If you have blackberries growing on your homestead, you may be wondering “can chickens eat blackberries?” We have a lot of wild blackberries growing on our Minnesota acreage, so I had the same burning question!
I’ve done the research for you and below we’ll tackle all aspects of this topic:
- Are blackberries safe for chickens?
- How many can they eat?
- How to feed blackberries to chickens
- The nutritional value of blackberries
- What foods are poisonous to chickens?
- Plus, much more!
Let’s jump in!
Can Chickens Eat Blackberries?
Yes – your chickens can absolutely eat blackberries, and they’ll love you for it! There are a few things that chickens shouldn’t eat (we’ll cover that later in this article), but blackberries aren’t one of them. Blackberries are nutritious and a lovely treat for your adult chooks!
How many blackberries can my chickens have?
Just like in most things, moderation is key. Use blackberries as an occasional treat (no more than a few berries per bird) and keep the bulk of their diet limited to a balanced feed, foraged greens and critters (bugs, mice, frogs, you name it!).
If your chickens eat too many blackberries, they could end up with diarrhea. No thanks!
If they eat too many for an extended period of time, they could end up with deficiencies since blackberries aren’t nutritionally complete for poultry. Also, a protein-deficient diet (blackberries are low in protein) can result in a reduction in egg laying and reduced hatchability of their eggs.
Bottom line: Keep blackberries as occasional treats only!
What is the best way to give chickens blackberries?
I’m sure there are more complicated ways to go about it, but I like to just throw them in the yard. They’ll go nuts chasing each one and it sure is fun to watch! Blackberries can be fairly large, so you could chop them up into bite size pieces if you’d like, but it’s not necessary. The hens will make quick work of breaking it themselves, too.
Just make sure to spread them out so that everyone gets a chance at snagging one and never mix fresh blackberries in with their feed. The high water content may cause the feed to spoil and the berries may rot or mold if they aren’t consumed right away.
Can baby chicks eat blackberries?
I would not give blackberries to baby chicks for two reasons:
- First, blackberries are much too large for little chicks. You could chop them up into teeny tiny pieces, but who has time for that in the spring when gardens need to be planted?
- Secondly, baby chicks are growing rapidly and their intake should be focused on a well-balanced feed to support their growth while learning how to forage.
Can chickens eat blackberry seeds?
Of course! Chickens have an incredible digestive tract. They can break down seeds easily thanks to their highly-muscular, acid-rich gizzard that is filled with small stones to grind up anything that they eat. Seeds are not a problem as long as they are provided grit at all times.
Can chickens eat blackberry leaves?
Blackberry leaves are safe for chickens to eat as long as they haven’t been sprayed with any pesticides. However, I’ve found that the blackberry leaves on my bushes are typically untouched. Chickens must not find them very tasty.
Of note, blackberry leaves are actually quite nutritious and often forgotten about! They contain many bioactive compounds that have been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties while also beneficially impacting the brain and heart.
Can chickens eat moldy blackberries?
Definitely not. If the blackberries have begun to grow mold, throw them in your compost bin instead of your chicken run. Never feed moldy blackberries (or anything else moldy!) to your chickens.
Do Chickens Like to Eat Blackberries?
Heck yes they do! I think it’s safe to say that blackberries are one of their favorite treats. The important thing is to make sure that they don’t eat too many – they won’t be able to stop themselves!
If you have blackberry bushes on your property, make sure to fence them off otherwise your chickens will strip them bare!
Also, blackberry thorns can cause injury to their foot pad. This can lead to a common foot infection called bumblefoot. If you’re not familiar with bumblefoot, definitely check out my article Bumblefoot in Chickens – Treatment, Causes & Prevention so that you know what to look for.
The Health Benefits of Blackberries in Chickens
Blackberries are a great, nutritious snack to provide to your chickens! They are loaded with fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. Thanks to their high water content, they also aid in hydration!
Blackberries are an excellent source of fiber! Fiber is essential for gut health in humans, and chickens are no different! Chickens have a diverse microbiome that hosts over 900 different strains of microorganisms who thrive off of consistent fiber intake.
Fiber also reduces ammonia emissions! That’s because fiber allows their digestive tract to synthesize proteins instead of undigested protein going on to ferment into ammonia. Once ammonia builds up in the coop, it can be very toxic to your flock (and you!).
Vitamins & Minerals
Blackberries are rich in vitamins and minerals to support the health of your flock. The most prominent ones in blackberries are vitamin E, vitamin C and most of the B-vitamins. All of these have a huge role in poultry!
- Vitamin E: Essential to fertility and egg production in poultry. Also, reduces overall stress and free radical damage while supporting the immune system.
- Vitamin C: Improves their stress response, disease resistance and combats free radical damage. Also, improves laying rate and hatch potential.
- B-vitamins: Essential for basic cell functioning. When deficiencies occur, chickens can develop paralysis and impaired cellular metabolism and cell growth.
Blackberries contain a high water content, so they can be a great, hydrating treat during those hot summer days. On the other hand, too many berries can result in diarrhea, which can be dehydrating. Balance is key.
Nutritional Breakdown of Blackberries
Want more detail? Here’s all of the nutrients that 1 cup of blackberries provides according to USDA FoodData Central. Of course, don’t feed each of your chickens 1 cup of blackberries, but I think these portions make the data more relatable to what we are familiar with (humans requirements).
Can I Give My Chickens Other Berries?
You can definitely give your chickens other berries! They love them all: blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, you name it! My chickens also go nuts for ground cherries.
Have fun experimenting with different types to see which ones are their favorites. Just please remember to not over-do it! Berries should only be used as a treat.
What Foods Are Poisonous to Chickens?
While chickens enjoy a wide variety of foods from berries and greens to mice and frogs, there are a few foods that should never be provided to them.
- Raw potato peels
- Avocado pit and peel
- Dry/uncooked beans
- Anything moldy or rotten
- Fried foods
- Salty foods
- Caffeine or alcohol
- High fat foods
- High sugar foods
- Artificial sugars
Another thing to consider avoiding are strong-flavored foods. That’s because these flavors can easily be passed onto the eggs and result in a pungent breakfast for you. In the spring, I can sometimes pick up a “froggy” smell from a few of my eggs. Pee-yew!
Other Articles You’ll Love
- Can Chickens Eat Grapes? Are They Safe?
- 5 Protein Sources for Chickens (Especially While Molting!)
- Bumblefoot in Chickens – Treatment, Causes & Prevention
Are you a first-time chicken keeper? Or maybe you don’t even have chickens yet? Definitely check out my ultimate resource How to Care for Chickens: A Beginners Guide.
The answer to the question “Can chickens eat blackberries” is YES! Blackberries are a delicious, nutritious treat for your chickens to enjoy, on occasion! Your chickens will absolutely love them and it’s a lot of fun to watch them chase after each berry that you toss their way.
The important thing is to make sure that they don’t overindulge in eating blackberries. Just a few per chicken!
*Information in this article was referenced from personal experience and/or from my favorite chicken book Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens unless otherwise noted.
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