Chickens can eat cabbage leaves, yes. In fact, cabbage is a nutrient-dense vegetable and complements a chicken’s well-balanced diet. In this article, we’re looking at the benefits of cabbage, as well as other foods that are good for chickens.
Is Cabbage and Cabbage Leaves Good For Chickens?
Cabbage leaves, like most vegetables, are great for chickens and help to deliver some additional nutrition into a chicken’s diet.
Cabbage is rich in micronutrients, vitamin A and other vitamins, iron, riboflavin, and is high in fiber which is great for digestion.
As long as you're providing a good quality feed, like a layer feed if you have laying hens, treats like cabbage have loads of upsides, with very few downsides.
In fact, the only potential downside is that it might give them diarrhea if they eat too much. But, realistically, they’d have to eat a lot of cabbage to have an upset stomach.
How Do You Feed Chickens Cabbage?
If you’re going to feed your flock a whole cabbage, then one of the most fun ways to do so is to hang it somewhere they can peck at it.
You’ll notice chickens enjoy pecking at food suspended by string or a cord of some kind (bananas are great for this, too - peels and all!). They end up getting some entertainment (as do you) while filling up on healthy food.
If you just want to give them some leaves or leftover parts of cabbage, then simply wash and throw the leaves into their run or where they can easily find it.
No matter how hard the core is on cabbage, you’ll notice that chickens can peck it to bits with little difficulty.
So, you don’t need to chop it up if you don’t want to. If your chickens want to eat it, they’ll eat it.
Foods and Things Chickens Should Not Eat
Chickens try to eat most foods, plants, and other things they come across. While there aren’t that many hazards, 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:
Chocolate – I love chocolate, so I’m happy to keep it to myself. Jokes aside, there are a couple of compounds in chocolate called theobromine and caffeine that are harmful to chickens, dogs, cats, and some other pets.
Tea and coffee – there are various toxins that are harmful to most animals. If you throw used coffee grounds and tea bags in your compost heap, be careful.
Raw Beans – The potential risks with beans are surprising to most people. Unless they are properly cooked, beans contain a toxin called lectin. Lectins are very toxic to chickens – and us – so never feed chicks beans that have not been cooked properly.
Green Potatoes/Tomatoes – When potatoes and tomatoes are green, it means they contain a toxin called solanine. This toxin isn’t present when they’re ripe, so white potatoes and red tomatoes are fine.
Avocado skins and pits – These parts of the avocado contain a fungicidal toxin called persin that is known to be toxic to most pets.
Sugary, Greasy, Fatty Foods – Fast food isn’t ideal for chickens, neither are soda drinks, candy, etc. Greasy and fatty foods are not toxic per se, but chickens find salty foods hard to digest and they aren’t good for their long-term health.
Treat Foods and Scraps That Are Fine for Chickens
If you want to experiment with other foods and table scraps (or recycle leftovers), the good news is that most foods are fine for chickens.
Some of the most popular foods people share with their feathered friends are:
Vegetables – Most vegetables are fine chickens and provide a decent range of good nutrition. Things like sweet potatoes, carrots, yams, jicama, etc are great and they’ll gobble them right up.
Fruits – Most fruits are also fine as they are typically nutrient-dense and packed with antioxidants and other good minerals. Try giving your flock some berries, melons, apples, bananas, etc.
Grains – Chickens love grains, and I love feeding my chickens grains. It gives them something to scratch around and forage for, too. You can feed your flock wheat, quinoa, cracked corn, oatmeal, even some cornbread, etc.
Related - What you need to know about feeding sweet feed to chickens.
General Rules for Feeding Chickens
The good news is that it's really not hard to feed chickens. There are a couple of things you need to be aware of though.
The first is what chicken owners call the “90/10 rule”.
This essentially means that you make sure at least 90% of your chickens’ diet comes from a quality commercial feed.
This is the best way to ensure that they’re getting all of their nutritional needs met to maintain optimal health and lay their best, tasty eggs.
That leaves 10% of their diet to give them ‘treats’, which is basically anything that isn't chicken feed. So, table scraps, leftovers, the kinds of foods I covered above.
The second thing is that you should always make feed available to chickens throughout the day. Most chicken owners top up their feeder in the morning, and again in the evening.
Chickens like to eat throughout the day when they feel like it. Filling up their crop, and then digesting food overnight when they’re sleeping.
Feeding chickens leftovers and different foods is a lot of fun - and a great way to reduce food wastage!
Cabbage leaves are fine for chickens and provide some good nutrition, you should go out of your way to spare them some if you regularly eat cabbage in your household.
Image credits - Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash