When you’re caring for any type of animal, knowing what can and can’t be included in their diet is a vital part of keeping them happy and healthy.
It’s a running joke that if you check the internet history of any dog owner you’ll find pages upon pages of “can my dog eat…”
It’s likely to be the first predictive sentence that comes up before you even get past typing the letter ‘c’, and the same thing can also be said for owners of cats, rabbits, and many other common household animals.
Chickens might not be the most obvious choice of pets, but there are still plenty of people who will want to know the answer to this question.
As more of us wake up to the harsh realities of egg production and the living conditions of battery farmed chickens, there’s been a rise in the number of households that have turned to keeping a chicken coop in their own backyard as a more ethical way to get fresh eggs in the morning.
So, can chickens eat carrots?
The short answer is, yes, of course! Not only is it perfectly fine to feed your chickens carrots, but they actively enjoy them as one of their favorite treats.
They’ll even ignore their main food and skip straight to the carrot course if given to your chicken together. If only your fussy children felt the same way about their vegetables.
In fact, carrots are hugely beneficial to chickens as they’re packed with essential nutrients and minerals that are good for their overall health.
While you wouldn’t be able to raise your birds on carrots, or any vegetable, exclusively, they can (and should!) be a regular staple in their diet alongside their commercial feed.
Want to find out why? Then keep reading and we’ll tell you more!
We’ve split this handy guide into two sections to cover the why and how of giving carrots to chickens, and within that, we’ve covered a whole bunch of information you should know before you introduce this incredible vegetable into their diet.
Why Should Carrots be Included in a Chicken’s Diet?
You mean that just saying carrots will help your chickens to see in the dark isn’t enough of a reason?
Well, you’d be right.
There are actually a number of reasons why you should feed chickens carrots. These go beyond the improvement of their eyesight, benefitting both you and your poultry.
Nutrients and Minerals
Where do we even begin?
Carrots have so many benefits for your chicken because they contain plenty of minerals and nutrients to help improve their health, including (but not limited to) fiber, vitamin K1, potassium, beta carotene, and antioxidants.
Each of these improves the health of your chickens in different ways.
- Vitamin A: Beta carotene is converted to vitamin A which improves vision, growth and development, and boosts their immune system.
- Vitamin K1: Also known as phylloquinone, this encourages blood coagulation in addition to healthy bones.
- Vitamin B6: This helps to create energy which allows your chickens to remain active.
- Potassium: Potassium controls blood pressure levels and it’s an essential mineral that all chickens need.
- Biotin: Previously referred to as vitamin H, biotin speeds up the metabolism of protein and fat.
To break it down even further for you, here’s a list of the nutritional value of a carrot that weighs 100 grams:
- Calories: 41
- Water: 86%
- Carbohydrates: 9.6 grams
- Proteins: 0.9 grams
- Sugar: 4.9 grams
- Fiber: 2.8 grams
- Fat: 0.2 grams
As you can see, carrots are high in both water and carbohydrates, with the latter containing glucose and sucrose (starch and sugar).
Despite this, carrots are still low down on the glycemic scale which makes it a great choice for your chickens.
Essentially a measurement of the speed at which blood sugar levels are raised, you’ll find carrots can vary from anywhere between 16-60 on this scale.
Carrots also contain a good amount of fiber which aids in digestion as well as limiting how much starch and sugar can be absorbed into their system, as it slows down the rate of absorption.
Fiber is simultaneously capable of reducing the amount of cholesterol taken on, which hugely improves the blood cholesterol levels of your chickens.
However, the areas in which carrots are lacking are protein and fat. Chickens require a well-balanced diet which includes nutrients that aren’t found in carrots, so it’s important to make sure they’re getting everything else they need from their other food.
Improved vision is one of the most obvious advantages to carrots, so much so that it’s become a commonly used method of convincing your children to eat their own vegetables.
Just like humans, chicken eye health is improved by vitamin A and beta carotene, which are both found in carrots.
Chickens also receive an immunity boost from eating carrots due to the amount of vitamin A they contain.
This can help their immune system to fight off infections, or if they end up injured for whatever reason, vitamin C also encourages the production of collagen which will speed up the healing process.
You might notice that, since including carrots in your chickens’ diets, they’re strutting about the chicken coop like they own the place, showing off glossier, shinier coats.
This is because feather growth is yet another advantage of a good diet, and carrots can play an important role in this.
Less noticeable (but not any less important) is the stronger bones that chickens reportedly develop as a result of the vitamin A and carotenoids that carrots contain.
It’s thought that vitamin A speeds up the metabolism of bone cell growth in chickens while carotenoids keep them strong, but there needs to be further exploration and research into this topic for a better understanding of its effects on chicken health.
Another nutrient that carrots are packed with is glutathione, which is an antioxidant typically known to be useful when it comes to liver health.
Combined with the beta carotene and plant flavonoids that carrots are rich in, enhanced liver function is also one of their benefits.
Reduces Waste and Costs
Pets are expensive, and food is one of the highest costs they incur. Plus, a poor diet will lead to various other health issues, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly your vet bills can rack up.
By including carrots and a variety of other vegetables in their diets to bulk out their main meals, you can spend less on commercial poultry feed for your chickens. Your bank card will thank you for it, and so will your chickens.
Including carrots in your chicken’s diet is also a great way to use up leftover vegetables. The next time you overestimate how many carrots you need for your Sunday dinner, you won’t have to feel guilty for throwing them away!
Instead, you can slip them to your chickens with the rest of their commercial food as a bonus treat. This means you’ll reduce the amount of food waste in your household, so it’s sustainable as well as cost-saving.
When using food scraps, it’s extremely important to make sure that you don’t give your chickens anything that could be considered high in fat or salt content as this is very bad for them.
Similarly, avoid giving your chickens any food that is past its best or that looks like it’s starting to spoil. If you wouldn’t eat it yourself, you shouldn’t be feeding it to your chickens!
How to Give Chickens Carrots
Chickens don’t have teeth, so we wouldn’t blame you for wondering how they’re even able to eat carrots.
The answer is because they have a gizzard that breaks down food as it passes through this organ, so once it’s been swallowed up by their beak, there’s no need for them to even chew.
This makes it easier for them to digest tougher foods, which in turn makes your life easier as it doesn’t require much preparation of the carrots.
We all love our animals, but nobody is going to spend too much of their time cooking up a 5-star gourmet meal for a chicken, especially when animals are such a big commitment to begin with.
If you’ll allow us to stick with the dog comparison from the introduction, this isn’t the spaghetti and meatballs scene from Lady and The Tramp.
What we mean to say is that apart from a few standard steps that all food requires, there's no particular preparation style that you should use before feeding chickens carrots.
Whether they’re raw or cooked, you can say bon appetit to your birds with confidence after serving up a plate of this orange root vegetable. However, there are some differences between the two.
Cooked Carrots vs. Raw
Chickens are not exactly the fussiest of eaters, but just like humans, they have their own individual preferences which could vary from chicken to chicken.
Trial and error is the only way to find out what your chickens enjoy the most, so instead of heading straight back inside after dumping their food in the chicken coop, pay attention to how they react and what types of food are left in the bowl at the end of feeding time.
Cooking the carrots first will actually reduce their nutritional value as the heat destroys some nutrients. They’re still fine to eat and your chickens certainly won’t turn their noses up at it, but it won’t be quite as beneficial for their health.
Remember the glycemic scale we mentioned earlier? Well, cooked carrots typically rank higher than their raw counterparts with increased levels of start and sugar.
Seeing as chickens and other types of birds benefit so much from low-glycemic foods, you’ll find more health advantages in raw carrots, although the difference is probably minimal.
If you are using raw carrots, you’ll also need to ensure they’ve been washed properly before feeding them to your chickens to clean them of any harmful chemicals or toxins such as pesticides.
These might be good for protecting your plants and vegetables while they grow, but they’re certainly not good for a chicken’s digestive system and could cause serious health issues if ingested.
Should You Cut the Carrots into Small Pieces?
The answer to the question of cutting up your carrots depends on whether or not they’ve been cooked.
If they have, you’ll need to chop them into smaller bite-size treats, whereas if you’re feeding the carrots to your chickens raw it’s fine to skip this step and toss them in whole with the rest of their food.
Using whole carrots is a great way to keep your chickens active as they peck at and move them around the coop.
We know what they say about playing with your food, but for chickens, this can actually be good for their health.
You might even notice a slight frenzy when you first present them with their carrot treats, and if you stick around long enough to watch, you’ll get to witness them running around like headless… well, chickens.
If you find that your chickens are leaving or not eating their regular food because they’ve gorged themselves on carrots first, try serving dinner at its usual time and carrots in between meals as a tasty snack.
Alternatively, dish them up in different bowls to encourage your chickens to sample from both, as this will ensure they’re getting a balanced diet.
To wrap it up with a clear answer to the question of this entire article, yes. Chickens can eat carrots.
From lowering cholesterol to boosting immunity, carrots are hugely advantageous to chickens and are therefore something you should definitely consider introducing to their diet.
They’re a great form of treat that provides numerous benefits for the health and overall wellbeing of your feathered friends, whilst also being something they enjoy (although chickens aren’t exactly the most particular eaters), so there’s really no downside to them.
They’re beneficial for you, too, as you can reduce your household waste as well as the costs of keeping your chickens in food and pellets.
We should point out that although we’ve been raving about the advantages of incorporating carrots into your chickens’ diets, just like with anything, it’s best done in moderation.
There really can be too much of a good thing, so to ensure your chickens are receiving a balanced diet you should aim to include a variety of different vegetables and possibly some mealworms alongside their main meals.
And of course, always make sure they have a fresh supply of clean water at all times to prevent dehydration.