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Can Chickens Eat Tomatoes? What You Need to Know!

Nicole Cosgrove

April 19, 2021

If you’ve had chickens long, you know that they are voracious eaters that will get into pretty much anything. But just because they will pluck around at different food items doesn’t mean that they can eat everything. So, if you have some cluckers nipping around your garden, you might wonder can chickens eat tomatoes?

Yes, chickens can safely eat ripe tomatoes. However, because they are a member of the nightshade family, the plants contain solanine, which can be toxic. Let’s find out more.

new chicken divider

Chickens Can Eat Tomatoes

tomatoes_Couleur_Pixabay
Image Credit: Couleur, Pixabay

Chickens absolutely can and will eat tomatoes. You might find them intruding in your garden, pecking away at all of the delicious red fruits. Chickens may love tomatoes and your other garden vegetables so much that you have to put up reinforcements to keep your plants safe.

Chickens Can’t Eat Tomato Plants

tomatoe plant_File Upload Bot_Wikimedia
Image Credit: File Upload Bot, Wikimedia

Even though the fleshy parts of the tomato are perfectly safe for chickens, the vines and leaves are another story. Tomatoes are part of the nightshade family, and the plants themselves contain solanine.

Solanine is a glycoalkaloid poison that protects the plant, deterring animals from eating the growth. Because of the extreme bitterness, most creatures know to avoid it entirely.

Symptoms of solanine poisoning often include:

  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Neurological issues

If you know that your chickens ate the plant stems or leaves, contact your vet right away. This type of poisoning can be severe—and even deadly. So, treatment is a time-sensitive matter.

Tomato Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 tomato

  • Calories—22
  • Water—95%
  • Protein—1.1 g
  • Sodium—.02 g
  • Potassium—292 mg

Vitamins & Minerals

  • Vitamin A—20%
  • Vitamin C—28%
  • Calcium—1%
  • Iron—1%
  • Vitamin B6—5%
  • Magnesium—3%

Do Chickens Like Tomatoes?

chickens in grass_Piqsels
Image Credit: Piqsels

There are lots of tomato varieties, and your chickens might have a preference as to which they like best. Most chickens love tomatoes of all sorts. The fruity, ripe flesh portions are always chicken-friendly.

Even though chickens have a very good sense of what they can and can’t eat, it is still best to separate them from the entire tomato plant. It’s a safety precaution since they could accidentally ingest some green parts. It would help if you had complete control over how much and how often they eat it.

Versatility in the Chicken Diet

chicken feed_C.Lotongkum_Shutterstock
Image Credit: C.Lotongkum, Shutterstock

Chickens are omnivores. Even though chickens benefit from many different fruits, veggies, and grains, their dietary staple will come from their commercial chicken feed. These recipes are designed to cover all of the bases of essential nutrients that they need to thrive.

Chickens also require an adequate amount of insects and small prey, like mice and frogs. These types of entrees are more common in a free-ranging diet.

How Often Should You Feed Your Chickens Tomatoes?

chickens eating_Dietrich Leppert_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Dietrich Leppert, Shutterstock

Because chickens require so much diversity in their diet, feeding them an overabundance of any specific thing, like tomatoes, can have adverse effects on their body. Tomatoes do not have all of the nutrients necessary to create foundational building blocks in their system.

However, tomatoes are a scrumptious, soft item for your chickens to delight themselves in occasionally. It’s best to switch up their daily vegetables, so try to alternate tomatoes every other day—and only feed a few pieces to each chicken at a time.

new chicken divider

Chickens and Tomatoes: Final Thoughts

So, now you know that your chickens can have tomatoes as long as they are fully ripe. They should never eat the vines or leaves on the tomato plant, as they are toxic and can be very harmful to your flock.

It’s always best to have reinforcements in your garden to keep your chickens from your produce. Chickens are masters at weaseling their way into any small space and foraging for yummy food. So, it is vital to have proper fencing between these plants and your birds.


Featured Image Credit: enriquelopezgarre, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.