Is rhubarb poisonous ? Because our chickens just ate a lot of it!

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by switters, Dec 16, 2009.

  1. switters

    switters In the Brooder

    Nov 3, 2008
    We are novice chicken people. Our pullets are almost 6 months old. They free-range in a part of our backyard garden that is currently fallow. From what we read, our understanding was that chickens wouldn't eat things that are poisonous to them. It was also our understanding that rhubarb is poisonous to poultry. So we didn't worry too much about the rhubarb plants they had access to. However, last night we noticed that they ate a significant amount of the rhubarb yesterday while they were out. They seem to be fine this morning, but we're concerned. Should we be worried about them? Should we move the rhubarb?

  2. Kittymomma

    Kittymomma Songster

    Sep 9, 2009
    Olympia, WA
    The leaves are, but they have to consume quite a bit to hurt themselves. Mine got into the rhubarb early in their free ranging adventures too and they never had a problem. They did stop eating it, but I still had to fence them out of the area because they tore the patch up dust bathing in the summer.
  3. BeardedLadyFarm

    BeardedLadyFarm Songster

    May 31, 2009
    Cobleskill NY
    I'm of the opinion that chickens know what is and isn't good for them. I keep mine in my garden, and while they completely destroy some plants, they leave others alone. I have several ornamental plants that are confirmed toxins, and other than the odd nibble, they were untouched, and provided some nice shade back in the summer.

    Of course, now someone else will post that they have lost chickens to toxic plants, but that hasn't been my experience.
  4. redhen

    redhen Kiss My Grits... Premium Member

    May 19, 2008
    Western MA
    the leaves are..

  5. dacdeihl

    dacdeihl Songster

    Sep 24, 2009
    NorthEast, In
    I have a patch in our yard they destroy. Never found one dead from eating it. I believe the leaves are toxic to humans. Something are just that way, bad for us but ok for others. I would not worry about it. I actually take a few leaves in the coop for treats.
  6. The leaves contain oxalic acid but the levels are lower at this time of year in the northern hemisphere. I'm guessing your chickens ate enough ground oyster shell, which is alkaline, to take care of may, um, get some 'interesting' droppings...[​IMG]
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2009
  7. lex381

    lex381 Songster

    Aug 26, 2009
    Oakland, CA
    rhubarb is toxic to rabbits (i think)

  8. Kittymomma

    Kittymomma Songster

    Sep 9, 2009
    Olympia, WA
    Quote:It is, and also to goats and most everything else. Just the leaves though, the stalks are yummy!

    DD and I learned about rhubarb leaves the hard way when her little bunny that she named rhubarb (because she liked the leaves soooo much) died. [​IMG] That was back before we had easy access to the Internet, now I research what is toxic before I add new critters.
  9. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    It is, but you have to eat a lot of it... Had two turkeys eat the ENTIRE 3 foot round plant down to stems and they lived till thanksgiving. Then again, they also did eat a few thistle plants. [​IMG] They sure were tasty, the turkeys that is.

    Don't worry about it.

  10. digitS'

    digitS' Songster

    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    Plants with low levels of toxicity would probably need to be eaten in quantity to cause any noticeable problems. However, the only death in my flocks where I suspected that the cause was that the bird had eaten something poisonous involved rhubarb. The chickens had just discovered the plants that day so eating the leaves was something new. Still, I have had rhubarb around for years and other chickens have eaten on the plants.

    I think they can learn but believing that chickens somehow know what to eat and not to eat doesn't make sense to me. Chickens often eat "hardware" and die from it. We really don't have a very good idea when a chicken ends up with a "tummy ache" from ingesting something she shouldn't have.

    Beyond personal experience: poultry poisonings from over 35 separate plants are cited in Diseases of Poultry, 11th edition, American Association of Avian Pathologists from reports in professional journals.

    These were 35 different plants that caused signs of poisoning and physical lesions after they were eaten. They include such common yard plants as black locust and sweet peas as well as wild hemlock and jimsonweed. The plants with oxalate were included as a single listing.

    Last edited: Dec 17, 2009

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