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Can Chickens Eat Apples? What About Apple Sauce or Apple Seeds?

Apples are a healthy choice for people, but can you give them to chickens? Let’s discuss everything you need to know about feeding chickens apples, whether chickens can eat apples, and how to ensure your flock stays healthy and safe.

Sound good?

Then let’s continue!

Can Chickens Eat Apples?

A rooster and hen with apples
Can chickens eat apples? Yes! Apples are excellent treats for chickens! Not only do most chickens love eating apples – but we read compelling research from Cornell University indicating how Empire apple leftovers could improve the digestional health of production broiler chickens. The study suggests that injecting apple pomace and apple juice into chicken eggs benefited chicken iron bioavailability, transportation for amino acids, and microbial population growth. Of course – this was a small-scale study, and researchers admit that further research must get conducted to analyze and interpret potential chicken health benefits.

For sure. Yes. Chickens love to eat apples! These highly-nutritious fruits have many health benefits for birds, and you might be surprised by the enthusiasm with which they attack them. Apples are an exciting snack for chickens that may offer digestive health. (We’ll talk more about the potential digestive benefits of apples for chickens later in this article!)

While apples don’t contain enough protein to make up the main component of your bird’s diet, they are a healthy treat. Most poultry experts recommend keeping treats like apples to about 10 percent of your chicken’s daily and balanced diet.

So, yes! Chickens are an excellent choice for a chicken treat. But we urge all homesteaders to consider the following ideas before giving chickens apples.

Can Chickens Eat Apple Peels?

Yes. Chickens can eat apple peels, and they contain many nutrients!

An apple with the skin left on contains up to 332% more vitamin K142% more vitamin A115% more vitamin C20% more calcium, and up to 19% more potassium than a peeled apple, according to Healthline (with statistics from the USDA).

However, it is worth noting that chickens have individual preferences just like anyone else. Some chickens love eating apple peels. But others don’t. It might take trial and error to figure out what your flock prefers. All in all, apple peels are an excellent healthy treat.

Can Chickens Eat Apple Seeds?

Apple slices on a cutting board
Can chickens eat apple seeds? Well – one of our favorite references for raising chickens from The University of Florida Extension cites how apple seeds contain trace amounts of cyanide. However, apples don’t have enough cyanide sufficient to kill. It’s more good news for chicken ranchers seeking snacks for their backyard chickens during apple season. 

Apple seeds are most likely the part you’ve been waiting for – the highly debated dilemma of apple seeds and amounts of cyanide!

I’ve been researching this for days. After all, I’ve been feeding my chickens apples for over 20 years, and not once – I repeat – not once – have any of my girls (or boys) died from eating apples. Their free-range area has several apple trees growing inside. And tons of apples fall off all the time! I also indiscriminately toss all of our kitchen scraps.

I’ve always trusted my girls to know what’s right.

Was I wrong all this time, and are they not as clever as I thought, or is there more to this story? Where did the idea of apple seeds killing chickens originate?

The truth is, there is merit to the statement. Apple seeds contain amygdalin. Amygdalin turns into, or releases, cyanide when it comes into contact with digestive enzymes. So, apple seeds need to be chewed (or, at least, digested) to release the cyanide.

They aren’t little cyanide bombs in their natural state, as far as I can gather.

The amounts of cyanide released when the seeds get digested are also very small. Dr. Chris Brown, a veterinarian, states the following about dogs eating apple seeds.

A 10 kg dog (Cavoodle size) would need to eat around 1000 seeds to be poisoned. And with a standard apple containing about 10 seeds, that’s around 100 apples. For a Labrador, that increases to around 300 apples in order to have problems. That’s a lot of fruit and obviously gut aches of extraordinary proportions would kick in before that time.

Dr. Chris Brown

Most reliable sources say you must chew the seeds to release the poison. Healthline states the following.

Apple seeds, and many other fruit seeds or pits, have a strong outer layer resistant to digestive juices. But if you chew the seeds, amygdalin could be released in the body and produce cyanide. Small amounts can be detoxified by enzymes in your body. However, large amounts can be dangerous.

Healthline

And yes, these statements do not specifically relate to chickens eating apple seeds. And they aren’t as big as dogs (well, some are!) or humans.

The ASPCA lists apple seeds as toxic to dogs, cats, and horses. And many other sources list them as poisonous. For that reason, I urge caution. My chickens haven’t experienced a problem. That doesn’t mean yours won’t, however.

Parrot Central says that amygdalin resides in many fruit seeds and nuts. And while it may be toxic when eaten in large quantities, they say that the amount a parrot can eat shouldn’t cause any issues.

The CDC lists acute toxicity data for cyanide. Keep in mind that these figures are cyanide, not amygdalin.

One final reference comes from the Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Science Department of Animal Sciences in response to a question about the toxicity of Pyrus, prunus, and malus genera of trees. They responded as follows.

Pear and apple trees are not particularly toxic, nor are the ripe fruit. The seeds contain amygdalin, which is a glycoside that can release cyanide. One would have to eat a lot of seeds to ever get cyanide poisoning by this route. If eating the seeds were incidental to eating the apples, I think you would OD on apple before getting sick from cyanide.

Cornell CALS

My conclusion is to avoid feeding your chickens apple seeds. Be on the safe side. I also recommend you do not freak out if they accidentally eat an apple seed. Most likely, they will be fine. However, there is a risk, and it needs to get mentioned.

Signs and Symptoms of Cyanide Poisoning In Chickens

Symptoms of cyanide poisoning can come on quickly, killing a chicken in less than an hour. Symptoms may appear in as little as 20 minutes after ingesting toxic foodstuffs. Keep an eye out for signs of your chickens struggling to breathe or blue or purple discoloration in their comb, which indicates a lack of oxygen. Death from cyanide poisoning can occur within 30 to 40 minutes after ingestion.

Treating Cyanide Poisoning In Chickens

Do not attempt to treat cyanide poisoning in your chickens at home. Home remedies are not reliable and, in some cases, may cause your chickens more suffering or even kill them. Your best bet is always to contact your veterinarian to get emergency treatment ASAP. Cyanide poisoning in chickens usually gets treated with amyl and sodium nitrate administered through an IV. 

Can Chickens Eat Apple Cores?

Chickens can eat apple cores, but there isn’t much reason to let them. First and most obviously, apple cores contain apple seeds, which we discussed above. Other parts of the apple core are hard or sharp and could cause your chickens to choke.

Some chickens might love the cores. Mine leave them to rot and become organic matter. They might peck the leftover flesh from the apple cores. You could remove the seeds to be safe and let them at it.

Can Baby Chickens Eat Apples?

My gorgeous little chicks
My newest one-day-old baby chicks! Look at these lovely farmyard birds. We think they would all love a few apple slices for breakfast. But chicken nutrition and dieting change as chickens age! Younger chickens need boatloads of protein – so we are careful not to let them spoil their appetite on treats. (Maybe a few!) Some new chicken parents may get surprised that baby chickens (zero to six weeks) usually require more crude protein than their older flock-mates.

Baby chickens can eat apples, but there are a few caveats. As soon as your chicks are old enough to start eating vegetable and fruit scraps, apples make a highly nutritious treat and addition to their diet. However, it is a good idea to chop up any apples before giving them to ensure that your chicks don’t choke.

The chicks in the photo above are my newest babies. They’re two days old today. There’s no way they’re going to eat apples just yet. However, they’re curious from the moment they start walking around. And mom shows them all sorts of things they could eat. It’s adorable.

She has a very particular chirp that sounds like she’s calling them. And they all come running! Come, babies! There’s food here!

Can Chickens Have a Whole Apple?

Two healthy Isa Brown chickens eating an apple
Here you see a few adult chickens looking for a delicious snack. They scored some fresh orchard apples! We think fresh apples are okay for chickens on occasion. But don’t overdo it! One of the favorite chicken-feeding tips we found was to offer snacks they can eat in under 20 minutes. If your birds don’t eat their treats after 20 minutes – take them away! (This time-restricted snacking helps ensure your chickens don’t waste their appetites eating goodies and treats.)

If you have ever seen an apple fall off a tree into your chicken pen, you probably know that chickens can and will attack a whole apple.

However, cutting apples before giving them to your chickens is usually better. Cutting the apples ensures that the undesirable seeds get removed. Cutting the apples into small chunks also helps eliminate choking hazards, such as the stem and apple core.

Here’s another fun idea. Try to core the apple, then hang it on a string. It’s like a pinata for chickens! They’ll love this tasty treat.

The Benefits of Feeding Apples to Chickens

A flock of chickens under an apple tree
We know many homesteaders love carving apples for chickens – or tossing excess leafy greens and fresh fruits into their chicken bucket as part of a daily chicken diet. But don’t overdo it – even if you’re offering excellent sources of beneficial nutrients. Most chicken breeds love snacking. The problem is that if your chickens fill up on snacks, they might not eat their total feed. Chicken feeds are excellent sources of nutrients – and their best bet for a healthy and nutritious diet. So they shouldn’t fill up on snacks!

There are many benefits to feeding apples to chickens. Here are a few of the top reasons they are a great addition to your flock’s diet, besides the fact that chickens love eating apples! 

Improved Digestion and Digestive Health

Some of the most promising research regarding chickens and apples comes from Cornell University. Cornell researchers discovered several health benefits by injecting apple juice, pomace, and pulp into the chicken egg and later analyzing the chickens after hatching. The main benefits included a better gut microbiome and increased intestinal health in the chickens.

Apples are also full of fiber and water. Fiber helps improve digestion. While chickens don’t need much fiber, chickens likely benefit from plant-based fiber to help their digestive process. The additional hydration chickens get from eating the apples should also help make digestion smoother and healthier. Certainly more so than other, not-so-healthy chicken snacks!

Thanks to apple’s high fiber content, you’re likely to notice that your chickens have healthier bowel movements.

Reduce LDL Cholesterol Levels

We read another fascinating study indicating that apple peel waste helped reduce LDL cholesterol levels for broiler chickens. (LDL cholesterol is the bad cholesterol!) Hopefully, apples can help improve your bird’s organ health. Anything that helps reduce LDL cholesterol levels works for us!

A Boost for the Immune System

Apples are full of vitamins, which adds a welcome boost to your chicken’s immune system. Like most other animals, chickens love a varied diet. In particular, apples contain pectin, which is known to improve chicken’s immune systems.

Apples have loads of nutrients, such as vitamin C, potassium, and folate. Vitamin C can help animals fight disease by reducing stress. Apples also have anti-inflammatory properties, which are famous for protecting against illness.

Choosing the Best Apples for Your Chickens to Eat

Chickens enjoy eating a wide variety of apples
Apples are safe for chickens to eat. And most chickens love eating them. But there are a few treats your flock should avoid – whether they like it or not! We’ve read from multiple reliable sources that raw soybeans aren’t safe for chickens. All beans should get cooked first via steaming or roasting, including soybeans, broad beans, green beans, or bean sprouts. Unprocessed beans contain enzyme inhibitors that may cause digestive issues for your chickens. Only give them cooked beans!

When choosing apples for your hens, don’t stress out too much. Chickens don’t have a dislike for sour flavors, unlike many animals (although they do have a strong dislike for bitter flavors).

Therefore, the apples you choose for chickens come down to quality and preference.

The Best Apple Varieties

Even though the famous Cornell study used Empire apples, we don’t think any particular apple variety is best for chickens to eat. All apples are full of nutrients, making them an excellent treat for your birds.

Choosing an apple variety will ultimately come down to your flock’s preference. Some birds love any apple, while others dislike certain types. You might have to experiment to find out what your chickens like best.

Texture and Ripeness

Chickens have sharp beaks and have no problem getting into apple flesh, even with tart, firmer apple varieties. Ripeness is also not a vital factor. You may find chickens enjoying and eating apples at every stage of ripeness.

You can feed chickens overripe apples, but avoid feeding them overly rotten or moldy apples, as these can make them sick. 

Color

Both green and red apple varieties are healthy choices for chickens. Some chickens might prefer to eat milder red varieties of apples, which tend to be less tart, but most birds happily eat any type. 

Appearance

It is okay to give your chickens bruised apples. However, the general rule is to avoid giving rotten or moldy food. Chickens can get sick from spoiled food. Just like humans! Never offer food to your flock that you wouldn’t eat. Or at least don’t give them food with visible spoilage. 

Taste

While some animals dislike sour flavors, chickens don’t usually seem to mind it. Therefore, you can feed them either sweet apples such as Galas or tart varieties like Granny Smiths. You will probably find that your chickens happily eat any apples you give them.

Expiry Date

There is no need to monitor the expiry date on a bag of apples. Use common sense. If an apple is visibly rotten or moldy, put it in your compost rather than your chicken pen.

Read More!

How to Feed Apples to Chickens

There are many ways to feed apples to your chickens, from simple to fancy. If you get pressed for time, there is nothing wrong with simply tossing some apple slices into your chicken pen.

If you decide to feed your chickens apples, you should keep a few things in mind. First, and perhaps most importantly, remove the seeds before giving your chickens their treat.

Remove the core to reduce the risk of choking. The tool above makes it super easy to cut and core your apples in one swoop!

Apple Treat Recipes and Ideas

Next time you harvest your apple tree or visit your local orchard, ask them for a peck of apples!

Then, consider some of the following apple goodies for chickens.

We bet they’ll cluck and scratch in anticipation!

Apple Garlands (Apple on a String) by Fresh Eggs Daily

Here’s our favorite snack for chickens by Fresh Eggs Daily. It’s a dangling apple string! We bet the chickens love pecking at the fresh fruit as they forage and play in their chicken tractor.

Your chickens may enjoy these fun apple garlands, which can help occupy them for hours. To make them, thread apple slices and other types of sliced fruit or vegetables on thick twine, providing your flock with an engaging and varied buffet. Idea by Fresh Eggs Daily.

Chicken Fruit and Vegetable Feeders

Try these fruit and vegetable feeders if you want a simple tool for hanging treats in your chicken run. These suspend from a coop or fence, letting your chickens eat and peck at their leisure.

Apple Slices With Peanut Butter

Chickens will love eating these apple slices with peanut butter and blueberries
Peanut butter has loads of healthy protein. It’s a fun and energetic treat for chickens! However, it’s tremendously high in fat and sugar, so we don’t like giving it to our birds. But every once in a while, apple slices topped with peanut butter make for a fantastic treat. It makes the birds go wild. They love eating it!

Apple slices with peanut butter may have been your favorite childhood snack. And it turns out chickens love them, too. They often enjoy eating the fatty peanut butter off the apple slices before chowing down on the fruit.

Add some blueberries on top. That way, it looks good enough to serve at a party!

Stuffed Apple Treats

Yummy stuffed apples make a great chicken treat
Check out these delicious-looking apples for chickens! They’re one of our favorite healthy foods. Chickens love them too! Do you want more nutritious snack ideas for your chooks? Then read our epic homemade treats for chickens guide. We share our favorite apple alternative snacks for your birds. It’s perfect if you want to reward your hard-working flock!

You may have made homemade dog treats before, and these stuffed apple treats are the same concept – just for chickens. They combine apples, peanut butter, healthy nuts, or seeds. Seeds such as almonds or sunflower seeds make excellent additions.

Hanging Apples

Want to keep it simple? Try hanging some apples in your chicken run. Suspending apples will keep your chickens happy and occupied as they snack.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is fermented apple juice. And it has several health benefits for birds, especially for promoting immune response.

We also read an excellent report from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. The report notes apple cider vinegar can lower digestive tract pH in chickens and help increase disease resistance.

Adding about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to your chicken’s water dish (depending on the dish size) is a common practice among backyard poultry keepers. It helps reduce harmful bacteria in the coop. It may also improve your bird’s respiratory and digestive health.

But be sure not to use a metal dish, as apple cider vinegar can corrode metal.

We advise against giving apple cider vinegar undiluted to your chickens. But it is widely used to sanitize chicken coops and chicken water dishes.

Which Foods Should Chickens Avoid?

Most reliable sources say to avoid giving your chickens fatty foods, alcohol, or excess sugars.

Some foods to avoid feeding to your flock include avocado pit, avocado skin, peppers (unripe peppers or ripe pepper), tomato plants, raw beans, green potatoes, and other nightshades.

(We don’t like giving our chickens any junk food whatsoever. And always beware and watch out for their pepper intake. Skip all nightshades to avoid health complications! They’re famous for causing issues for chickens.)

Do Apples Help Chicken Bone Health?

If you examine your chicken’s commercial chicken feed, you will notice that it has components intended to improve bone health.

Apples have loads of boron which is famous for helping improve bone health. However, we couldn’t find reliable sources or studies directly linking chicken apple consumption to better bone density, bone strength, or bone health.

Nevertheless, we still believe that apples have a positive effect on chickens overall (without the complete nutrient profile of a total chicken feed) thanks to their high levels of antioxidants, which fight diseases and can increase bone health in humans.

Conclusion

So – can chickens eat apples? Yes!

We love feeding our birds a wide variety of foods, nutritious snacks, and healthy chicken feed.

And while we don’t give our birds junk food, we think apples can play a role as occasional treats for your flock.

(We also advise giving your birds a constant supply of clean drinking water!)

What about your birds and flockmates?

Do they love eating apples as much as ours?

Or maybe there’s a hidden source of nutrients or chicken treats that we haven’t thought of yet?

We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks again for reading this article – have a great day! 

Don’t miss our other articles about animals on the homestead, gardening, and growing the best veggies.

Authors

  • Savannah D
  • Elle

    Jack of all trades, master of some. Wild garden grower. Loves creating stuff. From food forests and survival gardens to soap and yoghurt. A girl on a farm with two kids and one husband (yep, just one - although another one would be handy). Weirdly enjoys fixing fences and digging holes. Qualified permaculture teacher and garden go-to.

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