We all love to feed our chickens some extra treats, but can chickens eat sweet potatoes? Or are sweet potatoes harmful to chickens?
Sweet potatoes are a delicious treat for chickens, which can be fed both raw and cooked. This versatile vegetable has many health benefits for chickens, but you must take certain precautions before feeding sweet potatoes to chickens.
So, before you head off to the chicken coop with a bunch of sweet potatoes, let’s take a look at everything you need to know first!
Do Chickens Eat Sweet Potatoes?
When it comes to chickens, these omnivores are very much like humans in their eating habits. They adore anything with high levels of fat, protein, or carbohydrates. And while chickens need vitamin-loaded vegetables as part of a healthy diet, they’re often lower down on their list of favorite foodstuffs.
Until that is, you give your flock some sweet potato. This is one vegetable that chickens will devour with great enthusiasm!
Chickens love to eat starchy root vegetables, such as carrots, yams, potatoes, and, of course, sweet potatoes. In human terms, we often think of these as ‘comfort foods’, and it seems that chickens agree with us.
Are Sweet Potatoes Good For Chickens?
As chicken keepers, we are responsible for feeding our flock a healthy, balanced diet. The phrase ‘you are what you eat’ applies not only to us, but our chickens too!
Luckily, sweet potatoes come with some amazing health benefits for chickens. When fed in moderation, cooked potatoes are a valuable addition to your chickens’ diet.
In fact, sweet potatoes are so nutritious that in some countries they are used as part of commercially-produced chicken feed.
Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A, known for its immune-boosting properties. This will help to keep your flock fit and healthy and able to fight off infections.
They are also packed full of carbohydrates, which makes them a great source of energy. During the colder winter months, sweet potatoes can help prevent your chickens from losing weight.
And finally, sweet potatoes will provide your chickens with protein and fiber. They are also high in essential minerals such as magnesium and phosphorus.
Can Chickens Eat Raw Sweet Potatoes?
Raw sweet potatoes are perfectly safe for chickens to eat. But not all chickens will eat raw sweet potato, turning their beak up when offered a few tasty morsels.
The reason for this is that raw sweet potato is not nearly as appetizing as the cooked version. Cooked sweet potato is soft and sweet, while when raw it is crunchy and far less tasty.
Also, raw sweet potato is very solid, and chickens will find it tricky to eat. They prefer food they can grab with their beaks and tear apart, which is not easy with a raw sweet potato.
One way around this problem is to finely chop or grate the raw sweet potato to make it easier for your chickens to eat. Many chickens will far prefer eating sweet potato when it is prepared in this way, foraging for every last tasty mouthful.
When preparing raw sweet potato for chickens, make sure each piece is small enough to be swallowed easily. It is very uncommon for chickens to choke on food, but a particularly hungry bird may well swallow a piece that is too large to handle.
Raw sweet potato will start to deteriorate quickly once it has been chopped or grated. Don’t leave any uneaten food laying around in the coop.
If your flock has not eaten it all up within 30 minutes, remove the remaining food and dispose of it.
Can Chickens Eat Cooked Sweet Potatoes?
Chickens adore eating cooked sweet potatoes, and this delicious root vegetable is a very tasty treat for chickens.
When sweet potatoes are cooked, the texture is softer and the flavor sweeter. This makes them far more appetizing to chickens.
Unfortunately, chickens love cooked sweet potatoes so much that they may well eat far more than is good for them.
Chickens need to eat a balanced diet to stay healthy. This must contain the correct levels of protein, fat, carbohydrates, and fiber, as well as essential vitamins and minerals.
And as chickens are omnivores, they will eat anything and everything! They will naturally favor eating their preferred foodstuffs.
So, as they love cooked sweet potato so much, they will fill up on this tasty treat! This leaves them little appetite for the healthier things in life, and they may not eat enough other types of food to maintain a balanced diet.
There is no harm in feeding chickens cooked sweet potatoes, but it must be in moderation to avoid nutritional deficiencies.
If you are feeding sweet potatoes as a treat, they should make up no more than 10% of the daily food intake for each bird. The rest of the daily ration should consist of good-quality balanced chicken feed.
For the average-sized chicken, this works out at around a dessert spoon of cooked sweet potato per day.
The other precaution to take when feeding cooked sweet potatoes to chickens is to avoid any that are heavily seasoned with salt, pepper, or oil. Chickens can only tolerate minimal amounts of these in their diets, and too much could cause issues such as salt toxicity.
Sweet potatoes that have been boiled or roasted are ideal for chickens, and even a drizzle of oil won’t do any harm.
But if you’ve got a pile of left-over crispy sweet potato fries loaded with salt and other seasonings, it’s probably best to put these straight in the bin.
Can Chickens Eat Sweet Potato Peels?
If you’re peeling some sweet potatoes for your dinner, the peels make a great snack for your chickens. They can be fed to chickens either raw or cooked, but remember to slice them into bite-sized pieces first.
Remember that while sweet potato peels might be a great treat for chickens, the same cannot always be said of white potatoes.
White potatoes come from the potentially toxic nightshade family of plants. Any part of white potato peel that is green can contain solanine, which is toxic to chickens.
So when it comes to feeding potato peels to chickens, stick to the peel of sweet potatoes.
Can Chickens Eat Sweet Potato Leaves?
The amazing thing about feeding sweet potatoes to chickens is that they can eat all parts of the plant. So not only can they eat the potatoes themselves, peel and all, but they can also safely consume the vines and leaves of the plant.
Sweet potato vines are a healthy snack for chickens. They contain many essential vitamins and minerals, which will help to keep your flock happy and healthy.
It is vital to point out that chickens cannot eat the leaves or plants of white potatoes. These come from a different family of plants to sweet potatoes and can be toxic to chickens.
Can Sweet Potatoes Be Fed As Part Of A Homemade Chicken Feed?
While you can safely feed sweet potatoes as up to 10% of your chickens’ daily diet, what if you want to feed them more? If you’re in a climate where growing large amounts of sweet potatoes is easy, could you consider feeding larger quantities to save money on feed bills?
Studies have shown that sweet potato meal can be fed at volumes of up to 30% of the daily food intake of broiler chickens. In some countries sweet potatoes are cheaper and easier to grow than maize, making this a cost-effective chicken feed.
Making your own chicken feed with sweet potatoes could save considerable amounts of money. To do this, you need to follow a reputable chicken feed recipe to ensure your chickens get all the nutrition they need to stay happy and healthy.
Up to 30% of the total amount of chicken feed can consist of sweet potato, but you will need to reduce the amount of corn or maize accordingly.
Don’t be tempted to feed more than the recommended amount of sweet potatoes to your chickens per day. While they may crowd around you for this tasty food, their diet will be too low in protein and other essential nutrients.
If you’re looking for ways to add new foods to your chickens’ diet, sweet potatoes are a great place to start. Offer them a small amount of sweet potato that has been diced and boiled, and you’ll be delighted at how much they enjoy this tasty treat!