Yes, chickens can eat parsnips. Parsnips are safe to feed to chickens, and they’re packed with great nutrition. You shouldn't give your hens the leafy greens, but some chopped or grated parsnip should go down a treat.
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Are Parsnips Good for Chickens?
Parsnips are a root vegetable that we typically eat as part of a roast or on seasonal occasions, but they're actually one of the most nutritious root vegetables in terms of nutritional content.
They're rich in a lot of the nutrients that are great for chickens, such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and micronutrients.
Therefore, not only are parsnips fine for chickens to eat, it's a good idea to feed some to them on occasion from a nutritional standpoint.
This doesn't mean you should feed your flock parsnips on a regular basis though. vegetables should only make up a small part of their diet as I'll explain in more detail in this article.
Are Parsnip Leaves Toxic to Chickens?
If you've grown parsnips yourself or been around them with the green tops still attached you probably heard that the leaves can be toxic to some people.
This is because the sap of parsnip leaves contains furanocoumarins, phototoxic chemicals that cause some people blisters and other reactions when they come into contact with them.
There isn't a lot of research into the effects of these chemicals on chickens. However, personally, I would avoid giving the leafy tops to your chickens just to be on the safe side.
How to Feed Parsnips to Chickens
It's always better to feed chickens vegetables raw rather than cooked, as cooking vegetables reduces the nutritional properties and usually means they will spoil quicker.
Obviously, parsnips can be pretty tough raw. So it's going to be helpful if you chop them up into smaller pieces for your chooks.
Chickens have tough beaks though, so you don't need to worry about it too much. They'll peck away until they break off bits small enough for them to eat.
Oh, and if you’re one of the many people who don’t like the taste of parsnips (which always shocks me as I love them!), you don’t need to worry about offending your chicken’s taste buds.
Other Foods That Chickens Can Eat; Table Scraps, Treats, Etc
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 – Most vegetables are fine chickens and it’s a great way to cut down on wastage and recycle scraps. Things like sweet green beans, carrots, cabbage, jicama, etc provide a nice range of nutrition.
Fruits – Most fruits are also fine as they are typically nutrient-dense and packed with antioxidants and other good minerals. Try giving your flock some bananas (plus the peels), lemons, apples, aubergine, 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.
Some Foods That You Should NOT Feed Chickens
The bad news is, there are some foods that are toxic, poisonous, and potentially very dangerous for chickens.
According to the RSPCA and some other chicken welfare sites, the main foods you should avoid giving to your flock includes:
Avocado skins and pits – Like nightshade foods, the skin and stones of an avocado contain a toxin that is harmful to animals.
Green potatoes and some nightshade foods – Plants belonging to the nightshade family contain a harmful toxin. It's not present in all the plants, for example only when potatoes have turned green in the sun, but it's something you need to be aware of.
Chocolate – there are compounds in chocolate that are harmful to most animals, keep it to yourself!
Tea and coffee – there are various toxins that are harmful to most animals. If you throw used coffee grounds and tea bags in your compost heap, be careful.
Candy and other sugary treats, this includes soda – foods with high sugar content and preservatives are bad for chickens (and us).
Foods high in fat or salt, greasy fast foods, etc – fatty foods do not exactly deliver quality nutrition!
Any moldy or spoiled foods – Mold spores are toxic and potentially harmful, so while chickens are good for finishing off scraps, they’re not there to eat food past its best.
There you go, if you have some spare parsnips you can give some to your chickens. Parsnips are safe for chickens, provide some decent nutrition, and are likely to be gobbled up in a hurry.
The main thing you need to remember when feeding chickens vegetables, fruits, and general table scraps and leftovers is to not get carried away.
The bulk of a chicken’s diet needs to come from a good chicken feed and the bugs and scraps they find while foraging and scratching around.
Parsnips and other vegetables might not be a treat for you, but they are treat foods for chickens.
Image credits - Imagine used with permission from firsttimefarming.com