Can Chickens Eat Crab Apples?

Can Chickens Eat Crab Apples?



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I’ll never forget the day I accidentally let my chickens into the crab apple tree.

As a newbie chicken owner, I didn’t realize they would go so crazy for those tiny sour fruits!

Before I knew it, apples were flying everywhere and my girls were gobbling them up.

Let’s just say there was a mess to clean up afterwards and some very full and happy chickens.

Are Crab Apples Safe for Chickens?

Can Chickens Eat Crab Apples?

Crab apples are not poisonous or toxic to chickens.

In fact, they make a healthy treat or supplement to your flock’s normal feed.

The seeds, flesh, skin, and even leaves of crab apple trees contain beneficial nutrients like vitamin C.

Plus, they provide dietary fiber and small amounts of natural sugar energy.

Just be sure the crab apples haven’t fallen on the ground and started rotting.

Rotting apples can contain mold, fungi, or other toxins that can make your flock sick.

I first learned this the hard way when I tossed some rotten crab apples into the coop.

The next day, my chickens had runny poop and decreased appetites.

I realized those rotten apples had made them sick.

After removing the old apples and giving them only fresh food and water, they perked back up.

So it’s definitely important to inspect apples and remove any that are moldy or decaying before feeding them.

Benefits of Feeding Crab Apples to Chickens

Can Chickens Eat Crab Apples?

Here are some of the top benefits of tossing a few crab apples to your feathered friends:

Excellent source of vitamins A, C, B-complex, iron, calcium, and magnesium

Provides antioxidants to boost immune health

Natural sugars provide quick energy

Fiber aids digestion

Chickens love the sweet-tart taste

Foraging is mentally stimulating and natural behavior

The vitamin C in crab apples is especially important for chicken health.

It helps them absorb iron properly and produces collagen for wound healing.

The fiber helps push food through their digestive system and prevents constipation.

The natural plant sugars give them an energy boost without unhealthy additives.

My chickens go bonkers when they spot crab apples.

They come running from all corners of the yard for their sweet treat.

It’s hilarious watching them jostle each other to grab the biggest apple first.

How Much Crab Apple is Safe?

Can Chickens Eat Crab Apples?

Crab apples should be fed in moderation as a supplemental treat.

No more than 1-2 per chicken 2-3 times per week is plenty.

Too many crab apples could lead to loose stool, diarrhea, or upset stomach.

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And be sure they are eating a balanced diet of layer feed as their main nutrition source.

When I first got chickens, I didn’t know how much crab apple was too much.

I let them gorge themselves when the tree was loaded.

Big mistake.

Let’s just say the chicken coop was a mess for days after.

Now I carefully portion out a few slices per chicken as an occasional snack.

This prevents tummy issues but still allows them the treat.

The Best Ways to Feed Crab Apples

Here are some tips for safely and effectively feeding crab apples to your flock:

Wash thoroughly if picked off the ground

Chop into small pieces to prevent choking

Mash or puree for younger chickens

Toss handfuls into their run as a treat

Skewer pieces onto branches for foraging

Offer after bugs, greens, or kitchen scraps

Remove rotting or moldy apples right away

I always pluck crab apples straight from the tree versus off the ground.

This prevents any worms, dirt, or bird poop from getting on them.

For little chicks under 6 months old, I mash the crab apples into an apple sauce.

Their tiny beaks can’t handle whole chunks yet.

To make it more fun, I skewer apple slices on branches in their run.

Seeing the apples bobbing on the branch gets them excited to forage.

I also check under the tree daily for any fallen apples that may have gotten moldy.

You really have to stay on top of cleaning those up before chickens snack on them.

Well, now you know chickens go cuckoo for crab apples!

Have fun watching your flock nibble up this healthy foraged snack.

Just be warned – they might start eyeing every apple tree in your yard after getting a taste.

Keep an eye on those sneaky escape artists whenever crab apples are in season!

Are Crab Apples a Choking Hazard for Chickens?

Whole or large chunks of crab apple can pose a choking risk for chickens.

Chickens don’t chew their food well like humans.

Instead they rely on their gizzard to grind up food that they swallow whole.

Large pieces of crab apple can get stuck in their throat on the way down.

This is especially dangerous for smaller bantam chickens or young chicks.

To prevent choking, always chop or mash crab apples into smaller bits before feeding.

Slices no larger than 1/2 inch are ideal for most standard sized chickens.

For bantams or chicks under 12 weeks old, chop into tiny 1/4 inch or smaller pieces.

You can also cook the apples into an apple sauce consistency to make it easier to swallow.

Just be sure to let it cool off first before feeding to prevent crop burns.

Monitor your flock closely while they eat crab apple treats.

If you notice gagging, difficulty breathing, or coughing remove the apples right away.

Skipping those large apple chunks could save a chicken’s life.

Can Chickens Eat Crab Apples Raw?

Yes, chickens can safely eat raw crab apples with no issues.

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In fact, chickens prefer crab apples raw versus cooked.

The raw fruit retains more of its natural nutrients, flavors, and textures.

Cooking crab apples reduces the vitamin C content quite a bit.

It also makes the flesh much softer, almost mushy.

Chickens seem to enjoy that satisfying crunch of biting into a firm raw crab apple.

I always serve them fresh off the tree for maximum nutritional value.

Just be sure to wash the raw apples thoroughly first to remove any dirt or debris.

And don’t let the apples sit out and rot before feeding.

Raw crab apples only last a few weeks at room temperature before mold starts growing.

For longer storage, the apples need to be cooked and canned in jars.

But for immediate chicken consumption, stick to raw whenever possible.

Those raw apples will give them a fun treat packed with healthy nutrients and fiber.

Do Crab Apples Change Egg Yolk Color?

The pigments in crab apples can cause egg yolk color to intensify.

Carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin in crab apples produce yellow and orange hues.

As chickens eat more crab apples, those pigments transfer to the yolks.

The yolks may deepen from pale yellow to rich gold or even deep orange.

This color change is completely natural and harmless.

Some chicken owners even use crab apples to deliberately intensify yolk color.

Deep yolky orange yolks are seen as higher quality by consumers.

Just don’t overdo the crab apples.

Too many can negatively affect egg flavor and cause loose stools.

As an occasional treat for your hens, you’ll get that beautiful color without issues.

It’s a nice bonus to enriching their diet with healthy fruits.

Can You Use Crab Apples for Chicken Molting?

Yes, crab apples are fantastic for supporting chickens through their annual molt.

Molting is when chickens shed old, worn out feathers and grow new ones.

It’s an energy-intensive process that taps protein reserves.

Providing high-protein foods like crab apples helps them regrow quality feathers.

The amino acids in crab apples promote growth and healthy development of feathers.

Antioxidants like vitamin C lessen stress on the body during the taxing molt.

Some chicken keepers even switch to an all crab apple diet for 2 weeks during the molt.

But for most backyard flocks, simply increasing crab apples during molting is beneficial.

You’ll end up with beautiful new plumage on your ladies.

When is the Best Time to Feed Crab Apples?

Crab apples are in season from August through November in most regions.

So late summer through fall is the best time to feed them fresh off trees.

During this peak season, chickens can enjoy them as frequent treats.

Once crab apples start falling off trees, collect and store them for winter months.

Keep ripe unbruised apples in a cool dry place for 2-3 months max.

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You can continue feeding your chickens crab apples through winter this way.

For spring and summer, canned preserved crab apple pieces work great.

You can also dry thin apple slices in a dehydrator for long shelf life.

So while fall is optimal, you can feed crab apples year-round!

Crab Apples vs. Regular Apples for Chickens

When it comes to feeding apples to chickens, there are some important differences between crab apples and regular grocery store apples to consider.


Chickens seem to relish the mouth-puckering tartness of crab apples. The sour taste is similar to berries, which are a favorite treat of chickens.

I’ve noticed my hens will excitedly come running from across the yard when I offer them crab apples. But they are far less enthusiastic about sweeter honeycrisp or fuji apples.

The high tannin and malic acid content of crab apples gives that enjoyable lip-smacking tartness chickens love.


Crab apples are only about 1-2 inches wide, perfect bite-sized portions for chickens. This makes them easy to peck and swallow whole.

Giant regular apples, on the other hand, would need to be chopped into small pieces first to prevent choking. That’s added prep work for you.

Those tiny crab apples are the ultimate convenient chicken snack straight off the tree.


Crab apples contain abundant edible seeds throughout the flesh, not just the core. This gives chickens an extra nutrition source.

The small seeds also add beneficial fiber to aid digestion. The large woody seeds of regular apples pose more of a choking hazard if consumed.

I’ve found crab apple seeds pass right through my chickens’ systems with no issue.


Foraging or buying crab apples in bulk is much cheaper than getting individual retail apples from the store.

I can fill up a whole bucket with crab apples from my backyard tree for free. Bagged apples would cost me $5-10 easily.

So if you’re feeding a flock, crab apples will save you money compared to regular apples.


Crab apple trees already grow in many backyards, so the apples are easily accessible. You can collect abundant fruit during fall at no cost.

Regular apples must be purchased at orchards or grocery stores when you want to feed them.

Having an existing crab apple tree makes getting apples for chickens incredibly convenient.


With their skin, seeds, and tannins, crab apples provide more fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than regular apples.

The entire crab apple is edible and nutritious for chickens. Meanwhile the skin and seeds of regular apples get tossed.

So when it comes to nutrition for your flock, crab apples deliver maximum benefits.

For taste, convenience, affordability and nutrition, crab apples beat regular apples for feeding chickens hands down!

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