Feeding my chickens has always been my duty and hobby as well. Chickens feed on almost anything they perceive edible because they are naturally omnivores. For some time now I have tried out sweet potatoes and my flock seems to like this new delicacy, to say the least. So, can chickens eat sweet potatoes? Yes, chickens do eat sweet potatoes all the time. This type of food is beneficial to your birds in many different ways as you will come to find out later. When given to your chickens at correct quantities, sweet potatoes can have a positive impact on your birds not only healthwise but also productivity.
Unlike other types of potatoes (white, yellow and red varieties), sweet potatoes are a little bit different. The two groups share the same name but they are actually not related in any way. Other types of potatoes belong to the nightshade family. This includes eggplants and tomatoes while the sweet potato varieties are classified under the morning glory family. Every part-stems, vines, leaves, peels, flowers, and flesh-are considered safe for consumption by your chickens.
Are Sweet Potatoes Safe For the Chickens?
Sweet potatoes are more delicious and nutritious for humans compared to white potatoes. For that reason, many of the chicken owners find them to be a better alternative to other types of chicken feed. This is contrary to feeding your birds on white potatoes. They are known to contain some toxic substances that are potentially harmful to chickens.
Given that almost every part of the sweet potato can be fed on chickens. You can rest assured that nothing will go to waste. This means you can provide your chickens with sweet potato peelings, leftovers, and scraps.
Not everything about sweet potatoes is all rosy. You must always be on the lookout not to feed your birds on moldy sweet potatoes. Mold found on this type of feed is somehow toxic to your chickens. This can eventually affect their health or cause some serious infections.
You shouldn’t provide your chickens with white, red, or yellow potatoes as a replacement for the sweet potatoes. Since these three varieties belong to the nightshade family, it’s apparent that they contain solanine, a harmful substance that can harm your birds.
Solanine is a natural pesticide and also a neurotoxin. This can lead to serious health complications. They include convulsions, respiratory distress, diarrhea, neurological damage or even paralysis. When taken in large quantities, solanine can become fatal and cause death among your chickens.
Even though solanine can be reduced drastically by cooking white potatoes. It doesn’t mean that you should feed your birds on white, red or yellow potatoes. You should stay away from providing all parts of these potatoes. Such as the skins, vines, flesh or leaves to your flock of birds. Instead, stick to the sweet potatoes which are harmless but very nutritious.
Chemical Composition in Sweet Potatoes
The starchy tubers and roots found in several tropical plants such as sweet potatoes. They are an important source of energy for human being and animal feeding. Sweet potatoes are common in tropical regions such as the Caribbean and Latin America.
The main aim of growing this type of tuber is for human consumption. It has turned out to be a good source of food for domestic animals such as pigs, rabbits, and chickens among others.
This is attributed to the fact that sweet potatoes are very nutritious. Not just for humans but also to a handful of domestic animals. The main nutritional importance in sweet potatoes is starch. There are other nutrients such as ascorbic acid, vitamin, riboflavin, thiamin, and niacin.
Other chemical compositions within the sweet potato roots, leaves and vines include fat, fiber and proteins. All these are found in small quantities especially in roots. Vines contain low levels of carbohydrates although they have a higher content of fiber, protein and some traces of vitamins.
Carbohydrates are the main component found in sweet potatoes. On average, carbohydrates make up 80 to 90 of the total dry weight contained in sweet potato roots. The uncooked starch contained in the sweet potatoes is resistant to hydrolysis. The enzyme is known as amylase-normally found in saliva and pancreatic juice-and it converts glycogen and starch into simple sugars.
After cooking, starch becomes easily digestible by amylase, thus increasing its susceptibility from 4 percent to 55 percent. Perhaps other difficulties associated with digesting starch found in sweet potato tubers could be attributed to its larger molecule size.
The protein contained in the sweet potato tubers and vines should be given special attention. However, several factors, particularly environmental, have had an impact on protein content within the tubers.
Other chemicals of great interest in sweet potatoes include amino acids and trypsin inhibitors. So, every time you cook your sweet potatoes, you are merely reducing the effects of trypsin inhibitors while making it easy to digest.
Sweet Potato as Chicken Food
For many years, sweet potato foliage and tuber products have been used as a feed for chickens. That’s why several studies have revealed that different diets consisting of sweet potatoes (cooked) and a few protein supplements have a positive impact on poultry over a given period.
No wonder chicks provided with starter feed reach the required slaughter weight faster than when given sweet potatoes. The broilers attain a higher percentage of dressing out when fed on the latter (sweet potatoes).
The results obtained from the organoleptic evaluation of broilers slaughtered aged 13 weeks. This showed that their meat had the best flavor when subjected to a diet rich in sweet potatoes.
More studies on sweet potatoes showed that the digestible carbohydrates. They were almost 90 percent in chicks with a coefficient of energy (metabolizable) of 87.2 or 90.9. These figures were obtained from diets where sweet potato tuber replaced about 25 or 40 percent of the glucose contained in a basal diet. These findings suggest that the tuber is a good source of energy.
Other studies carried out on dehydrated sweet potato vines had some exciting results. These materials are in poultry feeds. They are a significant source of protein as well as xanthophyll pigment. As a matter of fact, xanthophyll is the main component in egg yolk or broiler skins. It is the right pigmentation agent.
Is it right to provide your chickens with table scraps as food?
- Yes, you can give your chickens table scraps to eat. Now that you know that chickens are omnivores and can eat about any food presented to them. It won’t be wrong to feed them on table scraps or a few leftovers from your main meals. But you should be fully aware that table scraps alone cannot form a well-balanced diet for your birds. So, it is essential that you use table scraps as a supplemental treat rather than the main course.
Besides sweet potatoes, which other foods are safe for your chickens?
- Different types of food are safe for your chickens. These include bread, cooked meats, corn fruits-apples, melons and berries-grains, oatmeal, peas, and vegetables (whether cooked or raw). When it comes to feeding your birds on vegetables. You should include carrots, broccoli, chard, cabbage, kale, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, and pumpkins.
Which foods are not suitable for your chickens?
- Don’t be carried away with the notion that chickens are omnivores, thus they can feed on anything. This is wrong and you may end up subjecting your birds to harmful substances if you are not careful. This includes onions, garlic, raw potato peels, avocado pits and skins. Not to ignore rotten food, soft drinks, coffee, chocolate, greasy foods, and raw meat. Most of these foods mentioned contain toxic substances. This can affect the digestive system of your chickens or even cause them to fall sick. For that reason, be on the watch out when feeding your birds with table scraps.
It is true that your chickens can eat sweet potatoes. They are a good source of carbohydrates. This includes humans and animals. That explains why it has increasingly become popular among chicken owners, especially those specializing in keeping broilers. An important reason why the sweet potato is fed to chickens is that it contains other nutrients besides carbohydrates. Believe it or not, there are traces of vitamins, fat, proteins and fiber. All these play a crucial role in keeping the chickens healthy and productive. Finally, the whole plant starting from the leaves to the vines all the way to the tuber is edible. This is a great benefit to your chickens.
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