a hanging cabbage for them. All you have to do is drill a hole through the center of the cabbage and thread a rope through the hole. Then, you can hang the cabbage in your chicken run and watch your chickens go wild over it. Not only will they love the treat, but the exercise will prevent them from getting bored. This is a very good thing since boredom can lead chickens to peck each other or even pull out each other’s (and their own) feathers.

How Often Should I Feed Cabbage to Chickens?

green and red cabbages
Image Credit: Pixabay

Like all treats, chickens should be given cabbage in moderation. Too much could prevent your chickens from getting the nutrients they need. Too many treats could also lead to obesity, which comes with health complications and could shorten your chickens’ life expectancy. As a rule, a chicken’s diet should be comprised of about 90% complete chicken feed and 10% treats. That means they can have cabbage and other scraps a few times a week, but they should not have them every day and definitely not for every meal.

Chickens that eat cabbage and similar foods too often may also develop thyroid problems. Cabbage–along with soybeans, rapeseed, flax, broccoli, and turnips–contains goitrogenic agents, which can cause avian goiters, reproductive issues, immune deficiency, and other problems in some birds. You should not be concerned about your chickens eating cabbage in moderation.

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What Fruits and Vegetables Can Chickens Not Eat?

Now that you know that chickens can eat vegetables like cabbage to supplement a well-balanced diet, you may be wondering which foods to avoid. Here is a list of plants you should add to your compost pile instead of your chickens’ diet:

  • Avocado skins and pits: Chickens can eat most fruits and vegetables, but you should avoid giving them any avocado skins or pits. These parts of the avocado contain persin, which is toxic to chickens and other poultry. Chickens can eat avocado flesh, but if you want to be safe, avoid avocados altogether.
  • Tomato, pepper, and eggplant leaves: Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are members of the nightshade family, and their leaves contain an alkaloid known as solanine. If your chickens ingest these leaves, they will be very sick. However, the fruits themselves are harmless to chickens.
  • Sprouting or green potatoes: White potatoes are also part of the nightshade family, and when their skin is green, it is an indication that there is solanine present. Chickens can eat white potatoes that haven’t turned green, but they don’t contain very much nutritional value for your birds. Swap your white potatoes with sweet potatoes for a more nutritious and safer alternative.
Cochin chicken
Image Credit: Marcel Langthim, Pixabay

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Final Thoughts

In conclusion, you can indeed feed cabbage to chickens. A varied diet is important for the health of your chickens and the quality of their eggs. As long as you don’t overdo it, cabbage can be a very nutritious snack with lots of benefits for your chickens.

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Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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