From pine nuts to pecans, hickory, hazelnuts, and cashews, chickens consume various nuts without experiencing any health issues. But what about walnuts?
Can chickens eat walnuts? Chickens can safely eat walnuts. However, walnuts to be eaten by chickens must be unseasoned, unsalted, and fresh. Besides that, walnut must be broken into smaller bits for easier swallowing.
There is more to feeding walnuts to chickens, and in the rest of this article, we explore details.
How to Feed Your Chicken Walnuts
Chickens can eat walnuts, and they enjoy eating them, too. Besides being crunchy, walnuts are delicious and chock-full of nutrients.
Before you offer walnuts to your chickens, ensure the following:
The Walnuts Are Fresh
While walnuts are edible to chickens, make sure you only give your chickens fresh nuts. Giving your chickens stale walnuts could cause possible toxicity.
Stale walnuts may contain fungi such as Aspergillus and Penicillium. Unfortunately, if chickens consume them, they may get sick.
The Walnuts Are Free of Salt and Seasoning
You should also avoid salting walnuts before you offer them to your chickens. Chicken feeds usually contain enough sodium for chickens. So, adding salt to their treats may shoot their sodium level beyond what is necessary.
If your layers are getting too much salt, their egg production will drop. Also, the eggs they produce will have weaker shells. These outcomes happen because salt reduces shell calcium levels and shell thickness in chicken eggs.
Besides keeping salt out of your chickens’ walnuts, do not add any other seasoning. Seasonings may upset your chickens’ stomach and trigger diarrhea.
The Walnuts Should Be Crumbled Before Serving
As with any nut you give to your chickens, ensure your crumble walnuts. Doing this will aid digestion and reduce the chances of choking.
Can Chickens Eat Black Walnuts?
Chickens can eat black walnuts.
Black walnuts are potentially toxic to other plants growing around them because they contain a compound called Juglone. Juglone can impair respiration in plants like tomatoes and potatoes.
This effect, amongst others, may lead to yellowing/discoloration of the leaves, stunted growth, and death.
Juglone may be toxic to some other animals. So, your concern about offering black walnuts to your chickens is understandable. Fortunately, for chickens, black walnuts are safe.
Can Chickens Eat Walnut Shells?
Chickens should not eat walnut shells.
Ordinarily, chickens cannot eat whole walnut shells because their beaks will not allow them to. But if they are broken into smaller pieces, their sharp edges may nick the inside of your chickens. This may lead to internal bleeding and bruises.
So, while walnut shells may not be toxic to chickens, they can harm the insides of a chicken.
Why People Think Walnuts Are Toxic to Chickens
For a long time, there has been bad press against the consumption of walnuts in various pets and animals, including chickens. But it turns out, walnuts are not what they are thought to be.
Walnuts are not inherently toxic to chickens. But when they fall on the ground and remain there for days, they become contaminated by fungi including Alternaria, Penicillium, and Aspergillus.
When chickens or other animals consume moldy walnuts, they may get sick. For one, moldy walnuts may cause aspergillosis in chickens. At the very least, moldy walnuts can cause stomach upset.
So, as long as chickens don’t eat contaminated walnuts, they will be fine.
Health Benefits of Feeding Walnuts to Chickens
Walnuts offer various nutrients to chickens. From protein to fiber, fat, minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins, walnuts are a pretty healthy snack for chickens.
Walnuts contain about 15% protein, which is just about the average amount of protein chickens need in their diet.
While this means walnuts are a good protein source for chickens, they should never replace chicken feed. Avoid letting walnuts make up more than 10% of the diet of your chickens.
Also, ensure you give them walnuts infrequently – 2 to 3 times a week should suffice.
Walnuts contain around 65% fat, and this makes them a reliable source of energy for chickens. You may let your chickens have regular walnut treats as the colder seasons approach. This will help them raise their energy reserve and fatten up in preparation for the cold temperatures.
While fat is potentially beneficial to chickens, remember that too much of it can be harmful. Walnuts should only be given to chickens sparingly, or they could become overweight. Overweight chickens are typically unhealthy.
Walnuts are made up of around 6.7% fiber. Thankfully, fiber helps promote a healthy digestive system in poultry birds. So, walnuts can help your chickens digest their meals better.
That aside, fibers, particularly soluble fibers, can serve as a source of energy to your birds too.
Walnuts contain vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and folate. These vitamins all perform various roles in a chicken’s body.
B vitamins promote proper metabolism, nerve functions, blood production, and general growth & development of chickens.
Vitamin A promotes the growth of a chicken’s epithelium. So, the walnuts treat may just be helping your chickens to develop better skin and feathers.
Vitamin A also helps improve immunity and fertility. So, walnut treats may contribute to increased egg and chick production amongst your chickens. At the same time, it may reduce the rate at which your birds fall ill.
Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant. Accordingly, it has multiple positive effects on the health of chickens. For one, it helps them resist stress, including heat stress.
Vitamin E also improves immunity, and it may promote egg production too.
Vitamin K promotes blood clotting, and it offers some protection against coccidiosis. If you start noticing blood in the eggs laid by your chickens, they may be deficient in vitamin K.
Walnuts may contribute to helping your chickens fight vitamin K deficiency.
Some of the minerals walnuts offer to chickens include the following:
- Zinc – this helps with the development of skin, feathers, and skeletons in chickens. It also promotes immunity.
- Selenium – this generally aids chickens in fighting stress and influences immunity positively.
- Potassium – potassium supplementation helps chickens manage heat stress better. That aside, potassium is essential for electrolyte balance.
- Sodium – alongside potassium, sodium is vital for electrolyte balance. Besides that, it can help promote muscle and nerve function when consumed moderately.
- Calcium – calcium supplementation promotes egg production in layer chickens. It also supports the production of eggs with stronger shells. Calcium also helps chickens grow healthier bones, and it may support heart health.
Animals That Should Not Eat Walnuts
While chickens are fine with walnuts, including black walnuts, dogs and horses are not. So, you should never let any of these animals eat walnuts.
While chickens can eat walnuts, you should not let walnuts exceed a tenth of their diet. Walnuts cannot replace the benefits offered by chicken feed; they can only supplement it.
That aside, ensure you only give your chickens fresh, uncontaminated walnuts; contaminated or stale walnuts may make your chicken sick.