Can Chickens Eat Comfrey

Can Chickens Eat Comfrey?

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It was a warm April morning and I was working in the vegetable garden, harvesting comfrey leaves to add to my new compost bin.

My chickens were scratching and pecking nearby when they suddenly noticed what I held in my wicker basket.

At the sight of those wide, green comfrey leaves, the hens rushed over in a feathery frenzy of curiosity and excitement.

They crowded around me, necks outstretched, eyes laser-focused on the basket contents.

Laughing at their enthusiasm, I tossed a few leaves on the ground and told them to go crazy.

Let me tell ya, those chickens descended on those leaves like seagulls after spilled French fries on the Jersey shore!

They ripped, shredded and gobbled down every last bit within seconds.

Then they looked at me expectantly for more.

I ended up feeding them almost half the comfrey leaves I’d harvested over the next 30 minutes.

My Red Star hen Buttercup downed leaves almost faster than I could pluck them for her!

As I watched them devour the comfrey with such obvious enjoyment, I did start to wonder…

Is this stuff actually okay for chickens to be eating with such gusto?

Investigating Whether Comfrey is Safe or Toxic for Backyard Chickens

Can Chickens Eat Comfrey

When I went back inside, I pulled out my laptop and started googling right away.

I typed in: can chickens eat comfrey?

Immediately conflicting information popped up.

Some sources said comfrey made an excellent edible forage for backyard poultry flocks.

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But others warned that comfrey contains toxic alkaloids that could potentially damage the liver.

Hmmm.

I learned that comfrey has been used as an herbal medicine for humans for centuries.

But recent research indicates that chronic, long-term ingestion can cause liver problems.

So the question remained…is occasional comfrey consumption as a supplemental treat okay for chickens?

Or should this plant be totally off the menu?

After almost 3 hours of additional reading, I made an informed decision on the matter.

I concluded that periodic, moderate amounts of comfrey should be fine for backyard chickens.

But I wouldn’t make it a substantial daily part of their regular diet.

Potential Benefits of Feeding Chickens Comfrey

Comfrey is rich in protein, vitamins A, B12, and calcium.

Chickens naturally enjoy eating it.

As an occasional supplemental treat, comfrey likely poses little risk.

Potential Risks of Feeding Chickens Comfrey

The alkaloids in comfrey can overload the liver.

Consumption of very large amounts could cause toxicity.

It’s safest to limit comfrey treats to once or twice a week.

My Backyard Flock Adores their Special Comfrey Snacktime

Can Chickens Eat Comfrey

I now harvest comfrey for my chickens about once a week in spring through fall.

I bring them a special treat brimming with tender young leaves and root chunks.

They gather around my feet, clucking and fussing excitedly until I toss it out.

Then twelve eager beaks dive straight into that leafy feast!

My Leghorn lady Cluckabelle is always the pushiest.

She shoves right through to get first dibs on the choicest leaves every time!

Then she often waddles off with an entire comfrey leaf dangling from her beak like a green mustache.

Meanwhile the more timid hens like tiny Rosa wait patiently for leftovers.

Within minutes, twelve plump chickens are pruning back my comfrey while filling their crops.

And not a single scrap gets wasted!

Yup, chickens definitely love their comfrey snacktime.

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These leafy treats pack extra nutrition into their omni diet.

Would your flock go crazy over comfrey too?

Consider planting some – but stick to moderation!

Growing Comfrey: The Best Varieties for Chickens

Can Chickens Eat Comfrey

I chose Russian Bocking 14 comfrey for my garden since it has higher protein levels than other strains.

This variety was developed specifically for agricultural use as livestock forage.

Bocking 14 is sterile so it won’t self-seed and spread out of control.

Other top varieties like Quaker or Common comfrey work well too.

How to Harvest Comfrey for Chickens

I cut back comfrey plant leaves and tender stems several times per season.

Spring and fall growth is best since summer heat makes leaves tougher.

Cut no more than one third of each plant at a time to allow regrowth.

Use clean gardening shears to avoid spreading disease between plants.

Drying and Storing Comfrey for Chickens

Surplus comfrey can be dried into leaf meal to store.

Dehydrate leaves whole or chopped into flakes.

I use a convection oven on low heat with the door propped.

Crumble fully dried leaves by hand or blender into a powder.

Save in airtight glass jars out of sunlight up to a year.

Boosting Chicken Feed with Beneficial Comfrey

I like to mix nutritious comfrey leaves into my flock’s fermented feed blend.

Comfrey contains protein, vitamins A, B, C and minerals that support chickens’ health in many ways.

The succulent leaves and stems aid digestion, liver function, egg production and feather quality.

And compounds called allantoin and rosmarinic acid promote wound healing – a useful perk!

I mainly use dried comfrey purchased from my local herb store.

But I also harvest fresh leaves from wild stands near my home when available.

Chopping the leaves into small bits first helps them incorporate well.

I aim for a 5-10% comfrey ratio mixed into their standard organic pellets.

But since comfrey has such a strong flavor, some pickier hens dislike the taste.

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So I additionally offer dried leaves plain in a separate hanging treat ball.

This allows each chicken to nibble desired amounts on their own.

It didn’t take long before the hesitant hens acquired the comfrey craving too!

Now they all await their comfrey crunchies nearly as eagerly as scratch grains!

 

Other Edible Plants Chickens Love

In addition to comfrey, chickens enjoy many edible backyard weeds.

Dandelion, chickweed, lambsquarters, purslane and amaranth are favorites.

Introduce new plants slowly in case they cause loose droppings.

Always ensure new forage is chicken-safe first.

Medicinal Magic: Comfrey’s Healing Powers for Chickens

Beyond basic nutrition, comfrey boasts natural medicinal merits for chicken health.

It possesses anti-inflammatory and mucilage compounds beneficial in multiple ways.

The anti-inflammatory properties help alleviate soreness and swelling.

So comfrey may soothe bumblefoot sores, bug bites, sprains or respiratory issues.

It won’t cure underlying infections. But it can provide pain relief and quicker recovery.

Comfrey leaves also contain mucilage which coats intestines for improved digestion and nutrient absorption.

This digestive support helps chickens better utilize feed for energy and growth.

The immune boost can get stressed, aged or molting birds through vulnerable times.

While comfrey clearly aids chicken wellness, moderation is mandatory.

Don’t Overdo a Good Thing! Comfrey Precautions

Comfrey does contain alkaloids that accumulate causing liver toxicity if excessively overfed for long periods.

Watch for these signs of possible poisoning:

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Lethargy and drooping wings
  • Diarrhea or other digestive issues

Luckily, problems are easily avoided by restricting treat amounts.

Offer just a few leaves per bird 1-2 times weekly at most.

And never rely on comfrey as a primary food source, only an occasional supplement.

When used wisely alongside balanced feed, comfrey and chickens can safely mix!

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