Can Chickens Eat Elderberries?

In the charming world of backyard poultry keeping, the culinary curiosities of chickens often pique the interest of their caregivers. Chickens, those feathered and inquisitive beings, are known for their varied diet that includes grains, insects, greens, and an occasional treat. One such curiosity that frequently arises among chicken enthusiasts is whether elderberries can be safely added to their feathery friend’s menu. In this article, we embark on a journey to explore the question: Can chickens eat elderberries? As we delve into the dietary needs of chickens and the characteristics of elderberries, we aim to uncover the safety and potential benefits of including elderberries in a chicken’s diet.

Chicken Dietary Needs

Before we delve into the world of elderberries, it’s crucial to understand the dietary needs of chickens. Chickens, whether kept for egg production, meat, or companionship, are omnivorous creatures with a diverse palate. Their diet primarily consists of grains, seeds, insects, and various types of greens. Ensuring a balanced diet is essential to their health, as it provides them with essential nutrients such as protein, vitamins, and minerals. While chickens enjoy a variety of foods, their primary diet should cater to their nutritional requirements.

Elderberries Overview

Elderberries, small and dark purple-black, grow on elderberry bushes and have long been appreciated for their culinary and medicinal properties by humans. These berries have found their way into jams, jellies, and even syrups for their unique flavor and potential health benefits. Elderberry bushes themselves are known for their hardy nature and ability to thrive in various climates. Before we explore whether elderberries are suitable for chickens, it’s essential to provide an overview of these berries. This includes their appearance, taste, and historical uses in human diets. Understanding the nature of elderberries sets the stage for our investigation into their compatibility with chickens’ dietary preferences.

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Can Chickens Eat Elderberries?

The central question at hand is whether elderberries are a safe and suitable addition to a chicken’s diet. The answer is nuanced. While chickens can indeed eat elderberries, certain precautions must be taken. Elderberries themselves contain compounds that can be toxic in excessive amounts, both to humans and animals. Therefore, moderation is key. Chickens can enjoy elderberries as an occasional treat, but their consumption should be limited. Additionally, it’s essential to remove the seeds from elderberries before offering them to chickens, as the seeds can contain cyanogenic glycosides, which can be harmful.

How to Safely Feed Elderberries to Chickens

For chicken owners who wish to introduce elderberries into their flock’s diet, proper handling and preparation are crucial. To safely feed elderberries to chickens, it’s advisable to wash and remove the stems and seeds from the berries. This minimizes potential hazards and ensures that the chickens can enjoy the berries without ingesting harmful compounds. Feeding elderberries in moderation and as part of a well-balanced diet is essential. Additionally, offering elderberries as part of a varied treat selection can provide chickens with a diversity of flavors and nutrients while keeping their diet safe and enjoyable.

Other Safe and Beneficial Foods for Chickens

While elderberries can be given to chickens in moderation, it’s important to provide a well-rounded and nutritious diet. Here are some other safe and beneficial foods you can offer to your flock:

  1. Layer Pellets or Crumbles: A commercial layer feed formulated for laying hens is an excellent base for your chickens’ diet. It provides the essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals required for egg production.
  2. Fresh Vegetables: Chickens enjoy a variety of fresh vegetables such as leafy greens, carrots, peas, and broccoli. These foods provide vitamins and fiber, and they can be great for enrichment as chickens peck and forage.
  3. Fruits: Occasional treats of fruits like apples, pears, and berries can be given to chickens. Ensure fruits are cut into manageable pieces and offered in moderation due to their sugar content.
  4. Grains: Offer grains like oats, barley, and wheat as part of their diet. Chickens love to scratch and peck at grains, and these provide carbohydrates and energy.
  5. Protein Sources: Chickens need protein for feather growth and overall health. You can provide sources like mealworms, earthworms, or commercially available poultry feeds with higher protein content.
  6. Grit: Offer small stones or poultry grit to help chickens grind down their food in their gizzard, aiding in digestion, especially if they have access to free-range areas.
  7. Calcium Supplements: Provide crushed eggshells or oyster shell grit to laying hens as a source of calcium, which supports strong eggshells.
  8. Clean Water: Always ensure access to fresh, clean water. Hydration is vital for egg production and overall health.
  9. Kitchen Scraps: Many kitchen scraps can be given to chickens, such as vegetable peels, leftover cooked rice, and bread (in moderation). Avoid offering anything spoiled or moldy.
  10. Herbs: Some herbs like oregano, thyme, and basil may have potential health benefits for chickens and can be grown in their coop area.
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Remember to maintain a balanced diet, with commercial poultry feed forming the majority of their nutrition. Treats and additional foods should be provided in moderation to prevent nutritional imbalances or obesity. A well-fed flock is a healthy and happy one, so be mindful of what you offer to your chickens.


In conclusion, chickens can indeed eat elderberries, but with careful consideration and moderation. While elderberries offer unique flavors and potential health benefits, their seeds and certain compounds make them a treat to be enjoyed in small quantities. By adhering to safe handling practices, such as removing seeds and offering elderberries in moderation, chicken owners can provide their flocks with a varied and enjoyable diet. Remembering that elderberries are just one option in a menu of safe foods for chickens allows chicken enthusiasts to keep their feathered companions healthy and happy while exploring the delights of the backyard coop.