Upcycle your Halloween pumpkins into a healthy backyard chicken treat!
Did you know you could feed pumpkins to chickens? Did you realize that you could give your chickens jack o'lanterns you carved? Pumpkin, even a jack o'lantern the day after Halloween, is actually a healthy backyard chicken treat.
The orange pumpkin flesh and the pumpkin seeds are edible, and some even say that pumpkins, particularly the seeds, act as a natural dewormer. Plus, pumpkins are loaded with amino acids and vitamins. Feeding pumpkin to your chickens is the fall version of feeding chickens watermelon during the summertime.
Every year after Halloween, we give our chickens the carved-up jack o'lanterns. Gradually over a few weeks, we also give them any extra pumpkins on hand. As a result, for several weeks in the fall, our chickens get as much pumpkin as they could ever want.
We give our chickens whole pumpkins, but you can cut them in half, small pieces, or into chunks, particularly if your chickens have never tried pumpkin. They will soon realize what they've been missing!
Chickens LOVE pumpkins.
We grow pumpkins every year, and they need to be protected from our chickens. A few years ago, I began to notice that the pumpkins we had curing on our woodpile were getting pecked. At first, it was just a few pecks. Then, like ants, the chickens figured out and passed along the knowledge that pumpkins were delicious. Very soon, our pumpkins were getting completely devoured by chickens (and well before Halloween)!
We don't mind a few pecks on some pumpkins on display, but we don't want them entirely eaten! Nowadays, we actually protect our pumpkins by keeping the chickens in their run and not letting them free-range while the pumpkins are curing.
We do seem to have better luck in the summer because the pumpkins stay pretty hidden under giant leaves as they are growing, so we don't experience as much of a pecking problem.
We grow our own pumpkins, but you don't have to be a farmer, or even a gardener, to take advantage of healthy pumpkin chicken treats. Pumpkins are so widely available in the United States due to Halloween. Plus, you should be able to find store-bought pumpkins at a reduced price in November.
Tips on Giving Pumpkins to Your Chickens
It may be obvious, but you should remove any candles from jack o'lanterns before you give them to your chickens.
Also, don't give your chickens any moldy pumpkins (discard or compost any pumpkins past their prime).
Are your pumpkins painted? You may want to skip giving those to your chickens, even though most paints are likely non-toxic. If you wouldn't eat it, your chickens don't need it either.
Pumpkins have properties as a natural wormer (or anthelmintic), but you should always obtain the advice of a vet if you see any signs of parasites in your chickens. Pumpkins may work to prevent worms, but may not be able to TREAT a wormy chicken. Your vet can analyze stool samples and can really help you with the health of your chickens. Always, always, always, consult a vet for medical advice for your flock if you are suspicious.
Remember for next year: Everything you scoop out of a pumpkin to make a jack o'lantern can get fed to your chickens! Pumpkin guts added to chicken feed make for healthy chickens! And healthy chickens are happy chickens...
And, did you realize you could roast the seeds and eat them yourself? So, you may want to save some pumpkins for pumpkin pie and some seeds for yourself.
Want to grow your own pumpkins? We plant every June or July, and some years we have really good luck! Other years... we have to buy pumpkins. We haven't yet figured out the secret to consistent pumpkin growing (but if you have, we want to hear from you in the comments below!). Don't hesitate to try other squashes too; we've found chickens also like winter squashes (summer squashes, and cucumbers most of all).
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