Can Chickens Eat Bitter Melon?

Can Chickens Eat Bitter Melon?



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I still remember the day I accidentally let my chickens get into my bitter melon vines.

It was early in the morning and I was rushing to open up the coop to let the chickens out into their run.

In my haste, I forgot to fully close the gate to the garden area and faster than you can say “cockadoodledoo” those sneaky hens had spotted the bitter melons and made a beeline straight for them!

As I chased after them yelling “No no, get away from there!” it was too late.

They were pecking and scratching at the bitter melons with gusto.

I managed to herd them back into their run, but now I was left with a prickly predicament – had my chickens just gotten themselves into trouble by eating bitter melon?

This called for some chicken owner investigating!

I had to get to the bottom of whether or not bitter melon is safe for chickens to eat.

The short answer is yes, chickens can eat bitter melon, but only in moderation.

What Is Bitter Melon?

Can Chickens Eat Bitter Melon?

First things first, what in tarnation is a bitter melon?

I’d never even heard of it until I started growing some unusual veggies last year.

Bitter melon, also known as bitter gourd, is a funny looking green fruit with a warty, bumpy exterior.

It’s originally from Asia and is commonly used in cooking in places like China and India.

The clue is in the name – it’s crazy bitter!

Way more bitter than any melon I’ve ever tasted.

The first time I took a bite, I nearly spit it right back out!

It was like eating a cucumber soaked in vinegar, so sour and astringent.

I couldn’t believe anyone actually ate the stuff voluntarily.

But I wanted to grow some unusual crops last summer just for fun.

And those prickly bitter melon vines grew like crazy up my trellises once the weather warmed up.

The leaves were pretty, even if the fruit was totally inedible to me.

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Is Bitter Melon Toxic to Chickens?

Can Chickens Eat Bitter Melon?

Because bitter melon is so darn bitter, I was worried it might be poisonous to my feathered ladies.

I jumped online to do some frantic research and was relieved to find out bitter melon is not toxic to chickens.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind before letting your flock loose on the bitter melons.

Even though it’s not directly toxic, the compounds in bitter melon can cause some GI upset if the chickens eat a ton of it.

There’s something in bitter melon called vicine that can cause inflammation of the pancreas if too much is consumed.

Plus the bitter taste itself acts as a natural deterrent, sort of Mother Nature’s way of saying “Eat this in moderation!”

Potential Issues for Chickens Eating Bitter Melon

Can Chickens Eat Bitter Melon?

While bitter melon itself is not toxic, there are some potential side effects chickens can experience if they eat too much:

  • Diarrhea or loose droppings
  • Reduced egg production
  • Off color egg yolks

This is because bitter melons contain compounds called cucurbitacins that can act as laxatives and purgatives if consumed in large amounts.

The weekend after the bitter melon incident, my chickens’ poop was definitely looser and stinkier than normal.

It firmed back up after a couple days once the bitter melon made its way through their systems.

Their egg laying slowed down for a few days too.

Normally I collect 5-6 eggs per day, but that weekend I only got 2 or 3 tops from each hen.

And the egg yolks were paler than usual, almost yellow-orange instead of their normal rich goldenrod hue.

Again, everything went back to normal after a few days but it was clear the bitter melons didn’t agree with them in large amounts!

A taste here and there shouldn’t do too much harm, but don’t let your chickens binge out!

Benefits of Bitter Melon for Chickens

Though bitter, this odd shaped melon can actually have some benefits for chickens:

  • Acts as a natural dewormer due to the compound momordicin
  • Boosts immune system with antioxidant properties
  • Increases hen’s egg production

The momordicin in bitter melons is supposed to help paralyze and kill parasitic worms and larvae.

I tried giving my flock chopped up bitter melon as a natural dewormer supplement.

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Bitter melon also has antioxidant effects which can give the chickens’ immune system a boost.

The antioxidants help fight inflammation and oxidative damage from free radicals.

And in small amounts, the compounds may actually increase egg production.

When I offered bitter melon once or twice a week, it did seem like egg production bumped up a bit on those days.

So feel free to offer your flock a few bitter melon treats occasionally for a healthy boost!

The bottom line: chickens can eat bitter melon in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

Whew, what a relief!

I’m glad my moment of scatterbrain didn’t result in harming my feathered ladies.

Though I’ll be double checking that garden gate from now on…

Chickens Go Crazy for the Sweet Taste

Chickens go absolutely bonkers for beet tops because of their slightly sweet, earthy taste.

Beet tops contain sugars like glucose, fructose, and sucrose that chickens find delicious.

The sweet flavor makes beet tops an enticing treat that chickens just can’t resist.

Once chickens get a taste, they scratch and peck excitedly to get as much of those sweet greens as they can.

It’s funny to watch normally mild-mannered chickens turn into ravenous beet-crazed dinosaurs!

You can use small amounts of beet tops to persuade reluctant chickens to try new feeds or approach their coop.

The sweet taste and bright colors also stimulate chickens’ appetites, getting them eagerly awaiting mealtime.

But don’t let chickens fill up on too many sugary beet tops or they may refuse their regular feed.

Beet Tops Provide Variety in Diet

Rotating various fresh treats like beet tops provides healthy dietary variety for chickens.

Chickens can easily get bored of eating the same dry feed day after day.

Adding beet tops or other garden greens mixes up texture and flavors.

Diverse foods also introduce more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants into chickens’ diets.

The variation keeps chickens’ digestive systems healthy and gives them nutritional balance.

Rotating treats like beet tops, swiss chard, kale, and other veggie scraps prevents chickens from developing food sensitivities too.

Make sure not to switch up chickens’ diet too drastically though, as sudden large changes can upset their digestion.

Gradually transition beet tops as a supplementary feed for best results.

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How to Store Leftover Beet Tops

Don’t let leftover beet tops go to waste – here are some storage tips:

Chop and freeze excess beet tops in freezer bags for up to 6 months.

Blanch greens first for a minute in boiling water if freezing large batches.

Dehydrate excess beet tops in a food dehydrator or low oven until crispy.

Crumble the dried beet chips over feed or store in an airtight container.

Refrigerate fresh chopped beet tops in a produce bag for up to 5 days.

Pickle beet tops as a fun treat by packing in brine for 3 weeks in jars.

Juice extra beet tops and freeze concentrated juice in ice cube trays.

Mix a thawed beet top juice cube into feed or water for added nutrients.

Watch for Evidence of Health Issues

Monitor chickens closely after feeding beet tops to watch for any potential health issues.

Allergic reactions are rare but look for signs like facial swelling or diarrhea.

Stop feeding beet tops immediately if you notice any concerns.

Too much oxalic acid can potentially cause calcium deficiency long-term.

Check for weak bones, tremors, or slow growth as possible signs.

Bright red beet-stained egg yolks can indicate a harmless pigment change.

But reddish streaking in egg whites may signal disease like infectious bronchitis.

Contact a vet if eggs look abnormal after feeding beet tops.

Growing Beets Just for Chickens

Consider planting extra beets in your garden solely to use the tops for chickens.

Beets are easy to grow from seed in prepared garden beds or containers.

Plant beet seeds 1/2 inch deep, 2 inches apart in rows at least 12 inches apart.

Thin seedlings when they sprout to 4 inches between plants.

Harvest beets when roots size up after 50-70 days, trimming off the nutritious tops.

Beets prefer cooler weather and tolerate frost.

Plant crops in early spring and fall for best growth.

Popular beet varieties like Bull’s Blood, Detroit Dark Red, and Golden produce abundant leafy tops.

Let some beets bloom and go to seed, then collect seeds for future plantings.

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