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Is Rhubarb Poisonous To Chickens? (Will it Make Them Sick?)

can chickens eat rhubarb

Can Chickens Eat Rhubarb?

Rhubarb just might be my favorite plant in my garden. I could eat rhubarb pie and rhubarb jam for days! But do you know who else likes it? My chickens.

If you’ve asked around, then you’ve probably been told that it is not okay for chickens to eat rhubarb. But is this really the case? Is rhubarb poisonous to chickens?

That’s what I want to talk about briefly here in this post.

Just keep in mind that what I’m sharing with you is my opinion based of of personal experience and what I’ve learned over the years. I’m not a veterinarian or trained animal medical professional.

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Is Rhubarb Poisonous To Chickens?

The quick answer is yes, in large quantities, rhubarb can be poisonous to chickens. However, it’s not an easy, cut and dry answer. Here’s why.

Like I mentioned earlier, it appears that my chickens love to eat rhubarb. in the winters, I typically fence off my entire garden and allow my chickens to eat down all the left over plants, turning it all into mulch while fertilizing the garden at the same time.

It doesn’t take long for them to take it down to pretty much nothing. However, in the early spring, when the rhubarb begins to make its way above ground with fresh new leaves, the chickens will eat it before it barely has time to surface.

When this starts to happen, I move the chickens back into their normal run and coop area. The rhubarb grows and is happy.

But sometimes, my chickens will find their way out (or maybe because my daughter leaves the gate to the chickens open), and they’ll attack everything in sight, including the rhubarb. And typically they’ll devour the leaves and leave the stalks alone.

Did Rhubarb Make My Chickens Sick?

This has happened many, many times on my property and never have my chickens become ill as a result. The first time I saw them do this, I was very concerned because I had always heard that rhubarb is poisonous to chickens. So I watched them closely, and of course nothing happened. They didn’t get sick. They never got diarrhea. They didn’t skip a beat.

As a matter of fact, I did some research on whether or not chickens can eat rhubarb and to be honest, I didn’t come across any real life examples of chickens becoming ill after eating rhubarb!

What To Do If Chickens Eat Rhubarb

If you happen to witness your chickens munching on some nice green rhubarb leaves, don’t panic.

Simply keep an eye on them and monitor them to see if they become ill, start acting different, become lethargic or get diarrhea.

Chances are, none of these things will happen, but if you do notice any of these symptoms, then you should consider having your bird seen by an aviary veterinarian.

What you also want to do try and eliminate the access your chickens have to the rhubarb. In my case, I simply had to move the chickens back to their run and secure the fence. I also had to clip their wings to make sure they don’t fly over the fence.

How Can Rhubarb Affect Chickens?

The toxicity of rhubarb leaves is typically not immediate in the smaller amounts of rhubarb our chickens eat. Rhubarb has a very high content of oxalic acid. What it does is bonds calcium in the blood to calcium oxalic which can accumulate in the chickens system. This accumulation can lead to the formation of kidney stones and kidney failure.

As it utilizes the calcium in the chickens system, it prevents the calcium from going to the formation of egg shell. As you can imagine, it leads to shell issues as well as bone issues.

Rhubarb also contains substances that can potentially lead to fairly bad diarrhea. If ingested in very high amounts, oxalic acid can ultimately cause death from cardiovascular complications.

You should keep in mind, however that in order for most of these symptoms to occur, your chickens would have to eat a lot of rhubarb. And at the quantity that’s needed for rhubarb to become dangerous to chickens, it’s very unlikely that your’s will have any negative affects.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve got chickens that love to eat rhubarb, they’ll most likely be just fine. The massive quantities of rhubarb they’d need to eat in order for anything serious to happen is quite unlikely. Keep an eye on your birds for a day or two just in case, and don’t allow them to access the rhubarb any longer.

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