Do Chickens Know Not To Eat Poisonous Plants?

Chickens are opportunistic eaters that will pick at practically everything. Insects, seeds, & plants are all included in this category. But, hens shouldn’t consume just any plant; some are hazardous or even fatal. Do hens have any idea that certain plants are poisonous? In this essay, we will go deeper into this topic & explain how chickens avoid ingesting dangerous plants by altering the foods they eat. 

Chickens’ Natural Instincts

Chickens have a built-in sense that tells them to stay away from poisonous vegetation. Natural selection & thousands of years of development are credited with producing this innate tendency. Chickens are able to tell which foods are fine to consume thanks to their acute sense of smell. 

Chickens, like humans, are extremely sociable creatures that gain knowledge from one another. Whenever it relates to foraging & eating, they generally follow the example of older, more seasoned hens. By observation and experimentation, chickens learn which plants are safe to consume. 

Chickens do have some innate responses that help them avoid eating dangerous plants, but these reactions are far from perfect. If they are starving or curious, chickens may and will eat poisonous plants. 

Do Chickens Know Not To Eat Poisonous Plants

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Poisonous Plants for Chickens

Chickens can suffer from moderate stomach distress all the way up to death if they come into contact with any of the numerous toxic plants that exist. Poisonous to hens, these plants include: 

  • Nightshade

Tomato, potatoes, aubergines, & peppers are all members of the nightshade family of plants. Although the leaves & unripe fruit of these plants are fine for human consumption, hens should avoid them. 

  • Rhubarb

The rhubarb plant is typically used in sweets. Unfortunately, rhubarb leaves are highly toxic to hens and can lead to death from kidney failure. 

  • Oleander

In spite of its popularity as a decorative plant, oleander is extremely poisonous to chickens. The plant’s entirety, from leaves to flowers to seeds, is toxic and can lead to cardiac arrest. 

  • Yew

In landscaping, yew, an evergreen plant, is frequently employed. But, the hens can die from heart failure if they eat the whole plant. 

  • Azalea

A ubiquitous flowering plant, the azalea is poisonous to chickens. A poison found in the plant’s leaves and blossoms has been linked to both stomach and cardiac problems. 

How Chickens Avoid Poisonous Plants

Chickens can use a variety of avoidance behaviors to stay safe around toxins. Among these are: 

  • Smell

Chickens rely on their acute sense of smell to guide them to nutritious foods. They are sensitive to the odor of dangerous plants and will typically avoid them. 

  • Taste

Chickens rely on their highly developed taste receptors to find nutritious food. If the plant has an unpleasant flavor, they could try a nibble and afterward spit it out. 

  • Herd instinct: 

Chickens learn from one another and are hence considered social creatures. Whenever it comes to foraging & eating, they generally follow the example of older, more seasoned hens. When one chicken avoids a shrub, the rest of the flock may follow suit. 

  • Taste: 

Chickens may taste-test a plant to see how it affects them. In the future, people could avoid consuming that plant altogether if it causes them discomfort. 

Which types of plants do Chickens Eat?

Not every plant is harmful to hens; in fact, many of them can positively improve their diet. Comfrey, clover, & dandelion greens, for example, have been shown to improve chicken health. When feeding your chickens, it’s important to err on the side of caution & read up on the plants you’re considering adding. 

It’s not enough to just keep an eye on your chickens and make sure they have a clean, secure place to live. To rule out poisoning as the cause of your chicken’s digestive distress or other symptoms, a trip to the vet is in order. 

Although hens have certain innate mechanisms for avoiding hazardous plants, it is still the responsibility of poultry owners to identify and eliminate all potential sources of exposure. Keeping your chickens healthy and safe requires a number of measures, including feeding them diverse and balanced food, keeping a close eye on their behavior & health, and taking them to the vet if you see any unusual symptoms.


To sum up, hens do have some innate knowledge that guides them away from potentially lethal vegetation. A keen sense of taste and smell, herd mentality, and trial – and – error all fall under this category of instincts. Chickens still can eat poisonous plants when they are ravenous or curious, but their natural defenses help prevent most of the damage.

If you own chickens, you should know which plants are toxic to hens and do all you can to keep them away from them. One way to do this is to remove potentially poisonous plants from your chicken’s yard on a regular basis. You may reduce the likelihood that the chickens will try to consume poisonous plants by providing them with a balanced & varied diet. 

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