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Can Chickens Eat Swiss Chard?

Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.

Can chickens eat Swiss chard? If you have a pet chicken or feed chickens, you might wonder whether it’s safe to give them Swiss chard, a type of leafy green with a mild, sweet flavor used in salads and soups.

This green vegetable, related to beets, is available year-round in the produce section of most grocery stores. Chickens are omnivores and can eat a variety of grains, protein, and veggies.

Chickens Need a Nutritious Diet

Chickens require a balanced diet. They can eat a wide variety of foods and also require fresh water and vitamins. Chickens will eat just about anything they can find in the wild, so you must provide them with a variety of food options if you want them to thrive on a homestead or backyard farm.

Chickens do not need a specialized diet, but they will do well if you give them healthy ingredients that maximize egg production, egg quality, and overall health.

The best diet for chickens depends on the breed and season but chickens can eat seeds, insects, worms, and vegetation. Swiss chard is a nutrient-dense food and an excellent source of vitamin C, an antioxidant-rich vitamin, and vitamin K, a vitamin important for blood clotting.

The nutrient density of Swiss chard makes it a healthy choice for a variety of species, including chickens.

Are There Downsides for Chickens?

Swiss chard is high in compounds called oxalates, compounds that can reduce the absorption of some minerals. Oxalates can be a problem for humans at high risk of kidney stones. High quantities of them can also pose problems for chickens.

Since oxalates can block calcium absorption, they can contribute to weaker egg binding. Chickens can experience kidney stones, and a diet high in oxalates increases that risk. Plus, feeding chickens foods high in oxalates increase the risk of them laying soft-shelled eggs. Cooked Swiss chard contains fewer oxalates than raw Swiss chard.

Feeding Methods

Chickens can eat the leaves, stems, flowers, and seeds of Swiss chard but it’s best to limit the amount of Swiss chard that chickens eat due to its high oxalate content. It’s best to tear Swiss chard into small pieces and offer it to them and do so in moderation.

Chickens have a big appetite and will eat large amounts of food if they have the chance. Also, avoid feeding chickens Swiss chard prepared with salt since too much salt can be harmful to chickens. These birds need a certain amount of salt in their diet, but too much for a prolonged period can be toxic.

As poultrydvm.com points out, chickens can develop salt toxicity if they consume large quantities of salt. Younger chickens are more at risk of injury or death from eating a high-salt diet than older chickens. So be careful when feeding chickens table foods that are salted.

Feeding Swiss Chard to Chickens

Start slowly by giving them one leaf at a time and see how they react to it before giving them more. If they like the taste of this green, leafy vegetables, continue feeding them small amounts until you have determined they are full. Then remove any extra leaves or stems so that there won't be anything left behind to get moldy or rot.

Another option is to cook the leaves and add them to their feed. Avoid adding salt. They will prefer the leaves over the stalks since the stalks are tougher. Lightly steaming Swiss chard will soften the leaves and stalks without reducing their nutrient content too much.

Moderation

Chickens can eat Swiss chard, but you should limit the amount of this leafy green that chickens eat due to the high oxalate content. However, it’s safe to give them modest quantities of Swiss chard and other leafy greens, like kale, arugula, and Romaine lettuce, are lower in oxalates, and are a better choice if chickens eat lots of greens.

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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.