A question that has plagued man for generations, from the great philosophers to the political leaders the world over, one that has divided countries and leads to wars, but still, humanity cannot answer that crucial question: can chickens eat bananas?
Okay, maybe we’re exaggerating a little, but for anyone who owns chickens and wants to give them a more varied diet, they will be wondering whether they can give their chicken fruits such as bananas.
Well, the short answer is - yes you can, but in measured quantities.
Chickens love the sugary taste of bananas as much as their human owners. Not only will bananas improve the overall mood of your flock, but they will also be a great source of vitamins and nutrients such as potassium.
Chickens are omnivores in that they will eat both meat and vegetables. There is one quick and simple way to find out if your chickens love a banana is by tossing one into their feeding pen. Trust us, feathers will fly in order to snag a hunk of this sweet treat.
But what are the particular health benefits of giving bananas to chickens? How can you properly prepare a banana to give your chickens a dessert after their usual feed? What are the potential detrimental effects to feeding chickens bananas?
Obviously, you’ll want to have as much of the knowledge as possible before introducing this new food to your animals’ diet. But don’t worry, by the end of this article you should have all the information you need to make a decision about whether or not you want to feed your chickens bananas.
Okay, first off, let’s have a look at whether bananas are safe for chickens to eat or not.
Are Bananas Safe For Chickens To Eat?
Bananas indeed have plenty of nutritional benefits for your poultry, however, if you give them an excessive amount, then you increase the risk of adversely affecting their health.
One banana contains 400 grams of potassium. Human beings would have to eat ten times this amount before they started to feel ill. It is impossible for a human to consume enough bananas to kill them and the same is largely true for chickens. Basically, a chicken would have to consume over 20 bananas before they started to feel seriously ill.
However, large amounts of bananas are still difficult for a chicken to digest, purely because of the sugar content. A chicken’s digestive system is very sensitive, and they simply can’t process large quantities of sugar. Too much sugar might result in your chickens having diarrhea and nausea, which could lead to further diseases down the line if other chickens consume this waste matter.
So, make sure you steer clear of feeding too many bananas to your chicken. You should ideally save one-fifth of a banana per chicken, which means that 2 to 4 bananas would be fine for an average sized flock.
But how can you prepare a banana in such a way that means that your chickens get all the health benefits but without the negative effects?
How Should You Feed Bananas To A Chicken?
You can peel the banana for your chickens or simply throw them in whole, as chickens have very sharp beaks which enables them to shear off the skins and eat the banana rind. The banana peel itself can offer some nutritional benefits for the chicken, although it is mainly fiber and a lot of it might end up as waste in their poop.
You can peel and dice the bananas before feeding, especially if you want to save the chicken’s delicate digestion, although the act of chewing will mean that your chickens will get more nutrients from their banana in the long run.
Another way to serve your bananas to your chickens is by suspending it from a small wire or length of string into the feeding pen with the peel still attached. The chickens can then peck it at their own pace. This will also save on waste, keep the feeding pen clean and reduce the likelihood of the chickens fighting each other to get the sweet scraps.
You can also boil your unpeeled bananas before feeding, to make sure they’re soft enough for your chickens to eat. Chickens have no preference for hard or soft bananas, as their beaks enable them to tear through this material regardless.
An overripe banana is probably the best for your chickens, as they have the maximum of nutrients and are very easy for the chicken to digest. An underripe banana might mean that a lot of it will be rejected from the chicken’s body as waste matter.
Now we’ve given you a few different methods of preparing your chicken’s bananas, now we’re going to look at some more of the health benefits given by our bendy yellow friends.
What Are The Benefits Of Bananas For Your Chicken?
The entirety of the banana, from the peel right the way through to the tasty, chewy insides, can be an excellent treat to give your chickens in addition to their regular feed. Try and avoid giving them a raw peel, instead try and boil or remove this part to make it easier on your chicken’s digestive tract.
The peel is highly rich in vitamins B6 and B12. B6 is good for regulating the chicken’s blood sugar levels, keeping them within a normal range. B6 also supports the nervous system of your chickens, preventing degeneration that naturally occurs over time.
B12 helps protect against anemia and can prevent certain changes in the chicken’s DNA that might lead to cancer. This vitamin can boost the chicken’s health in other ways, such as improving nerve function, liver and skin health and metabolism. It will also boost the energy levels of your birds and improve their eyesight. Be careful not to overstimulate your birds with sugar though, as it might lead to a slump in energy towards the end of the day.
Bananas also contain magnesium, which is a very important element in both human and chicken health. It provides your animals with an increase in energy, promoting a healthy heart and generally helping to reduce stress levels, leading to improved quality in their sleep.
The banana skin also contains a lot of potassium, which is really crucial for the development of healthy birds. It can help reduce stress in birds, as well as increase muscle mass, improve metabolism and advance the electrolytic functions of your chickens.
However, the inner meat of the banana is also chock full of very healthy nutrients and vitamins, including protein, fiber, polyphenols and carotenoids, all of which help regulate digestion, hormones and circulation. This is a vital source of bodily goodies for your both human and poultry bodies.
Other Nutritional Facts About Bananas
Bananas contain roughly 89 calories, 0.3 grams of fats that include unsaturated, saturated and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They also have 1.1 grams of protein, are made up of 75-percent water and 22.8 grams of carbohydrates, as well as being a very rich source of fiber and sugar.
Contrary to popular belief, a lot of the nutrition in a banana is concentrated in the peel, which is why you should be giving the entire banana to your birds, rather than just the juicy insides. The fiber in the peel will also help to break down high concentrations of sugar in the center.
You might want to boil the peel separately from the main body of the banana. Remember that boiling the peel will help the chicken to digest the contents and absorb the maximum amount of nutrients.
How To Properly Prepare A Banana Peel
Exposing your chickens to banana peels does pose its risks, however, as they will often be doused in harmful pesticides that can be digested easily by humans but will prove lethal to the smaller, more delicate digestive system of chickens. Most pesticides used on banana crops will still remain on the outer layer of the banana long after the harvest.
There are a few ways you can rid yourself of pesticides before giving the banana peels to your birds, both of them are fairly simple and shouldn’t take you too long in the preparation process.
Wash them - before humans eat celery, lettuce, spinach, apples or anything other organically grown produce, we often wash them. Well, the same goes for banana peels! Just run them under the tap for anything up to a minute to ensure that you have rid your bananas of harmful chemicals.
Boil them - a surefire way of killing pesticides and also preparing your banana peels to be eaten by your chickens is by boiling them for around 10 minutes.
You might want to test how amenable your chickens are to consuming banana peels by cutting up a few pieces of it and introducing it into your feeding pen. The skin is often very tough and if you can see your chickens struggling or refusing to eat them, you might want to just give them the middle of the banana along with their main feed.
Preparing the banana peels for consumption is fairly easy, all you have to do is boil them over 10 minutes until the peel is much more tender and can be pulled apart easily. You might want to pull apart the peel beforehand to make the job of eating a little bit easier for your chickens.
You can also keep the peel on the banana while boiling and chop it up once it's done, so your chickens have a combination of sweet and bitter flavors in their snack. An overripe banana is much better for your birds, as it contains a lot more nutrients and a lot less sugar than an underripe banana and will be a lot easier for your bird to digest.
What Are The Problems That Come With Feeding Bananas To Chickens?
There are a few small issues that come with feeding your chickens bananas, one of which depends on how much you enjoy cleaning out your feeding pen. When your chickens tear into their bananas, it will create a lot of mess, the sticky mulch getting in their feathers, which might result in your having to scrub your chickens clean at a later date.
You might also see your chicken scraping their beaks across the ground of their feeding pen after you give them bananas. This is simply because, like their human owners, they do not like food being stuck to their mouths after eating. Bananas are notoriously sticky, soft and mushy fruits, so this might result in some discomfort for your poultry.
Can You Feed Bananas To Baby Chicks?
Chicks will certainly love being given the special sweet treat of bananas, the nutrients in them will also be very beneficial for the growth of your fledglings.
There are a few help hints for when feeding your baby chickens bananas:
Make sure you cut them into much smaller pieces - if you think that chickens have trouble with eating chunks of certain foods, then chicks have an even worse time with eating things like bananas. Make sure your banana chunks are extra small, so that your chicks won’t choke when eating them.
Mush them up - if you’re really worried about your chicks choking, mash them up with a fork, so that they’ll go down like a treat!
Freeze your bananas - during the summertime this will serve a few purposes, it will give your chicks the essential nutrients they need to grow and also cool them down when it gets hot in the hen house.
Our Final Say
When it comes to feeding your chickens bananas, our recommendation would be... go ahead! But in moderation. You should include bananas in small portions as part of a much broader balanced diet.
The health benefits that a banana can provide will be huge, it will also improve the mood of your coop and result in chickens that look better in almost every way.