Can Chickens Eat Cherries or Are They Poisonous?

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It’s guava time over here in South Africa and the soft, squishy fruits are tumbling from the trees with alarming regularity.

Personally, I hate guavas, but my chickens are rather partial to them. I was a little concerned that they might find the pips difficult to digest, but a few guavas a day seems to be doing the flock the world of good.

Even the stubbornly featherless hen has started to flourish!

Watching them peck away at guavas made me wonder what other fruits chickens enjoy, and which they can safely consume.

Guavas, for example, are better peeled than with the skin on, apparently, but as chickens don’t have opposable thumbs and I have no intention of peeling the fruit for them, they’ll have to make do.

Fortunately, the skin won’t kill them, unlike avocado skins that contain the toxin, persin. If chickens eat too much of this, they’ll develop potentially fatal respiratory problems.

So, what about other fruits, like cherries? Is it safe for chickens to eat cherries, or could they choke on the cherry pits?

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06/06/2024 11:13 pm GMT

Could Sour Cherries Make My Chickens Choke or Croak?

While sour cherries, also known as Prunus cerasus, provide a good source of vitamins, other varieties of cherries are less beneficial.

If you’ve ever wondered, “Can chickens eat chokecherries?” for example, the answer is, confusingly, both yes and no.

While the fleshy part of the fruit is safe to eat, almost every other part of the tree is toxic. The seeds, bark, twigs, and leaves all release cyanide when digested, causing disaster in the chicken coop.

Other kinds of cherries are similarly unsuitable as treats for chickens.

The Jerusalem Cherry, for example, belongs to the nightshade family, and, as such contains alkaloids that can “cause appetite loss, increased salivation, weakened heart rate and trouble breathing.”

It’s important to keep our cherry concerns in context, however, and there are over 1,000 different types of cherry in the world, most of which have health benefits for chickens.

Not only do most species of cherry have anti-inflammatory properties, but they also contain a variety of vitamins that can boost your chickens’ egg production capabilities and keep their digestive tracts operating effectively.

Although we tend to assume that all fresh fruit is as good for our chickens as it is for us, this isn’t always the case.

Take the humble apple, for example. It has good nutritional content but could kill a chicken if not prepared correctly.

Far more dangerous than cherries with pits, apples with their pips still in contain much higher levels of cyanide and could easily wipe out your backyard flock.

Read more: Raising Backyard Chickens – Your Ultimate Guide

Can Chickens Eat Cherries FAQ

So, Can Chickens Eat Cherries?

Just as berries are considered to be human superfoods, so they are a good source of nutrition for your chickens.

Feeding cherries to chickens is a good way to boost their levels of vitamin C and A, although some chicken owners recommend removing the pits before adding them to the feed bucket.

For the most part, chickens are clever enough to avoid the toxic elements and will focus on consuming the juicy flesh of the fruit, rather than concerning themselves with the less palatable and potentially toxic pits of cherries. 

While cherries have antioxidant properties, not all fruits are nutrient-dense, and some may have adverse health consequences for your flock.

Apple pips are particularly dangerous, for instance, as are avocado skins and green tomatoes, which contain solanine.

Feeding your chickens the occasional sweet treat brings pleasure to both you and your flock, but too much can lead to obesity and a drop in egg production, so try to balance the sweet cherries with other healthy foods, like pumpkin seeds and oyster shell.

I’m lucky enough that my chickens have access to a variety of different fruits that help to supplement their diets during wintertime when there are fewer bugs and grubs for them to enjoy.

I’m also fortunate enough that they enjoy fruits, like guava, which I detest.

I doubt I’m going to rush out and buy my chickens a punnet of cherries for breakfast but, should an abundance of berries come my way, I’ll happily share them with my feathered friends.

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