Can Chickens Eat Onions? (Can You Feed an Onion to a Chicken or Will Eating an Onion Cause Harm?)

What Happens When Chickens Eat Onions?

It’s a myth that chickens can’t have onions. The fact is that chickens can eat onions occasionally and in small quantities.

All types of onions (white, yellow, green, red, spring onions, chives, etc) are healthy for chickens in moderation and are full of vitamins and minerals. Onions are good for your chickens’ colon, bone health, reducing blood sugar levels, and reducing inflammation

With that said, a little bit of onion is fine. But if they eat large amounts daily, onions can be harmful to them, causing hemolytic anemia.

In simple words, hemolytic anemia is a blood condition where red blood cells break down faster than the chicken’s body can replace them. The chickens will often have weak legs, pale skin, loss of appetite, difficulty breathing, lethargy, diarrhea, and an unkempt look.

In more complicated words, an onion contains sulfur compounds that break down into thiosulfinates. These then gradually decompose into disulfides, which can cause red blood cells to rupture and cause hemolytic anemia.

The disease can be fatal if not treated. But this condition usually only occurs if you make onions the main source of their diet. So, as long as you don’t feed them onions all day, every day, they’ll be fine.

Think of onions as occasional treats.

Warning: Chickens Need Grit!

If your chickens eat anything but commercial poultry feed, then you must feed them grit. Grit is essential because it helps them grind up their food and aids in digestion.

There’s poultry grit (Amazon) for chickens that are older than 8 weeks and smaller grit for chicks (Amazon) who are 2 to 8 weeks old.

For more information on this topic, check out my post: Do Chickens Need Oyster Shells and Grit?

Should Chickens Eat Raw Onions?

Typically, chickens don’t like raw onions. The taste of the onion itself is pretty strong, so don’t be surprised when your chickens don’t eat it.

However, if they’re hungry enough they’ll eat raw onions and leave behind the onion peel.

That being said, chickens will eat cooked onions and most seem to really enjoy the taste of it.

Can Chickens Eat Onion Peels?

Yes. Chickens can eat onion peels (they’re not toxic in moderation) but I’ve never seen any of my chickens eat them. They’ll eat cooked and raw onions, and leave the peels behind.

I’m thinking that chickens might eat onion peels if it was the only food they could find but, unless they’re desperately hungry, I can’t see your chickens eating onion peels.

If they start eating onion peels, then perhaps you have to look at if you’re feeding them enough chicken feed.

Why Do Chickens Love Onions?

Chickens are very curious creatures and love to explore their surroundings. Treats, including onions, are a great way to keep chickens entertained and motivated.

So, not only do chickens love treats because they are delicious, but they provide a stimulating activity. They’ll even get a little bit of excitement when they see you pull out a bag of treats!

Treats also offer pet chickens a chance to bond with their owners. When chickens see their owner giving them a treat, they associate it with positive reinforcement. This can help create a strong bond between the chickens and their human family.

So go ahead and give them small amounts of cooked onions, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes (no leaves), celery, cooked beans, and any vegetables you have in your garden. Your birds will love you for it!

Conclusion: Can You Feed Chickens Onion Scraps?

Yes, chickens can absolutely eat onion scraps. Chickens love to eat all sorts of table scraps and most of the leftovers from your meals are safe for them to consume.

However, if you give your chickens too many table scraps or chicken treats (Amazon), they won’t be eating as much feed. This also means they might not be getting the nutrients they need to be healthy.

If you’re going to give them treats, including onions and other table scraps, make sure it’s not more than 10% of their total calories.

Also, you should avoid feeding chickens fatty foods. So think twice before you feed your chickens onions that were cooked in butter or oil. If you want to give your chickens onions, cook them in a little water until they’re soft or grill them.

Please Note: Some people claim that feeding strong-tasting foods, like onions and garlic, to your hens may spoil the taste of their eggs. Personally, I don’t find this to be the case at all but I’m not a fussy eater.