Can Chickens Eat Broccoli? The Truth About This Veggie Treat

Whether you want to give your feathered friends tasty treats or reduce food waste, feeding chickens table scraps is an appealing option. 

One particular vegetable always seems destined for the compost bin after dinner. But can chickens eat broccoli? Let’s find out. 

The Short Answer: Can Chickens Eat Broccoli?

Yes, chickens can safely consume broccoli, including its leaves and stems. This nutritious vegetable provides essential vitamins and minerals, making it a healthy addition to their diet. In addition, chickens enjoy a variety of fresh vegetables, like broccoli, alongside leafy greens, fruits, and other produce, contributing to their overall well-being.

The Best Way to Feed Broccoli to Hungry Hens

So now we know chickens can eat broccoli. This vegetable can add nutrition and variety to your chickens’ diets. However, broccoli is not a nutritionally complete food. And it shouldn’t replace chicken feed.

Complete chicken feed should account for at least 90% of your poultry’s diet. In other words: broccoli shouldn’t make up more than 10% of a chicken’s diet. 

According to Purina Mills, laying hen needs about 1/4 lb of food daily. This measurement translates to about half a cup of chicken feed per chicken per day. So, if adding broccoli to your flock’s feast, limit that vegetable addition to 2 tbsp/hen/day.

Giving your chickens too much broccoli can harm their health. Broccoli contains goitrogens. These compounds disrupt the natural functions of the thyroid, leading to metabolic issues. In chickens, these issues can look like feather loss and lethargy. 

As a guideline, give your chickens broccoli no more than twice a week. 

Cooked broccoli is easier for chickens to digest. But avoid cooking the broccoli using fats such as oil or butter. Skip the salt as well! 

Instead, simply steam, blanch, or boil the broccoli. You can even pop it in the microwave for a minimal clean-up cook. No matter how you cook it, remember to wash the broccoli first. 

Broccoli florets deliver the most flavor and fun for chickens. But broccoli stalks will provide more fiber, calcium, and iron. Plus, giving chickens the unwanted bits of broccoli stalks is an easy way to reduce food waste.

If you serve the stalks raw, chop them into small, beak-size pieces to aid digestion. 

Some chefs overlook broccoli leaves. But both humans and chickens can enjoy this nutrient-packed part of the plant.

Related Article: Is Broccoli Man Made or Natural? Solved & Myth Debunked

Benefits of Feeding Chickens Broccoli 

Like humans, chickens benefit from the vitamins and minerals present in broccoli: vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, zinc, calcium, and magnesium. 

These nutrients, particularly vitamin C and potassium, improve chicken immune systems. 

The natural protein available in broccoli will improve chicken growth, immunity, and egg production. In addition, fiber will help with the quality of eggs produced, warding off pathogens such as salmonella. (Chickens with a fiber-rich diet will also excrete less ammonia.) 

Calcium and zinc will help your chickens grow and maintain strong bones and healthy joints. Calcium is particularly valuable to young chicks as they go through rapid development. 

Broccoli also contains valuable antioxidants that will help protect chickens from diseases and toxins. And phosphorous helps repair muscles and develop nerves. Phosphorous is essential for egg layers. 

Chickens aren’t the only ones who can benefit from broccoli. If you’re raising egg layers, you will likely find that hens on a nutrient-rich diet will lay better-tasting eggs. The eggs will also contain more nutrients. 

Plus, chickens with a strengthened immune system will live longer, increasing the length of egg production.

Other Flock Favorites

On average, chickens have 240-360 taste buds. For comparison, adult humans have as many as 10,000 taste buds. So the flavor is far less motivating for hens than for humans. 

But feeding time can provide mental stimulation as well as nutrition. Chickens love to forage. Mixing table scraps into the usual feed allows chickens to peck and scratch their way to the best bits. 

Variety will keep your chickens curious, healthy, and happy. 

Broccoli isn’t the only table scrap chickens love. They’ll happily peck at other members of the Brassicaceae family, such as cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and kale.  

When it comes to leafy greens, chickens will enjoy lettuce, spinach, and swiss chard. They’ll even peck up herbs such as oregano, basil, thyme, parsley, cilantro, lavender, mint, and more. 

Harder vegetables such as carrots, beets, squash, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes are also worthy food for the flock. Just remember to cook these vegetables before tossing them into the chicken coop. 

Chickens will also enjoy pecking cucumber, apples, strawberries, or pears.

Peas, grapes, cherries, and blueberries will provide entertainment as the hens chase these rolling treats. A watermelon rind or corn cob will also offer hours of pecking. 

And for a next-level foraging challenge, hide grains such as oats, oatmeal, quinoa, or wheat within the chicken feed. 

Don’t be surprised if your feathered friends go after your favorite flowers. Chickens also enjoy nibbling on nasturtiums, daisies, marigolds, violets, and roses. They’ll munch up those dandelions you’ve meant to weed with any luck!

Chickens are omnivores. So yes, you can technically feed chicken scraps of meat (even chicken meat). However, you should avoid giving them any food with a high fat or salt content. 

Don’t Give Chickens These Foods

A flock of backyard chickens might seem like the solution to food waste. But before you toss last night’s leftovers into the chicken coop, check your plate. 

Not all foods are good for hen health. Chickens, like many animals, will naturally avoid eating things that could harm them. But here are a few table scraps to avoid in case their survival instincts are somewhat lacking: 

  • Avocado Pits & Skins: Avocado flesh is safe for chickens. But the pits and skins of this fruit contain persin. This fungicidal toxin can cause chickens to experience serious respiratory issues, often resulting in death.
  • Coffee Grounds: The rooster may crow at the crack of dawn, but don’t give him any tea or coffee to get his job done. Chocolate also contains caffeine as well as theobromine, which can poison chickens. 
  • Green Potato Peels: The green areas of potato peels contain solanine. This toxin also appears in peppers, green tomatoes, and other members of the nightshade family. Solanine can cause paralysis, respiratory issues, and diarrhea. 
  • Rhubarb: Rhubarb contains the aromatic organic compound anthraquinone. Anthraquinones can cause a laxative effect on chickens. Cold-damaged rhubarb can also contain oxalic acid, which blocks calcium absorption. In high concentrations, this acid can cause liver damage or lead to soft-shelled eggs. 
  • Moldy Food: Your hens probably won’t mind overripe or stale food. However, you should avoid giving them any moldy food. Mold can develop fungal toxins. If ingested, these mycotoxins can harm chicken health and egg production.
  • Uncooked Beans: Dried or uncooked beans contain hemagglutinin. When consumed, this protein can impede chickens’ digestive systems. Once cooked, beans are safe for chicken consumption.
  • Uncooked Rice: Some chicken breeders caution against feeding these birds uncooked rice, but many ornithologists have dismissed this rumor.

Also, avoid feeding chickens with high fat or salt content. If it’s unhealthy for humans, it probably isn’t healthy for chickens. 

If you are raising poultry for eggs, you should also consider how what they eat could impact the flavor of the eggs they produce. Onions and garlic, for example, are notorious for impacting egg flavor. 

Moderation is also vital to hen health. Don’t feed chickens broccoli every day of the week. Mix up the scraps. Also, remember to provide chicken feed as no less than 90% of your flock’s daily diet. 

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Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.