Onions are toxic to most cats and dogs. It also goes to the other plants in the onion family, like the shallots, garlic, leeks, and chives. So, can your chickens eat onions? Unlike many other animals, onions are not harmful to chickens.
This article will cover:
- Can The Chickens In Your Coop Eat Onions?
- Scientific Studies On Why Chickens Can Eat Onions
- Benefits Of Onions On Chickens
- Onion Preparations For Your Chickens
- Edible Part Of The Onion For Your Chickens
- When Can Onions Be Dangerous To Chickens
Can The Chickens In Your Coop Eat Onions?
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals stated that onions are lethal when swallowed by household pets such as cats and dogs. So, can chickens eat onions?
When cats and dogs consume onions, their red blood cells degenerate, which leads to hemolytic anemia. Just because certain animals can’t eat a specific food, it doesn’t mean that all animals can’t as well. But it’s not the case for chickens eating onions. Any chicken breed can eat onions and are, in fact, suitable for these fowls.
It’s normal to have a lot of diet-related questions when it comes to raising or breeding chickens. Overall, chickens like to feed on scraps or any treats they find on the ground. Chickens are like pigs that would eat or pick any food they find.
Yet, it’s best to still provide feeds for them as their main course. As chicken breeders or keepers, it’s your responsibility to ensure that the food you deliver to these birds is safe to consume. And yes, onions are safe to eat for any chicken.
Scientific Studies On Why Chickens Can Eat Onions
Several studies have been conducted on the effect of onions and other plants in the same family, such as garlic, on chickens.
Weight and meat quality
One of the studies established the effects of onions on chickens. The study wants to know how garlic and onion affect body weight, carcass yield, and feeding cost.
The result of the study discovered that 50 and 100 mg doses of garlic and onion increased the body weight of the chickens. And 100 mg of onions increases the chickens’ feed and water consumption. Also, the study claimed that those chickens that consumed 25 and 50 mg lessened the feeding cost of the treated flock at the end of 21 days trial period.
Overall, there was progress in the feed conversion ratio of all the treated flocks. Still, those flocks that consumed onions developed better. Both treatments of garlic and onions didn’t affect the carcass yield of the chickens. The study concludes that onion and garlic are beneficial to advance the productive performance of chickens. But more studies need to verify the proper amount of intake, age of subjects, and other favorable conditions to get the best results of onion effects on chickens.
Another study in 2001 also confirms that hens consuming onions will lay eggs that will have a taste of such herbs. The chickens’ eggs will also give out an onion-like smell and taste. Despite the different results of studies, onions are safe for chickens as long as you consume them in moderation.
Another study in 2017 focused on the manure of chickens fed on several crops, including onions. Also on how that consumption affects the ability of their waste to sprout seeds.
Benefits Of Onions On Chickens
Onion’s Nutritional Fact is 89.1 percent water, 1.1 grams of protein, and 29 mg of Phosphorus. More so, onions also contain 146 mg of Potassium and are excellent antimicrobials.
Onions have a lot of vitamins and minerals and are, therefore, healthy for chickens when consumed in moderation. Onions are an excellent source of vitamins for chickens, giving them vital B vitamins in order to support energy metabolism and general development, as well as supplying vitamin C which boosts the immune system.
They’re good for reducing inflammation and are beneficial for these birds’ overall health.
100 Onions Nutrition
|Vitamin C||7.4 mg|
|Vitamin K||0.4 ug|
The antioxidants in onions are the ones responsible for the dropping of blood sugar and healthier chicken bones. All the nutrients in onions play a vital role in keeping your poultry active, healthy, and productive.
Antioxidants such as flavonoids and sulfur compounds like quercetin and allicin are found in onions. It can help chickens by reducing oxidative stress, increasing immune function, and contributing to improved overall health and well-being.
The carbs in onions provide energy, so your fowls remain energetic all day. At the same time, the fiber that contains fructans in onions is a source of fuel for the bacteria that helps digest food and make short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids sustain colon health plus decrease inflammation.
Vinegar is a good remedy for chickens becoming bloated which can cause death. But, if you don’t have vinegar, onions are also a perfect option to prevent cases of bloat in your chickens.
There are also Vitamin C and Vitamin B6, among other vitamins you can find in onions. Folate and Potassium are in considerable amounts in onions. These minerals also benefit your chickens.
However, onions should be fed to your chickens in moderation. It’s especially important to be cautious when feeding other pets, as onions can be harmful to animals like cats, dogs, horses, and monkeys. The sulfides and sulfoxides found in onions can trigger anemia in animals. These compounds damage the red blood cells of the mentioned animals.
Onion Preparations For Your Chickens
When you feed onions to chickens, they will not eat the stalks or the peels. Plain raw and chopped will not go well either for your birds. Cooked onions are best because the heat also dissolves harmful ingredients.
More so, do not let your fowls eat dry food such as onion rings because this part of the onion may harm their health and lead to poor egg quality, as chickens can’t digest lipids. Here are some ideas you can prepare when feeding your chickens onions.
Roasted onions on strings will make your chickens in a coop happy and busy since they like the idea of pecking at food. Roast a couple of onions on a grill or in an oven until they’re soft. Let the onions cool down before fastening the strings through the herb. Knot the string with roasted onions so the chickens can quickly peck on them inside their cage.
Onion Trail Mix
This method includes boiling onions with a little bit of water without oil or butter. The two ingredients are not suitable for the fowls’ digestive tracts because chickens can’t digest them.
Cool them first before mixing them into the chicken feed when the onions are soft and ready to eat. To make the onion trail mix more enticing to your poultry, you can add other treats, such as bugs.
Mash onions cooked in boiling water and mix them in a bowl with other kitchen scraps. Chickens like to eat mixed treats from kitchen scraps as well.
Proper Amount Of Onions To Feed Your Chickens
You can feed onions to your chickens but in limited amounts and not often. To yield the benefits of onions to your chickens without the risk of side effects from taking place, consumption once a week is sufficient. Like the other herbs in the same family plant, onions can also present risks when consumed in more significant quantities.
Onions still contain a few toxic compounds, so even when scientists claim that onions are safe for chickens, the consumption should be in small quantities. More so, don’t insist on feeding onions to your poultry if they show a distaste for it.
Better to give your chickens the option to peck onions when they only want. The best recommendation is to only feed onions to your chickens in moderation and only as a treat.
Edible Part Of The Onion For Your Chickens
The part of the onion plant that’s safe to eat for your chickens is the bulb that develops under the soil. The white part that grows skyward has the same nutrients as the onion bulb, so it’s edible for chickens. But the top green part of the scallions is not safe for chickens to eat.
They may not always enjoy its taste and smell, depending on which part of the onion you feed the chickens. That’s why it’s best to cook the onions correctly and with other treats to do away with the pungent smell and taste of it.
More so, onion peels have no advantages to your birds and mainly don’t consume them as well. So, it’s best to leave behind onion peels when you serve them. Also, chickens will have difficulty eating and digesting onion stalks as they don’t have teeth.
How Much Onion Serving Per Week?
Feeding onions to chickens should be done with caution and moderation. This will depend on the size and breed you have, but generally, a portion of 1-2 onions per week (50-75g/1.8-2.7 ounces per chicken) should be adequate for all chicken breeds and sizes. It is also important to ensure that the onions are chopped finely or shredded so that chickens can easily digest them.
It is important to provide only small amounts of onion, cooked, either as onion scraps or greens no more than once or twice a week. if done properly the compounds contained can be beneficial in small amounts.
Pay close attention to look out for any health issues or adverse reactions if you do serve them and consult a veterinarian if necessary. As different chickens may react differently it is wise to adjust their diet accordingly and pay close attention to any concerning signs.
Be careful when introducing onions to chicks or young chickens. Their digestive system can be a lot more sensitive than older chickens.
When Can Onions Be Dangerous To Chickens
Humans don’t eat a whole bowl of raw onions, or heartburn will arise, ensued by diarrhea. It’s common sense, and you also don’t feed your chickens that way. A lot of raw onions can also affect the digestive system of the chickens.
The sulfoxides and sulfides can cause Heinz body anemia in animals that can destroy the red blood cells in cats, dogs, and other animals. The good news is there are no studies that onions are bad for chickens.
But, it would be best if you took special note that the onions’ green stems can be a choking hazard for the birds. Although, most chickens don’t eat them as well.
Fried onion rings are also bad for chickens because they can’t digest the lipids from fatty foods, including oil and butter. Fried foods also affect egg quality and production.
In general, onions should not be more than five percent of your chicken’s everyday food consumption. Onions are suitable for your chickens but only if consumed in moderation.
So, can chickens eat onions? Onions won’t hurt your birds, so yes, chickens can eat when consumed in moderation. Let your fowls enjoy chicken as a treat in small amounts only and intermittently. Lastly, never let your chickens eat onions as their main diet.
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.