Cherries are fine for chickens to eat, yes. Cherries can be used as a nice treat food and they provide some decent nutritional content. It’s best to remove the pits and feed them fresh, and I’m sure they’ll be munched up in a hurry.
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Are Cherries Good for Chickens?
Cherries are small stone fruits that actually come in a wide range of colors from black to yellow and all sorts of shades in between.
Red cherries are, of course, the most popular. But whatever color they are, cherries are perfectly safe for chickens to eat.
Cherries are often overlooked when healthy fruits are being discussed. But like most fruits, they're rich in a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and make for a healthy snack for chickens.
Fruits in general are beneficial for chickens when given to them in moderation. Generally speaking, chickens rely on commercial chicken feed to get all the nutrition they need to maintain optimal health and lay at their best
But vegetables, fruits, and other foods provide some variety and introduce a wider range of vitamins and minerals that they will benefit from.
If you were looking for healthy fruit to feed your flock, cherries are among the best and I’m sure they’ll get gobbled up in a hurry.
Are Ground Cherries Poisonous to Chickens?
Ground cherries, also known as husk cherries, are different from the classic red cherries we’ve been talking about.
They're closely related to Cape gooseberries, have a different taste and nutritional profile from cherries, and are part of the nightshade family.
Like all nightshade plants, ground cherries contain a toxin called solanine that can be harmful to chickens.
It's not always obvious exactly where in a nightshade plant and how much of this toxin is present, so it's usually best to avoid nightshade if you're not familiar with them.
It's only unripe ground cherries that produce the toxin. But like I said, if in doubt, avoid giving your chickens ground cherries.
How to Feed Cherries to Chickens
There is some concern around the pits or Stones of cherries. According to Healthline, ingesting cherry pits is 'unlikely' to be toxic to us, but they do produce hydrogen cyanide.
There isn't much in the way of research into the dangers cherry pits present to chickens, but as their body mass is much smaller than ours, it's realistic to think they could prove toxic.
So, the best advice is to remove the pits from cherries before feeding them to your chickens. You can then simply throw them the cherries, and I'm sure they'll get gobbled up quickly.
Feeding Backyard Chickens a Balanced Diet
Cherries are great for chickens, as are a lot of fruit and vegetables. However, to feed your backyard chickens a balanced diet, the bulk of their diet should come from a commercial feed.
Commercial feeds are specially formulated to provide chickens with all of the nutrition they need to maintain optimal health and lay good eggs.
Fruits and other leftovers and table scraps are treats for chickens and should be given to them in moderation.
Most owners give their chooks leftovers in the evening after they know they've consumed plenty of feed during the day.
It is important to give your chickens plenty of variety though - and it's a lot of fun seeing them gobble up different foods.
Foods That Are Safe to Feed to 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:
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 – I love feeding my chickens grains as it gives them something to scratch and forage around for. You can feed your flock wheat, quinoa, corn, oatmeal, etc.
Some Foods That You Should NOT Feed Chickens
It’s more important you know which foods are potentially harmful to your chickens and should be avoided.
There aren’t many, but the foods you should absolutely avoid letting your chickens consume as confirmed by the RSPCA are:
Avocado skins and pits – These parts of the avocado contain a fungicidal toxin called persin that is known to be toxic to most pets.
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. (read about tomatillos here.)
Chocolate and foods with cocoa or chocolate in – Chocolate contains compounds that are toxic to most pets, the darker the chocolate the worse it is!
Tea and coffee – There are some harmful compounds in tea and coffee. Some people compost their used grounds and bags, so be aware if you do so in your backyard.
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.
Any moldy or spoiled foods – Don’t give your chickens foods that are past their best and potentially moldy. Mold spores are quite toxic and can cause some health issues.
Now you know that you have some hungry beaks in your backyard that would be more than happy to share a punnet of cherries with you, it’s up to you if you decide to share.
If you do, the important thing to know is that cherries are fine for chickens to eat. They provide a nice little nutritious snack and should go down a treat.
Image credits - Photo by Zoe Schaeffer on Unsplash