If you want your chickens healthy, you need to feed them with wholesome foods. Also, you need to keep them from eating forage and serve them treats sometimes. Some of the treats you can give your chickens include blueberries, among other types of berries, but you should be careful with the portion you serve them.
Can Chickens Eat Blueberries?
It might be surprising, but chickens can eat blueberries. Blueberries are tasty and wholesome; as such, they can be used as treats for chickens. They contain phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, calcium, and iron, which are essential to the well-being of chickens.
They are regarded as superfoods because they are enriched with antioxidants such as anthocyanin, which eliminate free radicals in the blood and deal with different health problems.
Treats vs. feed
However, blueberries should be given to chickens only as a treat and not as their primary food. When giving chickens treats, the 90-10 % rule must be followed.
That means 90% of what you give your chicken must be their feed, while 10% should be treated. As such, you can give your chickens blueberries twice or thrice a week. While just two or three blueberries can contribute to their nutrition, remember they need a balanced diet to get all the nutrients they need.
Why chicken feed?
The chicken feed contains protein, vitamins & minerals, fat, and cereal. The cereal might be corn or rye, while protein might be gotten from soybean. Also, fats such as soy oil and vitamins such as amino acids are added to the feed.
It is made according to the nutritional requirements a chicken needs to survive, the chicken’s age, and the purpose of breeding. For instance, the feed for chickens who lay eggs is different from those reared for meat alone. Also, what a day-old chicken needs to eat isn’t entirely the same as a 6-month bird.
Chickens need to eat their feed to grow because the feed is prepared with the necessary minerals, vitamins, and proteins in adequate proportions. Treats such as blueberries only contain some of the essential nutrients your chicken needs.
For this reason, they can’t replace the main feed. Excess blueberries in your chickens’ system can reduce egg production in your chicken or make the eggs malformed. It can also hamper the digestion process and cause problems such as diarrhea.
With time, an imbalance in your chickens’ diet can cause various health issues, so it’s important to provide a balanced and nutritious diet. Excessive blueberries can cause protein deficiencies and increase heat production in your chickens.
7 Reasons Chickens Should Eat Blueberries
Blueberries are superfoods that should provide chickens with some of the essential nutrients. Some of the reasons chickens eat blueberries include:
Source of fiber
One of the crucial nutrients blueberries are enriched with is soluble fiber. Soluble fiber aids the passage of food in the digestive tract and delays hunger. As such, chickens fed with blueberries will feel less hungry, which slows down their calorie intake and prevents them from becoming obese.
Also, blueberries have anti-inflammatory properties, just like any other berries. This helps to protect your chickens from heart diseases, colds, infections, etc., and eliminates causes of chronic inflammation such as stress.
Another vital benefit of blueberries is that they keep the heart healthy. They do this by reducing the risks of cardiovascular diseases in their blood. As such, your chickens are protected from fatal damage to their vital organs. Blueberries also enhance blood clotting, which prevents excessive loss of blood if your chickens get injured.
Reduces bad cholesterol
Not only do humans suffer from bad cholesterol, but animals such as chickens can also have bad cholesterol as well. Bad cholesterol can clog the arteries, thereby restricting blood flow and eventually lead to heart disease or heart attack.
It can also turn into hard stones in the gallbladder, thereby subjecting your chickens to a lot of pain. However, blueberries can counter the effects of bad cholesterol in the body.
Blueberries have lots of nutrients; as such, they are regarded as superfoods. They are enriched with vitamins and minerals which protect chickens from cold and enhance their coordination. One blueberry contains vitamin C, manganese, copper, iron, phosphorus, vitamin K1, folate, etc. However, despite their nutritional density, blueberries have low calories.
One cup of fresh blueberries contains:
24% of the RDI
36% of the RDI
25% of the RDI
Antioxidants protect the cells of any living thing from free radicals, which are the leading causes of heart attack and other major diseases. Free radicals are molecules that break down the body’s immune system and accelerate aging.
Even though they are essential in the body’s functionality, they become dangerous when present in large quantities. However, the antioxidants in blueberries protect the blood cells of your chickens from free radicals.
Besides the health-related benefits of blueberries, they are delicious, and chickens love tasty foods. In fact, you might find them fighting with one another when you give them blueberries. You don’t have to mash the berries either; they are soft and easily fit into your chickens’ mouths.
5 Tips For Choosing Healthy Blueberries For Your Chickens
It is important that you choose healthy blueberries for your chickens. Blueberries that aren’t grown in the best conditions often contain toxic substances which tamper with the health of your chickens. Below are some tips for choosing healthy blueberries :
Buy from a local grower
If you’re looking to buy a whole blueberry plant, one of the best ways to guarantee to choose healthy blueberries for your chickens is to buy from a local grower who is credible. As expected, the grower will try to persuade you that their blueberry plants are free from diseases. But even if they aren’t, you can easily return the plants and get a refund or replacement.
Healthy blueberries are deep blue. This means that if you find some discoloration on the fruits or leaves, the blueberries are probably diseased. For instance, pink spots on blueberries mean they aren’t fully ripe, and red spots mean they will continue ripening even after they are no longer attached to the plants.
Healthy blueberries are firm, plump, soft, and dent-free. They aren’t rotten or moldy. Feeding your chickens with moldy blueberries will only put them in harm’s way. Except you want to make smoothies immediately, don’t buy mushy blueberries.
The size of the blueberry plant matters as well. Usually, a healthy blueberry plant produces many fruits, while a diseased one has few fruits. If you’re buying a blueberry plant, you should consider the number of fruits and buds the plant has.
You can measure the plant to know how tall it is. If you’re buying packaged blueberries, size doesn’t really matter. Either the berries are small or big, ensure they are healthy before you buy them.
Bloom is the silvery-white substance on the blueberries. It protects the berries from bacteria and insects while sealing the moisture inside the fruits. It also indicates that the blueberries are still fresh and haven’t been exposed to much handling. If possible, only buy blueberries with bloom. You can easily clean off the bloom with your hands.
If you don’t want to buy blueberries in the store, you can grow some in your garden. This way, you’ll ensure that your chickens are eating healthy blueberries. If you’re buying blueberries in large quantities, ensure you keep them in the fridge to prevent them from spoiling. They can stay in good condition for 14 days when refrigerated.
Other Treats For Your Chickens
Blueberries aren’t the only treats you can give your chicken; you can feed them with other types of berries too. Here are some of the treats you can give your chickens.
Sunflower seeds are tasty and nutritious. They contain essential amino acids, vitamins, and magnesium. These nutrients help to ease your chicken’s metabolism, enhance egg production and the growth of healthy feathers.
You can offer your chickens either black oil sunflower seeds or striped sunflower seeds. However, black sunflower seeds have a higher fat content. Ensure the sunflower seeds you use as treats are fresh.
Berries are one of the chicken’s favorite treats, irrespective of their variety. Chickens eat raspberries because they are tasty. Beyond the taste, raspberries are enriched with many antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins too.
Plain yogurt is another good treat for your chickens. Since it contains probiotics, it helps to flush out the bacteria in their bodies and aids digestion. However, don’t feed them with yogurts that contain artificial sweeteners. Also, don’t give them too much yogurt as excess yogurt causes diarrhea.
Pumpkin is a treat your chickens will thoroughly enjoy as no part of it is a waste. They will eat it until barely anything is left. Both the flesh and seed are tasty and nourishing. For instance, the seed has vitamin E, and the flesh has zinc and vitamins that boost your chickens’ immune system and help with blood clotting.
Research shows that giving your chickens oatmeal preserves their health for longer. Oatmeals have nutrients such as riboflavin, niacin, copper, iron, calcium, etc., either they are cooked or raw. Feeding chicks with oats also make them grow faster and more robust. To make it more exotic for your chickens, you can mix some sunflower seeds or berries with oatmeal.
Mealworms provide a good source of protein for your chickens, especially the ones laying eggs. Mealworms are high in protein, which constitutes approximately half of their nutritional content. Besides, mealworms will boost the health of your chickens when they are molting and increase the bulk of the eggs they lay. You will notice an increase in egg sizes when you give your chickens mealworms. [10 Mealworm Farm Plans You Can DIY at Home]
Chickens can eat blueberries, among other types of treats. However, like any other treat, blueberries should be given in moderation as part of a balanced diet. You should always consider the 90 – 10 % rule when giving your chickens blueberries or any other type of treats. Only chicken feed has all the nutritional requirements necessary for a chicken to survive; as such, it should be of top priority.
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken Scratch The Foundry.