Chickens can eat eggplant or aubergine, yes. As a member of the nightshade family, you must remove the leaves and green parts as these contain toxins. The flesh, skin, and seeds of this fruit are perfectly fine for chickens though.
Known as eggplant, aubergine, or brinjal depending on where you are in the world, this fruit (yes, it’s technically a fruit not a vegetable) does present a small risk that you need to be aware of.
In this article, I’ll explain what the risks of eating eggplant are, how to safely feed your chickens this nutritionally dense fruit, and everything else you need to know about feeding backyard chickens.
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Are Eggplants or Aubergines Good For Chickens?
From a nutritional and supplement standpoint, eggplants, much like most fruits and vegetables, are great for chickens.
Medical and nutritional sites like MedicalNewsToday are really high on the benefits of eating eggplants.
Eggplants are rich in fibre and antioxidants. They're a great source of a wide range of good nutrition, and make for an excellent ‘treat’ food for chickens.
They’re nice and big, too, so it’s easy to chop one in half, remove the top, and hand it over for your flock to peck away at.
Do keep in mind that chickens, and this applies to laying hens in particular, have complex dietary requirements.
Your flock should be getting at least 90% of their food intake from a quality commercial feed. That leaves around 10% for treats and giving them some variation from various veggies, fruits, and other foods like eggplants.
What Part of Eggplant Is Poisonous to Chickens?
Eggplants and other members of the nightshade family contain alkaloids, including solanine, which can be toxic to chickens, us, and other animals.
Essentially it's the green parts that contain the harmful toxins. This means the leaves, and the tubers which are the thickened, rounded part of the stem.
When ingested, solanine leads to symptoms like a burning and inflamed throat, vomiting, nausea, and irregular heartbeats.
The reaction can be fatal. The smaller the animal is, the less of the toxin they need to have ingested.
This is why it’s particularly important that chickens do not eat any parts of nightshade plants that contain these toxins.
Related - Can chickens vomit?
How to Feed Eggplant to Chickens
When feeding eggplant to chickens, the important thing that you absolutely must do is to remove the green part from the top of the fruit as I explained above.
This leaves the bulk of the fruit though, and eggplants are pretty big. Most owners just slice them in half and place the halves on the ground for chickens to peck at, or hang them to make it a little more interesting.
Either way, it doesn't matter. Chickens have no problem breaking through the skin and they can eat everything safely, the skin, flesh, and seeds.
Table Scraps, Leftovers, and Treat Foods Safe for Chickens
It’s fun feeding chickens different foods, and eggplants are just one one of the many foods that are safe for chickens.
Here are some of the most popular foods people give to their backyard chooks that are perfectly safe:
Vegetables – Most vegetables are fine chickens, and it’s a great way to use the scraps that you won’t eat. Veggies like sweet potatoes, carrots, cabbage, jicama, etc provide some great nutrition.
Grains – Grains are a staple of most chicken feeds and foods that chickens would naturally find and eat in the wild. It also gives them something to scratch around for, which chickens love doing. Wheat, quinoa, corn, oatmeal, etc., are all super good for chickens.
Fruits – Most fruits are also fine and they’re typically nutrient-dense and packed with loads of good vitamins and minerals. Try giving your chickens some berries, melons, apples, bananas, etc. and you’ll see how quickly they disappear.
Foods That Are Toxic/Poisonous and Should Be Avoided
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 - like nightshade foods, avocado skin and stones contain a toxin
- Parts of other nightshade foods - as covered above, be wary of foods belonging to the nightshade family
- Tea and coffee - there are some harmful compounds
- Candy and other sugary treats, soda etc - It’s hard for chickens to digest sugars and additives
- Chocolate - there are compounds in chocolate that are harmful to most animals, keep it to yourself!
- Any moldy or spoiled foods - you wouldn’t eat moldy foods, would you? Mold spores are toxic and potentially harmful
- Foods high in fat or salt, greasy fast foods, etc - keep junk food off the menu for your chickens, they need quality nutrition to maintain optimal health
Eggplant - or aubergine if you're in Europe - are one of the fruits that you do need to be very careful with when giving them to your chickens.
If your flock has eaten some of the part of the plant that contains toxins before and didn't show any effects, that's great and don't worry about it.
Going forward, however, you really should go out of your way to make sure that they don't nibble on the leaves or the green part of eggplants.
Now you know about the risks, it’s better to err on the side of caution!
Image credits - Photo by Szőcs Viola on Unsplash