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Can Chickens Eat Wild Mushrooms?
I think the big question is, why would you want to feed mushrooms to your chickens? If you are looking for healthy alternatives to feed your chickens that may promote flock health and possibly increase egg production, wild mushrooms just may be the answer.
The big buzz words in human health are herbs, organic acids, and pre and probiotics. The same is true for research being conducted on health and nutrition for animals.
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As far as research is concerned, Europeans have been testing the efficacy of using mushrooms as a food additive for animals to increase health-promoting properties and for providing better nutrition. Edible mushrooms are filled with antioxidants, are anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, are immunostimulatory, and have hypocholesterolemic properties.
The Journal of Animal Feed Science and Technology published the findings that edible mushrooms used as a feed additive in broilers and layers increased gut health. The research indicated that mushrooms have a positive effect on growth, improve gut microbiota, increase immunity and antioxidant activity, and improve lipid profile.
As for layers, the mushrooms were shown to improve laying performance and the quality of the eggs. Feeding mushrooms increased the fatty acid composition and good cholesterol levels and lowered Salmonella in naturally infected birds.
What does all this mean? Feeding your chickens wild mushrooms, or allowing them to forage wild mushrooms may make them healthier, grow faster, and lay more and better quality eggs.
The Dangers of Wild Mushrooms to Chickens
We all know that backyard chickens love to hunt for food and free-feed on just about anything they can get their beaks on. They will scratch through grass and leaves, and explore the dark places under trees and bushes. Wild mushrooms and fungi grow in all areas of the world. Any moist and humid conditions can produce mushrooms.
Some Mushrooms Are Poisonous To Chickens
There have been reports of chickens getting sick and even dying from finding and eating poisonous mushrooms. There are different schools of thought on this issue. One is that chickens are pretty good about not eating anything that is naturally poisonous to them. The unfortunate chicken owners reported following their chickens into the woods and watching them consume poisonous mushrooms.
The safe bet is to make sure that if your chickens are free-ranging where there are mushrooms, either remove them or identify if they are safe for the chickens to eat. This is tricky as mushrooms can be difficult to identify, but with all the resources available for mushroom identification, it certainly is possible.
Ingesting mushrooms that are poisonous can lead to neurological issues, kidney failure, digestive issues, internal bleeding, and even death. The side effects can be permanent or last for many years.
How to Safely Feed Your Chickens Wild Mushrooms
There are common varieties of wild mushrooms that are safe and have many health benefits for your chickens. If you are confident in identifying and collecting them, they are an excellent addition to your flock’s diet. One of the basic rules is that if the mushrooms have gills underneath the cap – stay away – they are poisonous.
Some of the more common and easily identified mushrooms that are safe for chickens to eat include:
- Hen of the woods
- Chicken of the woods
Cooking Mushrooms For Chickens
When feeding your flock mushrooms, while they can be eaten raw, cooking and dicing the mushrooms makes them easy to add to feed and your hens will eat them all up. Mushrooms are easier to digest when cooked.
Growing Mushrooms For Chickens
There are benefits to harvesting or growing your own as you know the source and that they are organic and free of pesticides. The benefits of feeding mushrooms are that they don’t contain sugar or salt, and are packed with essential vitamins and components that will help keep your flock healthy.
Provide a Balanced Diet For Your Chickens
As with any treats that you are supplementing along with your regular feed, snacks like wild mushrooms should only make up a small portion of your flock’s diet. They still need the ingredients found in mash and grit. Your chickens may have problems digesting mushrooms if not fed in moderation along with their regular diet.
How To Make Your Own Wild Mushroom Log For Chickens
Backyard chicken raisers who wish to supplement their flock’s diet with mushrooms often make their own mushroom logs. All you need is a woody, moist area, and a few hardwood logs around 36 inches in length. Watch this video on YouTube for directions on how to make your own mushroom log.
Mushroom logs can be beneficial for your chickens and to a backyard chicken raiser with picky eaters. Mushrooms are tasty treats for most heritage poultry breeds who would find them naturally as part of their diet.
Pros to Feeding Wild Mushrooms
- Mushrooms are good for chicken gut health
- They are tasty snacks that are low in sugar and salt
- Wild mushrooms are free
- Mushroom logs can be used to cultivate and harvest mushrooms
- Mushrooms have many health benefits for chickens
Cons to Feeding Wild Mushrooms
- 20% of all mushrooms are poisonous
- Poisonous mushrooms can cause health problems or death
- Mushrooms may be hard to identify
- Feeding too many uncooked mushrooms can lead to digestive problems