Gifting your chickens the occasional treat is a part of a well-rounded, healthy diet for them. These birds are similar to us in that they enjoy taking a break from only eating chicken feed. Cucumbers are one of the safest snacks to feed chickens because it keeps them hydrated and cool during the summer without harming their digestive systems.

Hens and roosters are omnivores and enjoy a large variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains. While a majority of their diet should come from traditional chicken feed, a well-rounded menu provides them with energy and improves egg production. So, how many treats should you give your chicks, and are there any foods that are off-limits? This article addresses everything you need to know about feeding your chickens safe treats so that they live healthy and happy lives.

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Why Feed Chickens Cucumbers?

Aside from the refreshing taste, cucumbers have a variety of benefits that help your flock’s overall health. Cucumbers are made up of 95% water, making them an easy tool for hydrating these small animals during the hotter summer months. These green veggies are also a rich source of vitamins A, B, C, and K. Vitamin A is responsible for strengthening the birds’ immune systems, reproduction rates, and vision. It also keeps the lungs, kidneys, and heart working properly. The high levels of vitamin K are great for keeping the bones of all animals strong as they age.

Aside from the beneficial vitamins, cucumbers are tremendously high in fiber. The water content, along with the fiber, ensures that your chickens are never constipated and keeps everything running smoothly. Because cucumbers are low in acidity, it makes them a perfectly safe treat to give them several times per week.

Image Credit: Lukáš Jančička, Pixabay

How Many Cucumbers Can Chickens Eat?

Regardless of how safe a particular food is for your birds, they should never rely on scrap foods alone. The majority of a chicken’s diet must come from chicken feed because it provides them with all of the necessary nutrients to keep them alive and healthy. Giving them only scraps leave significant gaps in their nutrition and could cause serious health problems.

As a general rule of thumb, treats and food scraps should only make up 10% of the daily diet of your chickens. This rule applies to both free-range chickens and chickens confined to a single space. Supplemental foods only replace a fraction of a chicken’s essential dietary needs, and too much of them could cause serious health problems.

Dangers of Feeding Chickens Cucumbers

As mentioned before, too many supplemental foods could put your flock at risk. Even though cucumbers are safe for them to eat in moderation, excess watery foods upset the balance of nutrients. When they start to rely on these types of food, you may notice reduced egg production, malformed eggs, protein deficiency, obesity, and even fatty liver syndrome.

Let’s say you decide to give your hens cucumbers as an occasional treat. Even though this is usually a safe option, you still have to be careful about the food you put out for them. One of the dangers of cucumbers is that farmers spray them with pesticides. Unless you grow your own fruits and veggies without using harmful chemicals, be sure to thoroughly wash all of them under cold running water before setting them outside.

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Image Credit: Alexei Chizhov, Pixabay

Safe vs Unsafe Foods for Chickens

While there are dozens of tasty foods that are safe for your chicks, there are also some that you should never give to them. Unsafe foods for your chickens to eat include:

  • Dried or raw beans: Dry beans contain a fatal toxin called phytohemagglutinin and are lethal to poultry, even after eating only three or four beans.
  • Moldy foods: Some molds that grow on foods contribute to liver cancer in both animals and humans. It’s safer to avoid all moldy foods than to risk it.
  • Green potatoes or green tomatoes: While cooked potatoes and red tomatoes are fine, the green coloring in these plants signals there is a toxin called solanine present and may be poisonous to your flock.
  • Fried, salty, or sugary foods: Getting rid of food scraps is beneficial to us, but don’t give your chickens foods that are fried or contain excess salt or sugar, or it may seriously affect their digestive system.

While some food items should never be given to your chickens, there are plenty of others that are perfectly safe in moderation. Remember that chicken diets must only contain 10% of treats. Some of the tastiest foods they safely peck at are broccoli, grapes, pineapple, strawberries, celery, apples, rice, asparagus, crickets, cabbage, and blueberries.

How to Prepare Cucumbers for Chickens

Now that you know cucumbers are safe for chickens to eat, how do you prepare them? One of the easiest ways to prep fresh cucumbers is to cut them in half lengthways. Set them cut side up on the ground so the chickens can easily peck at the juicy flesh.

Another way to prep cucumbers for chickens is to hang them up with string. The skin is also safe for the chickens to eat, so they can peck at the whole cucumber while being stimulated at the same time.

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Chickens tend to live a life of monotony and get bored when eating the same things day in and day out. One of the easiest and satisfying ways to give your chickens a more fulfilling life is to provide them a few tasty indulgences a few times a week. Your chickens won’t only appreciate the new flavors, but their overall health will benefit and make them smarter and well-stimulated.

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