Chickens love bananas, and they’re a good source of nutrition. You’re right to be concerned about the peel though, as the strong, rubber-like texture could be a choking hazard. However, chickens can eat banana peels without any issues in my experience.
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Is It Safe for Chickens to Eat Banana Peels?
There are two concerns most backyard chicken owners have in regard to feeding their chickens bananas with the peels still on;
- The first is whether or not the peel is going to cause some kind of digestive issues
- The second is whether or not banana peels provides anything in the way of good nutrition, or are even bad for chickens
I can answer both of these concerns, and give you reassurance on both accounts that you have nothing to worry about if your chickens eat banana peels.
Can Banana Peels Cause Choking Hazards?
Chickens wouldn't be so adept at surviving in the wild for thousands of years if something as simple as a banana peel was going to cause the problem.
Jokes aside, banana peels are obviously very durable and tough to digest. But chickens have a very robust digestive system, as you can probably imagine.
The short explanation is that chickens swallow bits of food whole after breaking it up with their beaks because they don't have teeth.
Food then goes into an area called a crop at the front of their chests. Overnight, the food passes from the crop through their digestive system and into their gizzard.
The gizzard is a strong organ that basically ‘chews’ up foods with the help of grit and other coarse substances.
It’s capable of crushing up nuts and other hard foods, so it’s fair to assume that the gizzard can deal with banana peels.
Plus, chickens aren’t going to eat large pieces of peel. In fact, if you talk to any chicken owner, they’ll tell you it’s rare for a chicken to eat any peel unless it’s been chopped up.
Is There Good Nutrition in Banana Peels for Chickens?
First of all, don’t worry, banana peels are not toxic or poisonous in any way.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Banana peels are commonly eaten in some parts of the world as it’s rich in some key nutrients like B6 and B12, as well as potassium and magnesium.
If your chickens do eat the peel, there are only upsides, no downsides.
So, next time you’re going to feed them some bananas, why not chop up the peel into easy to pick up bits and cut down on wastage even further!
Foods and Things Chickens Should Not Eat
Chickens will try to eat most plants, foods, and other things they come across. While they’re shouldn’t be that many hazards in your yard, there are some foods you should be aware of.
This isn’t a complete list, but here are some of the common foods that are known to be harmful or toxic to chickens to avoid giving to them:
Green potatoes and some nightshade foods – there is a toxin called solanine present in this food group that is harmful to chooks (like eggplant).
Avocado Pits/Skin – The flesh of an avocado is fine, but the skin and pit or stone contain a fungicidal toxin called persin. This toxin can cause some serious health issues, don’t give them to your hens.
Coffee and Tea – Just like chocolate, caffeine and other compounds in teas and coffee are bad for chickens. I’m not suggesting you’d feed these to your chickens or make them a brew. It’s more so for those who recycle tea bags and coffee grounds in their garden.
Candy and other sugary treats, this includes soda – foods with high sugar content and preservatives are bad for chickens (and us).
Foods high in fat or salt, greasy fast foods, etc – fatty foods do not exactly deliver quality nutrition!
Any moldy or spoiled foods – you wouldn’t want to eat moldy food, would you? Mold spores are toxic and can potentially cause some health issues.
Chocolate and foods with cocoa or chocolate in – there are compounds in chocolate that cause health issues for most pets.
Foods That Are Fine for Chickens
Chickens come in handy if you want to reduce wastage and ‘recycle’ some of your leftovers or parts of veggies and fruits you don’t eat.
On a serious note, there are plenty of foods that help provide some additional nutrition and complement a chickens’ diet.
Here are some of the common foods you can safely give to your flock:
Fruits - Almost all fruits are packed with loads of good nutrition that chickens can benefit from. Fresh, dried, it doesn’t matter.
Vegetables - You have to be careful with beans and some vegetables as discussed above, but generally speaking, vegetables are as awesome for chickens as they are for us.
Grains - Grains are a staple of chickens’ diet, both in the wild and from commercial feeds.
Your chickens will be more than happy to have some corn (even deer corn), wheat, barley, quinoa, etc. It also gives them something to scratch around and forage for, which is a behavior that comes naturally to chickens.
How to Feed Chickens a Balanced Diet
Feeding chickens is an easy task. You should provide a commercial feed that’s appropriate to their age and development. Such as a starter, or a layer feed.
Feed should be available all day for your flock to eat as much as they need. They won’t eat too much, and will eat less feed if they’re able to find more bugs and other scraps to eat while roaming.
The only strict rule is that 90% of a chicken’s diet should come from a formulated feed. The other 10% can be made up from scraps, leftovers, and foods covered above.
This ensures that your chickens are getting the right balance of nutrition to maintain optimal health, which is crucial if your hens are laying.
Related - Reasons why chickens lay soft eggs.
Feeding chickens leftovers, scraps, and different foods is a lot of fun - and a great way to reduce food wastage!
If you were concerned about banana peels causing your chickens a problem, hopefully I’ve helped put your mind at ease.
Banana peels are not toxic or harmful in any way. If you chop them up well, there is a good chance chickens will eat banana peels without any issues.
Image credits - Photo by Michelle Tresemer on Unsplash
Banana nutrition facts & health benefits - LiveScience