Can Chickens Eat Apples?

Chickens and apples

Many of us have apple trees in our backyard. And making good use of our apples is a great way to get free juice, cider, and apple pies.

But some apples have worms or are otherwise not fit for human consumption. In addition, we often have apple cores after having cooked or simply enjoyed a couple of fresh apples.

A question I am often asked is ‘Can I provide the apple scraps to my chickens?‘.

Apples are perfectly safe for chickens to consume. In fact, most chickens love apples. But throw out the apple seeds, as they contain small amounts of cyanide which can potentially poison your chickens.

In order to safely let your chickens enjoy this delicious and healthy treat, it’s important to understand how to feed it properly and what amount of it is adequate for a chicken.

Now that it’s established that apples are safe for consumption by chickens, you may be wondering what about the seeds, the core, and the peels? Are all these parts safe? And you may be perplexed as to why apple seeds are toxic for chickens when they could have made crunchy little treats. This guide to feeding apples to your chicken will answer all of these questions for you.

Are Apples Safe for Chickens?

Apples are safe for chickens if provided in an adequate amount as a treat. Apples contain fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins that are beneficial for your chooks.

When feeding apples to your chickens, you must ensure that they are free of seeds. Chickens may not even enjoy the apple core, so chopping up the flesh and feeding it to the flock will make the experience pleasant for chickens.

Why Are Apple Seeds Bad for Chickens?

Apple seeds are bad for chickens because they contain a substance called amygdalin which is a cyanogenic glycoside.

Upon metabolism, it creates hydrogen cyanide (HCN) which leads to cyanide poisoning. Cyanide is toxic for chickens as it cuts off body cells’ oxygen supply. Since cells cannot consume oxygen, they die.

It can even prove to be lethal for humans if ingested in a considerable amount, although a few seeds will not hurt a human or large animal. But it does make apple seeds dangerous for chickens and you should keep your chooks away from them at all costs.

How Many Apple Seeds Can Kill a Chicken?

A healthy chicken would need to consume ¾ tea-spoon of apple seeds, which is not a lot, to be affected and get sick.

If your chicken has accidentally consumed two to three apple seeds, they will probably be able to pass them without getting sick.

In short, it is best to take the apple seeds out if you plan to treat your chickens with apples.

How to Diagnose Cyanide Poisoning in Chickens?

In case, your wayward chickens got to a few apples when you were not looking, and you are worried about the flock getting cyanide poisoning, here are the few signs that you should look out for:

  • Purple or Bluish Comb which results from oxygen deprivation in cells
  • Being unable to breathe

Chickens can die from cyanide poisoning within 30 to 40 minutes if they ingest a substantial amount of apple seeds.

How to Treat Cyanide Poisoning in Chickens?

If your chickens are showing signs of illness, veterinary care is your only option to save their lives. Your vet will probably give your chooks an IV for amyl and sodium nitrate.

Attempting to fix the issue with home remedies may make the situation worse, therefore, it is best to rely on your veterinarian.

Can Chickens Eat Apple Peel?

Yes, apple peels are safe for chickens to eat. But chickens can be picky, and you should try to find your chickens’ preference by giving them apples with and without skin.

Can Chickens Eat Apple Cores?

Apple cores are hard and do not have many qualities that will make them a delicacy for chickens. In addition, apple cores can be dangerous for chickens as they contain the seeds.

If you are able to safely take out the seeds, cores become safer to feed but not entirely. Apple cores are hard, and they can lead a chicken to choke. Apple cores can even get stuck in your chook’s throat.

Although studies show that apple cores are quite nutritious, you have to ultimately decide if you want to feed it to the chickens given that it can result in choking.

Stick to the apple flesh when it comes to your fluffy flock but if you are adamant on feeding cores, make sure they are chopped into tiny pieces and are entirely free of seeds.

It is still highly recommended to just toss the cores to keep your chickens healthy and safe. Here is a chart that shows what parts of apples make safe chicken treats:

NoteSafe to feed
Apple FleshApple flesh is safe for feedingYes
Apple CoreApple core is hard and can result in chokingNo
Apple SeedsApple Seeds are toxic and should be removedNo
Apple Skin or PeelApple peel is safe for consumptionYes

An Apple a Day for Your Chickens

Apples cannot entirely replace a chicken’s diet as they do not contain sufficient protein.

As a poultry keeper, you should make sure that treats constitute only 10% to 20% of your chicken’s diet. Anything more than that will affect the chickens’ balanced diet. This also applies to apple, and as long as you stick to the 90/10 ratio, apples will make a great treat for your flock.

What Are Some Fun Ways to Feed Chickens Apples?

If your chickens are fussy and refuse to eat apples, you can try out some fun ways to inveigle them into pecking into this delicious treat. You can also use these creative and fun ways to provide your flock with some enrichment.

One way to make apple treats fun is by making garlands with diced apples. You can get as creative as you want and add other stuff to make the garlands colorful, like, zucchini, strawberries, corn, grapes, etc.

Hang the garlands in a safe place where chickens can enjoy pecking at them. Once the chickens are done pecking at the garlands, remove the string for the flock’s safety.

Making garlands does take a little time and effort but if you are looking for an easier way, you can simply hang the apples on a string in the run. Do not forget to remove the seeds and core if you decide to hang the whole apples. Chickens can peck at the apple flesh and have some fun in the run.

If you have some time at your hand and want to make something delicious for the chickens, you can also stuff some apples.

Remove the cores and stuff the apples with even more treats! Use some peanut butter without additives to keep the treats inside. You can use sunflower seeds, nuts, cranberries, and other safe food items to stuff the apples. It will certainly be hard for your chickens to say no to that.

Other Similar Foods for Chickens

It is always a good idea to do a bit of research before adding anything to your chickens’ diet. Many other foods contain some level of the same cyanogenic glycoside that is in apple seeds. Here is a list of similar foods:

  • Apricot Pits
  • Peach Pits
  • Plums
  • Cherries
  • Arrowgrass
  • Sudangrass
  • Almond
  • White Clover
  • Elderberry

All these foods can cause cyanide poisoning in chickens.

A Word on Apple Tree Leaves

The leaves of an apple tree are not something that you usually find attached to the apples. But in case you come across them, it is recommended to get rid of them.

Do not feed apple tree leaves to the chickens as they cal also lead to cyanide poisoning.

In Summary

Apples make great and healthy treats but make sure you remove the core and seeds when tossing them to your chickens.

Find your chickens’ preference when it comes to apple peels; it is very likely that chickens will refuse a plate filled with just apple peels.

Remember that treats should not make more than 10% of your chickens’ diet.

Make some garlands with apples, get creative, and enjoy a fun apple day with your fluffy flock!


Hi, My name is Rasmus. I am a hobby "polytarian" and a backyard farmer. Ever since I was a baby, I have been surrounded by poultry of all kinds. This blog is my way of sharing what I have learned from my bird-crazy family, books, and my personal experience.

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