Yes, chickens can eat lemons. Despite what you may have heard, citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, and grapefruits are not bad or toxic for chickens. Admittedly, hens rarely eat citrus as they don’t seem to like it, but it’s fine.
Can Chickens Eat Lemons and Oranges?
I've read accounts online that citrus fruits are bad and potentially harmful to chickens - and I've also read plenty of accounts that they're perfectly fine.
So, I rang my local avian vet and asked her what her opinion was, and she said, "Citrus fruits do not pose any particular threat to a chicken's health, but as with all foods moderation is important."
In fact, there is actually some evidence to suggest that the acid in citrus fruits may actually have some positive health benefits.
This, combined with the fact that I've personally given bits of lemon to my chickens, and have plenty of friends who also have, reassures me that citrus fruits are not harmful to chickens.
I have no issues feeding hens lemons or oranges. The important thing to note about any foods outside of a commercial feed is moderation, lemons are treats and should not be given often.
Related - Read more about feeding chickens oranges here (with video)
How to Feed Lemon to Chickens
You can feed lemons to your chickens just about any way you want to.
Chickens do not have teeth, but they do just fine without having any by using their powerful, sharp beaks to break up and eat fruits and vegetables.
You could give your chickens a whole lemon if you really wanted to, and I'm sure they would be able to get into it just fine.
You should be a little bit more helpful than that though. I slice a lemon in half and place it on the floor so my chickens can easily peck away at the fleshy part.
It’s also a good idea to hang fruits from a piece of string. This gives chickens something to play around with and have a good peck at while keeping it off the floor and somewhere they can all easily find.
Are Lemons Bad for Chickens?
No, lemons are not bad for chickens. I've read some articles stating that citrus fruits, in general, might be bad for chickens, but I'm not able to find any professional or credible sources to back this up.
It's up to you if you give your chickens lemon. You can err on the side of caution if you prefer, but don't worry if you've been giving your flock citrus fruits.
Can Chickens Have Lemon Peels?
Yes, chickens can also eat lemon peels, rinds, and zest. The peels do not present any issues from a nutritional standpoint.
They have no issues digesting harder parts of fruits like peels, chickens have an internal organ called a gizzard that easily chews up harder things.
I wouldn't just provide peels, personally, you should give your chickens the good stuff inside!
What Should You Feed Backyard Chickens?
The bulk of a chicken's diet (around 90%) should come from a formulated feed, and about 10% can come from other foods.
There are different feeds available depending on the age development of the chicken, and this is the best way to ensure they are getting all of the nutrients they need.
Giving chickens fruits, vegetables, and other leftovers is a way to add some variety and other nutrition into their diets while helping you reduce wastage in the kitchen.
The best advice is to make sure your chooks have feed available to graze on at all times, and you can offer them some treats in the evening to see what they enjoy munching on.
You may even find out that lemons are a favorite!
Other Foods That Chickens Can Eat; Table Scraps, Treats, Etc
The good news is that most leftover food scraps that we don’t eat are fine for chickens. Or, maybe you just want to treat them to something different.
Either way, here are some of the most popular foods people give to their backyard chooks that are perfectly safe:
Vegetables – Most vegetables are fine chickens. Things like leeks, carrots, split peas, parsnips, etc provide a nice range of nutrition.
Fruits – Most fruits are also fine as they are typically nutrient-dense and packed with good stuff. Try giving them some cherries, figs, 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.
Foods and Things Chickens Should Not Eat
Chickens will try to eat most plants, foods, and other things they come across. While there 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:
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.
Some nightshade foods – There is a toxin called solanine present in some foods/parts of the plants belonging to nightshades that is harmful to chickens (and other animals). This includes eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and more.
Raw Beans – Most beans contain toxins known as lectins when they're raw or undercooked. Lectins are harmful to chickens, only feed them beans that you would eat yourself.
Tea and coffee – Be careful recycling used grounds and tea bags in your garden, they’re potentially harmful to chickens.
Foods high in fat or salt, greasy fast foods, etc – Chickens require good-quality nutrition to lay eggs at their best and maintain optimal health. Fatty or ‘junk’ foods do not provide good nutrition.
Any moldy or spoiled foods – It’s tempting to use chickens as recycling machines for foods you don’t want, just make sure you only give them food you’d be willing to eat yourself!
Chickens can eat lemons, yes. Lemons and other citrus fruits are not toxic or poisonous in any way - just don't be surprised if your hens are not interested.
As long as you're feeding your flock fruits, vegetables, and other table scraps in moderation along with a good feed as discussed above, you should be able to provide a nice balanced diet.
Image credits - Imagine used with permission from firsttimefarming.com