The question is, can chickens eat onions? Absolutely yes! While waiting for my first batch of chickens to arrive, I went ahead to research on what to feed them. I researched different feeds and treats to have an idea of what my birds will enjoy the most. While on this fact-finding mission, I came across many types of supplemental treats. So I took my time to learn a great deal of each one of them. In particular, onions captured my attention, compelling me to go the extra mile to find out more about them.
Maybe you were not expecting this kind of response, but the reality is, chickens can eat onions. This type of food has been shrouded in mystery, leaving many chicken owners confused. But this is the best time to eliminate that confusion as far as feeding your chickens is concerned.
Before going into some details, you should know that all parts of this vegetable are safe for your chickens to eat. But this is only possible if you feed them to your flock in limited quantities. The edible parts on the onion include the bulb (the onion itself), flowers, and the stalk.
What does this mean to you?
Well, onions have undergone some studies to show that they are safe for the chickens to eat. However, they can contain some toxic compounds.
These toxic substances are dangerous to many animals, including cattle, sheep, dogs, and geese. Surprisingly, each species of animals responds differently to onions, just like they do to other types of foods.
When it comes to humans, the situation is totally different. This is because human beings can consume onions without any problems. Despite their toxicity to other animals, consuming onions in small quantities does not cause health complications.
The same case is also applicable to chickens. But you should not force your birds to eat onions if they don’t like them. This means that you should give them the option of pecking at it whenever they feel like doing so.
The part of the onion which is most edible is the bulb. This part grows underground, and humans have always used it to spice up their foods. From the bulb, there is a white-green stalk growing upwards.
This section of an onion plant traps most of the carbon dioxide and light for photosynthesis. At the top, there are numerous white flowers which later produce the seeds.
The build is not the only edible part of this plant. The stalk ( the white part) is also edible and contains nutrients similar to those in the bulb. In this case, you can feed your birds the bulb and stalk of an onion. But you should not eat or feed your chickens, the top green part of an onion. Instead, you can remove it before passing this treat to your birds.
What are the Scientific Studies on Feeding Your Chickens Onions?
What do you expect when you feed your hens a few onions? Your guess could be as good as mine. When layers eat onions, their eggs will have a taste such as that of the onions.
According to a 2001 study, giving your chickens a diet consisting of onions will alter the taste of their eggs. In other words, your chicken’s eggs will emit the onion-like smell. It shows how powerful onions can be when you include them in the chicken feed.
Sometimes chickens are allowed to forage or eat onion crops deliberately by their owners. A study conducted in 2017 examines the nature of manure from chickens feeding on different types of plants, onions included.
The study goes ahead to analyze how a variety of chicken feed affects the ability of manure/droppings to germinate seeds. These findings are somehow interesting such that chickens produce manure according to what they eat.
Another study shows that onion extracts can make your chickens gain weight. This 2017 research shows that feeding your chickens onion extracts can improve their weight gain and meat quality.
The findings from this research are published in the “Asian Australas Journal of Animal Science. ” They highlighted the effects of onion extracts on broiler chicks.
One more scientific study reveals that onions can turn out to be fatal to poultry, such as geese. In 2004 a research was carried out by the California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory (at UC Davis). Researchers discovered that when geese eat green onions, they become anemic, and their livers’ functionality is affected.
All these scientific studies indicate that feeding your poultry onions can lead to different results. For instance, the quality of their meat and eggs will change, not to mention the nature of their manure. Regardless of these interesting findings, onions are still safe for your birds as long as you feed them in moderation.
How Many Onions Should You Feed Your Chickens?
Unfortunately, there is no fixed number of onions that you can feed your birds. But it is advisable to feed them in small quantities just like other treats. Keep in mind that too many onions can harm your chickens.
You can cut an onion into small pieces and feed your chickens. You can do this when preparing vegetables in the kitchen. Alternatively, you can use any leftover onions just in case.
Apart from that, you can feed your flock of chickens some cooked onions. You can include a few grilled onions in their primary diet.
It is sensible to limit the number of onions you are feeding mature chickens. Also, you should not force them to eat onions or any other treat if they don’t like it.
For the young chickens, this treat should remain a no go zone. Chicks are more likely to get affected by different treats because of their delicate digestive and weak immune system.
What are the Nutritional Benefits of Onions to Your Chickens?
Onions are nutritious and have some of the essential nutrients. That is the reason you need to know their nutritional value as well as their health benefits to your chickens. Once you have this information, you will be able to make a wise decision when feeding your flock. Let’s look at the nutrients found in onions and how they can keep your birds healthy.
We start with the obvious ones, which are sulfur-containing compounds and antioxidants. The primary function of the antioxidants found in onions is to decrease blood sugar levels while improving bone health.
There are less than 40 calories in every 100 grams of raw onions and 89 percent water, 9 percent carbohydrates, 1.7 percent fiber, and the rest protein and fat. All these nutrients play a crucial role in keeping your chickens healthy, active, and productive.
Carbs in onions come in the form of simple sugars. Their primary purpose is to provide your chickens with energy so they can stay active and energetic throughout the day.
The fiber consists mainly of fructans. These are a source of fuel for bacteria found in the chicken’s gut. As a source of fuel, fructans help bacteria to digest food. At the same time, it helps in the production of short-chain fatty acids.
These fatty acids are responsible for maintaining colon health in addition to reducing inflammation. For your flock of birds, this is a big deal when it comes to preventing cases of bloat. If your chickens become bloated, they may die unless you give them a dose of vinegar. In case you don’t have vinegar, onions can become a perfect remedy.
Onions are also rich in different vitamins and minerals. Vitamins include vitamin C and Vitamin B6. For the minerals, you will find folate and potassium in substantial amounts. These minerals and vitamins accompany other plant compounds such as quercetin, anthocyanins, thiosulfinates, and sulfur-compounds to benefit your chickens.
On the contrary, onions are not considered the best treat for pets. This should serve as a minor warning, so you may be careful when feeding your pets including chickens. The most affected pets, however, include cats, dogs, monkeys, and horses.
The sulfides and sulfoxides in onions cause what is known as anemia in animals. These two compounds destroy the red blood cells, leading to a lack of enough red cells in the blood. Fortunately, their effects have not been observed in chickens so far. But don’t just assume that they will not affect your birds. So, take this information seriously when giving your birds this type of treat.
There is a typical myth out there that you should not feed onions to your birds because they are harmful. Only in more significant quantities are they dangerous but not when you feed them in small amounts.
So, if you have a few wild onions outside for your chickens, don’t panic because they won’t hurt them. But this can only happen if you let them enjoy this treat in small amounts and occasionally. Most importantly, you should never make onions their main diet.
How Do You Prepare Onions For Your Chickens?
Cooked onions are safe to feed your birds because most of the harmful compounds get destroyed by heat. On the other hand, you should not feed your chickens dry food, including the onion rings.
This part of the onion is not safe for them or even for you. If you can get your chickens to eat dry food, it may negatively affect their health. Also, it may lead to poor egg quality because they cannot digest lipids.
Generally, onions, garlic, and other types of strong foods won’t harm your birds but will affect the taste of eggs.
In case you have excess onions, you can find a way of feeding them to your flock. To achieve this goal, you will need a few ideas about preparing them for your chickens.
Below are some of the methods you can use to prepare onions for the chickens to eat:
1) Try Onion Trail Mix
- The onion trail mix involves cooking this treat in little water. While using this technique, oil or butter should not be used. The two ingredients are not useful in the chicken’s digestive tracts. In fact, the chickens cannot digest them at all.
- Using water, cook the onions until they are soft and ready to eat. Cool them before mixing them into chicken feed. If possible, you can add a few bugs or other treats to make it more appealing for your birds.
2) How about Roasted Onions?
- Apart from boiling, you can also roast onions to feed your flock. Most chickens like the idea of pecking at foods suspended in their coops. So, roasted onions on strings will make them happy and busy all day long.
- All you have to do is to roast a few onions in an oven or grill. Do this until they become soft. Let them cool for a while before lacing the strings through them. Then tie the string with roasted onions to the cage so they can easily eat them.
3) Scrap Mash is Another Great Option
- Have you ever been in a situation to which you have excess food in your house, and no one wants to eat them? If one of these foods is onions, then you can prepare them for your chickens to enjoy.
- Just cook by boiling with water then place them in a bowl with other kitchen scraps. Your chickens will be very happy eating such a combination of scraps.
Can you feed your chickens’ raw onions? Yes! You can cut fresh onions into small pieces and give them to your flock to enjoy. However, cooked onions are the best choice given that they don’t have that strong smell after cooking. The strong smell of onions can change the taste of eggs.
What happens when your chickens eat excess onions? Most likely, excess onions will affect their health. In the long run, they will have weak legs and a disheveled appearance.
It is true that chickens can eat onions but in moderation. This type of food is rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins, fiber, and carbs. Just roast, or boil a few onions and pass them to your chickens to enjoy.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Chicken Board!!