Did we accidentally poison our chickens

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Jgbyc, Dec 8, 2014.

  1. Jgbyc

    Jgbyc Hatching

    Dec 8, 2014
    So we had some potatoes that started sprouting. My inclination was to throw them out but husband salvaged them by cutting out the sprouts. The sprouts he threw into the compost pile. Our chickens frequently scavenge and eat out of the compost pile.

    After eating the potatoes DH salvaged, I got pretty sick with a fever and headache. I'm guessing because he didn't actually peel the potatoes.Though I'm feeling better now, I'm worried the chickens might have eaten the sprouts. Found out too late you are not supposed to feed them green potato peels (logically then potato sprouts are off limits too). If I got that sick from just the potatoes, I can only imagine that the sprouts have higher amounts of solanine toxin. The chickens don't seem to be sick and are acting like usual.

    My question is, if they did ingest the sprouts, will it negatively affect their eggs? I usually feed my baby some of their egg, but am now worried that the most recent eggs might be contaminated. Thanks for any advice.
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Crowing

    Apr 8, 2013
    Highly doubt it'd get into the eggs. If in doubt, don't give your bub the eggs, but I think you'd likely be safe. Haven't heard of second hand solanum poisoning.

    I've eaten green potatoes hundreds of times, and eaten sprouting potatoes hundreds of times, and eaten both green AND sprouting potatoes hundreds of times, and only ever gotten that poisoning once. Did put me off potatoes for a few months, I'd taste that specific taste every time I looked at or smelt them.

    If your chooks look fine, chances are, they are fine. But the proof will be in whether or not they'll ever touch potato sprouts again, chances are; then again, many chooks are dumb enough to go back for seconds when the first serve almost killed them.

    However, I'd expect yours aren't so dumb if they're free range. Most deaths due to eating the wrong thing are in chooks from intensively caged backgrounds, they tend to scoff anything given to them, no life experience to kick their instincts into gear and teach them to taste test. You'll often see them take a bite of something then spit it straight out. They actually have an instant feedback loop, some kind of biological mechanism that gives them an answer as to whether or not to eat the tidbit they're tasting. That one was proven scientifically, I think I have the link somewhere. Anyway, this is why they will repeatedly taste-test the same things sometimes, since plants are edible sometimes and not others. Some people just think they're destroying plants for the fun of it, but they're checking. ;)

    Best wishes.
  3. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    Nov 7, 2012
    To be on the safe side, and given your experience, that's understandable, you can always wait a few days before giving your baby more eggs. Just wondering... did your husband eat any of these potatoes? It may be possible that your illness had nothing to do with potatoes if hubby didn't get sick after eating them.
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Wondering the same thing.

    I've eaten greenish spuds skins included before, never got sick.

    I think I remember readng that you or your chickens would have to eat a heck of alot of them to get poisoned.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2014
  5. I would not worry. Following is what the National Institutes of Health has to say:

    The poison is found throughout the plant, but especially in green potatoes and new sprouts. Never eat potatoes that are spoiled or green below the skin. Always throw away the sprouts.
    Potatoes that are not green and have had any sprouts removed are safe to eat."
    Note that they caution about eating potatoes "that are spoiled or green BELOW the skin" and that you should always remove and toss out the sprouts. (emphasis is mine)

    Also primary symptoms of solanine poisoning are vomiting and diarrhea. Your symptoms point to something else that may have occurred or that you may have been exposed to. Fever and headache are secondary symptoms but could be so many other things that if your husband did not also get ill would indicate something else.
    As for your chickens, if they are eating and active and behaving normally they are probably just fine. However, in the future, err on the side of caution and toss the sprouts in the trash instead of the compost heap.
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    Poisoning is a lot about dosage. The poison has to be concentrated enough and you have to ingest enough for it to do harm. Part of that too is the size of the person or animal and the general health. I read somewhere that a regular-sized adult in good health (whatever a regular-size adult is) would need to eat about two pounds of green potato skins to be harmed by the solanine. Regular white potatoes contain solanine too, but in pretty small doses. That same regular-sized person would need to eat around 50 to 60 pounds of regular white potatoes to get enough to harm them. The liver is supposed to be pretty good at removing solanine from the body so the effects are not really cumulative. That’s another thing you sometimes have to worry about with poisons. So you would not only have to eat 50 to 60 pounds but it would have to be at one sitting. Chickens are a lot smaller so they would not need to eat that much but their crop size limits how much they can eat. I still would not feed them green potato skins or eat them myself.

    A bit about potatoes and solanine. The green actually has nothing direct to do with solanine. The green comes from photosynthesis. That color is caused by exposure to the sun. Solanine is colorless but is concentrated by exposure to the sun. The green is an indication the potato was exposed so it almost certainly has a concentration of solanine. That is a strong warning to avoid eating it. What that actual concentration is will depend on how long it was exposed to the sun.

    The leaves of potatoes, tomatoes, and other members of the nightshade family contain concentrations of solanine. They are poisonous. But they also taste bitter. You can get a chicken that will just stand at a tomato or potato plant and eat enough of the leaves to sicken or kill them, but most will take one bite and spit it out.

    If your potatoes sprouted in darkness, the sprouts probably had no concentration of solanine. Your chickens should not have been harmed by eating them.

    If you are uncomfortable at all about feeding your baby those eggs, by all means don’t. Just wait a few days until the chicken’s liver takes care of any potential problem.
  7. Jgbyc

    Jgbyc Hatching

    Dec 8, 2014
    Thanks for all the great feedback everyone! I've learned some interesting tidbits about both chickens and potatoes. It's been a couple of days since they were exposed to the sprouts and the chickens are running around fine, though I do think they ate some of the sprouts. In the future we'll definitely be more careful about what can be thrown into the compost pile.

    I suspected the potatoes because I was feeling fine in the morning and within a couple of hours of eating them for breakfast, I felt a pretty sudden onset of debilitating fatigue. By late afternoon evening, I was feeling joint pains, headache and having a bit of fever, but then it started getting better around midnight. The quickness with which this turned around made me suspect the potatoes, and I think I did eat a little more than my husband. That and the body mass difference could explain why he didn't get sick, or maybe I'm just more sensitive to the solanine? Regardless of whether it was the potatoes or not, I will err on the side of caution next time and steer clear:p will also wait a few more days before giving baby more fresh eggs.
  8. chooks4life

    chooks4life Crowing

    Apr 8, 2013
    You could have had something else going on immunologically at that time and therefore reacted more strongly to the spuds... The liver doesn't always multitask so great. Sometimes when you're dealing with a virus, which may have absolutely no symptoms, your body can be quite upset by you eating at that time.

    Best wishes.
  9. CrazyTalk

    CrazyTalk Songster

    Jun 10, 2014
    In order to get to toxic levels of solanine, you need to eat like 20lbs of potatoes in a sitting. Tomatoes have almost no solanine (instead having tomanine), and the leaves have wide culinary use outside the USA (We're afraid of everythign)

    Don't worry about it.

    Also, pretty much every symptom you listed could be caused by blood sugar issues - having your blood sugar temporarily being out of whack after eating a bunch of potatoes isn't all that surprising - they're all starch.
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2014

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