No, chickens cannot eat rhubarb. Although this plant is considered medicinal, it contains oxalic acid, which is poisonous to chickens.
Oxalic acid is a strong chemical compound that is found naturally in many vegetables and fruits. Rhubarb leaves have more percentage of this acid as compared to the stalks. It is alright if your chickens eat rhubarb stalks, but that, too, should be given in moderation.
So, if you are still wondering, can chickens eat rhubarb, here is everything you need to know about feeding this medicinal plant to your flocks.
What is Rhubarb?
Rhubarb is a medicinal plant rich in various nutrients. It is a bitter-tasting vegetable that culinary experts use to make desserts. The bitter-tasting vegetable can be transformed into a delicious rhubarb pie with the right amount of sugar and a great recipe.
Rhubarb plants are known for their medicinal properties as well. This plant was traditionally used in Chinese medicine as a laxative, although more research is needed on this. It was believed to cure stomach aches.
Rhubarb is rich in water, Vitamins K and C and some carbohydrates and protein. It also contains traces of malic acid. This vegetable has a crunchy and juicy texture with a sour taste.
Why is Rhubarb Bad for Chickens?
Rhubarb leaves are poisonous. They have high levels of oxalic acid, which is very poisonous for humans as well as chickens when ingested in large amounts. Although the leaves are toxic, other parts of the rhubarb plant, such as the stalks and vegetables, are very nutritious.
If you have rhubarb plants in your chicken’s free-range or if you are raising backyard chickens, you will not be able to stop your chickens from eating the leaves. The stalks and vegetables are not toxic, but the leaves are poisonous to chickens. It can prove fatal when eaten in large quantities.
Humans can eat upto 2 to 4 kilograms of rhubarb before they get sick. But, chickens are quite sensitive when it comes to oxalic acid. Even a small amount of rhubarb leaves can prove fatal to your flock. It can lead to hemorrhages, diarrhea, tremors, jaundice, and increased salivation. When left untreated, it can even kill your chickens.
What are the Symptoms of Rhubarb Intoxication in Chickens?
If your chickens eat rhubarb flowers, stalks, or vegetables, there is no harm, but if they have eaten rhubarb leaves, they can fall sick immediately. You can find out from the following signs of rhubarb intoxication:
- Frequent diarrhea
- Excess salivation
- Coma, unconsciousness
- Breathing difficulty
- Inflammation in the mouth and throat
- Kidney stones
The toxicity experienced after eating rhubarb increases gradually when eaten in small amounts. When your birds have eaten the leaves of the rhubarb plant in large amounts, the oxalic acid quickly binds to calcium to make calcium oxalic.
This compound results in the formation of kidney stones, kidney failures and even death. Excess oxalic acid also inhibits calcium from forming healthy shells, and leading to poor eggshell formation.
Rhubarb intoxication leads to severe diarrhea among chickens. A high amount of oxalic acid in a chicken’s body can lead to cardiovascular problems. In smaller amounts, this acid can lead to tremors or jaundice in your chickens.
How to Treat a Rhubarb-poisoned Chicken?
If you are quick to react, you may be able to save the life of chickens who have been eating rhubarb. One of the best ways to treat a poisoned chicken is to force the bird to drink a flush. A flush mixture acts as a laxative and helps to gently flush out the poison from the body.
How to Make an Effective Poison Flush?
- Epsom Salt Flush
Epson salts are unlike regular table salts. These are widely known for their health benefits. Epsom salts are made up of oxygen, magnesium, and sulfur. These salts also aid digestive issues. Mix 10ml epsom salt with a cup of water and give your birds twice a day.
- Molasses Flush
Molasses are a sweet and syrupy residue of beet sugar and cane sugar production. They are formed during the third step of sugar extraction and have the most important minerals and vitamins. Mix 60ml molasses with a cup of water and give your birds once a day.
After giving these flushes, your birds might show signs of recovery. After they have recovered, give them a healthy meal for a week and monitor their health for any signs of seizures or fatigue. Give them a healthy meal to increase their appetite.
Can Chickens Eat Rhubarb Stalks?
Yes, chickens can eat rhubarb stalks just the same way as humans. This plant is healthy as it contains certain essential nutrients that chickens need to develop and grow. The stalk contains lower amounts of the toxic acid and so, it cannot harm your chickens.
But do not feed them the rhubarb stalk in excess amounts, as it does not have the required carbs or proteins that are required for overall chickens’ health and growth. It can be given as a rare treat only.
Can Chickens Eat Rhubarb Roots?
No, chickens cannot eat rhubarb roots as well. The roots are as poisonous as the leaves. Chickens eating rhubarb leaves or roots can die of kidney failure immediately. It is not an overall edible plant and as a chicken owner, you need to keep such toxic plants away from your chickens.
Can Chickens Eat Rhubarb Pie?
Yes, chickens can eat rhubarb pie in small quantities. Mostly, the rhubarb stalk is used in making the pie, and so, it is not harmful to your birds. Moreover, it is a form of cooked rhubarb. You can feed rhubarb pie in moderation to your chickens.
Can Chickens Die from Eating Rhubarb?
Well, it depends on how much rhubarb your chickens have had. It also depends on which part of the plant they have eaten. If chickens eat rhubarb leaves in massive quantities, they can die immediately as the leaves contain oxalic acid in the highest doses.
The leaves and roots make rhubarb poisonous, but the stalks, flowers and vegetables are not poisonous to chickens. It is better to consult your local aviary veterinarian about whether it is fine to give them these plants.
Most chickens love eating anything that comes in front of them. This includes all the plants growing in your garden or backyard. But certain plants such as those of the nightshade family have some unique compounds that can be harmful for their digestive system and kidneys.
While it is perfectly fine to make chickens eat the stalks of rhubarb, they cannot have the leaves or the roots of this plant. The rhubarb leaves contain high amounts of oxalic acid, which is poisonous to chickens and other poultry birds.
The leaves or roots should not be given to these animals in raw or cooked form. Chickens normally find rhubarb plants tasty, but as a poultry owner, you should ensure they stop eating these at once.