Chickens are amazing little cleaners. It never ceases to amaze me the things that they will eat. Between bugs, weeds and produce, I can say with confidence that, if utilized properly, their contribution to ecology is absolutely extraordinary.
As chickens are omnivores, capable of obtaining nutrition from both plant and animal matter, they can eat parts of a pumpkin.
It’s enjoyable for me to watch my flock work a large pumpkin over. With them being free-range birds they might not go after it as intensely as a caged bird might, but that’s not to say they’ll stick their beaks up at it either.
Generally, they’ll go after the juicy stringy parts first, inadvertently getting it all over the top of their beaks. At which point they’ll do that funny back and forth swipe at the ground, as if the yard was one giant napkin.
Once the stringy stuff is gone and provided they’re not bored with it, they’ll go back and eat the softer meat that’s on the inside of the shell. I’m not sure that they really enjoy this part of the pumpkin. It just kind of seems like a chicken’s job is to clean things up, so that’s what they’re doing.
Admittedly, I do get nervous when I see them eating the seeds. Chickens don’t have teeth and a pumpkin seed looks like a pretty large object to work its way through the bird’s digestive system. It never seems to bother them, but I cringe all the same.
The part that the chickens won’t eat, though, is the shell. And that’s not unusual. They’ll exhibit the same behavior for watermelon or cantaloupe – eating the meat and the seeds, but not hardened skin.
Are Pumpkins OK For Chickens To Eat?
Like a lot of things you can grow in your garden, pumpkins are full of vitamins. And the benefits of vitamins are not limited to human consumption. Chickens can benefit from homegrown produce just as much as we can.
Pumpkins are beneficial to chickens as pumpkins contain plentiful amounts of Vitamin K. This vitamin is instrumental in providing blood clotting, which is helpful in cases of injury.
With the large amount of blood that flows through a chicken’s comb/wattle, an injury to either one of these is certain to bleed heavily. Without proper blood clotting, the birds would be at risk.
But vitamin K is not the only benefit to be gained from a chicken eating pumpkins. There are vitamins C, E and potassium. There is also plenty of fiber in the meat of the pumpkin, which helps the chicken’s digestive system.
Pumpkins are also a great source of beta-carotene – a substance that can be converted to vitamin A, which is good for the chicken’s immune system.
How Do You Give Chickens Pumpkins?
This is where being a farm animal can really pay off. Presentation for your chicken’s pumpkin feast really isn’t a big priority for the bird. As mentioned above, a chicken will wipe its beak on the ground, so human table manners aren’t really a thing for them.
The best way to give your chickens a pumpkin to eat is to simply break it open. This gives them access to a pumpkin’s softer insides.
There is no need to cook the pumpkin as chickens generally prefer things all-natural. I’ve seen plenty of toads get gobbled down by the birds in my flock. So I can say with confidence, they’re not what you’d call finicky eaters.
They will, however, have issues with the tough outer shell. It’s been my experience that a pumpkin’s thick exterior is enough of a deterrent to keep a chicken from eating it, even when the pumpkin has degraded enough to the point of collapse. (Generally, the rodents will have gotten to it before then and you don’t want to be feeding those creatures!)
It’s fun to give your flock table scraps, and the leftover guts from your Jack-o-lantern are a perfect treat for them. Pumpkins can be a boost to both their immune and digestive systems, as well as, beneficial for stopping unwanted bleeding.
Just remember, pumpkins can be fairly sizable, so there’s a good chance your flock won’t consume the entire thing. This means leftovers for ‘other’ creatures to improve their health with. And there are plenty of creatures in my backyard that I would like to see less of. The last thing I want to do is leave ‘vitamin packed food’ for rodents to consume!