Can Chickens Eat Potatoes? What you need to know!

Many chicken owners use kitchen scraps as part of their chicken diet along with commercial chicken feeds. There are plenty of kitchen scraps that are safe to eat and that chickens love, but there are some foods that you may be dubious about. In general, fruits and vegetables that are safe for us are safe for chickens, but we also have very different nutritional needs from chickens. That means that even if something is safe for your chickens to eat, you still need to know how much they can safely eat. One food you may be curious about is potatoes. Raw and cooked potatoes and potato skins are common leftovers from many kitchens, so here’s what you need to know about feeding potatoes to your chickens, as it’s a tricky answer to whether they can actually eat them.

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Can Chickens Eat Potatoes?

Feeding Chicken

The answer to this question is a little more complex than a simple “yes” or “no”. Seems like the best answer is “depends on who you ask”, so let’s take a look at the intricacies of whether or not your chicken can eat potatoes.

Can your chickens eat potatoes? Yes. Should you feed potatoes to your chickens? That’s where things start to get questioned. You see, potatoes contain solanine, which is a naturally occurring neurotoxin. It occurs in greatest concentrations in the green parts of potatoes as well as the eyes and skin. Potato “meat” generally contains the lowest levels of solanine, and these levels can be significantly reduced by cooking. However, potatoes must be cooked at high temperatures, such as during baking, to reduce solanine because solanine is a heat-resistant chemical, meaning higher levels of heat are required to break it down. Boiling or simmering the potatoes will remove some of the solanine. This means that even if you feed cooked potatoes to your chickens, you run the risk of solanine poisoning. By the way, solanine is present in all foods in the nightshade family, including eggplant and tomatoes.

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Here’s the catch, though. Throwing a handful of cooked, or even raw, potatoes at your chicken won’t do any harm because the solanine concentration is so low. However, there’s really no “quantity” of potatoes that’s defined as safe or unsafe, which makes it very difficult to know how much of a risk you’re taking. Many people feed their chickens potatoes as an occasional treat without any ill effects, but it is risky.

Another big consideration with feeding potatoes to chickens, apart from solanine, is that potatoes are high in starchy carbohydrates. Starch tends to be high in calories and low in nutrient density, making it a calorie-dense food with little nutritional value. A general recommendation is to avoid feeding starch to your chickens.

What’s a Better Choice for My Chicken?

Eat chicken

The good news is there is ton safe food for chickens in your kitchen! Not only is it safe for chickens, but foods with a high nutrient density and little or no risk of adverse health effects. For a potato-like snack for your chicken, you can offer sweet potatoes instead. You may not even realize it, but sweet potatoes don’t come from the same plant family as potatoes, so they’re not nightshades. All parts of the sweet potato should be safe for your chicken, whether cooked or raw, but cooked sweet potatoes will be easier for your chicken to eat and digest. In addition to sweet potatoes, your chicken can have most vegetables, including zucchini, broccoli, cabbage, kale, bok choy, spinach, beets, and winter squash like butternut squash and squash.

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Other considerations

If all else fails, talk to your poultry or farm veterinarian about what to give your chickens as a supplement to their diet. Your veterinarian will be able to provide science-backed advice to keep your chickens healthy and safe. Some people, including vets, will give you permission to offer your chickens potatoes as a treat, but it never hurts to ask before you do!

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Conclusion

Feeding potatoes to your chickens can sometimes be a viable treat, but there are many better options in your kitchen, garden, and even yard that you can safely offer your chickens. Your chickens will tell you if they don’t care about something you have to offer them. Like humans, they have preferences with food, so one chicken might go straight for the sweet potato chunks while another go straight for blueberries. A varied diet is healthy for your chickens and ensures they receive all the nutrients they need to stay healthy.


Featured Image Credit: Markus Spiske, remove the splash