Can Chickens Eat Dried Dates?

Can Chickens Eat Dried Dates?



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Let me tell you about the time I tried to feed my chickens some dried dates.

I had a huge Costco-sized bag of pitted Deglet Noor dates leftover from a camping trip with my college buddies last summer.

We had gone backpacking in the Sierra Nevada mountains for a week, carrying all our food and gear on our backs.

That bag of Nature’s Bakery dates was my go-to hiking snack to keep my energy up on the trail.

Anyways, when I got home, I still had half the 3-pound bag left.

I figured I’d give some to my chickens as a sweet treat.

So I went out to the coop and tossed a handful into the run and excitedly waited to see what would happen.

Well, those crazy chickens attacked those dates faster than I’ve ever seen them go for anything! Feathers went flying everywhere and beaks were loudly pecking as they gobbled them up in seconds.

Now, I don’t usually anthropomorphize my chickens, but I swear they looked like kids on Halloween night frantically tearing into overflowing pillowcases full of candy.

My bossy Buff Orpington hen Pearl even snatched a date right from timid little Biscuit the Easter Egger’s beak! And one of the Barred Rocks, I think it was Beyoncé, tried to make a run for it with the whole bag in her beak!

Now, as hilarious as it was to watch their excitement, I had to race in there and confiscate the dates quick before total chaos ensued.

Can Chickens Really Eat Dates?

Can Chickens Eat Dried Dates?

So after that frantic chicken frenzy, I decided to do some research on whether dates are actually safe and healthy for chickens.

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Come to find out, chickens can definitely eat dates, but only sparingly as an occasional treat.

Here’s why you shouldn’t make dates a daily snack for your flock:

Dates are very high in natural sugar and calories from carbohydrates – Too many can cause digestive issues, diarrhea, gut inflammation, and weight gain in chickens.

Their sticky, gummy texture makes them a choking hazard – Bits of date can get lodged in chickens’ crops and impact their digestion.

Dates lack protein, vitamins, and minerals – Chickens need a balanced diet with nutrients from various sources.

How Many Dried Dates Can Chickens Eat?

Can Chickens Eat Dried Dates?

When fed responsibly in moderation, dates can be a healthy snack for chickens.

Here are some tips on safe portion sizes and frequency:

Limit date treats to 1-2 pieces per chicken, 2-3 times per week maximum.

Chop dates into small bite-sized pieces to prevent choking hazards.

Mix a few dates in with their regular feed rather than feeding plain dates alone.

Combine dates with more nutritious treats like chopped veggies, seeds, cooked oatmeal, rice, or hard-boiled eggs.

The Potential Health Benefits of Dates for Chickens

Can Chickens Eat Dried Dates?

Okay okay, I know I warned about the risks of overdoing it on the dates.

But fed in moderation, here are some potential health benefits:

The natural sugars in dates provide a quick energy boost.

Dates contain decent amounts of potassium, magnesium, copper, and manganese.

Their antioxidants like flavonoids may support immunity and reduce inflammation.

Their prebiotics could promote good gut bacteria and healthy digestion.

So there you have it friends.

A few dates can be a yummy and nutritious occasional treat for chickens.

Just be sure to limit the portions and mix with their regular balanced diet.

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And a word of advice after my experience – keep those sticky dates far away from the impatient beaks in your coop! Let me know if your flock absolutely riots over dates like mine did.

Cluck cluck for now!

How to Serve Dates to Chickens

When preparing dates to serve as a snack for your chickens, there are a few things you can do to make them more digestible and reduce the risk of issues:

Chop the dates into quarters or even smaller pieces so they are bite-sized for chickens.

You can mince dried dates in a food processor into a coarse crumble that’s easy for chickens to eat.

Soak harder, drier dates in water briefly to soften them up before feeding.

Mix a tablespoon or two of chopped dates right into their feed so they are well distributed.

Offer dates in a separate dish alongside their feed so you control portions.

Scatter dates loosely over the run so chickens have to forage and peck for pieces.

Pair dates with insoluble fiber sources like greens, vegetables, and oats.

Serve a few dates followed by fresh water to help wash them down.

Storing Dates for Chickens

To keep dates fresh and avoid spoilage before feeding them to your flock:

Store unopened date packages in a cool, dry pantry away from light and heat.

Once opened, keep dates in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 6 months.

Freeze chopped dates in an airtight freezer bag for 4-6 months.

Look for sticky residue, crystallization, or moldy spots indicating spoiled dates.

Discard any dates that smell rancid or fermented instead of sweet.

Avoid feeding chickens spoiled dates, as the bacteria could make them sick.

Chickens That Love Dates the Most

In my experience, certain breeds and ages of chickens go especially crazy for sweet date treats:

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Young pullets under a year old seem to relish and gorge on dates.

Active foraging breeds like Cochins, Orpingtons, and Plymouth Rocks will hunt them down.

Broody hens love snacking on energy-dense dates while sitting on eggs.

Free-range chickens that get more exercise appreciate the carbohydrate boost dates provide.

Pet chickens accustomed to treats go bonkers when you offer dates in moderation.

Roosters will compete fiercely for dates if they spy you feeding the hens.

The Best Dates for Chickens

There are many varieties of dates, but these tend to be safest and most nutritious for chickens:

Medjool – Soft, sticky, and sweet with a caramel-like flavor.

Deglet Noor – Firmer and drier but still sweet with hints of honey.

Barhi – Small, tender, and nearly fiber-free for easy eating.

Zahidi – Mild honey-like taste and medium soft texture.

Avoid heavily processed sugary or salty “chocolate-covered” dates.

Look for unsulfured organic dates ideally with pits removed.

Even better are freshly picked dates straight from a palm tree!

Other Fruits Chickens Can Eat

Beyond dates, chickens can enjoy many other fruits in moderation:

Melons like cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon with seeds removed.

Berries like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries.

Chopped apples, pears, mangoes, papaya, and peaches without pits.

Small portions of bananas, pineapple, kiwi, oranges, grapefruit.

Just remember fruits are high in sugar, so feed fruits sparingly as part of a balanced diet.

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