Central CA Acorns - Are They Poisonous?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by sarahsc0tt, Jun 17, 2011.

  1. sarahsc0tt

    sarahsc0tt Out Of The Brooder

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    Hello everyone ...

    I already have my second question as a first-time chicken owner! I browsed through the message board archives and couldn't find an exact answer to this question, so I figured I should ask (better to be safe than sorry.)

    I live in the foothills outside the Fresno, CA area and, if you've ever been to this part of the world, you know that there are oak trees; millions and millions of oak trees. So, of course, there are oak trees hanging over my chicken enclosure. Currently, it's not a problem since it is summer, but as soon as early autumn gets here I will have LOTS of acorns dropping into the chicken yard and I am concerned because I have no doubt that my chickens will be pecking at them and it isn't feasible to remove the acorns; there are simply too many. They are very soft-shelled and at least 50% of them are still green when they drop, making them easily accessed by sharp curious beaks.

    Now, I've heard that acorns are poisonous and I've heard that acorns aren't poisonous. I've also heard--more logically--that whether or not an acorn is poisonous depends on what kind of oak tree it falls from. We have a few different types here and I've done a tiny bit of research to determine what kind they are. I believe they are Valley Live Oak and some Scrub Oak. I found the webpage pasted at the end of this message and it has me very concerned. Since these acorns are soft-shelled even when brown--even more so when green--my chickens will have no trouble getting to the meat inside and they peck EVERYTHING. Does anyone have any further information on this subject; anyone who lives in the Central Valley, maybe, and is familiar with this type of oak and nut?

    Thank you!

    - SS

    Acorns Toxic to Poultry? - http://woodridge.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/acorns-toxic-feed-for-poultry/
     
  2. goldtopper

    goldtopper Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My chicken eats red oak acorns and they are just fine.
     
  3. dacjohns

    dacjohns People Cracker Upper

  4. debid

    debid Overrun With Chickens

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    Oh, for crying out loud! I'd like to see even one single article from a scientific journal that backs up this author's claim of acorns being toxic to poultry. Just because something appears in print does not make it true. Wild turkeys eat acorns and they aren't so biologically different from chickens. Does this mean a person should grind acorns and make it a large portion of their chickens' diet? No! But don't worry about the acorns being there. Chickens will eat them if they like them, ignore them if they don't.

    FWIW, I'm hoping mine don't like the acorns (we have TONS of them) because I've heard that when they eat a lot of them, it tints the yolks of their eggs a blackish green. Safe to eat, of course, but not appetizing.
     
  5. dacjohns

    dacjohns People Cracker Upper

    I'm not sure how much of debid's post was in response to mine. I just threw up a couple of links to show that acorns aren't bad, yes they were mainly about acorns for people but I also mentioned that wildlife eat acorns. I was making an assumption, maybe a bad assumption, that people on here realize that chickens aren't too different from turkeys and other fowl. I was not proposing that that the OP or anyone else go to the trouble of grinding and leaching acorns to feed their chickens. Maybe I'll start telling people wanting help to use Google and do their own research.
     
  6. debid

    debid Overrun With Chickens

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    Quote:Um, none of it, actually. I reiterated something you'd already said but I wasn't actually suggesting that you were going to prepare acorn mash for your chickens. Now that I read it again, I can see how you got there but I assure you, I was merely annoyed about the article. [​IMG]
     
  7. Gallo del Cielo

    Gallo del Cielo La Gallina Resort & Spa

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    To the OP, I think it might largely depend on the species of Oak that you have. Different species have different levels of toxicity to different animals and many are not toxic at all. I would start by identifying which oak species you have.

    Here is an interesting review article that discusses the use of acorns by humans and animals with a special emphasis on Californian Oaks: http://www.ecocomposite.org/native/UseOfAcornsForFoodInCalifornia.doc. And from that article:

    ACORNS AS FODDER
    The meal left after pressing oil can be used for animal feed, but the whole acorns are better. They have been used for feeding livestock for many thousands of years. Most acorns, even without leaching, can be fed up to 20 percent of the ration of chickens (Weingarten, 1958; Boza et al., 1966; Varela et al., 1965; Medina Blanco and Aparico Macarro, 1965). Acorn fed bear and hog meat were highly valued in the early days of California settlement. Acorn-fed hogs were especially favored in Italy (Maymone and Durante, 1943). Leached acorns can be used for 50 percent or more of the diet, as part of a balanced diet, and may make up 90 percent of the diet of some California deer herds in the Fall and Winter. In addition, many oak leaves can be fed to livestock and some were eaten by people (Bainbridge, 1985a). Oaks have been grown and maintained primarily for fodder in a number of countries. Q. infectoria for example, was favored in Iraq where it was pollarded for better fodder production (Blakelock, 1950). The tannin in bitter acorns and leaves of some oaks can cause poisoning in livestock if fed in high percentage. Range poisoning sometimes occurs when other forage is limited. For further information on acorn poisoning see (Fowler et al., 1965; Duncan, 1961; Clarke and Cotchin, 1956; McGowan, 1970; Stober et al., 1976).

    For what it's worth, I don't know much of anything about the toxicity of acorns. I went to Google scholar and used the search terms "Quercus acorn toxicity poultry".​
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2011
  8. dacjohns

    dacjohns People Cracker Upper

    Quote:Um, none of it, actually. I reiterated something you'd already said but I wasn't actually suggesting that you were going to prepare acorn mash for your chickens. Now that I read it again, I can see how you got there but I assure you, I was merely annoyed about the article. [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  9. sarahsc0tt

    sarahsc0tt Out Of The Brooder

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    Well, I have identified the tree. As in my initial post, I have determined that the oaks growing on my property are, indeed, Valley Live Oak. Unfortunately, I still can't find any sort of consensus as to whether acorns of this--Live--oak genus are or are not toxic.

    I do know, better than most, that what you read is not true by virtue of "publication," especially online in blog-form. I wouldn't be much of an English Lit. Ph.D pursuant if I didn't know this. I was concerned because I'm sifting through a lot of information and the article I cited in my query was one of those to directly refer to tannins in-depth, rather than in passing.

    I imagine my chickens will probably have some sort of instincts, even if they do end up eating the acorns, that will tell them "bitter is bad." I will provide them with safe treats that don't need to be pecked out of a shell, no matter how soft a shell, to eat and hopefully that will be enough to foster disinterest in the acorns on the ground. If not ... I am resourceful; I'll figure something out, and continue looking into Valley Live Oak as I do.

    If nothing else, the UC Fresno Department of Agricultural Plant Science or, perhaps, the nice people at the organic nursery that grow and sell our local plant life as well as harder to find varieties may be able to help out in the area of oak wisdom.

    Thank you for your help, everyone!

    [​IMG]

    - SS
     
  10. LynnS

    LynnS New Egg

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    Quote:Um, none of it, actually. I reiterated something you'd already said but I wasn't actually suggesting that you were going to prepare acorn mash for your chickens. Now that I read it again, I can see how you got there but I assure you, I was merely annoyed about the article. [​IMG]

    I suppose you'll REALLY be annoyed at the second article I've been researching, then.
     

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