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Can Chickens Eat Onions? Edible Parts of an Onion

Dogs can’t eat onions. Can chickens eat onions? Usually it’s assumed what one animal cannot eat something another can’t either, but that’s not always the case. Chickens can eat onions. They are actually pretty good for them and can be served a number of ways.

Parts of an onion

The edible part of an onion plant is the bulb which grows underground. From it emerges a white-green stalk that is meant to gather sunlight and carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. From those tops grows small white flowers.

Again, typically, you’d eat the bulb, but you can eat the onion tops of the plant with the white onion. Same goes for your chickens. However, it’s unsafe to consume the tops of green onions, so avoid those. From my experience, chickens don’t love onions anyway, but if they’re hungry enough they’ll eat the flesh of the onion and leave behind the onion peel. The greens are a hit or miss, and the stalk is just too hard for them to tear. Plus, the taste of the onion itself is pretty strong and off-putting, so don’t be surprised when your chickens don’t eat the onion.

Your chickens will eat cooked onions for sure, though. The best thing to do is ask yourself howyou’d want to eat something. I’m sure you’d rather eat a cooked onion than a raw one. Same goes for your chickens. They’ll without a doubt eat them in other food. We’ll revisit this later on in this article.

Onion Nutrition

I’m sure you want to know the nutritional value of what you’re feeding your chickens, so here’s the run-down on red onions, specifically, which will help you decide whether it’s worth feeding your chickens onions or not! They are actually surprisingly super nutritious due to their antioxidants and sulfur-containing compounds!

The antioxidants reduce blood sugar levels and improve bone health. They are less than 40 calories per 100 grams in their raw form. They’re 89% water, 9% carbs, and 1.7% fiber with the last bit being protein and fat. The carbs are mostly simple sugars. The fiber includes fructans which are great for the bacteria in your chicken’s gut which uses them as fuel to digest food. This also helps produce short-chain fatty acids that are good for colon health and reduce inflammation. For chickens, this is a big deal. Because bloat induced by these issues may be prevented by consuming onions. If chickens have bloat, it usually means certain death unless you give them a good dose of vinegar.

Onions are also packed full of vitamins and mineral. These include vitamin C, folate, vitamin B6, and Potassium. These accompany the other plant compounds like anthocyanins, quercetin, sulfur-compounds, and thiosulfinates.

One Small Warning

Onions haven’t always been regarded as the safest for pets. These mostly include dogs, cats, horses, and monkeys. The sulfoxides and sulfides in there cause Heinz body anemia for animals. It damages the red blood cells which causes anemia. This has not been studied in chickens, so don’t assume it will happen to them. I’ve never had a problem with this and my chickens, but it’s a consideration.

So, if you happen to have a patch of wild onions outside that your chickens have been pecking at, don’t worry! It won’t hurt them. But, don’t make that their main source of food.

Onion in Foods

Cooked onions are safe, to a point. Onion rings are one of the exceptions. You should avoid feeding chickens dry food. It’s not healthy for you or them and may negatively impact egg production or quality of eggs because they cannot digest the lipids. Generally, garlic, onions, and other strong foods won’t harm your chickens but will make the eggs taste weird.

If you have an over-abundance of onions and want to feed them to your flock, here are a few ideas on ways to prepare them for consumption.

1. Onion Trail Mix

Try cooking some onions in a little water for your birds. Don’t use oil or butter because it does nothing good for their digestive tracts. They cannot digest the fats, and it will block them up. Then, after cooking the onions until soft, cool them and mix them into a scoop of chicken feed. You can even throw in some bugs and other goodies!

2. Roasted Onions On a String

Why not?! Chickens love to peck at things suspended in their cages. It keeps them busy and out of trouble. Simply roast some onions in the oven or grill until soft but not to the point that the string will just pull right through them. Then, lace the string through them and tie it to the side of their cage. Voila!

3. Scrap Mash

Do you ever get to the point where you have 8 different types of leftovers in the fridge and nobody at home wants to eat them? Well, if you have some onion scraps you’d like to feed your chickens, cook them up as previously explained, and stick them in a bowl with all your other leftovers. They’ll happily eat it up!

If you’ll eat it, your chickens will eat it. That’s the best thing to keep in mind when considering what you can and cannot feed them. Plus, generally, chickens are not sensitive to the same foods that other animals are, like chocolate and dogs. Chocolate won’t bother chickens.

Shelley Howard

Texas small farmer

Tuesday 10th of March 2020

My chickens love onions actually