Can Chickens Eat Acorn Squash Seeds?

Can Chickens Eat Acorn Squash Seeds?

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Last fall, I was out in the backyard building a new chicken coop when my wife yelled for me to come quick – our flock had broken into the compost bin and made a huge mess scattering acorn squash seeds all over the lawn!

It looked like a crime scene with squash strings and shells everywhere.

I couldn’t believe those sneaky chickens had scratched a hole in the side of the bin to get to the seeds my wife threw away after baking acorn squash the night before.

They were gobbling down the seeds like crazy when I found them – I had to chase them away and spend an hour cleaning up the yard.

But it got me wondering if acorn squash seeds are actually okay for chickens to eat or if they can make chickens sick.

The Nutritional Benefits of Feeding Acorn Squash Seeds to Chickens

Can Chickens Eat Acorn Squash Seeds?

After doing some research, I was surprised to discover acorn squash seeds are a super healthy and nutritious snack for backyard chickens!

Here are all the specific ways the seeds can benefit your flock:

Acorn squash seeds are loaded with healthy fats and protein, which provide lots of energy to keep your chickens active and strong.

The fat content is higher than most grains, so just a small amount packs more calories and nutrition than a big serving of scratch.

The seeds are an excellent source of vitamin A, which is great for eye health and proper growth in chickens.

They also contain antioxidants like vitamin C and E, which boost chickens’ immune systems and help prevent disease.

Acorn squash seeds provide minerals like magnesium, zinc, iron, and calcium that are essential for bone health and proper egg production.

The calcium is especially important for laying hens to form strong eggshells.

The fibre in the seeds promotes good digestion and gut health in chickens.

It helps them properly absorb all those vitamins and minerals.

Even the squash strings provide extra insoluble fiber to keep things moving through the digestive tract.

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No wonder those chickens went so crazy over the acorn squash seeds – they were actually getting a superfood treat, not just a snack!

Are There Any Downsides to Feeding Acorn Squash Seeds to Chickens?

Can Chickens Eat Acorn Squash Seeds?

Although acorn squash seeds are very nutritious, there are a few things to keep in mind when feeding them:

Because they are so high in fat and calories, you don’t want to free-feed them – chickens could easily get obese.

It’s best to offer seeds in moderation as an occasional treat, not daily.

The excess phosphorus in the seeds could potentially inhibit calcium absorption for egg-laying hens.

To prevent this, balance the seeds with calcium-rich foods like oyster shell.

Improperly stored seeds may get moldy, causing illness if chickens eat moldy seeds.

Prevent this by keeping any extra seeds in a cool, dry place or refrigerating.

Portion control is important since chickens will overeat if given unlimited access to the high-fat seeds.

While seeds are very healthy, you don’t want your flock getting overweight.

As long as you feed the seeds in moderation as part of a balanced diet, chickens can benefit greatly from the nutrition.

Tips for Feeding Acorn Squash Seeds to Your Flock

Can Chickens Eat Acorn Squash Seeds?

Here are my best tips for safely feeding acorn squash seeds:

Only offer seeds as an occasional treat 2-3 times per week, not free-choice daily.

Mash or chop seeds into smaller pieces so chickens don’t choke.

Mix seeds with grains or layer feed to balance other nutrients.

Provide a calcium supplement like oyster shell if feeding seeds often.

Store any leftover seeds in the fridge or freezer to prevent mold growth.

Scatter seeds over a wide area so chickens don’t fight over them.

Monitor your chickens’ weight and cut back if they start gaining too much.

Remove any uneaten seeds within an hour to prevent spoilage.

Wash and scrub your hands after handling to prevent Salmonella spread.

Your chickens will go nuts for the pumpkin-like flavor of acorn squash seeds as an occasional treat!

Give them out after prepping squash for cooking or let your chickens clean out the compost bin like mine did.

Just be sure to store seeds properly and feed in moderation.

Happy seed feeding!

How to Prepare Acorn Squash Seeds for Chickens

Before feeding acorn squash seeds to chickens, you need to clean and prepare them properly to make them safe and appetizing.

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First, separate the fresh seeds from the stringy pulp by rinsing under cool water while rubbing the strings away.

Discard the strings, which can tangle in chickens’ crops, and just keep the clean seeds.

Pat the wet seeds dry with paper towels before feeding to prevent mold.

You can also roast seeds for 20-30 minutes at 250°F to dry them out completely – this enhances the flavor too.

Make sure roasted seeds are completely cooled before giving them to chickens.

Chickens don’t have teeth, so you’ll need to chop or mash the dry seeds into bite-sized pieces.

Break up the seeds by hand, grind in a food processor, or use a rolling pin to crush them.

Mashed seeds are easier for chickens to eat than whole hard seeds.

Mix the broken-up seeds with scratch, oats, cracked corn, or layer feed for balanced nutrition.

Sprinkle a handful or two over their feed so the seeds are dispersed evenly.

You can also offer seeds free-choice in a separate dish, but monitor portions to prevent overeating.

Now your seeds are ready for chickens to enjoy!

Growing Acorn Squash to Feed Your Chickens

If you have the space, consider growing acorn squash in your garden to have a steady supply of seeds for your backyard chickens.

Acorn squash is one of the easiest vegetables to grow, even for beginners.

The vines require lots of room to spread, so allow at least 3-4 feet between hills.

Sow seeds directly in the ground 2-4 weeks after the last spring frost.

Or start seeds indoors 3-4 weeks before your last frost to give plants a head start.

To trellis vines, sow at base of a sturdy fence or provide structures like cages or teepees.

Water squash plants 1-2 inches per week if you don’t get a steady rain.

Weed weekly to prevent competition for water and nutrients.

Avoid over-fertilizing, which leads to excessive foliage instead of fruit.

Harvest squash once skin is hardened and deep green – ridges will be well-defined.

Cut squash with stem attached and cure 10-15 days in warm area to harden rind.

Scoop out seeds and pulp, then separate and prepare as described above.

Let chickens eat any damaged squash you can’t store or use yourself.

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They’ll enjoy pecking at whole squash in their run!

How Much Acorn Squash Seeds to Feed Chickens

It’s important to feed acorn squash seeds to chickens in moderation due to the high fat content.

As an occasional treat, chickens can safely eat 1-2 ounces of seeds 2-3 times per week.

This provides health benefits without overdoing the fat and calories.

To limit waste, only offer as much as chickens will finish within an hour.

For a daily treat, sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of seeds over feed for 3-5 hens.

Free-feed only very small amounts – a handful per 5-10 birds daily.

Always mix seeds with other feed to balance nutrition.

Monitor your chickens’ weight and health on higher amounts.

Reduce quantity if chickens become overweight or sluggish.

The amount that’s safe depends on your chickens’ health, age, and activity level.

Laying hens can tolerate more seeds than sedentary chickens.

Chicks and juveniles should not eat seeds due to the high fat.

When in doubt, err on the side of less with high-fat treats.

As long as you don’t overdo it, seeds are a great nutritional boost!

Other Squash Seeds Chickens Can Eat

Besides acorn squash, there are other types of squash seeds that provide similar benefits:

Pumpkin seeds are very comparable and can substitute for acorn squash seeds.

Butternut squash and kabocha squash seeds are also excellent options.

Most winter squash varieties have seeds chickens can eat.

Seeds from zucchini, yellow squash, pattypan, and other summer squashes are okay too.

Just avoid bitter-tasting seeds from cucumbers and melons.

Thoroughly clean and dry any squash seeds before feeding.

Roast or mash to make them easier to eat.

Mix with feed to provide balance.

Offer other squash seeds as occasional treats just like acorn squash.

The variety will give your flock different flavors and nutrition.

When prepping squash for cooking, save those seeds for your chickens!

They’ll relish the pumpkin-flavored seeds and strings as a tasty snack.

Both you and your chickens get to enjoy the nutritional benefits.

It’s a win-win kitchen trick for you and your flock!

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