The diverse eating habits of chickens have always been a subject of intrigue for their owners. Omnivorous in nature, these poultry birds seem to give anything they can find a try. However, while they look strong and healthy, chickens are fragile beings. If they feed on something they shouldn’t, it won’t take them long to get sick. Toxic food can also be life-threatening to them in some cases. This is why, as a pet parent, you need to be careful about what you are feeding them. What about tomatoes?
Can chickens eat tomatoes? Yes, chickens can eat tomatoes. Tomatoes taste great and are a powerhouse of nutrients. They make both a healthy and tasty snack for chickens. Even baby chicks can enjoy these treats in moderation. The only problematic part of tomatoes is all its greens (leaves, calyx, even the green tomato itself), which contain solanine. Solanine is not good for the chicken’s health, which is why you should avoid feeding them green tomatoes or regular tomatoes with the calyx or leaves attached.
This article will discuss everything you need to know about feeding tomatoes to chickens: from its health benefits to the effect of solanine on chickens.
Do chickens like eating tomatoes?
When it comes to your chicken’s taste, you don’t have to worry at all. Chickens are often flexible about their diet are willing to try whatever you throw their way. On top of it, tomatoes are bright red and juicy, which makes them all the more appealing to your feathered pets.
However, in rare cases, it has been found that some chickens do not touch tomatoes when it is served to them. So, there’s nothing to worry about if your chicken shows no inclination towards tomatoes either.
These veggies are used as a treat for them and can easily be replaced with another vegetable or fruit should you need to.
Are tomatoes healthy for chickens?
Once you’ve settled whether or not your chickens like tomatoes, you need to ask yourself another important question: are tomatoes healthy for my chickens?
Being small birds, chickens already have a small diet as it is. It is, therefore, essential to fit all the nutrients they need into it without overfeeding them.
Do tomatoes add any essential nutrient in the chicken’s diet? To find out the answer to this question, take a look at the nutritional chart of tomatoes given below.
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
|Vitamin B4 (Choline)
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)
|Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)
Serving size: 100 grams
Now, let’s find out which of these nutrients add to the health of your feathered pet.
Health benefits of tomatoes for chickens
Water – About 95% of a tomato is made up of water, which keeps your active chickens hydrated throughout the day.
Fiber – The commercial chicken feed contains about 10% of fibers. Every single tomato contains about 1.5 grams of fibers, which are in the form of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. All these collectively help the digestive system of chickens to function smoothly.
Carbohydrates – Chickens draw their energy from carbohydrates, which makes up 4% of every tomato. These carbs are in form of simple sugars such as fructose and glucose, and keep your chickens energized.
Vitamins – Vitamin A maintains the overall health of your chicken, with special attention to their eyesight. The B-complex vitamins have several healthy properties that keep your chickens away from diseases like Perosis, Lesions, Mouth cavity inflammation, Fatty liver and kidney syndromes, Hatchability problems, etc.
Out of all vitamin B-series, folate stands out. It has a special role in promoting cell functions and tissue growth. Vitamin C is responsible for the proper formation of their blood vessels, tissues, bones, and feathers, and improves their immunity.
Minerals – Tomatoes contain calcium, copper, zinc, potassium, manganese, all of which are great for your chickens. Calcium keeps their eggs healthy, while copper prevents the possibility of digestive issues in them. Zinc improves their bone and feather health, potassium is essential for their overall health, and manganese promotes their cartilage formation.
Other nutrients – Apart from these nutrients, tomatoes also contain several phytonutrients that add to chickens’ health. Beta carotene is an antioxidant that gives tomatoes an orange-yellowish color. Inside their body, it is converted into vitamin A.
Lycopene is an organic compound that gives the vegetable its natural red color and acts as an antioxidant. Naringenin is a flavonoid that is present in the outer skin of tomatoes.
It has anti-inflammatory properties that prevent chickens from various swelling diseases. If your chicken is already suffering from an inflammatory disease, naringenin will help in reducing the swelling.
Can chickens eat unripe tomatoes?
Tomatoes belong to the family of nightshade vegetables (Solanaceae), a plant family that includes other vegetables such as potato, eggplant, pepper, chili, huckleberries, and husk cherries, etc. Apart from used as vegetables in meals, these plants are also used to make species and season various dishes.
Are you wondering why we’re talking about the nightshade vegetables all of a sudden? Don’t worry; you will find out soon enough. The nightshade vegetables are popular because of the presence of solanine in them. Solanine is a steroid glycoside compound of the saponin group, which is poisonous to all small insects and pests.
Solanine is present in the nightshade plant as a defense mechanism against the insects that try to eat them. The compound is present in all the green parts of the plants.
Due to the green tomato color, it has high solanine content, which is not healthy for your chicken. Thus, you shouldn’t feed your chicken green or unripe tomatoes.
Why is solanine bad for chickens?
While solanine can’t directly kill your chickens like it does all the small insects, it is still unhealthy for them. If they consume a small amount of it, they might not be affected. However, any more than that can be lethal to your pet.
If your chicken has consumed solanine accidentally, these are the symptoms you should look out for.
- Body ache
- Inflammation in joints
- A burning sensation in the throat
- Discomfort in digestive tracts
In many cases, too much solanine can even lead to paralysis in chickens. This is why you should never feed it to your chickens.
Can you get rid of solanine by cooking the vegetable?
Many people believe that boiling or cooking green tomatoes can get rid of the solanine present in it. This, however, is not true.
High temperatures can neutralize the concentration of solanine to some extent, but not enough to make it safe for chickens. Therefore, instead of trying to make green tomatoes edible for chickens, you should go with the red ones.
Can chickens eat the leaves of a tomato plant?
Certainly not. Like we mentioned in the last section, all the green parts of the nightshade plants are rich in solanine, including their leaves.
In addition to tomato leaves, you should also not let your chickens get close to the leaves or plants of eggplant, pepper, chili, potato, etc.
If you have chickens in your backyard, it is best if you do not plant any of the nightshade plants around your home as a safety measure.
Can baby chicks eat tomatoes?
Tomatoes are not harmful to chicks any more than they are to their parents. Just be careful to avoid feeding them green tomatoes, or any other green part of the plant. Also, it would be great if you can find softer tomatoes for the chicks so that they can bite into them easily.
Tomatoes for chickens: serving ideas
Before you serve tomatoes to your chickens, always remember to wash them thoroughly. This is more necessary if you buy them from the market.
The vendors in the market often sprinkle all their vegetables with chemicals and pesticides to keep insects away and make them look fresher. These chemicals could be dangerous for your chickens.
To wash tomatoes thoroughly, soak them in lukewarm water for a few minutes and then rinse them off with fresh water. Remove the calyx, which could contain solanine as well. From, you need to do very little.
You can cut tomatoes up into bite-sized pieces for your chickens if you like, but it isn’t necessary. Tomatoes are squishy enough for them to devour directly with their beaks. If you want to make a fancier snack for them, you can mix a few other veggies with tomatoes to make a veggie salad. Chickens love nothing more than variety.
Frequently asked questions
Can chickens eat cherry tomatoes? Cherry tomatoes are the small, cherry-shaped tomatoes that are said to be a genetic mixture of wild and domesticated garden tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are safe to feed your chickens as long as they are fully-ripe, and their calyx is removed.
Can I feed my chicken cottage cheese to increase its weight? Yes, if you want your chicken to gain some weight, feeding them cottage cheese is a safe option. In addition to adding a few pounds on them, cheese is also rich in protein, which is healthy for egg production.
Summing it up
To wrap it up, tomatoes are safe for chickens as long as they are ripe. Green tomatoes, or other green parts of its plant, contain a compound called solanine, which is not good for chickens’ health. Consuming too much solanine can even make your chicken paralyzed. Therefore, you should be careful about avoiding all the greens of the tomato plant while feeding it to your chickens.