Feeding chickens table scraps and organic food is one way to supplement their diet. The human diet, however, is different from that of chickens, so you should consider what is safe for their consumption. One common question that chicken owners wrestle with is: Can chickens eat raw potatoes?
This article will cover
- Are raw potatoes bad for chickens?
- Potatoes vs. sweet potatoes
- Can chickens eat raw potatoes?
- What makes raw potatoes dangerous to chickens?
- The nutritional content of potatoes
- How often can chickens eat raw potatoes?
- Preparing raw potatoes for chicken feeding
- Chicken nutrition: what you should know
Are Raw Potatoes Bad for Chickens?
Generally speaking, potatoes can be part of chickens’ diet. Chickens are omnivores, which means they consume both meat and plants including worms, bugs, vegetables, and greens. They can eat raw potatoes, though precautions should be taken due to certain harmful components present in raw potatoes.
However, you should bear in mind that not everything humans consume will be for the little birds. Aside from feeding your chicken different foods in moderation, you should also be knowledgeable on the kinds of food that are safe for them.
For example, raw potatoes are okay for chickens, yet there are exemptions, such as parts of the raw potatoes that may be toxic for them.
Keep on reading; we have a lot to share on the question of whether chickens can eat raw potatoes.
Potatoes vs. Sweet Potatoes
Before we explain further the answer to this commonly asked question, let’s first distinguish regular potatoes from sweet potatoes.
Some people confuse regular potatoes with sweet potatoes. Though they carry the same name, there are distinctions that set them apart. The main difference is the plant families they belong to.
Learning about these tubers will also help you understand why chickens can eat raw potatoes and cases where they should abstain.
Potatoes, also referred to as white potatoes or Irish potatoes belong to the nightshade family Solanaceae. These potatoes come in white, red, and yellow varieties. Also belonging to this plant variety are tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. Though safe to eat in general, this species has toxic chemicals that are bad not only for chickens but for humans as well.
If you notice green parts of white potatoes, discard them right away, as these show signs of solanine, a toxic compound for chickens. You should also throw away the leaves, plants, and flowers as they contain the same harmful substance.
Sweet potatoes do not possess toxic substances found in the green areas of white potatoes. As part of the morning glory family, the entire sweet potato plant is safe for human consumption and for chickens too.
Aside from their species, potatoes and sweet potatoes also differ in appearance and nutrition, among others.
Can Chickens Eat Raw Potatoes?
Now that we have clarified the difference between potatoes and sweet potatoes, we can answer the question that many chicken enthusiasts ask: Can chickens eat raw potatoes?
The straight-up answer is yes; chickens can eat raw potatoes. Raw potatoes and sweet potatoes are both safe for chicken consumption. The only time raw potatoes should not be fed to chickens is when the potatoes are turning green and when there is the presence of mold due to poor storage.
For raw white potatoes, you can feed chickens the potatoes. Other parts, such as leaves, should be scrapped right away to avoid toxication. If you see the raw potatoes turning green, do not feed them to your chickens and dispose of them. As natural foragers, chickens will ignore these poisonous parts, but it is best to prevent them from eating these.
On the other hand, all of the parts of sweet potatoes can be given to chickens. Aside from the sweet potatoes, the flock will also enjoy munching on the stems, vines, and leaves of sweet potatoes.
What Makes Raw Potatoes Dangerous to Chickens?
As mentioned earlier, chickens can eat raw potatoes except for green ones. What is in green potatoes that are dangerous to chickens?
Being part of the nightshade family, potatoes have chemicals that are toxic in nature. One of these harmful chemicals is solanine.
Solanine has innate fungicidal and pesticide properties. What this means is that solanine acts as the plant’s natural line of defense against fungi and pests.
This chemical can be found in different parts of the potato plant, such as the leaves, stems, and even tubers. Watch out for peels, leaves, and eyes of the potatoes, as these usually have a high concentration of solanine.
Effects of Solanine on Chickens
What happens when chickens eat potatoes with high levels of solanine? The ingestion of high levels of solanine can cause several health issues.
Common health problems that arise due to solanine ingestion are the following:
- neurological problems
- respiratory issues
The effect of solanine differs on a case-to-case basis depending on the amount taken. While solanine is toxic, fatal health problems usually occur when chickens take in large amounts of green potatoes.
Still, it is best to avoid feeding your chickens green potatoes to prevent untoward incidents from happening.
Getting Rid of Solanine
The best thing you can do when you find green potatoes is to throw them away.
If you do decide to just remove the toxic parts, you can do so by cutting off the green peels. However, this does not guarantee that the inside has no solanine content. Disposal is still the best choice.
Cooking can also help reduce solanine levels to an extent. Studies show, though, that cooking, even in high heat, has only minimal effect on solanine levels.
Nutritional Content of Potatoes
Potatoes, when properly prepared, can be a healthy addition to chickens’ diet, especially when fresh. Aside from being natural food, they are a source of carbohydrates, potassium, and vitamin C.
As starchy food, potatoes will give your chickens the energy they need. On top of that, they also have fiber, protein, and vitamin B6.
Sweet potatoes also carry similar nutrients and minerals. Compared to white potatoes, they have higher vitamin A content.
100g Raw Potato Nutrition
How Often Can Chickens Eat Raw Potatoes?
While raw potatoes are a healthy choice to feed your chickens, it is best to give them in moderation only.
Chickens can eat properly prepared potatoes as treats and supplementary food to their regular diet. However, they are not as packed in nutrients compared to other foods. Therefore, they do not give your flock the nutrition they need for optimum growth and development.
Instead of letting your chickens eat raw potatoes as their main diet, mix it up and try different kinds of food that will give them proper and balanced nutrition.
Preparing Raw Potatoes for Chicken Feeding
As said earlier, chickens can eat raw potatoes as an add-on to their existing diet. Preparing raw potatoes for feeding to your chickens is important to help them consume easier.
One thing to note is that chickens don’t have teeth. This being said they are unable to chew their food, unlike other animals. They use their beaks to pick up food and swallow the food right away.
This is why chicken owners should make food easier for them to get and eat. For potatoes, you can slice them into tiny cubed pieces that your flock can easily peck on, after ensuring they are safe and free from high levels of solanine.
Chicken Nutrition: What You Should Know
If chickens can eat raw potatoes as treats, what should you feed your flock as the main diet? It is critical that you know the nutrition your chickens need for you to supply them with the right diet.
What Nutrients Do Chickens Need?
In a nutshell, here are the nutrients, minerals, and vitamins that your chicken needs:
- Protein: Protein is integral for growth and development.
- Carbohydrates: Chickens need energy for bodily functions and movement, which they get from carbohydrates.
- Enzymes: Enzymes help chickens digest food and absorb nutrients and minerals.
- Fats: Like enzymes, fats aid in the absorption of certain vitamins. They are also important for cells to function.
- Vitamins and minerals: Aside from keeping your chickens healthy, vitamins and minerals aid in vital body functions. Among these important nutrients are vitamins A, D, E, and K, calcium, iodine, and iron, to name a few.
Food Chickens Can Eat
Regardless of climate, the recommended main diet for chickens is layer feed which can come in pellet or crumble form. Though commercially made, these feeds are packed with nutrients and specially formulated for poultry.
Aside from processed chicken feeds, giving your chickens natural food is also a good alternative. However, not all foods that are for human consumption are safe for chickens.
As a guide, these are foods chickens can eat:
- Corn – raw, cooked, or dried
- Fruits – there are few exceptions; recommended are apples, melons, and berries
- Grains – rice, wheat
- Vegetables – cooked or raw; recommended are carrots, lettuce, cabbage, squash
- Herbs – recommended are thyme, rosemary, oregano
- Meat – cooked and cut into tiny pieces
Planning to make your own chicken feed? Take notes from this tutorial:
Food Chickens Should Not Eat
Apart from knowing which foods chickens can eat, it is also the responsibility of chicken owners to be aware of what foods chickens should not eat.
Here is a list of foods you should avoid giving your chickens:
- Highly seasoned food – too much sodium leads to salt poisoning
- Dry beans – contain hemagglutinin which can hinder digestion
- Avocado skins and pits– have a toxin called persin
- Greasy food – hard to digest
- Junk food – unhealthy and high in sodium
- Rotten and moldy food – can be toxic and cause diarrhea
Can Chickens Eat Raw Potatoes: Frequently Asked Questions
Now let’s look at some of the internet’s most asked questions regarding whether chickens can eat raw potatoes or not.
Why Can’t Chickens Have Potatoes
The main deterrent as to why you should reconsider feeding your chickens potatoes is the presence of a toxic chemical called solanine. You see, potatoes (of the Irish variety), along with eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes, belong to the nightshade family of plants. This family of plants is notorious for the solanine they carry on their skin.
Solanine is a natural defense for potatoes, deterring would-be pests from eating their fleshy bodies. But something strange happens when you expose potatoes to sunlight; the solanine concentrates on parts of the skin. The potato then develops green patches. These patches are toxic to chickens, and you should always discard green potato peels.
As for the rest of the potato body, it’s safe to eat as long as it doesn’t have green patches.
Can Chickens Eat Raw Potatoes and Potato Skins
Yes, as long as they (the potato flesh and skin) have not turned green. Always remember, the greenish hue on potato peels is an indication of toxic levels of solanine, and you wouldn’t want to feed this problematic chemical to your chickens. Our feathered little buddies may develop stomach irritation, breathing problems, loss of motor function, and in extreme cases, death.
Nasty, nasty stuff. It’s okay to feed your chickens potato flesh and skin as long as they haven’t turned green.
Natural foods are good for poultry as they contain nutrients. Many chicken owners ask: Can chickens eat raw potatoes? The answer is yes! Raw potatoes, both white and sweet potatoes, are healthy for chickens; the only exception is green potatoes, as they contain solanine which is toxic to 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 The Foundry.