There was some discussion last week on whether chickens should have access to potatoes or potato plants for food (based on my post about my chickens pretty much destroying the solitary potato plant that had grown in our yard.)
I tend to think that chickens inherently know what they should and should not eat. I submit as proof, the many onion peels we had unwillingly tossed into our chicken coop only to become slimy, stinky mush days later. Same thing goes for raw potatoes. My flock won’t go near them (which is how our solitary potato plant came to be.)
“But that’s because potatoes are poisonous to chickens,” I was told by more than one person. And if potatoes are poisonous then the plants must be right?
Go to any chicken board and there will be all kinds of discussions on this topic.
One writer posted:
“Oxalic acid will break down during cooking. However, oxalic acid is NOT the toxin in potato peels. Potatoes and other plants in the Solanum family contain solanum-type glycoalkaloids. One of these alkaloids is solanine.
“These alkaloids are not destroyed by cooking or drying at high temperatures.”
“Humans and all classes of livestock are susceptible to poisoning by solunum-type glycoalkaloids.”
“Luckily, glycoalkaloids are poorly absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract of mammals, an appreciable amount of solanum-type glycoalkaloids is hydrolized in the gut of mammals to the less toxic aglycones, these metabolites are rapidly excreted in the urine and feces of mammals. Because exposure to these poisons is generally by ingestion, it takes a relatively large amount of them to cause death.”
I vaguely remember a childhood friend telling me to throw away all potato chips having any green on them (yeah right, like the day would come that I would *ever* throw away a potato chip) and I assume it was based on this alkaloid fact.
Just don’t tell this to my grandmother who would have thought it a crime not to throw the potato peels out to the flock.
Although I am not going to start advocating giving potatoes to your birds, I do know that anything in moderation is probably okay – even for chickens. If my girls felt obliged to eat the green leaves from our potato plant, I say power to them. It was one plant that they chose to eat and like an ice-filled glass of Coke, having one once in a while sure does hit the spot.
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
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