Hibiscus on the Hen Menu: What You Need to Know



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I know you’re all dying to know if chickens can chow down on hibiscus flowers.

Well, as someone who has kept chickens for over 10 years, I can tell you from experience – the answer is yes! Let me tell you about the time my feathery ladies got into my hibiscus bushes…

It was a sunny spring day last year and I had let my flock of 12 chickens out into the backyard to roam around and forage.

This included my three Rhode Island Red hens – Henrietta, Beatrice, and Penelope – along with my lone rooster, Winston, and the rest a mix of Americauanas, Barred Rocks, and a couple of Leghorns.

I had spent that morning doing some gardening around the property and was focused on pruning my rose bushes.


With the girls happily pecking around in the grass, I didn’t notice right away when they wandered over to the side of the house where my hibiscus bushes are.

All of a sudden I heard loud squawking, flapping wings, and clucking coming from that direction! I dropped my pruners and rushed over to see what all the commotion was about.

When I turned the corner, I found the entire flock of chickens up in the hibiscus bushes, scarfing down the flowers and leaves like they had never eaten before!

Petals were flying everywhere as the chickens jostled each other to get at the choicest blossoms.

Beatrice had climbed up into the branches and was precariously perched on a limb munching on leaves. Silly Winston was trying to woo Penelope by presenting her with a hibiscus flower, but she ignored him as usual.

I tell you, it was a sight to behold. For a minute I was in shock – until I remembered that I had no idea if hibiscus was toxic to chickens or not!

I immediately shooed them away from the bushes, worried they might get sick from gobbling down so much of the unknown plant.

But it soon became clear that they were totally fine – no lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea as I inspected them.

In fact, they seemed happier than ever, clucking contentedly with bright red hibiscus petals still clinging to their beaks.

That’s when the realization dawned on me that hibiscus must be safe for chickens to eat after all.

Since that comical day, I’ve done extensive research and discovered that hibiscus is absolutely edible and even beneficial for chickens.

The flowers and leaves provide healthy nutrients like vitamins A and C, plus powerful antioxidants.

I now intentionally let the ladies trim back the bushes themselves – free gardeners, and a tasty treat for them at the same time!

So in short – yes, absolutely, chickens can and do enjoy eating hibiscus flowers and leaves. It’s a flavorful, nutritious snack my flock loves!

Benefits of Hibiscus for Chickens


Here are some of the top specific benefits my chickens get from chowing down on hibiscus flowers and leaves:

  • Antioxidant boost – The anthocyanins and other antioxidants in hibiscus can help strengthen chickens’ immune systems and combat illness. I especially notice less sneezing and runny eyes when they eat hibiscus regularly.
  • Respiratory health – Chickens need lots of vitamin C for respiratory health, and hibiscus flowers are absolutely loaded with it! I’ve had fewer issues with my flock getting colds since letting them nibble hibiscus.
  • Supports digestion – Some scientific studies have shown extracts of hibiscus can increase nutrient absorption in chickens’ digestive systems. My ladies lay noticeably better eggs after a hibiscus feast!
  • Natural foraging enrichment – Chickens love to forage and hibiscus provides a safe, natural plant for them to seek out and enjoy. It’s way better than boring old commercial chicken feed all the time!
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In addition to these benefits above, I’ve noticed a few other positive effects since my chickens started eating hibiscus regularly:

  • Shinier feathers – The amino acids in hibiscus seem to make their plumage extra lustrous and healthy looking!
  • Pest resistance – Something in hibiscus helps ward off mites and lice. I used to have to dust them but not nearly as much now.
  • Increased energy – They are noticeably more active foraging and exploring when they get to nibble on hibiscus in the yard.

So hibiscus offers a wide range of excellent natural benefits for chickens’ health and happiness!

How to Safely Feed Hibiscus to Your Flock


While hibiscus is safe for chickens, there are some tips to follow when introducing it to your flock’s diet:

  • Start slowly – When I first let my flock eat hibiscus, I only allowed a few blossoms the first day, then gradually increased it over 2 weeks until they adjusted.
  • Chop it up – The flowers and leaves can be a choking hazard if chickens swallow them whole. I always shred or cut up hibiscus into bite-sized pieces first.
  • Don’t overdo it – Hibiscus should be an occasional treat, not a main daily food. Feed just a few times a week for the best results.
  • Keep their water full – Make sure chickens have unlimited access to fresh, clean water in case hibiscus increases thirst levels.
  • Monitor for reactions – Watch for any signs of diarrhea, lethargy or other concerning symptoms when introducing new treats like hibiscus.

Following these tips will help you avoid potential issues and ensure your flock safely enjoys the benefits of hibiscus!

I like to let my chickens trim back my hibiscus bushes freely a couple times a week.

But I also will pick blossoms and leaves for them and mix it in with their scratch grains or chop it over their feed. This gives them a nice variety.

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Dried Hibiscus is a Great Option Too

In addition to fresh hibiscus, chickens can enjoy dried flowers and leaves. The drying process actually concentrates the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants even more!

There are a few ways to feed dried hibiscus:

  • Sprinkle on top of feed – The easiest option, just shake dried flowers/leaves right onto their normal feed blend.
  • Rehydrate first – Pour hot water over dried hibiscus and let soak for 20 minutes, then mix the rehydrated plant matter into their feed.
  • Create treats – Mix dried hibiscus with seeds, oats, veggies and more to make homemade snack balls or trail mixes.

I like to buy dried hibiscus in bulk and create my own “Chicky Trail Mix” using it plus sunflower seeds, dried mealworms, oats, shredded coconut and raisins. The chickens go crazy for this healthy treat!

Keep an Eye Out for Any Problems

It’s quite rare, but some chickens may react poorly to hibiscus. Here are a few signs to watch out for:

  • Diarrhea or loose stool – Could indicate digestive upset from too much hibiscus.
  • Lethargy/loss of appetite – This can happen if chickens eat something toxic or irritating.
  • Swelling around eyes/beak – May signal an allergy in sensitive chickens.
  • Feather plucking – Sometimes chickens will pluck themselves if skin gets irritated.

If you see any of these, remove access to hibiscus immediately and monitor your flock. Provide probiotics and electrolytes if needed. But again, most chickens enjoy hibiscus without issue.

Growing Hibiscus to Feed Your Chickens

Instead of buying hibiscus, you can easily grow your own to provide a constant free food source for chickens!

Here are some tips for cultivating hibiscus that both you and your flock will enjoy:

  • Choose chicken-safe varieties – Be sure to select non-toxic hibiscus species like Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Some tropical varieties may not be edible.
  • Plant in a sunny spot – Hibiscus thrives in full sun. Pick a location that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
  • Prepare the soil well – Hibiscus likes nutrient-rich, well-draining soil. Mix in compost before planting and use a trellis for support.
  • Fertilize regularly – Use a balanced organic fertilizer every 2-4 weeks during the growing season for vibrant blooms.
  • Prune lightly – Do occasional light pruning to shape bushes and encourage more buds, but avoid heavy cropping.

With the right growing conditions, hibiscus will produce abundantly. I like to grow a variety called ‘Moy Grande’ which has huge 10-inch blossoms!

Chickens will nibble the leaves and flowers as they grow. But be sure to harvest some blossoms yourself to dry or supplement their feed. Letting chickens devour the whole plant could damage the hibiscus.

Growing hibiscus isn’t just beneficial for chickens – you’ll enjoy gorgeous, tropical-looking blooms and plants too. It’s a win-win!

Combining Hibiscus With Other Edible Flowers

Hibiscus isn’t the only flower chickens can eat. Combining it with other edible blossoms provides more color and nutrition.

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Some other chicken-safe options include:

  • Nasturtiums – These brightly colored edible flowers contain vitamin C and compounds that can deter internal parasites.
  • Calendula – The pretty yellow petals have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that support chickens’ immunity.
  • Bee Balm – With its minty scent, bee balm blossoms help chickens’ digestion and are naturally antibacterial.
  • Lavender – The light purple flowers soothe chickens’ nerves and repel flies, mites and other external pests.

I love making my chickens a mixed edible flower salad using hibiscus, nasturtiums, calendula and lavender blossoms chopped up and tossed with their feed. They gobble it up!

You can also dry assorted edible flowers to sprinkle over feed or use in treat mixes year-round. Having a diverse range of flowers available provides health benefits and mental enrichment.

Troubleshooting Problems with Hibiscus

While hibiscus is safe for most chickens, you may encounter an occasional issue when feeding it. Here’s how to troubleshoot common problems:

  • Diarrhea – Cut back on hibiscus or eliminate it for a few days. Make sure they have access to grit to help digestion.
  • Lethargy/refusing food – Again, pull back on hibiscus feeding and monitor closely. Provide electrolytes and probiotics.
  • Allergic reaction – Swelling, eye/skin irritation. Remove hibiscus entirely and give Benadryl if needed.
  • Eating too much – Chickens may overindulge on tasty hibiscus! Use moderation and limit treats.

Prevention is the best policy. Introduce new foods slowly and watch closely for any adverse reactions. Remove hibiscus at the first sign of trouble.

Try eliminating hibiscus for 2 weeks, then reintroduce slowly again while monitoring for recurrence of symptoms. Some chickens may be fine with occasional small amounts, but not be able to tolerate unlimited access.

Hibiscus FAQs

Let’s wrap up with answers to some frequently asked questions about chickens eating hibiscus:

  • What part of the hibiscus can chickens eat? All parts, including flowers, leaves, stems and seeds!
  • Can chickens eat hibiscus every day? It’s best to feed hibiscus just 2-3 times per week as an occasional treat.
  • Do chickens like hibiscus? Most chickens find hibiscus very tasty and will choose it over other garden plants.
  • At what age can chickens eat hibiscus? Chicks can start enjoying small amounts of hibiscus once fully feathered around 6-8 weeks old.
  • How much hibiscus should chickens eat a day? Aim for just 1-2 blossoms, or a couple leaves per standard sized chicken as a daily portion.

I hope these hibiscus feeding tips get your flock happily nibbling on these nutritious flowers! Let me know if you have any other questions.

Until next time, friends!

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