You’ve probably heard that onions are bad for most household pets like cats and dogs. So, can chickens eat onions? Are they safe for chickens?
There is an interesting answer to this one actually. I’ll tell you right away that onions are not toxic to chickens as they are to cats and dogs.
So, don’t panic if you’ve been feeding onion scraps to your flock.
There is a good chance that onions will have an effect on the taste of their eggs though. Some owners swear they can taste it if their hens have eaten onion in the last 24 hours before laying.
Why Are Onions Toxic to Some Pets?
As I mentioned above, you may have heard that onions are toxic to cats, dogs, and some other pets/animals.
This is because of two of the compounds in onions; disulfides and thiosulphates. When these compounds are ingested by certain animals, it can cause Heinz body anemia and hemolytic anemia.
These conditions affect the animal’s red blood cells. Breaking them down, causing anemia, and even a small amount can be fatal.
These compounds do not have this effect on chickens, however. I can’t find a scientific paper detailing exactly why this is the case. But just as we can eat onions without issue, so can chickens.
Are Onions Healthy for Chickens?
Onions are really healthy for us, and a lot of good nutrition applies to chickens, too.
Chicken’s have very different dietary requirements to us, however. They don’t benefit from this nutrient-dense vegetable as much as we do.
Still, it’s fine to feed onions to your backyard flock to add some variety to their diet. With the caveat of it affecting the taste of their eggs and meat as I’ll explain below.
Onions are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They also contain compounds that help protect our cells and promote healthy red blood cell production.
All good stuff. Red onions are often called a superfood too. Maybe I’ve convinced you to add some to your shopping list next time.
Will Onions Affect the Taste of Hen's Eggs?
This is something that’s been hotly debated in the backyard chicken owners forums for as long as I can remember.
A lot of owners are convinced that even if their hens eat a small amount of onion they can taste it in their egg the following day.
While some people say they can’t taste any difference at all.
I did read about a blind taste test once. I can’t find where it was now, but the results were that most people could taste the difference.
Eggs laid by hens eating onions did taste different. Not always of onion, some people say there is just a different taste and they can’t quite place what it tastes like.
I have to say that I have tried this myself, and I couldn’t tell the difference personally. But that doesn’t surprise me, I don’t have the most sensitive and refined pallet.
Some Other Vegetables That are Good for Chickens
If you’re wondering what other table scraps, fruits, and vegetables you can safely give to your chickens, here are some of the more common foods:
Some Foods That Are Bad for Chickens
It’s easier to list the foods chickens shouldn’t be eating. Here are some of the more common foods that are potentially very bad for them:
Raw beans - they contain a very toxic compound when raw. Cooked beans are fine, as they are for us.
Processed foods - you don’t want to give them fatty foods, foods high in salt, junk foods, etc..
Green potatoes - there is often confusion over raw potatoes. It’s when they turn green from sun exposure they contain harmful toxins, white potato is fine or the skins are fine.
Chocolate - how can something so addictive to us be so bad for most animals...well there are a couple of compounds in chocolate that are toxic to pets.
Coffee - caffeine and some other compounds in coffee potentially cause health issues. This means tea is off the menu too.
Avocado skin and pits - while the flesh is fine, both of these parts of this fruit are harmful.
Some plant leaves - always check if the leaves are ok for plants you have in your yard. For example, mulberry trees and rhubarb leaves contain mild toxins and should be avoided.
Moldy foods - keep an eye out for their feed or other foods you’ve left out spoiling. Mold spores are toxic to chickens, and nobody likes moldy food anyway, right?
In Summary - Can Chickens Eat Onions?
Onions are an interesting food when pets and small animals are concerned.
They are very toxic to cats, harmful to dogs, but perfectly fine for backyard chickens. Some owners can taste the difference in their eggs when their hens eat strong foods like onions and garlic though.
It’s not a food I would go out of my way to give to my chickens. They should only be eating a small amount of “table scraps”, and I know there are better foods like herbs, some fruits, squashes, and other vegetables.
Pets and Onions - phz8.petinsurance.com