You may have heard that raisins are bad for animals but have seen birds pick at berries and grapes in the garden or on TV, which got you wondering: can my chickens eat raisins, too? The simple answer is yes, they can, in moderation.
Raisins are tasty snacks for humans, the perfect bite of sweet and tart. And chickens seem to feel the same way! But, we know that too much of a good thing can be bad for us, and the same is true for chickens.
Raisins provide a range of health benefits to chickens. On the other hand, there are some serious drawbacks when considering the amount, type, and method of feeding raisins to your feathered friends.
Let’s take a closer look at why raisins are good for your chickens, what you need to consider when feeding them, and the best method for safely feeding raisins to your chickens.
What Are Raisins?
Raisins are dried grapes. Raisins are also known as golden raisins, sultanas, or currants depending on where they come from and what type of grape they are. Sultanas are made from white/green grapes and are generally smaller than raisins. Currants are made from very small dark grapes and are tarter and stronger in flavor.
The great thing about all types of raisins is that, since they are dried, the majority of their nutritional value is preserved along with them. This is why they are delicious and healthy snacks. However, there are slight differences in these nutritional values that will impact on which types you choose to feed your chickens.
Here is a brief breakdown of the nutritional values of each:
|Sugar (per 100 grams)
|Protein (per 100 grams)
|Fiber (per 100 grams)
|Potassium (% of DV)
|Iron (% of DV)
As we can see from the above comparison, the three varieties are mostly the same except for their iron content. Purely for this reason, raisins are the best option for your chicken.
Fun Fact: Chickens are descendants of dinosaurs!
Benefits Of Raisins For Chickens
There are many benefits to raising backyard chickens such as having fresh eggs, pest control, keeping them as companions, or having healthy fresh meat. So, logically you would want to provide the very best for them in terms of nutrition. Raisins can definitely benefit your birds.
1. Dietary Fiber
Consuming a healthy amount of dietary fiber is essential for keeping the digestive tract clear and maintaining healthy bowel movements – even for chickens. If your chicken doesn’t have enough dietary fiber, they can become constipated or go the opposite way and have very watery droppings.
As seen in the table above, raisins will provide your chickens with a healthy boost in dietary fiber.
2. Energy Boost
Raisins are high in natural sugars and carbohydrates. This means they are excellent sources of quick energy. During winter months or egg laying, a small boost in energy can be ideal to help maintain your chickens’ bodies.
3. Nutritional Content
Raisins are absolutely packed with nutrients that are important for chickens.
- Potassium – important for nerve health and maintaining hydration in the body
- Magnesium – allows the absorption of calcium
- Iron – essential for oxygenation and cell replication; laying hens often suffer from anemia (lack of iron)
- Omega-6 fatty acids – boosts immune function, improves meat quality, improves egg laying frequency
- Folate – essential for healthy bones, beaks, and egg development in laying hens
- Selenium – proven to be calming and immune-boosting, which improves the quality of your chicken’s life and their meat
So, we can see there are plenty of nutritional benefits to giving your chickens raisins. However, we need to consider the drawbacks before diving head first in adding them to their daily diet.
Fun Fact: Chickens can fly!
Drawbacks Of Feeding Raisins To Chickens
All yummy things are fine to have in moderation. Raisins definitely fall into the yummy category according to chickens. We’ve discussed why raisins are good, and now let’s look at why raisins could be a potential problem.
Raisins are high in natural sugar, but whether sugar is natural or not, too much of it will lead to excessive weight gain, diabetes, and possible death. Although it isn’t very common, chickens can develop diabetes due to high-sugar diets.
Raisins contain tannins. Tannins are what give it the slightly metallic taste similar to black tea. Unfortunately, tannins block the absorption of iron and protein. We’ve seen above how important iron is to chickens, especially laying hens. Fortunately, the amount of tannins in raisins is outweighed by the amount of iron if fed in moderation.
3. Choking, Suffocation, And Impaction Hazard
Raisins are rather hard and chickens don’t chew. This means raisins pose a choking hazard, especially to smaller chickens. We do not recommend feeding raisins to chicks or juvenile chickens as the raisins can get stuck in their throats.
Raisins are sticky too. They can get stuck to a chicken’s beak and cause them to suffocate in extreme circumstances. This is also why we don’t recommend raisins be given to younger chickens as their beaks are smaller and not as strong as adult chickens.
A raisin’s skin is quite tough and as chickens can’t chew it to break it down, the skin can collect in their crops and cause an impaction. Impacted crops are very serious and can lead to death if not treated quickly.
Fun Fact: Chickens have better color vision than humans!
Recommended Feeding Of Raisins To Chickens
Fortunately, all the drawbacks to feeding raisins to chickens can be safely avoided by feeding them the right quantity at the right frequency and in the right way.
Amount Of Raisins
An adult chicken should not have more than a tablespoon of raisins at a time. This is due to the high sugar content. You don’t want a fat chicken that will die on you because of diabetes.
Another way of looking at it is the 90/10 ratio. Raisins should be no more than 10% of a chicken’s food at the time of feeding.
Frequency Of Feeding Raisins
To help your chicken maintain a healthy weight, you can feed them raisins once a week. However, if you have an egg-laying hen suffering from anemia, you can feed them a teaspoon of raisins twice a week to help boost their iron levels.
Method Of Feeding Raisins To Chickens
How you feed your chickens raisins is the most important part. You can mix raisins into your normal chicken feed, but you can still run into issues this way.
To avoid all the drawbacks mentioned above, follow these suggestions:
- Soak the raisins in some lukewarm water for half an hour before feeding them to your chickens. This will soften them and boost your chickens’ hydration.
- After soaking them, cut the raisins up into small pieces to avoid the choking issue.
- Feed the raisins to your chickens by hand to bond with them, or put them in a separate water dish and let your chickens go “bobbing for raisins” as a way to enrich their day.
Fun Fact: Chickens can remember up to 100 faces and associate them with positive or negative experiences!
FAQs About Feeding Chickens Raisins
Can I feed raisins to my chickens if they’ve gone a bit moldy?
Although it’s dried fruit, raisins still contain some moisture. If raisins are exposed to bacteria or fungal spores in the air, they will grow mold. Mold is incredibly toxic to birds and can cause organ failure and death.
Make sure your bag of raisins is not left open for long periods of time Also be sure no new moisture is added to the bag and then sealed, that it is sealed and stored properly, and that you check the raisins before feeding them to your chickens.
For more chicken related information, check out this article on raising backyard chickens.
Can I feed raisins to all my pets?
Raisins are toxic to some animals, such as dogs.
While the science is still not 100% clear on why raisins are toxic to some animals and not to others, it is thought that the high tannin content is the reason as some animals are not able to metabolize them, which strains the system and kidneys to the point of shutting down.
What raisins are best for chickens?
When choosing what raisins to feed your chickens, make sure they do not have any added sugars or flavorings. Many companies will dust the dried fruit in sugar, salt, or other flavorings to enhance their flavor for humans; this makes the raisins unsuitable for chickens.
Clucking Away On Chickens And Raisins…
Chickens can eat raisins in moderation once they are carefully prepared. Raisins are beneficial to chickens and can provide them with a lot of healthy nutrients in a tasty bite. However, there are drawbacks, and raisins should be used as occasional treats.
Let’s recap the most important things to remember about feeding raisins to chickens:
- Soak the raisins to rehydrate them and make them less sticky
- Cut the raisins up to avoid choking and impaction problems
- Limit the amount of raisins your chickens eat to avoid nutritional complications.