Can Chickens Eat Acorns? (Potential Problems)

Although acorns seem harmless, they can be toxic and dangerous to chickens. After all, they are relatively high in fat and contain lots of tannic acids if not prepared well. You may realize that tannins give acorns a bitter taste, not pleasant to your chickens. In fact, when you throw some to your chickens, they may only eat the less bitter meaty parts first.

Chickens also tend to avoid moldy acorns or those that may not have adequately ripened. Instinctively, fowls rarely feed on food likely to cause harm to their health. Altogether, feeding acorns to poultry can be a controversial topic because affected birds react differently from exposure.

Currently, most chick feeds in the market contain high percentages of tannins. You would want to cause issues to your flock by adding more tannin to their diet.

Keep in mind that even if chickens have a highly efficient GI tract that detoxifies potential harmful substances, this does not always happen with excess tannins. For this reason, keep following as we expound more on why acorns should not be a priority meal in the coop.

Are Acorns Toxic to Chickens?

As mentioned above, acorns have a toxic level of tannic acid, leading to poisoning and even death. Nonetheless, you won’t have any problem feeding acorns to your chickens if you learn how to leach tannins out.

Some chickens display tannins’ adverse reactions almost immediately, depending on the quantity and physical condition. Additionally, the absorption rate of tannins in chickens varies depending on how your fowls metabolize it and age.  In short, tannins can cause problems to aged birds, but remain quite safe with chicks.

Are Oak Leaves Safe for Chickens?

A limited amount of oak leaves is pretty safe for your feathered pets. However, similar to acorns, they contain tannic acid too. It is worth mentioning that oak leaves and acorns come from two different trees.

Thus, even if they both have tannins, they can also vary in levels. As a precautionary measure, don’t feed them raw acorns or oak leaves to prevent toxicity problems. If you opt for oak leaves, remove the spiny parts or any sharp ends because they might cut your chicken in the mouth.

Remember, oak leaf toxicity can cause permanent damage to your chickens, like ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, be safe and not sorry by minimizing oak leaves in your poultry lives. If you see your chickens exhibiting any weird symptoms, the only cure is to remove acorns or oak leaves from their diet.

You can probably do some home remedies by adding electrolytes in clean water so they can rehydrate. Otherwise, if they are experiencing more severe problems like diarrhea with blood, you will need a vet’s help because it may turn fatal.

You can remove tannins from oak leaves by leaching them thoroughly. First, toast the leaves in an oven at 400 degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes. Allow them to cool before adding water in a blender and blend until you get a milky liquid. Let the blended leaves sit in the fridge for four hours, preferably overnight. At this point, most tannins will evaporate or leach out.

Keep stirring it up now and then so tannins won’t settle down at the bottom of your container. Take the liquid and pour it through a cheesecloth or fine strainer- that should be enough to filter out toxic tannic acid. You can use that liquid as your water for your chickens, but don’t forget to feed electrolytes too.

If you have oak trees around the yard, build a fence around your chicken coop to keep them in. If this is not possible, you can cut down any nearby trees with acorns or oak leaves.

Symptoms of Acorn Poisoning in Chickens

Several symptoms indicate acorn poisoning. These include lethargy, diarrhea, excessive panting, breathing problems, lung congestion, or even death. The primary evidence of acorn poisoning in chickens is the condition of the droppings.

There are two kinds of droppings you can check out – black or diarrhea with a lot of white mucus. Unfortunately, some chickens fail to show these visible signs but still die as a result.

If you notice your chickens exhibiting weird symptoms after eating acorns, take time to consider the amount given and whether it was treated or not. Some home remedies like adding electrolytes in clean water come in handy in rehydrating your flock. Otherwise, if they are experiencing more severe problems like diarrhea with blood, you will need a vet’s help because it may turn fatal.

How to Make Acorns Safe for Chickens?

The simplest way to leach tannic acid from an acorn is through boiling water. Before cooking acorns, make sure you shell them first. You can cook them in a large pot for ten minutes or more to remove tannins.

Boiling is not an instant solution, though; it might take hours for tannins to drain completely. If you don’t want to waste time, you might also soak acorns overnight or boil, then dry out before feeding.

You should know that acorns take a very long time to dry out, so proceed with caution. After the entire procedure, sift them through a mesh before feeding your chickens. This way, the nutritious part of the acorn remains on the sieve after removing tannins.

Should You Feed Acorns to Chickens?

The answer is still ambiguous. There are claims that acorns are good for chickens because they contain lots of protein and calcium. But tannins counteract this healthy property which makes acorns in large quantities unsafe to chickens.

Nevertheless, you can find safe quantities of tannins in other plants such as soybeans and peanuts. Supplement this in your chickens’ normal feed to fill up the calcium and protein requirements too.

Summary

The take-home message is that acorns are not inherently bad for chickens. But feeding large quantities of them will result in death due to diarrhea and dehydration.  Thus, it is best to avoid the risk of acorn poisoning by keeping them away from your chickens or creating an alternative source of feed.

You can also feed small quantities during bonding sessions but make sure their main dish is never acorns.

Chickens   Updated: August 6, 2022
avatar Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too.

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