If you're keeping a few chickens at home, you might be wondering what they like to eat.
Left to their own devices, chickens are omnivores. They will eat whatever they can find while foraging, be it plant or animal. Worms, grubs, bugs, lizards, and even small snakes are all on their menu. So are grains, various plant leaves, flowers, and fruits.
Your domestic chicken probably gets a good, balanced feed to keep it healthy. But it will still forage given a chance, and happily gobble up any treats you toss its way. It's up to you to check what is safe.
Can Chickens Eat Bananas?
Yes, chickens can eat bananas. Both the fruit and peel are a healthy treat containing C, A, and B-vitamins, potassium, magnesium, and other essential minerals. However, bananas are high-sugar food, so check our vet-approved feeding guidelines to prevent health issues like weight gain and decreased egg quality caused by overfeeding bananas.
Bananas, if fed in addition to an otherwise balanced diet, are an excellent treat for your chooks. "It is safe to feed bananas to your chickens in moderation, and both the bananas themselves and the peels can be fed", confirms Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Leonie McKinlay. They contain nothing toxic for your chickens.
If you're keeping a few hens in your backyard, you know that your biggest expense is chicken feed. Whether you're keeping a few hens as pets or a dozen for tasty home-grown eggs, feed is not cheap. Bananas can be used to supplement (but not replace!) your birds' commercial feed.
Often fruit and veggie stalls will have over-ripe fruit that they need to pay to get rid of. Speak to a couple near you - chances are they'll be happy to offload their over-ripe bananas on you, and thank you for it.
Health Benefits: Are Bananas Good for Chickens?
Bananas offer some excellent nutrition for chickens. The trick is simply in the presentation and quantity fed. Banana peels are even better than the bananas themselves. Serve them up to your hens instead of wasting them!
Rich in B-vitamins
Each of the vitamins in the B complex has its own specific role to play. Collectively, they are responsible for a wide range of functions that keep the body healthy. They work to assist in maintaining a good appetite and healthy digestion. These are very important for a chicken, especially if you need it to lay eggs.
The B vitamins are also responsible for healthy nerve and brain function. They contribute towards cell health and maintaining good energy levels as well. Bananas and banana peels both are rich in several of these vitamins. It makes them an excellent addition to your birds' diet.
A Good Source of Potassium and Magnesium
Bananas (and again, the peels too) contain a sizeable amount of these two essential minerals that have many benefits for your chickens.
Potassium gives your birds their muscle strength. It also helps them handle stress. It is very important as stressed out chickens can develop all sorts of behavioral and physical problems. Potassium also helps with metabolism and electrolytic function.
A sufficient quantity of magnesium is indispensable to your chickens. They need it to have increased energy levels and a healthy heart. It also helps them relax and sleep better. Again, this is crucial to keeping their stress levels (and flock illnesses) down.
Health Risks: Are Bananas Bad for Chickens?
We've already seen that bananas are not at all toxic to your chickens. And they absolutely love the stuff, especially the over-ripe ones. But it's really not a great idea to toss a bunch of bananas their way every day.
High Sugar Content
Bananas are high in sugar, and if there is one thing chickens were not designed to do, it's to consume a lot of sugar. Their digestive tracts simply aren't built for it. Feeding too much sugar to your chicken can cause digestive problems.
Bananas Are a Moist Food
Chickens were designed to eat and process dry foods. They don't digest wet or damp foods well. Bananas and their peels both contain lots of moisture, especially the really ripe ones.
Your chicken can eat them safely, but may not at all benefit from them. It is especially true if the bananas are fed in larger quantities.
Risk of Pesticide Residues
Most bananas sold in fruit marts and supermarkets come from huge commercial farms. They undergo several sprays with pesticides and fungicides before reaching your table. Traces of these chemicals can easily remain on the peels of the banana.
Ingesting some of these chemicals could poison your birds and you too if you'll be eating the eggs. This is why some people recommend not feeding banana peels altogether. Of course, if your bananas happen to be organic, that's an entirely different story.
Chickens like their bananas as ripe as possible. Given a choice, they'll go for the over-ripe ones first, using their beaks to get inside the peel. They will then proceed to peck at the inside and gobble it up.
Most chickens would happily eat banana peels too, except they can't rip them up to bite-size chunks. The peels in their natural state are too big and too hard. So here's where you step in and do some prep work to make them accessible.
Wash, Boil, and Slice Banana Peels
Boiling banana peels for about 10 minutes will do two things. It will soften them up, making it possible for your chickens to eat them, and it will get rid of any chemical residue you may have had on the peels.
Do remember to wash the bananas before peeling them in the first place. This simple act will remove a good part of the dirt and most chemical residue.
Once boiled, cut the peels up into pieces small enough for your chickens to peck at and swallow. You can then toss them for your birds to eat.
Feed Ripe Bananas As Is
When feeding the bananas themselves, there is no need to cut, boil or do anything else. Just let the birds get at them, and they'll easily eat their way through.
Chickens will eat firmer, less ripe bananas, but they prefer over-ripe ones, given a choice.
Don't Feed Daily
Chickens are foragers and will eat anything that comes their way, including as much banana as you give. They're not likely to regulate their intake, so that part is up to you.
As with any other treat, they should be kept to less than 10% of your chicken's daily diet.
- Dr. Leonie McKinlay, DVM
You can give about one-fifth of a ripe banana per hen a couple of times a week. This amount should be safe in terms of not providing your birds excess sugar. If you're feeding boiled peels, you can give more as they're lower on sugar than the fruit itself.
But remember that 90% of their food should always be a well-balanced mix designed for chickens.
Bananas are one of the more sugary fruits and pack a fair amount of calories. They don't offer enough nutrition to be considered nutrient-dense, but they still carry some useful vitamins and minerals.
Banana peels carry all the same nutrients that the fruit does, but with less sugar. They are perfectly safe to eat.
High-sugar, High-calorie Food
According to nutritionvalue.org, 100 grams of bananas will give you a hefty 89 calories. With only 0.3 grams of fat and 1.1 grams of protein, most of these come from the carbs. Bananas contain 23 grams of carbs per every 100, of which 13 grams is sugar. There are only 2.6 grams of dietary fiber to offset the sugar. This is why your chickens can only eat so much banana safely.
Good Source of Vitamins
Bananas may not have the full range of essential vitamins, but they carry a fair number. Eating 100 grams of bananas gives you 0.367mg of vitamin B6 and 8.7 mg of vitamin C, for example. Niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and thiamine are present, too, as is vitamin A.
Some Minerals Too
One hundred grams of this fruit will give you 358mg of potassium and 27mg of magnesium. You also get phosphorus, copper, selenium, and manganese in smaller (but still useful) amounts. These are all essential minerals and necessary for your chickens to maintain good health.
Rich in Antioxidants
Antioxidants are all-important in keeping the body healthy. They have anti-inflammatory properties and help to boost the immune system. They are also responsible for reducing, preventing, and in some cases reversing cell damage. They do this by removing free radicals within the body.
Bananas contain a fair amount of antioxidants. Among them are vitamin A, which also carries out other functions, and lycopene. Alpha- and beta-carotene are also present.
Bananas, fed in moderation, are a perfect treat for your chickens. Your hens will love the taste and get some health benefits too. This fruit will bolster your bird's intake of several of the B vitamins, as well as potassium and magnesium.
Banana peels are also a good alternative. Do remember to wash and boil them to remove any chemical traces, and don't forget to cut them into smaller pieces that your chickens can swallow.
This fruit shouldn't be a staple food for your hens, though. First, it contains a lot of sugar. Second, it's a moist food, which chickens don't digest too well. But as long as you keep the serving size reasonable, your hens will be healthier for it.
Can chickens eat banana peels?
Yes, chickens can eat banana peel. The peel is actually healthier than the flesh, with less sugar and more fiber. Although peels contain healthy nutrients like C, A, and B-vitamins, potassium, and magnesium, it also contains sugar. Follow our feeding guidelines to ensure your chickens avoid health issues and weight gain related to sugary foods.
It is safe to feed bananas to your chickens in moderation, and both the bananas themselves and the peels can be fed.
As with any other treat, they should be kept to less than 10% of your chicken's daily diet. The majority of your chicken's diet should be a quality commercial feed mixture, as this will give your chickens all the nutrients and minerals they need in order to stay healthy. It will also ensure that they make healthy and tasty eggs for you to enjoy. I
t's important to remember that small amounts of whatever you feed your chickens will pass through them into the eggs that you eat as well, so you need to be cautious with giving your chickens any medications or unusual foods.
- Dr. Leonie McKinlay, DVM
Dr. Leonie McKinlay has always had a special fondness for animals and knew from a very young age that she wanted to be a veterinarian. She obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from the University of Calgary and then her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in 2011. Since graduation, Dr. McKinlay has been working at the same small animal practice, caring for dogs and cats.
NOTE: Advice provided within this article by FeedingMyPet.com is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Please discuss your chicken's specific dietary needs (based on his breed, weight, age, and health status) with a veterinarian.