Raising backyard chickens looks easy, right? All that you need is fencing to keep them safe. Feeding them too doesn’t seem daunting to many. But contrary to the popular belief, feeding a chicken is not as easy as it sounds to be. Even a slight variation from its required diet can lead to reduced egg production, deformed eggs, and other issues.
This is why you need to be extremely careful about what you feed them. There are a lot of food items that you should not feed chickens. So, what about sweet potatoes?
Can chicken eat sweet potatoes? Yes, chicken can eat sweet potatoes, and it is safe for them too. If you didn’t know, sweet potatoes are highly nutritious. It is estimated that raw sweet potatoes contain 47% digestible nutrients, while cooked ones contain 65% digestible nutrients. Due to which, when fed in adequate quantities, it can positively impact health and productivity.
In fact, not just the sweet potatoes, stem, leaves, vines, peels, and flowers of sweet potatoes are safe for chickens. There are many such benefits of sweet potatoes. In this article, we will look at the benefits of feeding sweet potatoes to chickens and other interesting facts about them.
Are sweet potatoes safe for the chickens?
Yes, sweet potatoes are perfectly safe for Chickens. As said earlier, sweet potatoes are loaded with vital nutrients such as beta carotene, vitamin C, and potassium.
Not just the potatoes, all parts of the plant including stem, leaves, vines, peels, and flowers are safe for chickens making it the ideal feed for chickens.
But that being said, it is essential to note that not everything about sweet potatoes is safe. You need to be extremely careful not to feed them moldy sweet potatoes.
The molds on sweet potatoes are highly toxic to chickens and can cause severe infections in them.
Can chickens eat raw sweet potatoes?
Yeah, chickens can eat raw sweet potatoes and cooked sweet potatoes. A study conducted on sweet potatoes as chicken feed identified that both raw and cooked sweet potatoes make perfect chicken feed.
The only difference being the percentage of total digestible nutrients in sweet potatoes.
As per the study, the total digestible nutrients in raw and cooked sweet potato were 47% and 65%, respectively. Ideally, roasted sweet potatoes are better than raw ones.
Can I feed white potatoes to chicken?
No, you shouldn’t feed any other potatoes other than sweet potatoes to chicken. You should not consider white, red, or yellow potatoes as an alternative to sweet potatoes. To better understand this, let us have a look at the different types of potatoes.
Contrary to popular belief, sweet potatoes and white, red, or yellow potatoes are not the same. It just that they share a common name, and that’s pretty much everything.
Sweet potatoes belong to the family of morning glory and are safe for consumption by chicken whereas, the white, red, or yellow potatoes belong to the nightshade family and are toxic to chickens.
White, red, and yellow potatoes that belong to the nightshade family contain a harmful substance known as solanine.
Solanine is a highly potent neurotoxin that can harm your birds. The common symptoms of solanine poisoning include convulsions, respiratory distress, and diarrhea. In extreme cases, it can even lead to neurological damage, paralysis, or even death.
The toxicity of solanine can be reduced drastically by cooking, which explains why cooked potatoes are safe for human consumption. But this doesn’t make it safe for chickens. It would be best if you did not feed them potatoes that belong to the nightshade family.
Benefits of feeding chickens sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamins and minerals that are vital for chickens. In this section, we will have a look at the benefits of feeding sweet potatoes to chickens.
Vitamin A supplement
Sweet potatoes are rich in Vitamin A that is an essential supplement for chickens. Chickens need Vitamin A for healthy growth, reproduction, and maintenance of epithelial cells in good condition. The high level of beta-carotene (4, 5) in sweet potatoes makes it an ideal Vitamin A supplement.
Rich in Vitamin D3
Vitamin D3 is required to absorb and utilize calcium and phosphorus absorption properly. Sweet potatoes are loaded with Vitamin D3, making it an ideal supplement. This can especially come in handy in the case of chicks who need calcium and phosphorus for healthy growth and bone development. And for egg-laying chickens, it can help makes the eggshells strong.
Ideal feed for broiler chicken
In an organoleptic evaluation of broiler chickens that were slaughtered, it was found that the meat of those chickens who were kept on a diet rich in sweet potatoes had a unique flavor.
Rich in carbohydrates
A chicken needs carbohydrates to stay warm and active. Apart from these, dietary carbohydrates are their primary source of energy. What makes sweet potatoes an ideal source of carbohydrate is because of the high content of digestible carbohydrates than other sources.
Can chickens eat sweet potato leaves?
Contrary to popular belief, leaves of sweet potatoes are not toxic to chickens. It is important to note that it is the leaves of potatoes belonging to the nightshade family (white, red & yellow) that are dangerous.
Sweet potatoes belong to the morning glory family, and their leaves, vines, and roots are safe for chicken. Interestingly their leaves, vines, and roots are found to contain digestible carbohydrates and proteins in adequate quantities.
Apart from the presence of digestible carbohydrates and proteins, sweet potato leaves are rich in antioxidants and contain high levels of vitamin A and C, as well as thiamin, folic acid, and niacin. They are also rich in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, potassium, and iron.
Ways to feed sweet potatoes to chickens
You can feed your chickens boiled, mashed, roasted, or raw sweet potatoes.
Boiled/Mashed sweet potatoes – We don’t exactly know why, but chickens tend to like boiled/mashed potatoes more. Maybe they like the flavor of mashed sweet potatoes. Either way, cooked sweet potatoes are easier for them to eat.
Roasted sweet potatoes – Roasted sweet potatoes are safe for chickens. If you were to consider sweet potatoes as a healthy snack, boiled ones are the best option. But yeah, you can give them roasted sweet potatoes once in a while as a treat.
Raw sweet potatoes – Sweet potatoes belong to the family of morning glory plants and are not toxic like the ones in the nightshade family. You can safely feed them raw sweet potatoes. But as said earlier, boiled sweet potatoes are more nutritious to them.
Other treats that you can feed your chickens
In this section, we will have a look at some of the fruits and vegetables that you can safely feed your chickens.
Broccoli – Broccolis are rich in vitamins and low in fats. You can feed them both cooked & raw broccoli.
Grapes – Grapes are highly nutritious fruits and are beneficial for chickens. They are loaded with Vitamin B, A & c.
Pineapples – Pineapples are rich in vitamins and minerals and can be a nutritional treat. But keep in mind that they should only be fed occasionally owing to the high sugar content.
Strawberries – Strawberries are loaded with trace elements and vitamins A, C & B9. They are also rich in an anti-inflammatory component called quercetin.
Apples – Apples are good for chickens as long as you remove the seeds. Also, make sure that you chop them into small pieces before feeding them.
Berries – Berries are rich in vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants. And yeah, they can eat all types of berries.
Conclusion: Can Chickens Eat Sweet Potatoes?
So yes, sweet potatoes are safe for chickens, unlike the nightshade potatoes. Being loaded with digestible carbohydrates, proteins it has increasingly become popular among chicken owners.