As the air starts getting a bit crisper this year, I can’t help but think of all of the wonderful things about fall, from the changing of the leaves to pumpkin…well pumpkin EVERYTHING.
It seems like every year the season of pumpkins grows and grows and that made me wonder…can my chickens eat pumpkins?
After all, whether we are making jack o lanterns or just a pumpkin pie, it seems like there’s always a good bit that goes to waste.
As it turns out, like most fruits and vegetables that we can eat, chickens can eat pumpkin and they love it as much, if not more than we do. In fact, my flock went WILD for it this year.
Not only will they gobble it up, but they’re packed with Vitamin A and C, which can help your flock boost their immune system (which is especially important as the weather starts to change) and they’re high in potassium, which can help increase the nutrition of the eggs from your hens as well.
With that being said, you may be wondering what kinds of pumpkin your flock can feast on, which we are going to dive into below.
Can Chickens Eat Any Kind Of Pumpkin?
Generally speaking, the answer is yes, while there are a large number of different pumpkin and gourd varieties, they’re all going to be safe for your flock
Can Chickens Eat Raw Pumpkin?:
Unlike some other fruits (yes, pumpkin is actually a fruit), your flock can eat raw pumpkin.
Whether you have a left-over jack o lantern or you just bought one too many pumpkins for your Thanksgiving pie, your flock will love it raw.
While some people think a whole raw pumpkin needs to be chopped up or even blended (yes, people do it), your feathered friends will be able to eat it whole.
It will take them a bit longer to “chew through it”, but as you probably already know, they love a good challenge and are more than capable of devouring the whole thing!.
Can They Have Cooked Pumpkin?:
Yes, your chickens CAN eat cooked pumpkins, with a small caveat.
While some of your left-overs from pumpkin soup or another home-cooked dish would be ok for your flock, you’ll want to avoid most store-bought cooked pumpkin or pumpkin puree because they often contain high levels of added sugar (or syrup…which is just sugar by another name).
What About Pumpkin Seeds?:
Whether you decide to roast them first or just feed them to your flock Raw, pumpkin seeds are safe to feed to your Feathered Friends.
While many people often wonder if you need to shelled pumpkin seeds before you feed them to your chickens, just like with most seeds, your flock will have no problem making their way in eating exactly what they want.
Keep in mind that it can be easy to overfeed on pumpkin seeds, especially during the fall, so make sure to save them as an occasional treat and feed them with your regular chicken feed.
I also wanted to quickly bust a myth about chickens and pumpkin seeds.
Although there are a lot of anecdotes or secondhand accounts of people using pumpkin seeds to naturally deworm their chickens, there’s no scientific evidence to back it up is an urban myth.
While pumpkin seeds are chock-full of fiber and beneficial vitamins and minerals, you’re better off using a proven dewormer if this is why you’re thinking about feeding them to your flock.
Can I Give My Chickens Pumpkin Pie?:
While they will gobble it up faster than your great aunt Helen, it’s best to avoid giving the left-over slices of pumpkin pie to your flock.
Most pumpkin pie is LOADED with sugar (especially the store-bought ones), which is as bad for your feathered friends in high doses as it is for you.
That being said, if you have a lower sugar pie (or a tiny amount leftover), it would be safe to feed them a bit in moderation.
What About Spoiled or Soft Pumpkin?:
As a general rule, I would suggest avoiding giving anything spoiled, soft (if it’s not supposed to be already), or moldy to your chickens.
While your jack o lantern would be ok to give to them for a few days after Halloween, I would suggest avoiding giving it to your chickens if the pumpkin is already soft OR if it’s showing any signs of mold.
The rule in our house is…if we wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole…our flock won’t either.
How Do You Serve Pumpkin To Chickens?
Whole, chopped, or blended into a chunky smoothie, honestly with pumpkin it doesn’t matter much how you feed it to your flock, they’ll love it regardless.
As we touched on above, you don’t need to worry about breaking down your pumpkin into chunks to feed it to your flock (but you certainly can, if you want!).
Although the outer shell of a pumpkin is extremely tough, your chickens know exactly how to use their beak and claws to break into it and find all of the gooey goodness and seeds on the inside.
If your chickens are anything like mine, they go CRAZY for a good puzzle and love trying to figure out how to eat whatever they have in front of them.
Whole pumpkin is a great way to keep them entertained for hours and is honestly more entertaining to watch than most of the shows on tv these days.
The two most important things to keep in mind when giving pumpkins to your chickens are:
- That they are fresh or at the very least not soft and rotting
- That you don’t rely ONLY on the pumpkin as a source of nutrients for your birds. While it’s packed with vitamins and minerals, it’s NOT a complete diet for your chickens and should be used as a treat.
Can Baby Chicks Eat Pumpkins?
Yes! Just like their fully grown family and friends, your chicks can eat pumpkin.
The biggest difference to keep in mind is overall portion size, smaller birds need less food…just like our kids need less food than we do (although parents of teenagers may disagree with me on that a bit).
Additionally, you may not want to give an entire pumpkin to your chicks, consider giving them scraps or just the seeds to start them off and see how they do.
Nutritional Benefits of Feeding Pumpkin to Chickens
While pumpkin is full of vitamins and minerals that your birds need, there are 3 main nutrients that you’ll want to keep in mind.
Believe it or not, many (if not most) chickens are deficient in Vitamin A and pumpkin is a GREAT source.
A deficiency here can prevent the proper production of mucus, which can lead to respiratory problems and dry eyes.
Additionally, if you commonly see blood spots in the yolks laid by your hens, it could be a vitamin A deficiency. Thankfully, Pumpkin is chock full of it.
The family of B vitamins plays a major role in energy metabolism and as a result, they can impact just about everything related to your flock from egg production to the growth and development of your chicks.
While chickens can produce their own vitamin C (a trick we humans haven’t mastered yet), it’s important to make sure they’re getting an extra dose in their diet during stressful times.
Pumpkin is a great way to give them a boost any time the seasons are changing or if your flock is otherwise going through a stressful time.
Pumpkin Seeds and “Guts”
The Inner part of the pumpkin contains what people refer to as the “guts” of the pumpkin (the stringy membrane) and the pumpkin seeds.
This part of the pumpkin is a great source of available Vitamin E and Zinc for your flock.
Vitamin E is an extremely important part of a healthy immune system and helps protect against a variety of ailments including Coccidiosis and E. Coli.
Additionally, the seeds contain zinc (in the shell membrane), which helps boost their immune system and helps to increase the shell integrity of the eggs laid by your layers.
Keep in mind that this is only really present in the membrane located under the shell, meaning if you shell your seeds before you give them to your flock, they’ll miss out on this benefit.
Some people worry that pumpkin seeds are large and could pose a choking hazard to your flock, but I promise…they’ll do GREAT with intact pumpkin seeds.
If you have an extra pumpkin (or 2 or 3) laying around, you can feed it to your chickens.
Not only is it a great source of vitamins and minerals for your flock, but they will love trying to figure out how to eat it AND they’ll come back as often as you let them.
If you’re curious about what other things you can give to your chickens, you may want to take a look at our comprehensive list here.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Chicken Board!!