Chickens can eat marigolds, yes. Not only do you not need to be concerned, but this flowering herb provides some interesting and unique health benefits for chickens.
In this article, I’m going to explain what marigolds are, why they provide some benefits to chickens and list some plants that are known to be toxic to chickens.
What Are Marigolds?
Marigolds are annual flowering herbs that are native to the Mediterranean region, north Africa, and parts of the Middle East.
They’re pretty hardy, easy to grow, and are pretty flowers so they’re commonly found across the country.
There are actually several types of marigold, and each has its own unique properties and health benefits.
The main types are:
- Pot marigold (calendula) - calendula officinalis
- Mexican marigold - tagetes erecta
- French marigold - tagetes patula
- Signet marigold - Tagetes tenuifolia
Are Marigolds Toxic to Chickens?
You're right to be concerned first, but I can reassure you that marigolds are not toxic to chickens.
Quite the opposite, in fact, a lot of chicken owners deliberately feed their chickens marigolds for reasons I'm going to explain in this article.
Benefits of Feeding Chickens Marigolds
Marigolds are somewhat of a super herb. They’re used for a number of medicinal and wellness purposes for us, some of which apply to chickens, too.
The main benefits of feeding marigolds to chickens, growing them, and using them around the coop include:
Powerful antioxidants - Marigolds contain high levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants play an important role in keeping living things healthy, and this is the #1 benefit of supplementing your chicken’s feed with marigolds.
Anti-inflammatory properties - The pot marigold, in particular, is used for its anti-inflammatory properties. This means it can help with general skin issues, muscular pains, itchiness, fungal infections, and so on.
Pest repellent - Marigolds are often used by gardeners as a pest repellent. It’s the French marigold that has the strongest pest repelling properties, and this can be utilized to help ward off parasites, lice, and other annoying pests in your chickens' coop.
What does this all mean for chickens that have some marigold in their diet?
It means you're essentially giving your chickens a natural, healthy supplement that will strengthen their immune system, help them fight off infections, and improve egg quality.
All pretty impressive for such a beautiful flower!
Related - Here is a closer look at the wellness benefits for chickens of some other herbs like fennel, dill, and lavender.
How Marigolds Make Yolks a Deeper Yellow
Marigolds contain the pigment xanthophyll. This pigment is a class of oxygen-containing carotenoids that is responsible for the color of many plants, flowers, fruits, and vegetables.
Xanthophyll is commonly used in commercial layer feeds to artificially boost and deepen the yellow of egg yolks.
So, we know that it is perfectly safe for chickens to eat and we also know that it helps hens lay eggs with a darker yellow yolk.
Why do people want darker yolks? Seeing a more vibrant yellow yolk is generally believed to mean that the egg is fresher and healthier.
This isn’t always the case, especially when supplements are being used just to add more color.
However, combined with the fact that eating marigolds can reduce the level of cholesterol in eggs and boost chickens’ health, it's a pretty easy decision when debating whether or not you should feed your chickens marigolds.
How Do You Feed Chickens Marigolds?
There are various marigold powders and extracts that you can buy and give to your chickens, but you can’t beat the real thing.
If you have a yard, which I assume you do as you’re raising backyard chickens, then you should consider planting some marigolds.
They’re really easy to grow, look wonderful, attract the right kinds of insects like bees, and repel the kinds of insects you don’t want.
It really is a win-win.
As for feeding them to your chickens, I’m sure you’re well aware that it’s not hard to convince chickens to eat anything that is edible.
You can dry out some petals and add them to their feed. Or, you can simply give your chickens access to growing marigolds or toss some into their run for them to peck at.
What Plants Are Toxic to Chickens?
It’s a real eye-opener just how many innocent-looking plants pose potential threats to chickens.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are some of the most common plants known to be toxic or poisonous to chickens in some capacity:
- Jimson Weed
- Trumpet Vine
I’ve discussed the potential dangers of plants when letting chickens free-range with a number of owners.
Most are happy to trust their flock not to eat anything they shouldn’t. I do admit, chickens are pretty smart when it comes to avoiding potentially harmful plants - but it’s not something I’m willing to risk.
I’ve taken a good look at every square inch of land my chooks are able to explore and identified and ruled out every plant that may have posed a risk.
Marigolds are great for chickens. Due to the number of positive health and wellness applications, you should even go out of your way to ensure that your chickens are getting some marigolds in their diets.
You now know one of the industry secrets behind bright, vibrant yellow yolks, too.
Just keep in mind that brighter yolks don’t always mean fresher and healthier eggs. But in the case of a chicken that has been eating marigolds, it may mean the egg was laid by a healthy chicken and is lower in cholesterol.
If you're a fan of natural and herbal remedies, marigolds along with other herbs are thoroughly worth investigating more.
Image credits - Header image by Jenny Hill on Unsplash, Mexican marigold image by Photo by Wander Fleur on Unsplash