Pumpkin is a healthy treat for your flock as well as a great source of amusement and exercise. Many people seem wary of feeding whole pumpkins to their birds but you will find that chickens love pumpkin pulp and pumpkin seeds.
Pumpkin contains many different vitamins such as Vitamin A, Vitamin B and Vitamin C as well as Zinc. It also contains the antioxidants Lutein and beta carotene . The seeds contain vitamin E. When hens eat pumpkin their yolks turn a dark orange because of the carotenoids in the pumpkin. Pumpkin seed snacks can also be given to the birds. When pumpkin season is over you can still get pumpkin seed chicken treats.
Pumpkins are plentiful in the fall and are reasonably priced. After Halloween they are cheap or free if it was a good pumpkin year. Try growing pumpkins in your garden as a treat for your flock. Pumpkins can be stored for up to three months in a cool spot.
Chickens can eat the entire pumpkin. You may want to make a starter hole for them in the side as the skin can be thick. You could use a chicken cookie cutter to form a picture of a chicken in the side of the pumpkin. Chickens can eat left over Jack-O-Lanterns as long as they are not moldy or rotted. Cut out any bad parts before letting them have it
Chickens have a natural desire to peck at things and pumpkins are a great way for them to release this urge. They will peck at it until nothing is left but the skin. This is why it is best to break up the pumpkin before giving it to them. When carving pumpkins, save the guts, seeds and pieces. They will eat all of it. Make sure that they have access to grit when giving them the pumpkin seeds so that you don’t end up developing any crop issues.
Pumpkin pecking is great entertainment for them and is a boredom buster on days when they can’t free range. It is a source of exercise to run and chase each other to get the best pieces of pumpkin. Remember to pick up the pumpkin pieces that were not eaten at night. Leaving food out overnight will attract rodents or scavengers. Make sure that you check the pumpkin for signs of spoilage, such as mold or soggyness. Dispose of bad pumpkins.
Some people believe that pumpkin (especially the seeds) is a natural dewormer. The seeds should be cracked or ground if you are thinking of using it for this. Seeds in pumpkin and other squashes are rich in the amino acid – cucubitacin. This amino acid is a paralytic agent to various worms such as tape worms and round worms. The worms are paralyzed and then passed in the droppings. Cucubitacin is found in cucumbers and cantalope as well.
The study that was done on Cucubitacin and worms was done in a test tube. There have been no studies using chickens No one knows how many seeds a chicken would need to ingest to paralyze a worm. Do not rely on pumpkin seeds as a way to deworm your bird. It may be used as a preventative for worms, but if you see a worm infestation you will need to use another product to treat it.
If you suspect that your bird has worms you can perform a fecal float test to determine if there is an infestation. Wazine is a dewormer made for poultry. You add it to their water. There is an egg withdrawal period of around 2 weeks where you are not to eat the eggs. Safe Guard and Ivermectin Pour on Dewormer are both effective on a wide range of worms. If you are looking for something more natural there are dewormer pellets that contain pumpkin seeds and Diatomaceous Earth that you feed your chickens. Diatomaceous Earth supplements also claim to be a natural wormer.
Remember that pumpkins are a treat. They should not substitute for a well balanced nutritional feed. Any chicken that free ranges and forages for food will have a small load of worms. If your chickens eat a lot of mice or dead animals they may have a higher worm load. Even earthworms can pass parasites to your flock.
For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at VJPPoultry.com . VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul. We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available. Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.
Victoria J. Peterson