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When it comes to feeding chickens - a common question is: Can chickens eat tomatoes?

Short Answer: Yes - Chickens can eat tomatoes

Chickens are omnivores and their natural diet includes a variety of plants, fruits and insects.

As a fruit, tomatoes are an excellent part of a varied and healthy diet. Tomatoes provide some carbohydrates, are an excellent source of fibre and water and are packed with vitamins, carotenoids (which make yolks a rich yellow colour) and anti-oxidants.

Tomatoes are especially good for chickens in the heat. During heat stress, absorption of vitamin C is decreased. Tomatoes provide a great source of extra vitamin C and are 95% water, which helps keep your chickens well hydrated.

Are tomatoes part of the chickens Natural diet?

Jungle Fowl (the chickens wild ancestor), tend to eat a large amount of Fruit and it often makes up the largest portion of their diet. In one study it made up 60% of a hens diet. Fruit provides carbohydrates for energy and also provide part of their water needs during the dry season.

Which would explain why chickens love tomatoes.

To learn more about feeding chickens naturally, check out this post: What do chickens eat?

Can Chickens eat green tomatoes and tomato leaves?

Green tomatoes and tomato leaves are safe for chickens to eat.

The common concern with green tomatoes and tomato leaves is solanine, because they are part of the nightshade family.

But as I explain in this post about chicken treat myths, there is tomatine in green tomatoes and tomato leaves, and not solanine. And tomatine isn't toxic.

Rather than being toxic, studies reported by Dr. Friedman show that tomatine has lots of health benefits.

How to feed tomatoes to chickens?

Tomatoes should fed to your chickens as part of a varied and balanced diet. In practice, this means providing tomatoes along side other whole foods, which includes a variety of plants, fruits, grains and protein sources.

When chickens are given plenty of food options and are fed in a natural way, chicken have the ability to balance their own nutrition.

Sources of tomatoes for chickens

You don't have to go out and buy tomatoes just for your chickens. Here are a few ideas on where to get tomatoes to feed your chickens:

Tomatoes from Kitchen Scraps

Any tomato scraps from your kitchen should never go to waste. Off cuts and slightly old tomatoes are a great source of tomatoes for your chickens.

Tomatoes from your Garden

Your garden can be an excellent source of tomatoes for your chickens. The problem is, you can't control how many tomatoes chickens eat and they often destroy the tomato plants in the process.

I learnt this the hard way:

One solution is to keep your chickens out of your tomato garden completely and then pick any tomatoes you want to feed them. Any damaged tomatoes (e.g. bug eaten, bird eaten or rodent eaten tomatoes) and tomato leaves can then be picked for your chickens.

Another solution is to plant tomatoes in your garden, in a way that protects them from being destroyed by your chickens.

A few ideas:

Chicken Resistant Garden Beds

I designed these chicken resistant garden beds for growing cherry tomatoes, which you can use as a kind of feeder for your chickens.

Grow tomatoes on the fence of your chicken run

The makes it easy to share fruit with your chickens, without your chickens destroying the plant and eating all the fruit.

I'm a big fan of this approach, which makes it easy to give your chickens a more natural diet without much extra effort.

Nutrients in tomatoes

Tomatoes are loaded with nutrients including carbohydrates, fibre, water, vitamins, carotenoids and anti-oxidants.

Water (Tomatoes are 95% water) 

Tomatoes are a great source of water for chickens, which makes sure your chickens are kept well hydrated.

Vitamin C

Tomatoes are a good source of vitamin C, which is good for the immune system and is especially important in periods of stress.

Vitamin A

Tomatoes are a good source of beta-Carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, which are converted during digestion into Vitamin A. Lutein and zeaxanthin provide the yellow pigment that influences the egg yolk colour, and are an excellent dietary source of these nutrients.

Vitamin K

Tomatoes are a good source of Vitamin K1, which decreases egg blood spots.

Vitamin E

Tomatoes are a good source of Vitamin E, important for the immune system and egg laying.

Vitamin B

Good source of Vitamin B, important for absorption of other nutrients, healing and the immune system.

The bottom line

Chickens love Tomatoes (including green tomatoes and leaves), which are packed full of nutrients and are and are an excellent part of natural and healthy diet for chickens.

Sources

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/19476337.2016.1266033

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomato

Comments

Do you feed tomatoes to your chickens? What has your experience been? Leave a comment at the bottom of the page (in the comments section).

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