Can chickens eat cantaloupe melons? The answer is yes! However, before you stuff your henhouse with these yummy and juicy fruits, there are a few vital chicken diet nuances to consider. Because we all like to give our chickens a little treat now and again, and feeding fruits and vegetables to hens can have many benefits.
A varied diet helps to provide your feathered friends with essential nutrients. And it can save money on chicken feed bills too! But how do cantaloupes fit into the average everyday chicken diet? And what’s the best way to feed cantaloupe to your chooks?
Let’s take a look!
- Can Chickens Eat Cantaloupe?
- Chickens Love Cantaloupe – But Do They Provide Adequate Nutrition?
- How Do You Feed Cantaloupe to Chickens?
- How to Prepare Cantaloupe for Chickens
- Conclusion – More Cantaloupe, Anyone?
Can Chickens Eat Cantaloupe?
Yes. For sure! Chickens can eat cantaloupe, and they love eating them. These delicious fruits can also have many health benefits for our backyard hens. A piece of cantaloupe is a refreshing chicken treat, particularly during the hot summer. However, certain precautions should also get considered when feeding cantaloupe to hens.
Can Chickens Have Honeydew and Cantaloupe?
Chickens can eat honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelon, and any other type of melon you can think of! If you’re lucky enough to live in a region where melons are plentiful and affordable during the summer, sharing a piece or two with your hens is a great way to give them a delicious snack.
Benefits of Feeding Cantaloupe to Chickens
The main reason that many of us feed cantaloupe and other melons to our chicken flock is that they love it! Even fussy eaters will enjoy this sweet fruit, and for many hens, it is one of their favorite fruits.
But are there any known health benefits to feeding cantaloupe to chickens?
There have been numerous studies into the nutritional value of various types of melon for humans, but it is unknown if the same benefits extend to our hens. However, many experts believe cantaloupe can be a healthy addition to your chicken’s diet.
Cantaloupe melons are a valuable source of nutrients for chickens, such as vitamins A, B6, and C, and potassium. They also get crammed with dietary fiber, calcium, folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, and thiamine.
Let’s take a quick peek at why some of these nutrients are so important for our hens:
- Vitamin A – is essential for tissue growth, egg laying, and maintenance of skin cells.
- Vitamin B6 – helps to break down protein and amino acids.
- Vitamin C – a potent antioxidant that supports the immune system and protects against signs of stress.
- Folate – promotes good body growth and feathering.
- Calcium – is essential for bone health and egg production.
- Potassium – improves egg production and shell strength.
- Dietary fiber – helps to maintain healthy gut function and probiotic balance.
One of the main nutritional benefits of cantaloupe is its high water content – 90% of this fruit is water! This water content makes it a fantastic snack for backyard chickens living in hot climates, helping to keep them refreshed and replacing essential electrolytes.
I often give our hens some melon during their afternoon siesta under the shade of their favorite tree – especially in hot weather. (Not that they’re pampered or anything!)
The high water and low sugar content also mean that cantaloupe is a low-calorie snack. One cantaloupe cup contains just 144 calories. The high fiber content also helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
Many chicken ranchers believe that cantaloupes may have anti-inflammatory properties, as they contain phytonutrients. These can help reduce problems such as digestive tract diseases in chickens.
So, why aren’t we all feeding chickens cantaloupe by the bucketload? Are there any problems associated with feeding melons to hens? Let’s take a look!
Is Watermelon Toxic to Chickens?
Watermelon is not toxic to chickens, but, like any melon, it can cause health problems if fed incorrectly.
Whatever melon you feed your hens – cantaloupe, honeydew, or watermelon – should only be given in moderation. Due to their high water and fiber content, large quantities of melon can upset the bacterial balance in the gastrointestinal system, causing diarrhea.
Never feed any melon to your hens that are overripe or have started to turn. These can contain harmful bacteria. And eating improperly handled melon has been linked to salmonella poisoning in humans.
Another issue that affects cantaloupe melons is bacterial contamination of the rind. The ridged nature of the outer skin provides many nooks and crannies for bacteria to hide and multiply, which can be a particular problem if the melon has been in storage for a long time.
(In other words – the rough cantaloupe rind can capture salmonella. Be careful!)
Chickens Love Cantaloupe – But Do They Provide Adequate Nutrition?
The other concern with melons is that they are tremendously low in calories, so they will satisfy your chickens’ hunger but not provide enough energy to thrive. Getting the right balance of calories for your hens can be tricky. That’s why we advise sticking to giving melon as a treat only.
Many experts – and our trusted family vet – believe laying hens should consume roughly 80% of their daily calorie intake before midday. That is why most chicken owners feed the bulk of their chicken feed in the morning. The chickens can then spend the afternoon foraging for delicious treats to supplement their diet.
If left to their own devices, our free-range hens will eat their commercial chicken feed throughout the morning, then scavenge for high-protein bugs and insects. As the day progresses, they switch to eating plants and herbs, and this is the ideal time to offer some fruity treats.
But what about hens that live in an enclosed coop with reduced foraging opportunities? In these cases, we must provide a balanced diet to our hens. Offering a nutrient-balanced diet means ensuring they eat good quality food for chickens, which will help them maintain healthy production of eggs and good healthy feathers. Alongside this, some healthy snacks can be an excellent source of vitamins and minerals.
In the smaller backyard and homestead flocks, it is better to err cautiously and limit how much melon we give our hens. I’m sure they’d happily eat melon all day long. But this would likely lead to significant nutritional imbalances.
While cantaloupe contains many valuable nutrients, it is low in other vital components such as fats and proteins.
The primary basis for your chickens’ daily food intake should be a balanced pelleted or mixed grain feed. Commercial grain feed will provide all the energy and nutrients they need.
In addition to their daily chicken feed, you can give other healthy treats such as kitchen scraps, garden waste, and scraps of fruits, vegetables, and seeds. These healthy treats can be a valuable boost of vitamins, but limit the total amount to no more than half a cup per hen per day.
(Bear in mind, in some countries, it is not permissible to feed kitchen scraps to hens if you intend to sell the eggs.)
Exceeding these amounts may mean your hens shun their regular feed, leading to an imbalanced diet and nutrition-related health problems.
Our chickens love eating cantaloupe - there's no debate. But they also love protein-packed insects and arachnids. That's why we love this trail mix for chickens. It contains soldier fly larvae, crickets, grasshoppers, and mealworms. They're a perfect chicken goody during late fall into winter when there aren't many wild crickets and spiders in your backyard. The insects are also 100% natural. Toss some to your hungry birds - and watch them scratch like crazy.
How Do You Feed Cantaloupe to Chickens?
There are many ways to feed cantaloupe to chickens – my husband likes to chop these healthy snacks into bitesize pieces for our girls, whereas I prefer to give them larger slices to peck away at!
If you feed cantaloupe in larger pieces, ensure an adequate supply – enough for every hen to get some. (With some to spare!) Otherwise, the more dominant hens will bully the weaker ones out of the way, causing them to miss out.
We’ve got an older group of hens who share food happily with each other, so for these ladies, I’ll give them half a cantaloupe to enjoy at their leisure. But for the younger girls with a more volatile pecking order, I find it better to scatter smaller pieces over a larger area so everyone gets their fair share.
Can Chickens Eat Raw Cantaloupe?
While roasted cantaloupe is a delicious treat for dinner, there is no need to cook cantaloupe for your hens. They can and will eat raw cantaloupe. And this is the most nutritious way to feed melon to your hens.
However, if you’ve got some cooked cantaloupe left over from a family dinner, your hens will most likely enjoy pecking away at the scraps as an occasional treat. The most vital thing to remember is that treats should make up no more than 10% to 15% of your hen’s diet, so moderation is the key to keeping your chickens healthy!
Can Chickens Eat the Inside of Cantaloupe?
Chickens adore eating the inside of cantaloupe and will tuck into this nutritious snack with gusto! Feeding chilled cantaloupe straight from the refrigerator is a great way to refresh and hydrate your hens during the hot summer, providing a natural water source and natural sugars.
(We confess that it is also fun to watch.)
Can Chickens Eat Raw Cantaloupe Seeds?
Chickens can eat raw cantaloupe seeds. And for many hens, this is their favorite part of the fruit! Our chickens will pick out every cantaloupe seed first – before making a start on eating the flesh. Melon seeds are relatively small. So most chickens can eat them whole without any problems.
You may have heard that pumpkin seeds work as a dewormer for chickens. So is this also true for melon seeds? Well, consider the following. Cantaloupe, melon, and pumpkin belong to the cucurbit plant family, along with cucumber, squash, and zucchini.
However, all varieties of melon and cucumber belong to a different subcategory of this genus of plants, and they do not contain the same levels of the compound that kills worms as pumpkins.
The other issue is that there is no proven evidence that feeding pumpkin seeds to chickens is an effective way to deworm them. So, no matter what plant cucurbit family member you serve to your hens, this is no substitute for a good worm control strategy.
(As always, if your flock has pest problems – see your trusted farmyard veterinarian ASAP.)
Will Cantaloupe Seeds Hurt Chickens?
Not that we have seen. Our chickens eat them frequently – and we have never noticed problems. Cantaloupe seeds are small enough for chickens to eat, and they relish picking them out of a juicy slice of melon. And unlike apple seeds, cantaloupe seeds are not toxic to hens.
Eating melon seeds will not harm your hens. And they are a good source of protein, fiber, and essential fatty acids. They can help prevent folate deficiency and play a role in maintaining digestive health.
That said – only feed cantaloupe seeds to adult chickens. Younger and smaller chicks may struggle to swallow a whole cantaloupe seed!
Can Chickens Eat Cantaloupe Rind?
Chickens can eat cantaloupe and watermelon rind, but it can be too rough for them to tear apart. If given a wedge of cantaloupe, most hens eat the seeds first, then the flesh. They’ll pick away at the outer rind, but if they don’t eat it within a few hours, it should get removed from the coop before it rots.
Unless you are harvesting cantaloupe straight from your garden, wash the rind before feeding it to your hens. The rough surface of a cantaloupe is a haven for bacteria. Bacteria is a particular problem in fruits that have sat around for some time.
How Often Can Chickens Eat Cantaloupe?
Chickens can eat cantaloupe every day. But only ever in moderate amounts as part of a well-rounded diet. In the morning, your hens should focus on eating the bulk of their commercial chicken feed, so save their favorite treats until the afternoon.
General guidance suggests giving no more than half a cup of extra treats in total per hen per day. An average-sized cantaloupe yields approximately four cups of chopped fruit. So this would be more than enough for a flock of eight hens.
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How to Prepare Cantaloupe for Chickens
There are so many fun ways to feed cantaloupe to chickens – these juicy fruits can be an excellent way for flock owners to provide some environmental enrichment and beneficial nutrients to your hens!
But first, you need to prepare the cantaloupe to make it safe for your hens to eat. The main precaution you should take is to wash the rind to remove any disease-causing bacteria. Check the fruit carefully for ripeness – if there are any rotten parts or it seems overripe, it should get composted instead.
Next, slice the cantaloupe open into two halves. Adult chickens can eat cantaloupe seeds. But if you are feeding baby chickens or juvenile hens, the seeds should get scooped out at this point.
Calculate how much cantaloupe you need to feed your flock – remember that half a cantaloupe is enough for four hens. So if you’ve got a smaller chicken flock, you can reduce the amount accordingly. Don’t feel tempted to feed more significant amounts, as too much fruit in your chicken’s diet can cause diarrhea.
What you do next depends entirely on how you want to feed your hens! If you’ve got a group of girls that share nicely, you can give them a large piece of cantaloupe to share. Cantaloupes are also fun for increased environmental enrichment. Carefully punch a hole in the rind and thread a string to create a hanging snack bar in the chicken house for your hens!
Alternatively, you can cut the cantaloupe into thinner slices so each chicken gets its piece. I’d suggest doing a few extra slices. Doing so will stop the more dominant hens from hogging all the cantaloupe.
Another fun game is to dice the flesh of the melon into smaller chunks and scatter it across the chicken run to encourage your hens to forage. Your chooks will stay entertained all afternoon, searching for every last morsel of a juicy cantaloupe!
Conclusion – More Cantaloupe, Anyone?
We thank you so much for reading our guide about whether or not chickens can safely consume cantaloupe.
We have a ton of experience feeding mixed flocks of all sizes. And in our experience – chickens love cantaloupe. They never have their fill!
We cannot blame them. We like eating cantaloupe ourselves. And whenever our birds see us chopping it on our backyard picnic table, they flap eagerly in anticipation.
How could we say no?
What about your birds? What is their favorite snack?
We would love to hear from you.
Thanks again for reading.
And have an excellent day!