With Halloween and Thanksgiving coming up, you may be amongst the many chicken keepers approaching neighbors, friends and relatives with a special request that may seem like a trick but is actually a treat â€¦ pumpkin remnants for your chickens.
Itâ€™s the season for creative carving and pie baking. But why waste any part of this nutritious gourd? Here are four pumpkin parts and how they benefit our birds.
While professional pumpkin carvers (like those seen on Food Networkâ€™s Outrageous Pumpkins) and bakers using fresh pumpkin prefer to pare the skin off the gourd, pumpkin skin is actually full of fiber. If thin enough, pumpkin skin can be eaten raw by your flock. It can also be roasted in an oven until dry, then crumbled and offered as a treat.
Be sure to offer pumpkin skin in moderation, however. Its high soluble-fiber content can quickly curb your birdsâ€™ appetite, keeping them from eating their regular rations.
Read more: Let’s celebrate the joy of pumpkins!
The stringy, slimy guts of a pumpkin are typically quickly discarded by humans but quickly gobbled up by chickens. Pumpkin pulpâ€™s purposeâ€”to bring nutrients to the pumpkin seedsâ€”results in its high water content. This is actually quite flavorful (it can be boiled to make a flavorful vegan broth).
Fortunately, chickens will happily ingest what we humans barely care to touch.
Pumpkin is considered a superfood. Its orange flesh is packed with vitamins and minerals, including beta-carotene (which converts into Vitamin A), potassium and Vitamin C.
Chickens require Vitamin A for reproductive health. A deficiency in this crucial vitamin can lead to impaired reproduction and infertility. Research has also shown that a Vitamin A deficiency can lead to an increased occurrence of blood spots in eggs.
Potassium, meanwhile, is important for proper cellular electrolyte balance, while a boost of Vitamin Câ€”which chickens naturally produce in their kidneys and liverâ€”helps birds during times of high stress.
Not that your birds care about any of this. They just think pumpkin is delicious. Because pumpkin flesh is high in soluble fiber (approximately 60 percent), be sure to only offer your flock pumpkin in small amounts so that it doesnâ€™t replace their regular feed.
Packed with protein and such minerals as zinc, magnesium and phosphorus, pumpkin seeds are truly a hidden treasure. While we humans prefer our seeds completely free of pumpkin pulp, then roasted and flavored, our flocks arenâ€™t as picky. In fact, theyâ€™ll eagerly pick out the seeds of any pumpkin theyâ€™re given.
Pumpkin seedsâ€™ boost of protein are very welcome during molting season, when chickensâ€™ protein levels are focused on the production of new plumage. Supplemental zinc has been shown to improve poultry growth and immunity, while magnesium and phosphorus are crucial to chickensâ€™ bone development and density.
In other words, pumpkin seeds are ideal treats for chickens. Moderation is important when offering your flock pumpkin seeds, however, as research has shown that pumpkin-seed meal decreases feed intake.