Can Chickens Eat Bananas? [SPOILER: Yes & No]

chicken feeding from hand

I’ve been feeding my chickens pretty much everything over the years, they are little munching machines. Greens left over from cauliflower, they’ll eat it. Carrot peels they’ll eat it. Left over mash potato or pasta – they go crazy for it!

But I’ve also been feeding bananas to my chickens for ages without any problems, but id never actually investigated whether I could or not…….

 

 

So I jumped straight onto google and found this (pic below):

Can chickens eat bananas

Everyone knows Potassium is found in bananas. But I didn’t know how much or whether it was good or bad for chickens?

Turns out potassium is found in chicken feed anyway, which they have been eating everyday obviously; so phew, no issues there then.

 

So on to my next question:

How much potassium can chickens have per day?

The recommend daily allowance (RDA) for mature laying chickens is 150-165mg of potassium per day. Now an average 100g banana (that’s about a 5-6 inch banana) contains 358mg of potassium! That’s over twice the amount they are allowed.

Can chickens eat bananas?

Yes for one chicken it would be too much. I was giving one banana to my whole flock of about 10 chickens then (we’ve since expanded our flock!)

 

What happens if chickens don’t get enough potassium?

A deficiency of potassium causes a high mortality rate (deaths) and underdeveloped growth amongst chicks. In mature laying chickens a deficiency in potassium causes reduced egg production and egg shell thickness (Ben-Dor, 1941; Gillis, 1948; Leach, 1974)

Why do people feed bananas to chickens?

Good question, I think the answer is simply because chickens enjoy eating them. I feed chickens fruit as its considered a healthy snack but also for a more tactical reason.

During the summer chickens will eat less feed and drink more water to combat the heat. They may want to exercise less and not be as active. So I feed them high water content fruits. This way they are eating, getting some natural sugars and hydrating all at once.

chickens eating watermelonBananas are perfect for this as they are 75{cfcd481556a8b43fba6af451761032bd323e94372a0c1e607} water. Chickens can very quickly suffer from heat stroke and the consequences, like in any animal, even humans, can be dire.

Bananas then are a great way to get fluids into chickens, and keep them sufficiently hydrated. Mine LOVE watermelon too, which is another high water content fruit.

 

 

 

What else is found in bananas apart from potassium?

Bananas (which are a berry!) contains lots of other minerals and vitamins including Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Manganese to name but a few.

Manganese although only required in very small, trace amounts, is extremely important to chickens (and humans actually). A deficiency of manganese amongst poultry causes ‘Perosis’ something also called hock disease or slipped tendon.

Perosis is characterized by deformities of the leg. Meaning they could be bowed, shortened and generally not well developed. (www.nap.edu/read/2114/chapter/9#56)

Chickens Manganese requirements

The normal daily intake of Manganese per laying bird should is 2-2.2mg.

So how much is in a banana? Only 0.27mg. So as a reference a chicken would have to consume nearly 8 bananas in a day to have too much Manganese.

Why should you take care feeding bananas to chickens

Choking

So because bananas are soft & moist, very unlike the chicken feed they are used to eating, which is pellets in our flocks case. They could suffer from swallowing issues being that bananas are soft. This is why its extremely important to always have fresh drinking water available to chickens at all times. So they can aid the swallowing and digestion with sips of water if required.

I’ve found that if you feed your chickens layers mash on a daily basis, they are much more used to the texture of eating soft fruits. This is because in short, layers mash is ground up pellets. It’s basically a powder.

Part of a balanced diet!

One more reason is if you are already feeding your chickens a balanced diet then they are already getting all the vitamins and minerals they require from their feed. You could argue that there is no requirement for extra supplements like bananas?

But I see them eating bananas as part of feeding chickens a fresh and balanced diet. If they didn’t want it they wouldn’t eat it and that’s the best way to tell if they are enjoying something.

Caution may contain pesticides…..

For that reason I only feed my chickens organic produce. Bananas are spray with chemicals and pesticides when they are growing to encourage growth and discourage bugs and bacteria.

Bananas are also sprayed with chemicals after harvesting to keep them fresh. Whilst these levels of chemicals and pesticides has been deemed fit for human consumption, I doubt very much if this has been tested for chickens….

Can chickens eat banana peels?

Interesting question, and it’s hard to find the science to categorically say yes or no.

It’s true banana peels contain lots of goodness but its not been studied enough to ascertain what levels of proteins and amino acids are actually in the peels.

Surprisingly chickens don’t actually required a set level of daily protein per se, ‘’they have a requirement for specific amino acids plus sufficient protein to provide the nonessential amino acids or amino nitrogen for their synthesis’’. (www.nap.edu/read/2114/chapter/4#33)

What that means is, what they lack in protein intake can be made up for with amino acids.

All the large chicken feed manufacturers generally allow 18g-20g of crude protein per day per hen within their feed. This really, is only then, so the essential amino acids needs can be met.

I thought this was about banana peels!?

So back to it, in short science doesn’t know. Essential amino acid intake for chickens is not adequately known and without the ‘ingredients list’ of what’s in a banana peel we are at a loss for the answer to this question.

So it comes down to what people actually do with their own chickens. Well as stated I feed our chickens bananas with the peel/skins on, as a fresh healthy treat, mainly during the summer and have had zero issues doing so.

What can’t you feed chickens?

I said before my chickens will literally eat anything, they are walking food recycling centers. But there are things chickens absolutely CAN NOT eat.

The two most important are chocolate and beans. Chocolate has ‘theobromine’ in it and beans contain ‘phytohemagglutinin’, both of these things can cause serious health problems in chickens and can lead to cardiac arrest.

Dried beans are actually worse than non dried. So be really vigilante if you feed chickens scraps, this is usually how beans sneak into chickens diets. For this reason in the UK, feeding chickens leftovers is considered illegal.

Remember too if your chickens are free range be sure they can’t get at any beans plants in your garden (or the neighbors). I have chickens that fly/jump over fences!

Food that has gone moldy also shouldn’t be fed to chickens as it has bad bacteria that can make them unwell.

For a complete guide of what and when to feed chickens hop over to our chicken feeds page

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