I love fall! Luckily, so do my chickens. Why? Predators are starting to hide away for the winter, which means we can free-range our chickens more often. They also get the last of the garden greens and a few other yummy treats! Have you ever given your chickens pumpkin?
Why should I give my chickens pumpkin?
Pumpkins have quite a few health benefits for chickens. Because of those health benefits, you should be sure to include it in their diet around fall!
Pumpkin is a natural dewormer. The seeds in a pumpkin contain an amino acid called cucurbitacin. This can affect parasitic worms! In the case of worms in chickens, the amino acid paralyzes them which causes them to release from the digestive tract.
The flesh of a pumpkin also ups fiber intake which can harden stool. If your chickens aren’t struggling with something like diarrhea, consider giving pumpkins to other animals, like dogs.
How can I prepare pumpkin?
When selecting a pumpkin to feed your chickens, be sure to choose a healthy pumpkin. Healthy pumpkins are firm to the touch, have no odor, and have not been exposed to below-freezing temperatures with no protection. If you crack open your pumpkin and find that it has sprouted seeds, it does mean that the pumpkin has been sitting for a while. However, there isn’t much research to prove that consuming those seeds will prove harmful to your chickens.
Pumpkin is an incredible food source for chickens because there isn’t a lot you need to do. Chickens can free-range on pumpkin leaves, or can feast on them after you’ve thrown them into the chicken run.
Chickens can also eat pumpkins whole (just be sure to break them into smaller pieces for them first). Pumpkin seeds contain an amino acid that acts as a natural dewormer. Pumpkin flesh is high in fiber, which can firm stool. Pumpkin skin is also edible. Pumpkin is a great chicken treat because aside from the stump, they can eat all of it!
If you’re looking to cut your regular feed costs, call around to your area pumpkin patches. Last year, we were able to get an entire truckload of pumpkins because our area pumpkin patch needed to get rid of them. Wow! What a great deal!
If your backyard chickens are like my chickens, they aren’t going to be picky over what types of pumpkins you feed them. If you have leftover, canned pumpkin from a recipe or fresh pumpkin you have run through a food processor, throw it in with their regular feed or offer it alongside kitchen scraps!
Are there cons to offering pumpkins to my backyard chickens?
Too much of a good thing can sometimes be bad. So when feeding pumpkin to your chickens, consider offering it to them every other day. If you have free-range chickens, you can know they are getting everything they need from the grit and bugs they’re picking up when they’re out and about. But if your chickens live in a run and a coop like mine do, offering pumpkin means they’re less likely to eat their feed. If they go too long without feed, they may lack the nutrients they need for proper health and strong eggshells. So again – small quantities of pumpkin may be ideal.
The scientific evidence behind pumpkins as a healthy treat
The quick facts about the vitamins, minerals, and benefits of pumpkin can make your head swim! Just remember – you want to track how vitamins and minerals break down in your body (or in this case, your chicken’s body) to truly understand the benefits they offer. Let’s take a look at some know vitamins and minerals found in pumpkin and how they benefit your chickens!
If your chickens struggle with any health issues for a prolonged period, be sure to reach out to a professional who can help you. Let’s be good stewards of these animals!
As we’ve talked about before – pumpkin seeds have an amino acid called cucurbitacin. This amino acid paralyzes parasites so they release from your chickens’ digestive tract. (Please note – this may not be a solution for something like a worm infestation. Be sure to work with a veterinarian to solve issues you can’t resolve on your own. We want to be a good steward of these animals!)
Pumpkins are also rich in vitamin B. When chickens consume it, it helps them metabolize their food. Vitamin B also acts as a carb. Both are essential to help chickens digest their food, remain active, and eat more food! Also critical as they prepare for winter.
Pumpkins also have beta carotene, the orange-red pigment they’re famous for. Beta carotene can boost immune systems, and when consumed, fight free radicals. How? Strengthening cells (immune boosting) to delay damage caused by free radicals (in chickens, this could be diseases and illnesses known to cause cancer, vision problems, etc). Talk about a powerful antioxidant!
The beta carotene in pumpkins (which is found in the pumpkin skin) can also break down to be vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency in chickens can look like lethargy, emaciation, and anorexia. And when chickens are deficient in anything, they’re at a greater risk of getting sick.
Finally, vitamin E is found in pumpkin seeds. Vitamin E helps the nervous and muscular systems in chickens. So think of things like a wry neck, muscular problems, lack of interest in eating, or even battling e coli infection from the poop of wild, infected birds. Pumpkin seeds are a great way to supplement vitamin E and give your backyard chickens the boost they need to remain healthy.
Pumpkin sounds like a delicious treat to me!
Chickens were meant to free-range and take advantage of fresh foods. They’re more than capable of hunting small animals like mice and snakes. And scratching around for things like grit to strengthen their eggs and digest their food.
Supplementing with pumpkin will not only give them a special treat but boost their immune system before settling in for winter. As chicken keepers, we can both enrich the diet of our feathered friends and cut down on our feed costs by giving them all the parts of a pumpkin. We can also feel good about feeding pumpkins to our chickens because it’s giving them essential amino acids and essential nutrients needed to start winter off strong.
So whether you grow your pumpkin plants or pick them up from your grocery store, pumpkin is a great treat for your chickens!
* Please note – If you treat your pumpkins with any sort of solution to prolong how nice they look after being carved, you should not feed them to your chickens. You chickens will consume whatever chemicals you have used on your pumpkin and we don’t want that!
What about pumpkin as a treat for humans?
Pumpkin offers the same incredible benefits to humans as it does to chickens! Just one cup can offer you well over your daily recommended dose for things like vitamin C and vitamin A.
If you struggle to find ways to use pumpkin in your home, check out these recipes! I created a dupe of a store-bought pasta sauce in this pumpkin butternut squash pasta sauce. And if you’re a coffee lover like I am, you’re going to love my pumpkin spice coffee creamer recipe.
What else are you doing for fall?
If you’re looking to prepare your homestead before winter hits, check out Fall Homestead Projects to Do Before Winter. In there, I’ve also included a few ideas for how to have some fun! Because we can’t talk about fall without at least mentioning hay rides and bobbing for apples!
If your area is too cold to go for a hay ride, check out Winter Homesteading Activities. I offer book recommendations, skills you can work on indoors, and other winter activities you can do to keep busy this winter.
If you missed the boat on pumpkins, these are the electrolytes I use for my chickens.
If you need an additional heat source for your chickens, I recommend this heat lamp.
No heat lamp is complete without light bulbs! These red bulbs are intended for chicks, but work nonetheless.