Can Chickens Chow Down on Asparagus Ferns?

Can Chickens Chow Down on Asparagus Ferns?



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Let me tell you about the time my prized rooster Rufus got into the garden and went to town on my wife’s precious asparagus ferns.

That bird gobbled those ferns up faster than a coyote on a jackrabbit!

Ol’ Rufus came struttin’ back to the coop looking like the cat that ate the canary, leaves and fronds hangin’ out his beak.

The wife wasn’t too pleased when she saw what was left of her ferns – just a pile of stems stickin’ out of the dirt.

I tried to explain to her that chickens will eat just about anything, but I still ended up in the dog house over that one.

Chickens Are Opportunistic Eaters

Can Chickens Chow Down on Asparagus Ferns?

Now I’m sure you’re wonderin’ – can chickens really eat asparagus ferns?

Well the short answer is yes, chickens can and will eat asparagus ferns if given the chance.

These birds aren’t too picky and will snack on just about anything they can get their beaks on.

Chickens are omnivores meaning they eat both plant and animal matter.

Their natural diet consists of seeds, grains, insects, and greens.

So leafy plants like asparagus ferns make a nice addition to their usual grub.

I’ve got a flock of 12 hens and a rooster in my backyard coop.

Those chickens will eat just about anything I throw their way – leftover scraps, vegetable peels, bugs and worms.

One day I was doing some gardening, pruning back the asparagus ferns that line my flower beds.

I tossed a bunch of the fronds and leaves into the chicken run for them to peck at.

Well, those birds went absolutely crazy over the ferns.

Feathers were flying as they scratched and pecked to get at every last leaf and stem.

My Dominique hens in particular couldn’t seem to get enough of the fern fronds.

They gobbled them up like kids gobbling candy on Halloween.

It was clear my chickens saw those ferns as a tasty treat.

Asparagus Ferns Are Non-Toxic for Chickens

Can Chickens Chow Down on Asparagus Ferns?

Another question folks ask is whether asparagus ferns are poisonous to chickens.

I’m happy to report that all types of asparagus ferns are completely non-toxic and safe for chickens to consume.

These plants contain vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and B vitamins – all beneficial nutrients for chickens.

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The only downside is asparagus ferns don’t pack much protein.

So you wouldn’t want to use ferns as the main food source.

I did some research into asparagus fern safety before offering them to my flock.

Luckily all the sources I found confirmed they are 100% non-toxic and edible for chickens.

That gave me peace of mind knowing my birds weren’t at risk of illness or poisoning.

Asparagus ferns are in the lily family, and all lilies are safe for chickens to eat.

Other common lilies like daylilies and peace lilies pose no threat either.

On the flip side, some toxic plants for chickens include azaleas, rhododendrons, foxgloves and oleander.

So I’m careful to keep those far away from my chicken run.

But when it comes to asparagus ferns, they get my seal of approval as a bird-safe snack.

Watch Out for Overindulging

Can Chickens Chow Down on Asparagus Ferns?

Now just because asparagus ferns won’t poison your flock, doesn’t mean the birds should go hog wild on them.

Eating too many ferns could lead to loose droppings, upset stomach, or diarrhea.

So it’s best to offer ferns in moderation as an occasional treat.

I recommend limiting ferns to no more than 10% of your chickens’ overall diet.

Mix in other greens like kale, spinach, lettuce, or cabbage for variety.

The day after I gave my chickens those asparagus ferns, I noticed some runny chicken poop in the coop.

Turns out a couple of my hens had gotten a bit of diarrhea from overindulging on all those ferns.

After that, I started rationing the ferns – just a handful per hen a few times a week.

Their droppings returned to normal after limiting the asparagus ferns.

Too much of a good thing can sometimes upset a chicken’s digestive system.

Moderation is key when offering ferns or any treat to your flock.

Flock Enjoying Ferns? Here Are Some Tips

If your chickens have acquired a taste for asparagus ferns, here are a few tips to keep them healthy:

– Chop ferns into smaller pieces so they are easier to digest

– Provide fresh clean water at all times to avoid dehydration

– Offer insoluble grit like oyster shells to help grind down plant matter

– Rotate various greens and veggie scraps to balance their diet

– Monitor droppings for any signs of illness from overeating ferns

To help my chickens digest all those asparagus ferns better, I started chopping the fronds into smaller bites.

This seemed to prevent tummy troubles compared to when they ate big whole fronds.

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I also made sure their waterer was full, so they stayed hydrated with all that plant material.

Adding a sprinkle of oyster shell supplement provided some extra grit to grind up the ferns.

And I rotated in other leafy greens like spinach and kale to vary their diet.

Finally, I kept an eye on their droppings for any diarrhea flare-ups.

Following these tips, the chickens enjoyed the ferns with no issues.

So there you have it folks – the scoop on chickens and asparagus ferns straight from this backyard chicken keeper.

Hope this gives you some guidance if your flock ever runs amok in your garden!

Just holler if you have any other questions.

Ferns Provide Chickens With Fiber

Asparagus ferns are a great source of fiber for chickens.

This aids their digestion and keeps their digestive tract functioning properly.

The fronds and leaves of the fern contain insoluble fiber that chickens can’t digest.

But this roughage helps move food through the gut and prevents issues like constipation.

A diet too high in grains can bind a chicken up.

The fiber in asparagus ferns helps counteract that by adding bulk to their stools.

This allows things to keep moving smoothly through the digestive system.

Ferns also provide soluble fiber which forms a gel-like substance in the gut.

This helps regulate digestion and keeps chickens feeling full longer.

So ferns fill chickens up without packing on too many calories.

The combination of soluble and insoluble fiber makes ferns an excellent source of overall gut-healthy fiber.

It’s no wonder my chickens gobble up those ferns like kids gobbling Halloween candy.

Asparagus Ferns Offer Chickens Antioxidants

Another nutrient packed into asparagus ferns is antioxidants.

Antioxidants help fight disease and boost chickens’ overall immunity.

Ferns contain vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene which are powerful antioxidants.

These nutrients destroy free radicals that can damage cells in chickens’ bodies.

Free radicals are unstable molecules linked to cancer, inflammation, and cellular aging.

Antioxidants also support healthy blood flow, respiratory function, and growth in chickens.

The antioxidants in ferns may even enhance chickens’ egg production.

Hens who get more vitamin E in their diet tend to lay more eggs.

Beta-carotene gets deposited in chicken egg yolks, giving the yolks a rich orange color.

So feeding asparagus ferns provides antioxidants that boost chicken health and egg quality.

Ferns Can Provide Chickens with Omega-3s

Asparagus ferns also contain omega-3 fatty acids which are incredibly healthy for chickens.

Omega-3s reduce inflammation and support brain and eye development in chicks.

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They can even make chicken eggs more nutritious with higher omega-3 content.

Most leafy greens contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is an omega-3 fat.

Chickens can convert ALA into the active forms of omega-3s called EPA and DHA.

These active omega-3s are only found in animal foods like fish.

But chickens have the ability to transform plant-based ALA into EPA and DHA.

This means chickens fed an ALA source like ferns can self-produce those essential omega-3s.

Getting omega-3s from ferns and greens is healthier than just feeding chickens fish oil.

So ferns are an excellent plant-based way to provide chickens with anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.

Watch Out for High Oxalic Acid Levels

One potential downside of asparagus ferns is they contain oxalic acid.

Oxalic acid can bind to calcium in a chicken’s digestive tract.

This makes the calcium unavailable to be absorbed and used by the chicken’s body.

High levels of oxalic acid can potentially lead to calcium deficiency over time.

Signs of calcium deficiency include thin egg shells, osteoporosis, and bone fractures.

The oxalic acid content is much lower in asparagus ferns than in other high oxalate plants.

But very frequent, high consumption of ferns could still inhibit calcium absorption.

The occasional fern treat poses little risk, but variety is key.

Rotate ferns with lower oxalate greens like kale, spinach, and lettuce.

Also provide a quality source of calcium like oyster shell grit.

This will ensure chickens get sufficient usable calcium in their diet.

Ferns Contain Vitamin K for Strong Bones

On the flip side, asparagus ferns are very high in vitamin K which supports bone health.

Vitamin K activates proteins involved in bone calcification.

It plays an essential role in helping chickens properly utilize and deposit calcium into their bones and eggshells.

Ferns are one of the richest sources of vitamin K in the plant world.

Just one cup provides over 1000% of a chicken’s recommended daily vitamin K intake.

Vitamin K works together with vitamins D and A to strengthen chickens’ skeletal system.

It prevents osteoporosis and fractures – especially helpful for older laying hens.

Vitamin K also supports blood clotting, wound healing, and liver health in chickens.

So while oxalates can inhibit calcium absorption, the high vitamin K content helps offset that effect.

Feeding ferns improves bone density and reduces risk of bone breaks and paralysis.

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