Contrary to what most of us believe, chickens eat not just grains, meat, and those little tiny organisms. They eat plants, too! However, not all plants are chicken-friendly, and one of them is rhubarb.
What is Rhubarb?
Rhubarb is a nutrition-packed bitter-tasting vegetable that culinary experts usually use to make desserts. With sugar, perfect timing, and great recipes, this bitter-tasting rhubarb can transform into a finger-licking rhubarb pie.
Sometimes rhubarb is used as a medicine, too. Though there was no clinical evidence that it could help an aching stomach, the plant was used as a traditional Chinese laxative.
The vegetable consists mainly of water and a few carbohydrates, and protein. It also contains vitamins K and C.
Because of its nutritional value and health benefits, rhubarb has become one of the best vegetables that someone can buy. But rhubarb is not the best food for your beloved chickens.
Why can’t chickens eat rhubarb?
Though rhubarbs are known to be medicinal plants, your chickens cannot eat them still as it contains oxalic acid. Oxalic acids come naturally with fruits and vegetables, but they are poisonous to chickens and humans.
Here’s a fun fact about Oxalic acid. Oxalic acids are one of the components used to make a bleaching soap. It can help you with your laundry, too, since it can remove metal rusts and stains.
Oxalic acid is a strong chemical compound that can be lethal to your chickens. However, rhubarb stalks have a lesser percentage of oxalic acid compared to rhubarb leaves. This means that the chickens can eat the stalks but not the rhubarb leaves. But they must eat it in moderation.
Do chickens know what to eat?
Chickens may tend to scratch the soil and peck to check their surroundings and probably find some food. This is a behavior that is pre-programmed to the chickens. They are born with instincts.
If you give a chicken food, it will devour the food swiftly unless it is edible. Chickens are like other animals. They are like dogs who will leave the inedible food. But like dogs who sometimes fall in a poisonous food trap, chickens, too, sometimes eat food without precautions. Because of these characteristics, it is advisable to keep the chicken away from the rhubarb plants.
What happens if chickens eat rhubarb?
Humans can eat up to 2 kilograms to 4 kilograms of rhubarb before it gets sick. However, chickens are extra sensitive that a fraction of rhubarb is lethal to them. It can cause them diarrhea, hemorrhages, tremors, increased salivation, and even jaundice.
Yes, chickens can get jaundice, too. You can quickly notice the effects of eating rhubarb on chickens. But if it is left untreated, it can gradually escalate to severe illness that may kill your chicken.
How to treat a rhubarb-poisoned chicken?
There are several ways on how to save your lethargic chicken. One of the best ways to treat a poisoned chicken is to force the chicken to drink a flush. These mixtures act as laxatives that will gently flush the poison out from your chicken’s body.
Here are the types of easy and effective poison flush that you can make to save your chicken.
- Epsom salt flush.Epsom salts are different from table salts. Epsom salts are widely known for their health benefits and are composed of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen. One of the benefits that you get when you use Epsom salt is it aids digestive issues.
- Molasses Flush. Molasses is a sweet syrupy residue of cane sugar and beet sugar production. The third boiling step of the sugar extraction yields the most significant vitamins and minerals, making it an ideal feed.
You may also find additional information about poisoned chicken and other chicken diseases in the video below.
Here’s how to make the magic flush:
10 ml Epsom salts
1 cup water
Mix and stir the Epsom Salt and water thoroughly.
2 times a day until the chicken gets well.
60 ml molasses
Mix and stir the molasses and water thoroughly.
Flush into the chicken’s throat within eight hours from the time the chicken was poisoned.
Once your chicken slowly recovers from the poisonous rhubarb. You need to feed them healthy chicken food that can help them regain their strength and completely recover.
What are the foods that increase chicken’s appetite?
Feeding a sick or recovering chicken may need you to be extra hands-on in preparing their food. You need to be more persuasive in feeding them to help them get back their appetite.
Otherwise, if they stop eating, their empty and growling stomach will stop making hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid helps your chicken’s stomach PH level, which in turn helps your chicken manage to fight off those harmful organisms inside their stomach.
You may help your chicken get back on track through this appetite-stimulating healthy and nutrient-packed food.
- Hard-boiled eggs. Cooked vegetable
- Cooked meat
Here are three other food that you must not feed your chicken.
How to keep chickens safe from the rhubarb plant?
Here are four basic steps that you can follow to keep your chickens safe from the deadly rhubarb.
- Gate your chickens – If you have a garden, make sure that your chickens do not have any access to it. Keep them away from the garden as there are plants other than rhubarb that can be harmful to them when eaten.
- Restrict their diet – When feeding vegetables or other edible plants to your chicken, make sure to feed them in lesser quantities. Do not overfeed them with vegetables without making sure that they are 100% safe to eat.
- Know your plants – Poultry and gardening go hand in hand most of the time. Thus, it is normal if your chickens can freely roam around in your garden. Since your free-range chickens can roam anywhere, you should separate or remove those toxic plants.
- Do not plant – If you haven’t tried planting rhubarb yet or are still planning to plant a rhubarb, and you have pets and animals, including chickens, it will be better not to realize the plan since the rhubarb plant can be lethal to most of the animals.
What are the worst plants that the chickens should avoid?
- Onions contain a chemical compound called thiosulphate which can cause anemia and liver problem in chickens.
- Raw beans may be healthy, but not to the chickens. It contains phytohaemagglutinin, which can be lethal to chickens. This is deadly than a rhubarb’s plant as it can kill the chicken in an hour after consuming around four raw beans.
What are the best plants to feed the chicken?
Raising a chicken is like raising a child. It is your sole responsibility to ensure that the chickens are well-fed and well-nourished. Regardless of where you are raising the chickens, they are entitled to get the best plants they can eat and incorporate them into their diet.
Here are the best plants that you can surround your chickens with:
Sage is one of the most underrated herbs. Don’t you know that Sage can fight salmonella? Since chickens can quickly get salmonella, surrounding your chickens with Sage can help neutralize the bacteria. It can help boost your chicken’s immune system, too!
Sunflowers can kill two birds in one stone. The sunflower seeds are perfect snacks for your chickens. Its seed contains a nutritional value that can help your chickens’ immune system. Plus, the sunflowers will serve as an excellent shade for your beloved chickens.
Thyme is another underrated herb that your poultry must-have. Thymes are known to have a compound that can fight off insects. But what makes Thyme the best plant to surround your chicken is its antibacterial and antibiotic properties that will help your chicken fight against respiratory diseases.
There are more than a hundred best and worst plants that you need to check for your chicken to be completely safe. You may also watch the video below to know more about feeding chickens, specifically hens.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- Can a chicken die from eating rhubarb?
Yes. Eating rhubarb can poison the chicken and may cause their untimely death if left untreated.
- Can chicken eat a cooked rhubarb?
No. Though the cooking process may remove or lessen the oxalic acid level of the rhubarb, it is still not advisable to feed it to your chickens. It is best to be cautious.
- What if the home remedies will not work?
If the chicken is still lethargic and is still losing its appetite after giving the Epsom Salt Flush and Molasses Flush, call the nearest veterinarian in your area. They can help you with your concern.
Chickens can eat rhubarb stalks in moderation. However, they cannot eat the rhubarb leaves as it contains high oxalic acid.
If the chickens accidentally eat rhubarb and get poisoned, give them immediate care by flushing the toxins with Epsom Salt Flush and Molasses Flush.
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.