QUESTION: Can chickens eat tomatoes? Sometimes I have extras that have gone mushy in the fridge before I got a chance to cook with them and was wondering if it was safe to feed my girls. – Wilma U
GARDENING CHANNEL REPLIES: Yes, tomatoes are safe for your chickens to eat. They’re an excellent source of vitamins and fiber which makes them a healthy treat.
But before you start thinking all tomatoes are created equal in the world of chicken snacks, be sure to understand which types of tomatoes are best. There is some risk in feeding your chickens green tomatoes as they should only eat ripened fruit. Green tomatoes and any part of the tomato plant is toxic to them.
Most free ranging chickens know to stay away from the tomato plant itself. They generally eat what tastes best and a ripened tomato typically outweighs the taste of a plant or unripened fruit.
Yet, if you bring the food to chickens which live in a coop, they may not know the difference and indulge in something that may hurt them.
Why are ripe tomatoes the only good option for chickens? It’s because of a substance known as solanine. This product is harmful to chickens and could be fatal if consumed in certain quantities.
Green tomatoes and plants are higher in this toxin than ripened vegetables. This is why it’s important to only use ripe tomatoes as chicken snacks.
Knowing this fact shouldn’t put too big of a damper on natural snacks for your chickens. If you have some green tomatoes which have fallen on the ground, be sure to pick them up to avoid inviting pests and diseases.
Before feeding them to your flock, place them out in the sun until they have time to ripen. In a few days, it should be safe to feed the fallen tomatoes to your birds.
If you have tomatoes that have become too ripe, these also make a delicious treat for your chickens.
When feeding tomatoes to your chickens, you may feed them whole or slice them into smaller pieces. Cutting them up may help keep your coop a little neater as chickens will have to peck their way through whole tomatoes.
This could take some time and leave rotten vegetables in your chickens’ area. If you want to keep things tidier, cut the tomatoes into more manageable sized pieces.
Otherwise, your chickens should be happy to receive any excess tomatoes from your garden as long as they’re ripe.
Now that you know that tomatoes are a great snack for your flock, start putting any excess to work to feed your birds a healthy treat while also saving on your feed bill.