Halloween may have come and gone but, for chickens, the fun is just beginning! While pie pumpkins might be heading to the Thanksgiving kitchen and decorative mini varieties to holiday table displays and mantles, most of America’s jack-o’-lanterns and outdoor pumpkins have begun their slow but inevitable decline into decomposition.
Before they take those first steps down the road to Rotsville, scoop up these chicken treats … and follow these four safety tips to ensure your birds don’t encounter any tricks.
Since these traditional Halloween decorations spend most of their time outside, exposed to the elements through their assorted openings, it stands to reason that carved pumpkins are the first to show signs of decay.
If you plan on giving your flock a jack-o’-lantern snack, do so no later than November 2. Should your neighbors offer their used jack o’lanterns for your chickens, thank them then, like any parent on Halloween, inspect any treat before letting your feathered kids eat it.
First, remove any stickers, googly eyes and other detachable embellishments from the pumpkin’s outer shell. Next, inspect the jack-o’-lantern’s interior and remove any candle-wax remnants.
While candle wax is non toxic, it can include artificial colors and fragrances that should not be ingested by chickens. Some candles even contain citronella to keep insects away from the pumpkin’s exposed interior. It is therefore in your birds’ best interest to simply remove all candle wax.
Then, check for signs of rot. Thump the outside of the gourd. It should still be strong and hard, not soft and falling in on itself. Sniff the inside for any funkiness beyond the scent of pumpkin guts. If the outer shell has softened or there’s any discoloration, mottling, or other visible sign—or scent—of decay, consign the jack-o’-lantern to the compost pile.
Chickens Love Whole Pumpkins!
Uncarved pumpkins are an extra-special treat for your chickens, since all the tasty pulp and delicious seeds are still intact inside. Uncarved pumpkins last longer than those that have been cut and carved, but it’s still important to inspect any pumpkins destined for your chicken run.
As with the jack o’lanterns, remove any decorations from the outer shell. Thump it all around to check the shell’s integrity. A healthy pumpkin should sound like a small drum when thumped. Carefully feel the exterior for any signs of softening and look for mottling, discoloration or holes that insects may have made.
If everything checks out, you can go ahead and present your pumpkin to the chickens whole. After a few moments spent eyeing the orange intruder, they’ll begin to peck at the shell. A better method would be to cut it in half or into wedges, so your birds can tear right into the good stuff.
Chickens adore pumpkin seeds. They’ll gobble them up fresh out of the pumpkin. The next time you carve a jack-o-lantern, have a container ready to receive the seeds and stringy pumpkin guts. Your chickens will love you for it.
There’s no need to rinse the seeds or roast them … fresh is perfectly fine. If you have indeed roasted your pumpkin seeds, your chickens will still eat them. Just make sure no flavorings like salt, sugar or spices have been added to the roasted pumpkin seeds. T
here’s also no need to peel the seeds, whether fresh or roasted. Chickens will eat the outer shell as well as the seed (the pepita) contained within.
Pumpkin is one of the most nutritious treats you can ever offer your chickens. Pumpkin flesh is chock full of vitamin E, thiamine, niacin, vitamin B6 and iron. And pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of dietary fiber, zinc, protein and healthy fats.
Despite how healthy pumpkin is, only offer it to your flock in moderation. Give them one pumpkin every other day, not one pumpkin three times a day. Ingesting large quantities of pumpkin—or of any treat—creates an imbalance in your flocks’ diet, as the chickens will be too full to eat their feed and will thus miss out on nutrients necessary for their health and development.
Just like Halloween candy, it’s best to have a little over the course of a few days than it is to gorge on all the treats on one single day.