Cherry fruit, derived from different plants of the Prunus genus, is a firm favorite in many desserts and baked treats such as cherry pie. With over 1,000 different cherry varieties in the United States, millions of people love this little red or black fruit. Can chickens eat cherries?
Chickens can eat cherries as they are low in calories and have an abundance of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties inside them. The pulp and skin of cherries is the most nutritional part to feed your chickens, and sour cherries are the healthiest choice.
Sweet, sour, or wild cherries are a firm favorite of many a chicken flock. You can feed the whole fruit to chickens as they are masters at pecking at the fruit until only the stem and pit are left over. Due to the high natural sugar content, cherries should be fed as an occasional treat, not part of the main diet.
Can Chickens Eat Cherries?
When fed to chickens as an occasional treat, cherries boost the flock’s health. Cherries contain a lot of nutritional vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. However, cherries contain high levels of natural sugar, so moderation is key when feeding this delicious fruit to your feathery friends.
Sour cherries are more nutrient-rich than sweet cherries, but tell that to the flock with a refined sweet “tooth.” Either type will add value to a balanced diet. If a cherry is fresh, a chicken will have a peck to see what it’s all about.
Are Cherries Healthy for Chickens?
Cherries offer a host of nutrients when included in a balanced diet. A chicken diet should consist of 90% commercial chicken feed and 10% treats such as vegetables, fruits, alternative seeds, and grains. When fed in moderation, cherries add nutritional elements to the flock’s diet.
Here are a few nutritional benefits when feeding cherries to your feathery friends:
- Potassium – Beneficial to bones in the body, helps to balance fluids, and plays a role in maintaining a steady heartbeat while lowering blood pressure. Potassium is required for muscle contractions and to send nerve impulses while removing excess sodium from your system.
- Choline – Produces the acetylcholine neurotransmitter, which is vital to brain and nerve functions. Choline plays an important role in the body’s metabolization and transportation of fat.
- Antioxidants – Cherries are packed with strong polyphenol antioxidants such as catechins, flavonols, and anthocyanins, which help promote heart health by protecting cells and fighting inflammation.
- Vitamin A – Help to keep the immune system healthy and promotes bone (and egg) growth while protecting against cataracts.
- Vitamin C – Fulfills a critical role in collagen production, which ensures support of blood vessel walls and wound healing. Vitamin C lowers the chance of cancers in the body that may affect the stomach, mouth, and esophagus and helps to deflect unstable molecules from damaging cells.
- Vitamin K – Plays a massive part in the activation of certain proteins, which are vital in the process of blood clotting.
- Magnesium & Calcium – In tandem, these two minerals help build bones, aid in muscle contraction, and regulate blood pressure.
What Parts of Cherries Are Good For Chickens?
The most nutritious part of a cherry is the fruit itself. The skin and pulp of a cherry is what you must aim to feed your chickens. The pulp, or flesh of a cherry, is the part that contains the bulk of the vitamins and antioxidants.
Avoid chocolate-covered cherries and candied cherries (Maraschino or Luxardo cherries) as they are laid in sugar water, and as we all know, sugar is not good for chickens and can result in digestive system issues. A chicken with diarrhea is not a pretty sight.
One to two cherries per adult chicken should do the trick. Juvenile and younger chickens don’t have the fully developed digestive system of an adult chicken, so be careful when feeding the sugary treat to them, as their systems can’t tolerate as much sugar as the bigger birds.
Can Chickens Eat Wild Cherries?
Wild cherries contain cyanogenic glycosides, which can release cyanide when ingested. Feeding your flock large quantities of wild cherries is not recommended, but a spoonful here or there won’t kill your chickens.
If you have a Black Tartarian Cherry Tree on your property, ensure your chickens don’t have access to its toxic bark, leaves, or twigs.
Can Chickens Eat Dried Cherries?
Dried cherries are a perfect snack for chickens, especially those with no sugar added. Chicken owners worried about their flock ingesting stems and pits (which many see as a potential choking hazard) will sleep better knowing these elements are removed from the fruit.
Can Chickens Eat Cherry Pits, Seeds, Stems, and Leaves?
Chickens don’t have teeth, and that’s a good thing when it comes to feeding them cherries with pits or cherry seeds, as some like to refer to it. The pits or seeds of a cherry contain a chemical called cyanide, which, when released by crushing or chewing, can be harmful to a chicken.
Most chickens will instinctively avoid the pit of a cherry; however, should some flock members ingest a pit or two, it will typically pass through their digestive system without harm.
Stems contain considerably less cyanide than cherry pits and need to be chewed to release the toxin, so your chickens should be relatively safe should they gobble up a cherry stem. The stems of a wild cherry tree should not be fed to the flock.
Fresh cherry tree leaves are fine to give to your feathery friends, but remember, when they begin to wilt, they will produce cyanide, which becomes a hazard when digested. Chickens, in general, don’t typically like cherry tree leaves.
Cherries are packed full of goodness, and chickens seem to love it for a good reason. Cherries are healthy fruits filled with all sorts of nutritional vitamins and minerals and are low in calories. Due to the high sugar content, feeding them as a treat and not as part of the chicken’s daily diet is best.