Chickens eat different foods; as such, except the food is marked as unsafe for them, you never can tell if they’ll eat a variety of food until you give them. Chickens eat potatoes, but not all types are suitable for your chickens. Besides, not all parts of some types are safe for eating.
Can Chickens Eat Sweet Potatoes?
Sweet potatoes aren’t only superfoods for humans; you can also give them to your chickens. Besides, all parts of sweet potatoes are safe for your chickens to eat – peels, stems, leaves, flesh, flowers, etc.
Except if your chicken breed naturally finds sweet potatoes unappealing, they will jump at it when you give them. Some commercial feeds also contain sweet potatoes because of their benefits to your chickens. You can serve your chickens raw or cooked potatoes. Ensure you cut them up to make eating and swallowing easier.
Can Chickens Eat White, Yellow, and Red Potatoes?
These potatoes belong to the nightshade family and contain solanine, a chemical whose effects are devastating when consumed in large quantities. The results can range from respiratory illnesses to paralysis. You should be careful when giving your chickens white, yellow, or red potatoes.
Even though boiling such potatoes reduces the amount of solanine in them, the chemical can build up in the body to cause more fatal issues. Besides, not all parts of these potatoes are safe for your chickens.
The peels, skins, and eyes usually have the highest deposits of toxins, so you should avoid giving your chickens those parts to eat. You should avoid white, red, and yellow potatoes, but if you must give your chickens, ensure they are fully ripe and well-cooked.
Do Chickens Like Potatoes?
While chickens are generally omnivores, they are picky as well. They might turn their noses at foods you expect them to eat. Before making potatoes constant in their treats, check if your chickens like them and aren’t allergic.
For instance, if your chickens become ill after eating potatoes, you shouldn’t continue the treatment. Make sure to introduce potatoes to chicks in very small quantities.
Watch Over the Quantity
If your chickens like potatoes, don’t be tempted to make it their daily food. Potatoes are treats that shouldn’t be more than a tenth of their diet. Too many potatoes can lead to obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, increased blood sugar, etc. You shouldn’t give your chickens more than three servings of potatoes weekly.
6 Reasons Why You Should Give Your Potatoes
100g Raw Potatoes Nutrition
Potatoes are enriched with many nutrients. They contain vitamins, potassium, iron, etc., which enhance your chickens’ health and performance. They’re also gluten-free. Below are some of the reasons you should give your chickens potatoes.
Potatoes contain vitamin B6, which helps to break down food into smaller bits that can be easily absorbed into the body. This way, it increases your chickens’ energy and productivity. In addition, the fiber in potatoes helps prevent constipation and aid digestion, thereby maintaining a healthy digestive system.
The various nutrients in potatoes enhance your chickens’ immunity. Your chickens won’t frequently fall ill. For instance, quercetin is a flavonoid that protects your chickens from damage caused by free radical cells and other diseases, while alpha-lipoic acid helps preserve body tissues. Potatoes also contain vitamin C, which helps fight against cold.
Another benefit of giving your chickens potatoes is the improvement of their bone structure. Potatoes contain minerals and vitamins that build up bones. Such minerals include zinc, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, etc. With these nutrients in potatoes, your chickens will get the bone structure and mineralization they need for proper performance.
Besides preventing constipation and aiding food digestion, the fiber in potatoes helps satiate your chickens. Naturally, chickens love eating, and they do so as many times as possible. If you don’t give them foods that satisfy them quickly, you’ll have to spend more on food. However, with potatoes and other satisfying treats, you won’t have to spend much on feeding your chickens.
Potatoes are one of the treats that have anti-inflammatory properties. They contain nutrients that help reduce swelling and irritations in the body. They also enhance muscle movement, fat absorption, and the functions of cellular membranes and nerves.
Chickens also suffer from heart issues such as heart attack, heart failure, etc. Potatoes are enriched with nutrients that enhance heart health. For instance, potassium and lack of cholesterol in potatoes help reduce the risk of heart disease. Lack of cholesterol means that your chickens won’t become overweight as long as you give them potatoes in moderate quantities.
4 Tips For Choosing The Right Potatoes For Your Chickens
Either you plan to give your chickens raw or cooked potatoes, you must select the right ones. Serving the wrong variety of potatoes could be harmful to your birds. Below are some tips for choosing the right potatoes.
When buying potatoes, check how firm it is. Squeeze it to see if it’ll yield or not. If it does, such potatoes aren’t in good condition. Squishy or soft potatoes are starting to get bad, and you should only buy them if you want to serve them to your chickens immediately.
Inspect all sides of the potatoes for cuts, blemishes, etc. Bacteria contaminate the potatoes through cuts and blemishes most times, thereby leading to decay. You have to cut such parts away as they aren’t safe to eat. But if you want more value for your money, buy potatoes with no blemishes or cuts.
Sprouting or Green Potatoes
Look out for sprouts or green color on your potatoes. The green color on your potatoes means that it’s not safe for eating. Potatoes usually become green due to exposure to the sun. A chemical called solanine causes the green color.
Solanine not only makes potatoes bitter, but it also causes discomfort in the digestive system, respiratory issues, etc. Also, dig out the sprouts(eyes) from your potatoes before you eat them and cook such potatoes immediately.
Don’t buy wrinkled potatoes. Wrinkles on potatoes mean many things, from bacteria infestation to loss of moisture. Good potatoes should be smooth all around. If you must buy wrinkled potatoes, ensure you know the cause of the wrinkles. For example, potatoes with wrinkles caused by mishandling are safer to eat than potatoes whose wrinkles are caused by bad storage methods.
If you’re not using all the potatoes you buy at once, store your potatoes in a dark, cool place. Potatoes exposed to sunlight can produce more solanine, which is unsafe for your chickens. The increased solanine production can lead to gastrointestinal problems in your chickens. You can keep your potatoes in places such as cabinets, kitchen drawers, etc. Don’t put raw potatoes in the fridge to prevent a change in flavor.
How Many Potatoes Can Chickens Eat?
On average, treats such as potatoes should not make up more than 5% of your flock’s diet. Chickens can eat up to 0.25-0.33 lbs., or about two large potatoes, of boiled, mashed, or sun-dried potatoes per week. This should be given in a span of 3 to 5 servings and not all at once.
If first introducing potatoes to a flock, make sure that you test with a little serving at first. This is important for your chicks as new food can cause them digestive discomfort. Monitor their bowel movement for 24 hours to ensure that there are no bad reactions to the root crop.
Also, make sure not to feed the peel and leaves to your flock to avoid solanine poisoning.
2 Risks of Feeding Potatoes to Chickens
- Too Much Carbs – Feeding chickens too many potatoes can lead to them consuming an excessive amount of carbohydrates. This could disrupt the bird’s normal utilization of essential proteins and vitamins that are necessary for proper growth and health. An imbalance in protein-to-carbohydrate levels is just one consequence of overfeeding potatoes on chickens! Additionally, this helps promote rapid weight gain (which isn’t great for animals) due to their high starch content.
- Solanine Poisoning – When chickens are over-fed on potatoes, they may end up eating parts of the potato plant which contain high levels of alkaloids known as solanine. If these alkaloids get into the chicken’s bloodstream, it can result in poisoning and severe health problems. So, make sure not to feed the leaves or greenish parts of potatoes.
How To Cook Potatoes For Your Chickens?
Chickens love sweet, mashed potatoes, so you can decide to cook the potatoes before you give them. Below is a guide on how to cook potatoes for your chickens.
1. Wash the potatoes
If you’re using fresh potatoes, ensure you wash them very well. Potatoes grow underground; as such, little dirt sticks to them. But with proper cleaning, you can get rid of the dirt.
If the variety of potato is safe for chickens to consume entirely, you may cook the potatoes with their skins on as they contain additional nutrients. If you don’t want to go through the stress of washing your potatoes, you can go for frozen or dehydrated potatoes instead. If you’re using frozen potatoes, allow them to thaw before you cook them.
2. Cut into small sizes
Cut the potatoes into small sizes before you boil them. This ensures that they get done quickly, thereby saving you time and gas. Also, it’ll be easier for your chickens to eat the potatoes if you don’t mash them up. Cubed potatoes are easier to mash too.
3. Cook over medium heat
Put the potatoes in a pan large enough to contain them. Use cold water for cooking and ensure the water covers the potatoes. The cold water helps the potatoes to cook evenly and quickly. Don’t add salt as chickens are susceptible to it.
Cook on medium heat to avoid your potatoes burning. Don’t cover the pan so that the potatoes won’t turn squishy. After 15 minutes, check to see if the potatoes are tender all through. Once they are, turn off the heat and drain the potatoes.
4. Mash the potatoes
You can serve your chickens the cooked, cubed potatoes or mash them up. You can use an electric beater or potato masher. Don’t add milk to your mashed potatoes because chickens are lactose-intolerant. Also, don’t overfeed your chickens with mashed potatoes. It can upset their digestive tract.
Serve your chickens with portions they can finish at once. If you aren’t sure, you can give them the potatoes bit by bit until they finish eating it. This way, they won’t mess up their coop with potatoes. Also, cooked potatoes can’t last beyond a day. Only cook the portion your chickens can finish in a day.
Chickens can eat potatoes, but not all parts and types of potatoes are edible. For instance, every part of sweet potatoes is safe for consumption, while the eyes and skins of white, red, and yellow potatoes aren’t edible. As such, you have to be careful with the variety and amount of potatoes you give your chickens.
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.