Rhubarb is an interesting vegetable. It has a crunchy and juicy texture, with a sour and tart taste that isn’t for everyone.
It’s pretty easy to grow in the garden though. So, if you have backyard chickens and are growing some rhubarb plants, you need to be sure it’s safe for your chickens if they eat some.
Can chickens eat rhubarb? Chickens can eat the stalks of the rhubarb plant, just as we can. They can’t eat the leaves though. The leaves contain oxalic acid, a substance poisonous to birds that can cause kidney failure.
What’s in Rhubarb? (Is It Healthy/Dangerous?)
Rhubarb contains a decent amount of good nutrition. It’s rich in antioxidants, contains a range of vitamins and minerals, and is high in fiber.
It also contains some unique compounds not found in the common vegetables we eat. Such as malic and oxalic acid, which are responsible for the sour taste.
It’s also the oxalic acid that is toxic to chickens (and us). The levels are so low in the stalks that it’s not a problem, which is why we can eat the stalks.
The leaves, however, are a different story. They contain concentrated levels of oxalic acid, which makes them toxic to chickens.
In small amounts, munching on leaves can cause jaundice and tremors. In large amounts, it can cause kidney failure and death.
Can Chickens Eat Rhubarb?
Yes, chickens can eat the stalks of the rhubarb plant.
No, chickens cannot eat the leaves of the rhubarb plant.
It’s really as simple as that. As I explained above, the leaves contain toxic properties, so avoid them at all costs.
How to Feed Rhubarb to Your Chickens
Before feeding rhubarb to your chickens, trim off all the leaves and any hard bits on the ends of the stalks.
Pull off any coarse strings too. Rhubarb can be very stringy, and as chickens don’t have teeth it can make digesting it difficult.
Then slice it up into small, manageable pieces. You can either feed it to your flock raw, or slow boil it to soften it up.
What Can Chickens Not Eat List:
Now you know the dangers of rhubarb leaves, here are some other foods that are toxic to chickens to be aware of:
Green Potatoes and Tomatoes - When tomatoes and potatoes are green they contain a toxin called solanine.
Some members of the nightshade family of vegetables, such as potatoes and tomatoes produce solanine as a defense against being eaten.
Only feed your chickens potatoes and tomatoes that are ripe and check there are no green areas, especially in the peels of potatoes.
Coffee and Tea - Caffeine and theobromine are two compounds that are toxic to chickens, and both of these are found in teas and coffee. If you’re recycling your coffee grounds and tea bags in your garden, keep the area out of bounds for your flock.
Chocolate - Chocolate also contains theobromine and caffeine, so it’s on the banned list too.
Raw Beans - This is the one that comes as the biggest surprise to most people. Raw beans are very toxic and can even be deadly in small amounts to chickens.
Unless they’re cooked, raw beans contain a toxin called phytohaemagglutinin which is toxic to us as well as chickens.
Pits and Skin of Avocados - For such a delicious fruit, it’s crazy that the skin and pit of avocados contain such a potentially dangerous toxin.
The toxin found in avocados is called persin. It’s particularly harmful to birds and causes tissue damage, labored breathing, weakness, and can be fatal in large amounts.
Foods Chickens Can Eat List:
If you’re looking for foods that are safe for chickens, you’re spoiled for choice.
Below are some of the best foods to feed your flock. Just remember, as a general rule of thumb at least 90% of a chicken’s diet should come from their commercial feed.
Fruits - Fruits are typically nutrient-dense and provide a good range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Try them with some berries, banana, figs, and watermelon.
Grains - Chickens love grains and it is good food to get them scratching around. Try Barley, wheat, rice, oats, quinoa, etc.
Cooked Foods - No harm in putting a little more on the stove to share with your chickens when you’re cooking. Chickens love pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, meats, etc.
Vegetables - Most vegetables are fine for chickens and will provide some good nutrition for them. Try carrots, cabbage, broccoli, pumpkin, etc.
Herbs - They might not eat the strong-smelling herbs like rosemary and mint, but mine gobbles up most others. You can pick a herb for its health benefits, or just to add some variety into their diets.
Related content - Want to feed your chickens sausage?
As long as you don’t give your chickens the leaves, rhubarb is perfectly fine for chickens.
If you’re growing it in your garden, fence it off so they can’t help themselves. Even if they don’t show any interest at first, sometimes chickens can be unpredictable!
6 Secretly poisonous plants we eat all the time - Modern Farmer
Can Chickens Eat Raw Rhubarb Stalks?
Yes, the stalks of the rhubarb plant is the edible plant. Chickens can eat the red stalks, as can we.
Can Chickens Eat Rhubarb Leaves?
No, the leaves of the rhubarb plant contain oxalic acid. This compound is poisonous to both us and chickens, and when digested in large amounts it’ll cause kidney failure and death.
What Other Plants Are Poisonous to Chickens?
There are a number of other common garden plants that are poisonous to chickens. Avoid azaleas, foxgloves, lobelias, nightshades, and yew.