If you have ever seen chickens come running to their owner at feeding time, you know they LOVE to eat. The only thing that gets them more excited than food is treats. For chickens, treats can come in many different forms. Today, we’re going to focus on watermelons.
Can chickens eat watermelon?
Chickens can eat watermelon. All parts of the watermelon are safe for chickens including the flesh, rinds, seeds and even watermelon vines and leaves.
As humans, we know that watermelon is a super yummy treat. While it is most popularly consumed in summer, it can be eaten any time of year! Lucky for your chickens, they can safely eat watermelon as a treat. Treats of any type, should be fed in moderation though.
Is Watermelon a Healthy Treat for Chickens to Consume?
Not only is watermelon super yummy, it is also nutritious as far as treats go. Made up of over 90% water, it is a great source of hydration for your chickens as well.
Water intake is crucial for the health of all animals, including chickens. This is true most of all during the sweltering hot days in summer. Watermelon is one treat that can definitely be an asset on hot days to ensure your chickens are getting extra water to help them deal with the heat.
Water isn’t the only good quality of the watermelon though, it’s fairly nutritious as well. It is high in many vitamins including Vitamin A and Vitamin C. It also has a fair amount of potassium and even some fiber (especially in the vines and rinds).
The one thing watermelon doesn’t have? A high concentration of salt. It is a low sodium food. In fact, it’s low in salt, high in water and super high in flavor!
If you have read any of my articles about treats, you know I advocate for all things in moderation. Watermelon is no different. For chickens, especially, it is far too low in protein to be a staple of their diet.
When feeding watermelon to your flock, you want to be sure not to overfeed them. Feeding too much watermelon, especially many days in a row can cause them to eat less of their normal feed.
This decrease in overall protein can lead to issues, including a decrease in egg production for your layers and a slow down in growth for your meat chickens.
As an occasional treat, though, watermelon is absolutely fine.
What Parts of the Watermelon Can Chickens Eat?
The great thing about watermelon as a treat for chickens is that they can eat every part. Even though they can eat it all, some parts are naturally more yummy than others. Let’s look at each of the watermelon parts in more detail.
Chickens can safely eat watermelon rinds but, they won’t typically eat the whole thing. They are more likely to peck at the pink or white flesh and leave the green skin alone.
The rinds aren’t as tasty but they are safe for your chickens to consume. In fact, this part of the watermelon contains the most fiber as well as being high in potassium.
The outer wall is pretty thick though, making it harder for smaller farmyard birds like chickens to tear off pieces to eat. That’s why you may find that your birds eat everything but leave the rind.
If you want to talk about yummy, this is where it is at. It makes sense that the flesh of the watermelon is a favorite for many species. In fact, in addition to chickens; horses, goats, and cows all also safely enjoy the flesh of watermelon as a treat.
Chickens love watermelon flesh. The flesh is the highest in both flavor and in water content!
Adult chickens have a well-developed crop that is designed perfectly for processing seeds of all types, including watermelon seeds.
While you should avoid giving lots of watermelon seeds to other pets like dogs and goats, chickens are uniquely suited for digesting them.
That means if you have a barnyard full of animals to partition out the watermelon to as treats, your chickens will most definitely approve if you scoop out the center flesh, the part with the most seeds, just for them.
Watermelon Leaves and Vines
If you grow your own watermelon at home, you may be interested to know that the leaves and vines of the watermelon plant are also safe for chickens to eat.
The biggest concern with the plant is that it should be free of any pesticides. I mean, you wouldn’t want to eat pesticide-laden plant material so you should be careful not to feed it to your chickens.
Because of that, you may want to consider only feeding the leaves and vines of the watermelon plant if they are from your own garden, or from one you are absolutely certain is pesticide-free.
Even with “organically” grown watermelons, sometimes sold on the vine, it is possible that if a neighboring farm does aerial pesticide spraying, for there to be some contamination. When in doubt, either rinse the leaves well or just omit feeding them all together.
It is important to note that if you feed the leaves and vines at the same time you feed the fruit, the chickens are typically going to ignore the greens. It’s like giving a child cookies and salad for dinner. Most kids aren’t going to eat very much of that salad until the cookies are gone!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can chickens eat rotten watermelon?
You should never feed any rotten foods to your chicken flock. This includes watermelons that are rotted or moldy.
It simply isn’t worth the health risk to feed your chickens rotten foods. Mold, in particular, is known to cause issues. Mold produces mycotoxins that are harmful to all farmyard birds including chickens, geese, ducks, and turkeys.
Can baby chicks eat watermelon?
Baby chicks can eat watermelon in moderation. Because their crops are not yet fully developed, you should limit them to eating the flesh only and not seeds or rinds.
Just as with adult chickens, it is important that this treat is offered in moderation. Chicks really need a high protein diet to develop properly so you don’t want to overload them with treats!
Watermelon Treat Ideas for Your Chickens
Watermelon Vine Salad
Chop up watermelon vines and leaves and combine with small amounts of watermelon fruit and any other chicken-safe vegetables you may have on hand like shredded carrots, cucumbers and even other fruits like strawberries. Toss well and serve. Remember to spread it out if you have lots of chickens!
Frozen Watermelon Block
Chop up pieces of watermelon into cubes, add into a bowl or cup, fill with water and freeze. The resulting frozen block can be served up to your chickens on a hot day and they will love pecking at it as pieces of watermelon start to defrost. You can add any other chicken-safe items to it as well for a truly yummy smorgasbord
Pro Tip: Start your flock block by placing a piece of cotton string or baling twine in the cup or bowl. Weigh it down with something that won’t float. A rock works just fine.
Drape the excess twine over the edge of the cup, fill and freeze. When it’s ready to serve, you can now tie it up to the fence or rafter and make it that much more fun for your chickens to enjoy!
Things to Remember
Watermelon is a Treat, Not a Dietary Staple
Watermelon is great to feed when available, but quantity should be limited. It is a treat and should not become a staple of your chickens diet.
If your watermelon crop overproduced this year, consider making out several frozen treats. In addition to the ideas above, you can freeze watermelon cubes and watermelon slices as well.
The great thing is, both of these are yummy healthy frozen snacks to give any children that visit the farm as well!
Wash The Melon and Any Greens Just In Case
You can never be too careful when it comes to your chickens. Wash the outside of the watermelon as well as any greens, including vines and leaves, before feeding. This will help to rinse away any accumulated pesticides that may be present on the melon.
Use Only Fresh Watermelon
Never feed your chickens rotten or moldy watermelon. In addition to being disgusting, this can actually cause health issues for your birds. While your leftover watermelon scraps are all perfectly safe for chickens, only feed them when fresh.
Chickens love treats and they will thoroughly enjoy watermelon if you offer it to them. Always be sure to feed any treat in moderation and take care to ensure it is pesticide-free. Your chickens will happily and safely eat the whole watermelon including the flesh, rinds, and seeds, but they’ll be most happy with you if you give them the flesh!
Be sure to check out our post on what fruits chickens can eat for more awesome treat ideas for your flock.