Chooks, if left to their own devices, are omnivores. They're always on the move, foraging for whatever they can find. A flock of chickens will range all over the yard, pecking away at leaves, flowers, and seeds. They will also scratch away at the soil, looking for tasty bugs, worms, and even lizards to eat.
Chickens will also happily eat most fruit if given a chance. But too much sugar is never a good idea for chickens. Also, not all fruit is suitable for your birds. It can be tempting to toss anything and everything to your pets, but you should always check that it's safe first.
Can Chickens Eat Grapes?
Yes, chickens can eat grapes. The fruit, vine, and leaves are all safe for chickens. The seeds are also not toxic but may cause intestinal blockages, and seedless grapes are recommended. Grapes are healthy treats with many vitamins and minerals but check our vet-approved guidelines as overfeeding sugary fruits may cause digestive disorders and other health problems in chickens.
If chickens somehow get into a vineyard, they'll happily peck away at the whole plant, not just the fruit. Any variety of grape is safe for your chickens to eat.
You can throw some fresh or softened grapes to your chickens, and most will love them.
- Dr. Edele Grey, DVM
Grapes that are drying up and on their way to becoming raisins are okay too. At the same time, you should be careful with feeding shop-bought raisins. These sometimes carry nasty additives that your chickens are better off without.
If you have some shriveled-up grapes in the kitchen, your chickens will be very happy to have them. Are you worried about the wiggly, not-so-savory-looking inhabitants of those old grapes? That's just a bonus two-in-one meal for your chooks. Chickens do have individual preferences, but most love bugs and worms. And these are actually a natural part of the chicken diet, so they'll be happy with the extra protein.
Health Benefits: Are Grapes Good for Chickens?
Grapes are not toxic to chickens in any way. They can safely eat the fruit as well as the leaves of the vine. But too much of any good thing can be really bad, and the same holds for grapes. But as long as you don't overfeed, they can be a healthy addition to your birds' diet.
A Good Source of Vitamins C and K
Grapes are rich in the essential vitamins C and K. Both of these vitamins play a significant role in keeping the body healthy.
Vitamin C does a lot to boost the body's immune system. Livescience.com lists several body functions supported by this vitamin. It is needed in the maintenance of skin, blood vessels, and connective tissue.
Vitamin C is essential in helping to heal wounds and form scar tissue. And finally, the body needs it to manufacture collagen, as well as repair cartilage, bones, and teeth.
Vitamin K is actually a group of fat-soluble vitamins. It is known as the blood-clotting vitamin. It also works together with vitamin D to ensure that your chicken absorbs enough calcium for bone strength.
High in Antioxidants
Grapes are a great source of several antioxidants. Red grapes contain more antioxidants than the green ones. In both, the antioxidants are concentrated in the skin and seeds of the fruit.
Antioxidants help to repair the damage caused to cells in the body by free radicals. In some cases, they may be able to reverse existing damage and prevent any more from occurring. They also act as anti-inflammatory agents, boosting the immune system.
The list of nutrients contained in grapes is quite long. Resveratrol, beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein are just a few of those present. Some studies have shown that resveratrol, in particular, may have properties that benefit eye health and slow down aging.
Good for Bone Health
Your chickens need to have healthy bones to live long and happy lives. Several vitamins and minerals are required to maintain bone health. Grapes contain many of these, including magnesium, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, and vitamin K.
Also, some studies have been done on resveratrol, an antioxidant contained in grapes. These studies indicate that resveratrol may improve bone density.
Grapes are healthy, but they can not and should not become a chicken's staple food. Your chicken is best off with a well-formulated commercial feed designed for its breed and purpose. But they can make a tasty treat with several health benefits.
Health Risks: Are Grapes Bad for Chickens?
Grapes are a healthy food choice for human beings, and most of us love them. That's also why we are tempted to feed them to our chooks. If we like it, they've got to like it too, right?
Yes, most chickens do love eating grapes. If you don't throw in enough of them for your hens, they may even start fighting over who gets some. But that doesn't mean that grapes are 100% good for your pets. There are some things to consider before feeding any to your flock.
Grapes Contain a Lot of Sugar
And that's exactly why we humans love to snack on them. It's the sweetness that keeps us coming back for more. The problem here is that chickens cannot handle nearly as much sugar as human beings. Their digestive tracts were not designed to process sugars in large amounts. Too much sugar can cause sour crop and other digestive disorders in hens.
Out in the wild, chickens are opportunistic feeders. If they came across a grape bush, they'd eat off whatever they could reach, true. But they'd do this while pecking around the bush for leaves, bugs and other stuff at the same time. And then they'd move on to another spot.
Domestic chickens, however, don't usually have as much opportunity to roam around. They'll gobble up whatever you give them, as much as you provide. They won't stop to think about whether it's good for them or not.
When giving grapes, make sure you don't give too much at once. And it shouldn't become a daily habit. The sugar in grapes is not healthy for your pets when given in excess, and grapes should only be an occasional treat.
Tossing them the occasional shriveling grape or two certainly won't harm your chickens. But giving a large dose of grapes regularly likely negates any health benefits.
Watch Out for Pesticides
We've already mentioned that there is nothing toxic in grapes, at least to a chicken. But many grapes are grown commercially and sprayed with various pesticides and fungicides. It applies to both the vine and the fruit itself.
When you buy grapes from the shop, be sure to wash them thoroughly before feeding to your hens. If your chickens have access to grapevines, it's your responsibility to make sure they're pesticide-free.
There are no hard and fast rules for just how much grape to feed your chickens. A good general guideline is to make sure treats make up no more than 10% of your chicken's diet. The remaining 90% really should be a well-balanced feed designed specifically for hens.
And grapes shouldn't make up the entire 10% treat allowance either. It's best to mix things up, offering other scraps from the kitchen too.
Consider Crushing or Cutting the Grapes Up
Chickens bred and raised free-range are usually very savvy, and have no trouble eating grapes as is. But if yours doesn't have much experience with foraging, it might help to cut the grapes up.
This is because chickens don't have teeth, and will swallow whatever they grab whole. A larger grape might cause your chicken to choke, especially if the skin is very tough.
If you have young chicks, it's also a good idea to crush the grapes before feeding. Their beaks are very tiny, and they won't be able to eat a whole grape. Crushing the grape makes it easy for them to peck and swallow the fruit.
Give Once in a While
Grapes are a healthy addition to your chicken's diet, but only once in a while as a treat. If you have some leftover in the kitchen, by all means, toss them to your flock. However, it should not be something given daily or in large quantities.
Just remember that chickens need a balanced diet, and providing your pets with all the scraps from your kitchen may not be healthy. Even though you may feel tempted to feed your chickens with any leftovers from mealtime, these additional snacks mustn't replace the nutritionally sound feed you should be offering them.
We've already mentioned that grapes contain some useful nutrients for your chickens. They're high on vitamins K and C, containing 14.6mg and 3.2mg of each, respectively, per 100 grams.
They also contain several essential minerals, although in smaller quantities. And they're rich in a whole host of antioxidants.
The reason your chickens shouldn't eat too many grapes at a time is the sugar content. Grapes pack all of 89 calories per 100 grams. Most of this comes from the 18 grams of carbs, of which 15 grams is sugar. The fat and protein content is negligible.
Grapes of all kinds are a healthy addition to your chicken's diet.
Chickens can safely eat the entire grape, as well as the vine. There is no risk of poisoning, as grapes aren't at all toxic to chickens.
You do need to feed them in moderation, however, mainly due to the high sugar content. Chickens weren't built to digest high amounts of sugar. Giving too much too frequently will upset their digestive systems and overall health. Grapes should be an occasional treat, no more.
Can chickens eat grapes with seeds?
Yes, chickens can eat grapes with seeds. There is nothing toxic in grapes for chicken, but they should only be fed as a treat because of the high sugar content. We also recommend seedless grapes because there is a small chance of the seeds causing a blockage in the intestines.
The high sugar content in fruits can cause problems for chickens, and one condition that can occur is 'sour crop.' There are many causes of this disease where the normal bacteria are disrupted, and an overgrowth of the fungus Candida occurs. Sugars can play a role in this, and your chicken may present as dull, off food, lethargic, and may have bad breath.
If your bird refuses to eat, their gut motility reduces and can lead to impacted food in their crop, which usually needs surgery to treat and can even be fatal in birds.
Antibiotics can further exacerbate the disrupted microbial population within your chicken's crop, though your vet may prescribe an anti-fungal medication. Sour crop is a nasty illness, and your chicken will feel thoroughly miserable, so as always, prevention is better than cure. Only offer small amounts of extra treats to your chooks.
- Dr. Edele Grey, DVM
Edele Grey, BSc, MVB, PGCertESM, MRCVS was born and raised in Ireland on a farm, so she was destined for veterinary-related work from a young age. Dr. Grey attended the only veterinary university in Ireland, the University College Dublin, and graduated in 2013. Since graduation, Dr. Grey has worked with a range of exotic, companion, and production animal species.
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.