What vegetables can chickens eat?

We know that humans should eat more veg. But what about chickens?

Should chickens eat the equivalent of the "five-a-day" vegetable portions recommended by the World Health Organisation for optimum human health?(1)

The short answer to that is "no". A chicken's diet should primarily be a high quality grain, enriched (but not replaced) by natural additions which enhance the nutritional benefits without adding harmful fats.

What veg should chickens eat? Pin for later.

Vegetables certainly fall into that category. For the most part they're low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals all chickens – whatever their age – need in their diet.

But not all veggies are equally beneficial. So what vegetables can chickens eat?

Because there has been a push towards feeding poultry fewer chemical substances – antibiotics, for example – and more natural foods, there is a reasonable amount of verified research about the effects of different vegetables on chickens.

It's those studies, plus my own experience over more than twelve years, on which this article is based. It covers the ten best veg, and one that have been proven harmful to chickens.

Always remember, too, that vegetables might be good for chickens, but chickens may not always want to eat them! Just like humans, they will decide for themselves what they can eat and what they're not keen on.

So choose one or two at a time, and experiment with your own flock.

When you do, bear in mind that their grain should be the mainstay of a chicken's diet. Feed vegetable "treats" after they have had access to that, and be sure to limit the amount you give to 10% or less of their diet.

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Looking for a specific vegetable for your chickens?

This is a long, detailed page. If you're looking for advice about a particular vegetable, use these links to go straight to that section.

Or just keep scrolling to decide which your chickens would like best!

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Can chickens eat broccoli?

Nutrients in broccoli affecting chicken health.

Chickens can absolutely eat broccoli.

It contains no fat at all and is a super-food source of...

  • Vitamin C, an antioxidant which helps boost the chicken's immune system
  • Vitamin B, which contributes to healthy bones and feathers
  • Calcium, which increases the strength of egg shells and helps prevent soft shelled eggs and egg peritonitis.

An important fact about the effect of chickens eating broccoli on eggs.

An unexpected but welcome and critically important outcome of studies measuring the impact of broccoli on laying hens was its powerful effect on the nutritional value of their eggs(23).

Eggs were shown to have...

  • increased levels of Xanthophyll, which leads to a deeper, orange-coloured yolk
  • decreased levels of cholesterol in the yolk.

So not only does broccoli improve our chickens' health, it can impact on ours, too.

How to feed it: can chickens eat raw broccoli?

Broccoli florets: adults will be able to peck at raw florets without a problem. For baby chicks, chop it into small pieces.

Broccoli stems: chickens can eat broccoli stems and leaves. Studies(2, 3) have shown that these parts of the plant are particularly high in antioxidants which help protect against cell damage and diseases including E. Coli and Avian Campylobacter(4).

I've found that chickens don't particularly like the raw stems – they're too hard. Boiling any vegetable leeches nutrients into the water, so instead consider steaming them instead.

It aids digestion without losing nutrients.

A plate of broccoli with text: don't boil – steam veg for chickens!

Fermented broccoli.

A study confirmed that feeding fermented broccoli to chickens substantially reduced the presence of Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. coli, and various harmful bacteria.

It also increased the antioxidants in the vegetable, strengthening the immune system.

See my article about fermenting for chickens.

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Can chickens eat cabbage?

Yes – green or red are both fine.

There are various websites which will tell you that cabbage is toxic for chickens. A study specifically set up to test this premise proved conclusively it has no adverse effects(6)

Another no fat, high nutrient vegetable which is high in...

  • Vitamin K, which improves the hatchability of fertile eggs, and is especially important for older chickens.
  • Calcium, strengthens bones and improves the quality of egg shells
  • Phosphorous, critical in the absorption of calcium and Vitamin A.

How to feed it: can chickens eat raw cabbage?

Yes – as with any "treat", this should be in moderation. No more than a handful of leaves once per week, or one head between the flock.

A favourite way of feeding it is to hang a whole head in the run (I hang it from a tree). It provides hours of fun as the flock tries to "kill the hanging cabbage".

Or just leave the leaves on the ground.

A frizzle chicken eating cabbage leaves on the ground.
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Can chickens eat carrots?

They can, but the real question is do chickens eat carrots? Mine tend to turn their beaks up at this particular vegetable.

But studies have shown that carrots are good for chickens, in particular improving the ability to improve the retention of calcium(7) – critical for laying hens in particular.

Like most other vegetables, carrots are high in antioxidants and low in fat, so a good choice.

They're also high in water content, so very useful for keeping chickens hydrated in the summer months.

How to feed carrots to chickens.

For baby chicks, grate or cut into very small strips. Chicks aren't able to peck this very hard vegetable.

A 5 week old Orpington chick eats some grated carrot.One of my 5 week old Orpington chicks investigates finely chopped carrots.

For adults, there's no need to peel carrots, but they're (in my experience) not keen on eating them raw unless they're grated and possibly added into something like the frozen summer treat.

So steaming is again the way to go here.

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Can chickens eat celery?

Rich in calcium and potassium, as well as Vitamins A, K, C, D and E, celery certainly has potential health benefits for chickens.

But it's a very "stringy" vegetable, and for that reason chickens can find it hard to digest.

It's particularly important, if you feed your chickens celery (or any vegetable), that they also have grit to help them grind up the food.

How to feed celery to chickens.

Personally, I don't feed raw celery to my chickens because of its fibrous nature. My concerns are that the long fibres become trapped in the crop and cause impaction.

This, though, is my personal concern; I am not aware of any studies which raise it as an issue.

The celery leaves, on the other hand, are not a problem and chickens will gobble them up without a second's thought.

Celery leaves on wood with caption :feed chickens celery leaves or celery powder".
  • The only studies of poultry and celery dealt with mountain celery powder(8), which was found to significantly lower the levels of "bad" (LDL) cholesterol, and raise those of "good" (HDL) cholesterol.
  • That improved cholesterol level was transmitted to eggs, so feeding chickens celery powder can not only improve their health, it will have potential benefits for ours, too.
  • It's readily available in health food shops, but make sure you buy celery powder and not celery salt. It's easy to sprinkle this on their feed every so often, or mix it into something like the Poultry Protein Platter for an extra immune system boost in the winter.
  • Organic and GMO free, something like this is ideal. (This is an "affiliate link", which means that if you click and buy something, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you)
Click here to buy from Amazon.
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Can chickens eat cucumber?

I've seen some websites say cucumbers help chickens see in the dark...

Chickens can't see in the dark, and no amount of cucumber is going to help them! But it does have other qualities which make it a good choice for a vegetable chicken treat.

Cucumbers are...

  • Low in sugars and with no fat at all
  • Very high in Vitamin K, critical for bone structure and flexibility and particularly critical for older chickens
  • Also very high in potassium, which not only aids heart function but also helps chickens deal with extreme heat stress
  • The high water count – around 96% – is a massive help in dealing with extreme heat, too(9).

So it's definitely worth trying to persuade your chickens, especially older chickens, to eat some cucumber, particularly in the summer.

Feeding cucumbers to chickens: can they eat peel?

Yes, there's no need to peel the cucumber skin although my chickens do tend to peck at the softer middle of the cucumber pieces and discard the peel!

If your do this, make sure to clear up the leftovers at the end of the day. Leaving any food around the run or coop is asking for unwanted visitors.

A silver laced Wyandotte hen eating cucumbers but leaving the peel on grass.

I've found that they are unlikely to tackle a whole cucumber. Cutting it into smaller pieces, or spiralising it, will be more successful.

An even more successful method for me has been to add cucumber to my frozen chicken treat.

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Can chickens eat green beans?

They can, as long as they are cooked.

Never, ever give any type of beans to chickens unless they've been thoroughly cooked. Soaking alone is not enough – beans are toxic to chickens.

For more information see my article about what chickens should not eat.

With that proviso, then yes, green beans are a good treat for chickens.

Fresh green beans contain...

  • Massive amounts of Vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant and encourages healthy cell growth
  • A reasonable amount of iron, which has been proven to increase the nutritional value of egg yolk(10)
  • Beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant
  • Studies have found that the fibre present in green beans was responsible for lowering the cholesterol in chickens and their eggs(11).

How to feed green beans.

Fresh, steamed green beans are best; cooked from frozen are fine. 

For baby chicks I normally chop them up, the size according to the chicks' age. For adults, leaving them whole works.

8 baby chicks eating green beans in a foil container.Some of my 4 week old chicks tucking into their green beans.

I'd discourage you from using canned green beans: their salt content is normally very high, and chickens do not need additional salt. It can cause massive health issues and in excess will lead to death.

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Can chickens eat mushrooms?

Chickens can eat any type of mushroom which humans can eat. For safety's sake, confine them to mushrooms you can buy in the shops rather than foraging, unless you really know what you're doing!

All mushrooms are high in Vitamin B6 and potassium in particular.

Vitamin B6 helps chickens absorb proteins and specifically promotes healthy growth

Potassium is critical for healthy muscle development.

"Medicinal" mushrooms and chicken health.

A group of mushrooms, jointly called "medicinal", have been used in commercial chicken keeping to replace an over-reliance on antibiotics.

Some of the "medicinal" group which are readily available in shops are:

  • White button mushroom (Agaricus brasiliensis/Agaricus bisporus)
  • Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)
  • Oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus)
  • Lion's mane (Hericium erinaceus)
  • Enokitake (find this in Japanese stores).

So while "ordinary" mushrooms have benefits for chickens, if you're looking for super-foods, hunt one of these down. Studies have demonstrated that they...

  • boost the chicken's immune system
  • help the chicken's system retain beneficial nutrients
  • increase the retention of calcium
  • lower the amount of cholesterol in egg yolks
  • lower the presence of E.coli, Salmonella and Newcastle disease
  • lower the amount of nitrogen in droppings.

The Shiitake mushroom in particular is known to help prevent the growth of rogue cells(in 11).

Image of mushrooms with text: Shiitake mushrooms: a superfood for chickens.

How to feed mushrooms to chickens.

The amount to give has not been established in studies. The most common agreement is somewhere between 2% and 5% of the chickens' feed.

My take on this is feed them a maximum of once a week, and no more than a handful per chicken.

The way of feeding mushrooms is clearer:

  • Ferment mushrooms with your chickens' feed for the most beneficial impact.
  • If fermenting, adding up to 15% mushrooms to the feed is beneficial.
  • If feeding separately (i.e. without fermenting) cut into small pieces. However, you may find your chickens don't eat raw mushrooms. 
  • If that's the case, try cutting them up and cooking in a frying pan but without oil until they're soft. Feed both the mushrooms and the liquid to the flock. If they don't eat the liquid, pour it onto their feed.
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Can chickens eat potatoes?

Firstly, can chickens eat raw potatoes?

You'll find different advice about this. The fact is that...

  • any potato which is green or has "sprouts" should never be fed to chickens
  • no part of the potato plant (leaves, for example) should be fed to chickens

These contain a substance called "solanine" which is highly toxic to poultry(13). In any event, raw potatoes are not a favourite chicken treat, in my experience.

In any event they don't have much nutritional value. So it's a "no" from me.

Can chickens eat cooked potatoes?

They can, as long as the potato was not green or sprouted. Cooking does not substantially reduce the solanine.

Potatoes are high in Vitamin C, but contain high levels of carbohydrate. Although chickens need some carbohydrate, too much can lead to intestinal problems and poor growth.(14)

Mine love mashed potato – with no added salt or milk, obviously. I feed it only very occasionally, and it's more likely to be leftovers rather than a specially prepared treat.

So feed cooked potatoes, but very sparingly.

Can chickens eat sweet potatoes?

Sweet potatoes are a completely different matter. They're from an entirely different family to the white potato and any part of the plant is safe for chickens to eat.

  • Sweet potatoes contain a high amount of Vitamin A, which boosts the immune system and...
  • Vitamin B6, which promotes healthy growth and boosts egg quality, which in turn helps successful hatches.

So it's a "yes" to sweet potatoes!

How to feed sweet potatoes to chickens.

They do contain sugars so, as with any treat, feed no more than a small handful once a week.

  • Bake sweet potatoes in their skin and feed a whole potato cut in half. No need to do anything else to it – chickens will enjoy the entire thing, complete with skin.
  • Use the flesh to make "sweet potato cookies". Cook the potato, mash and press into a cookie cutter. Bake at about 180ºC (350ºF, gas mark 4) for a few minutes.
Can chickens eat sweet potatoes: sweet potato in a Christmas tree cookie cutter.
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Can chickens eat canned sweetcorn?

Not only can they, they will kill anything in their path when they stampede to get to it!

Sweetcorn is rich in Vitamin C, which is an antioxidant and helps prevent cell damage.

There's evidence(15) that tinned sweetcorn is even better for the immune system than fresh. However, be careful of this: tinned sweetcorn often has added salt.

Choose a brand with no additives which stores sweetcorn in water, not brine, and has no added sugars.

Some of my baby chicks piling in on the sweetcorn.Chickens love sweetcorn from a very early age!
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Can chickens eat tomatoes?

Like potatoes, there's a "yes" and a "no" element to tomatoes.

  • Chickens should not eat any green, under-ripe tomatoes
  • They should not eat any part of the tomato plant (the vine).

Ripe tomatoes are an excellent treat for chickens, so if you have a glut during the summer months, feel free to offer them whole to your flock.

Tomatoes have very high levels of...

  • Vitamin A, which helps with cold weather and moulting, and helps resist respiratory infections 
  • Vitamin K, which assists in blood clotting times and improves the support of internal organs
  • lycopene, a known anti-oxidant.

And chickens love the ripe ones – they're attracted by the colour red.

How to feed tomatoes to chickens.

  • Simply scattering over-ripe tomatoes in the run is the easiest way. Remember to clear up any leftovers before roosting time so as not to attract vermin.
  • Grow hanging tomato varieties like Tom Thumb from baskets in the run. Chickens can't get to the toxic vine, but can pick at the fallen ripe fruit.
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What veggies should a chicken not eat?

We've already covered issues with green potatoes and tomatoes. But what other vegetables should chickens not eat?

Can chickens eat onions?

This is one vegetable which, in my view based on properly researched sources, chickens should not eat.

  • The onion family contain a compound called thiosulphates which can be harmful to chickens, being known to cause a condition called Hemolytic Anaemia.
  • This disease kills red blood cells, so the chicken cannot properly supply its organs with oxygenated blood(16).
  • A further study(17) also showed poultry (in that case, geese), suffered liver damage from eating onions.

It's true that a chicken would need to ingest a large amount of thiosulphate to do irreparable damage. So if your flock get hold of some leftover onion it may cause some digestive issues but probably won't kill them.

But why take the risk when there are so many other delicious, nutritious vegetables that chickens can eat?

So red, white, green or brown, cooked or raw, it doesn't matter. To be kept safe, chickens should just not eat onions.

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European Feed Regulations.

Please note: I am required to tell you that currently in Europe, including the UK, regulations state that chickens should not be fed any foods which have been in a kitchen, whether the kitchen is a professional or a domestic one. 

This includes meats, vegetables and any kitchen scraps and it applies to all backyard chickens, however large or small the flock, and whether or not you sell their eggs or meat to others. 

Furthermore, the sale of dried mealworms for consumption by chickens is also illegal, although you will still find the product available, labelled 'for birds'.

This is related to concerns about the transmission of disease, and mealworms being imported from countries where quality control is poor.

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Other important articles about what chickens can eat.

All about what chickens eat - link.
Treats for chickens: which are healthy? Link.
What treats can chicks eat? - link
Thumbnail button link to article: vitamins and minerals for chickens.
Which plants are good for chickens? Link.
Choosing weeds as chicken treats - link.
Pumpkins for chickens - link.
Thumbnail can chickens eat peppers – link to article.
Can chickens eat apples? Find out by clicking the button.
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A lot of "facts" you'll find on the internet are often people's individual views, based on inaccurate information repeated from poor quality sources.

The information I provide in this article and others is based not just on my own experience, but on evidenced facts from scientific, peer-reviewed research and books from highly respected and experienced poultry keepers such as Gail Damerow.

Some of the trusted sources I have used in this article are these.

1. World Health Organization: Healthy Diet. Pub. 2020.

2. Hu, C. H., et al: Effects of broccoli stems and leaves meal on production performance and egg quality of laying hens. Pub. Journal of Animal Feed Science and Technology, 2011.

3. Pedrosa, G., et al: Broccoli meal fed to laying hens increases nutrients in eggs and deepens the yolk color. Pub. University of California, Department of Agriculture, 2018.

4. Lee, M. D.: Etiology and Epidemiology of Avian Campylobacter Infection. Pub. Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, 2019; updated 2022.

5. Liu, N. et al: Fermented Broccoli Residue Reduced Harmful Bacterial Loads and Improved Meat Antioxidation of Free-Range Broilers. Pub. Journal of Applied Poultry Research, 2019.

6. Mustafa, A. F.: Evaluation of dried vegetable residues for poultry: III Effects of feeding cabbage leaf residues on laying performance, egg quality, and apparent total tract digestibility. Pub. Journal of Applied Poultry Research, 2018.

7. Prasetyo, T. J., et al: Effect of Use of Waste Product of Carrot (Daucus carota. L) Meal in the Diet to Effiency Use Protein and Calcium Broiler Chicken. Pub. Journal of Animal Husbandry Science and Technology, 2019.

8. Ahmadipour, B., et al: Evaluation of hepatic lipogenesis and antioxidant status of broiler chickens fed mountain celery. Pub. BMC Veterinary Research, 2019.

9. Jaarsma, C.: 10 water-rich foods to help you stay hydrated. Pub BUPA, 2019.

10. Taschetto, D., et al: Iron requirements of broiler breeder hens. Pub. Journal of Poultry Science, 2021.

11. Abbel-Monain, M. A.: Effect of using green beans processing by-products with and without enzyme supplementation on broilers performance and blood parameters. Pub. Journal of Agrobiology, 2013.

12. Mahfuz, S, and Piao, X.: Use of Medicinal Mushrooms in Layer Ration. Pub. National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2019.

13. Murugesen, G. R.: Prevalence and effects of mycotoxins on poultry health and performance, and recent development in mycotoxin counteracting strategies. Pub. Journal of Poultry Science, 2017.

14. Fowler, J: Nutrition for the Backyard Flock. Pub. University of Georgia, 2022.

15. Dewanto et al: Processed Sweet Corn Has Higher Antioxidant Activity. Pub. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2002.

16. Datta, A, et al: An avian model for the study of acute hemolytic anemia in the domestic fowl (Gallus domesticus). Pub. National Center for Biotechnology Information, 1990.

17. Crespo, R., and Chin, R. P.: Effect of feeding green onions (Allium ascalonicum) to White Chinese geese (Threskiornis spinicollis). Pub. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation, 2004.

Link to Raising Happy Chickens home page.