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Are recipes with dashes of citrus juice included safe for my chickens as treats?

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

I have twenty-six chickens, and I often give them leftovers.  They love to get treats!  However, my son is a hobby chef, and he often adds dashes of citrus juice to a gourmet recipe that would otherwise be a chicken delight.  For instance, this morning he made a fresh vegetable salsa for breakfast to go with eggs on toast.  It has nothing in it, vegetable-wise, to harm my chickens, EXCEPT the juice from a fresh mandarin orange.  Would that juice from a citrus fruit be harmful to my hens?  I read on here how much many chickens love fish.  I often eat fish when I dine out, and I always drizzle my fish with lemon juice.  Is it safe to feed my leftover fish to my hens?

post #2 of 5

Fish is fine, but feed it in moderation.  Citrus, although not entirely healthy for the chickens, is completely fine.  Because we use my girls for 4h, little kids are always throwing Lemons and Oranges into the run.  The only thing citrus does is weaken the egg shell, so if you offer your chickens a rich source of calcium you should balance it out.  Because my hens get so much citrus in their diet, I use oyster shells as grit and give them plenty of yogurt once a week, and offer milk about 3 times a week.  They have fine, healthy shells and I haven't gotten a soft shell out of them yet!  Keep in mind, my hens were pretty much raised eating citrus. (grr,little kids!).  Your chickens may react differently to it than mine, but I would go ahead and try it out!

post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 


Thanks for the reply.  Today I went online and researched it, reading scientific stuff.  Normally I prefer to get answers from other chicken people, to heck with science.  Like scientists know everything?  But in this case, I wasn't led far from what you've just told me.  In moderation, citrus won't hurt them.  Thanks for reminding me about yogurt.  Early on, I fed it to my chickens, and they loved it.  Somewhere along the way, I stopped.  Now I'll get them a couple of big tubs and make them happy babies.  How do you serve them milk?  On something like bread to absorb it, or do they just drink it?  From now on, I won't throw out all those wonderful leftovers merely because they have some citrus juice in them.  Practically speaking, those portions of leftovers are mixed in with other stuff, chunked apples, cucumbers, spinach, zucchini, cooked rice, fish, meat, or whatever, so they will never get a huge serving of any citrus, just a touch of juice.  I wasted so many wonderful treats for them, darn it.  They'll be glad when those leftovers become part of the morning treats.  I have 26 chickens, so none of them get too many treats.  My small bucket of stuff goes fast.

post #4 of 5
I was curious about the reasoning behind citrus being bad for poultry, so I did a search of scientific studies on the matter. The conclusion I've come to is that feeding citrus appears to be fine in moderation. Overfeeding tends to result in diarrhea...likely from the sugars and acids causing an upset in the GI microbiota. Unless you are feeding in an amount that causes an unbalance in the protein and calcium intake of the entire diet, feeding citrus has no detrimental effect on egg shell quality (in fact in one study, adding lemon juice to the water of heat stressed birds actually improved shell thickness). I even looked at feather picking in pet birds and it seems to have no direct correlation with feeding citrus...citrus is actually recommended as part of a normal psittacines's diet (but it includes a very very wide variety of other things). Perhaps some individual birds had problems with it (or were simply being fed too much or too often) and the stories got passed down?

ANYWAY, this was fun to research and now I know that oranges (and lemons and limes and grapefruit) are okay as treats. Any recipes containing the juice should be fine--except maybe for mimosas!
post #5 of 5

Citrus is fine for chickens - they eat anything that hits the ground. We used to feed the chickens our leftover fruit (citrus included) all the time as kids. Everything in moderation though. If give my own kiddos too much fruit they get the runs too! :lau

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