It can be tempting to sneak some extra vegetables into your chickens’ diet, but can chickens eat potatoes?
Feeding vegetables such as potatoes to chickens can have many benefits, but only when fed in moderation. Potatoes are a useful source of carbohydrates, and can help you save money on your chicken feed bills!
However, there are certain precautions you must consider before feeding potatoes to chickens.
Do Chickens Eat Potatoes?
When prepared correctly, chickens adore eating potatoes! If you were to put whole raw potatoes into their coop, they’d most likely shun them in favor of a tastier snack.
But cook up some potatoes, and your flock will go crazy for them! When cooked, potatoes are softer and more palatable for chickens, and they will be more inclined to eat them.
If left to their own devices, chickens would eat far more cooked potatoes than is good for them. Your chickens need a balanced diet, so it is vital to feed potatoes in the correct amounts to avoid nutritional deficiencies.
Are Potatoes Good for Chickens?
When fed in the right amounts, potatoes can be a valuable addition to your chickens’ diet. Here are some of the key benefits of feeding potatoes to chickens:
- Potatoes contain higher amounts of most essential amino acids than traditional chicken feed ingredients such as corn.
- Essential minerals such as chlorine, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sulfur are found in potatoes.
- Potatoes are a good source of protein, containing around 12% crude protein.
- Key vitamins, such as A, B, and C vitamins, are found in potatoes.
- Potatoes are an excellent source of carbohydrates, providing your chickens with vital energy and fiber.
In fact, potatoes are being increasingly used as a replacement for corn in commercial chicken feed. This large study showed no difference in egg and meat production when potato meal was fed instead of corn.
But if potatoes are so great, why aren’t we all feeding them to our chickens all the time?
Potatoes may have many benefits, but if your chickens’ diet consisted only of potatoes, they would miss out on some essential nutrients.
Chickens are omnivores, and in their natural state will eat seeds, plants, insects, and even small animals. In a domesticated setting, they need a balanced diet that mimics this.
So, if you take a look at your sack of chicken feed, you will see that it contains many different ingredients.
This will normally include a form of carbohydrate, such as corn, along with a source of protein. Other ingredients will be included in smaller amounts to provide a perfectly balanced diet.
From this, we can conclude that the ideal diet for chickens contains many different ingredients – not just potatoes! There is no one single foodstuff that meets all of the nutritional needs of chickens, so a careful blend is required.
Can Chickens Eat Raw Potatoes?
We’ve all heard horror stories about how raw potatoes are poisonous. But why is this, and can chickens eat raw potatoes?
White potatoes belong to the nightshade family of plants, along with tomatoes, eggplants, and bell peppers. Another plant in this family is Belladonna, more commonly known as deadly nightshade!
The reason that nightshades have such a fearsome reputation is that they contain solanine. This is a toxic compound that can harm both humans and chickens.
Luckily, fruiting plants such as tomatoes contain minuscule levels of solanine, and they rarely cause any problems. But what is the deal with potatoes?
When it comes to potatoes, anything green is high in solanine and is potentially toxic. So this means that feeding potato plants and leaves to your chickens is a definite no-no.
Solanine is a neurotoxin that can cause irreversible effects in the body. So, if your chickens eat too much of it, it could potentially be fatal.
When it comes to the potato itself, technically the levels of toxin are so low that it shouldn’t cause your chickens any problems if fed raw. The only exception is if there are any green areas on the potato skin – these should definitely not be fed to chickens.
The other question is whether chickens like eating raw potatoes, and you will probably find that they are not interested. And who could blame them – raw potato is not a tasty treat!
Raw potato is very different in texture and flavor from cooked potato. Your chickens would most likely prefer a tastier snack, and one that is easier to peck into.
You may get the occasional chicken that enjoys raw potato. If so, make sure to carefully trim away any green parts first to avoid solanine toxicity.
Can Chickens Eat Cooked Potatoes?
While raw potatoes might not come top of your chickens’ menu choices, cooked potatoes are a whole different thing! Chickens adore eating cooked potatoes, and will normally choose this delicious snack over their regular food every day.
But why do chickens love cooked potatoes so much? Well, like many humans, chickens love to fill up on carbohydrates.
So while their diet should consist of a balance of vegetables, carbs, and protein, they will happily eat more cooked potato than is truly good for them.
When fed in moderation, cooked potatoes are a valuable addition to your chickens’ diet. They are a good source of energy, fiber, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
The problem with chickens is that they will eat anything and everything, but they don’t tend to overeat. So, as they love them so much, they will fill up on cooked potatoes, and fail to eat a good balance of greens and protein-based foods.
This means there is no harm in feeding your flock some leftover cooked potatoes, as long as it is in moderation!
A good rule of thumb to stick to is to feed no more than 10% of your chickens’ daily food intake in the form of treats. For the average-sized laying hen, this equates to around a dessertspoon of extra food on top of her normal ration of commercial chicken feed.
Can Chickens Eat Baked Potatoes?
Chickens can eat baked potatoes, but it pays to check what they have been seasoned with. We love to eat baked potatoes that have been rubbed with oil and salt, but this is not the healthiest choice for chickens.
Plain baked potatoes are just fine, and even a little bit of oil won’t do any harm.
But if you’ve got crisp baked potato skins sizzled in oil and salt, it would be best to remove them and feed the softer inside part to your chickens.
Your commercial chicken feed will already contain all the salt your birds need. Any extra salt could lead to toxicity, which can cause eggshell defects in your laying hens.
Can Chickens Eat Mashed Potatoes?
Chickens can eat mashed potatoes, and there is no cuter sight than watching your flock feast on some leftover mash!
As with all human foods, avoid feeding mashed potatoes that have been heavily seasoned with salt. Too much salt can be toxic to chickens.
Can Chickens Eat Potato Skins?
Chickens can eat potato skins, but it is better to feed them cooked rather than raw. The skin of potatoes contains higher levels of solanine, which are neutralized during the cooking process.
Potato skins should never be fed to chickens if they are green, even if they are cooked first.
If you are peeling a batch of potatoes to make fries or mash, cooking up the peels for your chickens is a great way to make use of these leftovers. Remember to feed just a small amount each day, to stop your chickens from bingeing on their favorite treats.
How To Feed Potatoes To Chickens
When fed in moderation as a snack, potatoes can be a delicious and nutritious addition to your chickens’ diet. By following these tips, you can regularly include potatoes as part of your chickens’ daily food intake:
- Although chickens can eat raw potatoes, they prefer this root vegetable cooked.
- Too much salt can be harmful to chickens, so skip the seasoning.
- Never feed any green part of the potato to your chickens. Green areas are high in solanine, a toxic substance.
- Limit the total amount of extra treats to no more than 10% of your chickens’ diet – that’s around a dessert spoon per chicken per day.
Can Potatoes Be Fed As Part Of A Homemade Chicken Feed?
What if you want to feed large quantities of potatoes on a regular basis – is it possible?
Well, some chicken feed manufacturers now include potatoes as part of layer or broiler feed, instead of corn. In some countries potatoes are cheaper and easier to grow than corn, making this a cost-effective solution.
Making your own chicken feed is perfectly possible, and can save considerable amounts of money. By following a DIY chicken feed recipe, you can ensure your chickens get all the nutrition they need to stay happy and healthy.
When it comes to including potatoes, the best option is unpeeled cooked potatoes. Substitute these on a weight-for-weight basis for the standard recommendation for corn in your recipe.
Remember that cooked potatoes have a short shelf life and must be kept refrigerated. They are not as convenient to store and feed as corn, but the cost savings may make it worth the effort!
It is clear to see that chickens enjoy eating potatoes as much as we do! Adding a small amount of cooked, unseasoned potato to your flock’s daily food rations is a great way to add variety to their diet.