I accidentally poisoned my chickens...but they seem fine


10 Years
May 28, 2009
I was cleaning up my garden for the winter a few days ago and cut down/dug up the green pepper and eggplant plants(probably 4 very large eggplant and 3 pepper plants) and put them in a wheelbarrow. Then I put the swiss chard and old bean plants and old tomatoes and a couple overripe watermelons and squash on top of them. I dumped the whole thing in the chicken pen for them to clean up forgetting that the pepper and eggplant plants were in there and poisonous. The birds(30) had all the leaves stripped off all the plants in less than 5 minutes and I didn't even think about it until yesterday. It has been 3-4 days ago now and there have been no fatalities so I'm hoping I got lucky (although if any die I hope it's the nasty little Golden Comets and not the EE's or Marans). They have not been free range chickens (just an enclosed outdoor run) but was considering letting them out for a few hours occasionally. Now my concern is how do I keep them from eating poisonous plants around the farm or in my garden? Will they naturally avoid them if they have other things to forage for? Or is that giving them too much credit?
Mine used to raid my garden and would eat tomatoe and pepper plants. Never had any problem. This is the first I have heard that pepper plants are poisonous.

Most animals will stay clear of poisonous plants.
An important part of your questions is "if they have other things to forage for."

I would never throw black nightshade plants to my confined chickens. Many toxic plants are not something they would normally want to eat but out of boredom, and if that's all they've got in front of them, they might eat something really toxic.

Because a plant is toxic doesn't mean that a bite is going to be lethal. Vets consider any plant that limits growth or production, toxic. And, it is. Sometimes, eating the plant just causes indigestion. Only a few plants are seriously poisonous.

Here are a few veterinary college sites that should be useful in your part of the world. Notice that some plants are actually livestock forage. Don't panic! The vets are just saying that under certain circumstances like pasture flooding or over-fertilization, the plant may not be good food:
Illinois, Veterinary Medicine Library
Purdue, School of Veterinary Medicine

And, here is the Canadian ag agency site that I particularly like because it cites cases when livestock (including poultry) have been poisoned:

Canadian Poisonous Plants

I think that lists, with no other information, are more than useless. They are a source of confusion and misinformation. But, more complete information is useful knowledge for all of us who keep animals.


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