Citrus fruits are abundant worldwide and peak during the winter. Citrus fruits are highly nutritious and provide healthful benefits and nutrients like Vitamin C, potassium, folate, calcium, fiber, and carbohydrates. Have you ever wondered, can chickens eat citrus?
There are many myths and discussions about citrus being chicken-safe or not. This article will walk you through valuable facts about chickens and citrus.
If you want to learn more about the relationship between the two, read along!
It’s undeniably true that citrus fruits are one of the most delectable fruits that we, humans, enjoy. Citrus fruits like lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits provide us with lots of health benefits that boost our immune system.
Citrus fruits are known to protect our bodies from health issues. Being an abundant source of antioxidants, carotenoids, and phytonutrients, Citrus fruits improve our overall health.
Lemons and limes have high levels of Vitamin C. Vitamin C in citrus boosts people’s immune systems and helps in the production of white blood cells, which are our body’s first line of defense against infections.
Citrus fruits are also good in reducing the risk of kidney stones forming because of their ability to increase citrate levels.
Other than immune system protection and lowering the risk of kidney stones, citrus also aids in lowering the risk of cancer in humans. Thanks to citrus’ abundant phytonutrients and flavonoids, citrus fruits can assist in protecting us against various types of cancer.
Citrus fruits are also excellent for the heart. These fruits potentially lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in our bodies, which are both harmful at high levels. While lowering these harmful chemicals, citrus increases healthy HDL cholesterol.
Due to this, our blood pressure is regulated with citrus fruits. Hence, citrus also helps reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke in humans.
With the many health benefits of citrus fruits, chicken owners are curious if chickens can also eat this nutritious fruit. Let’s answer the question, “can chickens eat citrus?”
Can chickens eat citrus fruits?
Yes, citrus is generally safe for chickens. But as with any other food, chickens should be given citrus in small amounts.
Citrus, like dried sweet orange pulp, has been used to create pellets for animal feed. Citrus pellets for animal feed are an excellent addition to livestock and poultry, thanks to their valuable nutrients and natural antioxidants.
With the known benefits of citrus, citrus fruits should still be fed to chickens in limited quantities because of their high acidic and sugar content.
How much citrus is safe for chickens?
Anything given excessively is not beneficial to your flock. Foods offered in large quantities can result in health issues, so giving citrus to chickens should be controlled.
When feeding your chickens citrus, do not give them the whole fruit. Instead, rip them into small pieces. The ideal portion is around 1 to 1 ½ pieces of citrus fruits.
Giving citrus in small quantities can help not upset your chicken’s stomach.
Is citric acid safe for chickens?
Yes, citric acid is safe for chickens. It is often used to promote growth and development in layers and broilers. Citric acids acidify gastrointestinal contents, which improves nutrient retention in poultry diets.
Citric acid is considered a good feed additive and food preservative. It enhances calcium and phosphorus absorption in layer and broiler chicks.
Is citrus lime safe for chickens?
Yes, chickens can have limes in their diet. The citric acid in limes helps chickens have proper digestion and a better immune system. Citric acid is found to reduce pathogens in chickens too.
However, some chickens might not like eating lime. You can try adding lime to other food so they can enjoy the benefits of this citrus fruit.
Are oranges safe for chickens?
Though chickens would not enjoy having oranges most of the time, you can also try to mix it with the rest of your chicken’s food. Try slicing the oranges in small portions before incorporating them into the chicken feed.
While generally safe, chickens eating too many oranges were found to alter the taste of their eggs. When feeding your chickens with oranges or any other citrus fruits, be aware that the fruits can cause changes to chicken eggs.
Are grapefruits safe for chickens?
Yes, chickens can, but they do not particularly love munching on acidic and sour fruits like grapefruit.
If your flock enjoys eating grapefruit and other citrus fruits, then they should be fine. Citrus fruits are good for chickens when taken in small amounts.
Citrus Nutritional Content
Besides citric acid, citrus fruits provide excellent quantities of vitamins, carbohydrates, fiber, and sugar.
Here is a breakdown of all contents that chickens can enjoy with citrus fruits:
|Nutrient||Content per Serving|
|Water||88 to 89%|
|Nutrient||Content per Serving|
|Nutrient||Content per Serving|
|Nutrient||Content per Serving (200g grapefruit)|
Can chickens eat peels of citrus fruits?
Certain fruit peels, like orange peels, are safe for chickens. However, some peels may be too tough and rigid for chicken consumption. They will probably run towards the peel, poke it, and leave.
Also, it is highly likely that the peels have been sprayed with pesticides on the surface. The ingestion of pesticides can be extremely toxic and dangerous for chickens.
Can chickens eat the leaves of citrus fruits?
Yes, chickens can eat citrus leaves. While some chickens do not like having citrus foods in their diet, citrus leaves can be their favorite.
If you notice, chickens tend to attack potted citrus plants more – they love citrus leaves! But as the plant becomes taller, hens get less access to these leaves.
Vitamin C and Chickens
Vitamin C is an essential vitamin for growth, development, and tissue repair. It is an antioxidant that protects our body’s cells. This vitamin is naturally present in almost all foods.
In chickens, Vitamin C is necessary for improving their immune responses. It is also found to remove the adverse effects of heat stress on broilers.
Other than that, Vitamin C supplementation is popular in poultry because it addresses poor immunity, weight gain, oxidative stress, fertility, and mortality problems.
But do chickens really need to eat citrus for Vitamin C?
Chickens can produce Vitamin C independently. They can produce their own Vitamin C for proper bodily functions.
However, experts found that excessive Vitamin C intake in chickens can interrupt calcium absorption. When chickens eat too many citrus fruits, Vitamin C levels can reach levels that affect calcium levels.
Calcium levels are important for the thick shelling of chicken eggs. If the chicken has a low level of calcium in the body, it will produce eggs with meager shells that are very prone to breakage.
Fun Facts About Citrus
1. Oranges were once considered a status symbol.
Yes, you read that right! During the 17th and 18th centuries, oranges were a luxury item.
The term “orangeries” was used as a fancy term for citrus tree greenhouses, which were common features of aristocratic gardens during that time.
Does this mean your chicken is fancy when served with citrus fruits? Well, today, it probably isn’t the case!
2. January is National Citrus Month.
In January, Americans celebrate National Citrus Month. Citrus fruits bloom during the winter months when we can enjoy their peak.
It might be a great idea to celebrate this month with your flock by giving them oranges and lemons!
3. Orange juice is the most popular fruit drink in the US.
Many people enjoy orange juice, making it the most popular fruit juice in the US. While Americans love this fruity beverage, chickens may not be as excited with orange juices as humans are. Chickens might not tolerate the acidity of orange juices.
4. Lemons literally mean “sour fruit.”
The word “lemon” came from the Asian word that means “sour fruit.” This does not need any explanation! Lemon is one of the most lip-puckering fruits in the world.
Because of its sourness, lemons might not be your chicken’s favorite food. Chickens tend to avoid sour and acidic foods, so make sure to slice or rip them before feeding.
The answer to the question, “can chickens eat citrus?” is yes. Chickens can eat citrus fruits in moderation safely. However, extra care must be given as introducing citrus fruits in large quantities at once can upset your chicken’s stomach.
It’s always best to give citrus in small portions. Incorporating citrus slices in other foods is also a great idea to maximize the benefits of this nutritious fruit!
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.