Backyard chicken keepers know that chickens are omnivorous and will eat just about anything. From grains to bugs and everything in between, chickens relish variety in their diet. One common plant that chickens love to eat is clover. But do chickens eat clover, and is clover actually good for chickens, or could it potentially harm chickens?
Clover is a common weed found in many lawns and fields. But is it safe for chickens to eat? The short answer is yes; chickens can eat clover in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Chickens will readily eat most varieties if given access. But it’s essential to confirm the clover is not treated with toxic pesticides before allowing your flock to indulge.
Chickens like to eat clover, although too much can cause loose droppings. Follow proper introduction methods and focus on moderation. The protein, vitamins, and minerals aid health, while the chickens enjoy foraging on this tasty weed. In our guide, you can learn more about giving clover to your chickens and the overall nutritional profile of clover. By the end, you’ll better understand clover is one of the best things that are full of protein and nutrients for chickens and how to help chickens stay healthy. (Read Can Chickens Eat Pecans)
What Types of Clover Can Chickens Eat?
There are about 300 species of clover plants in the Trifolium genus. So, is it safe for chickens to introduce clover into their diet?
- White clover: This is the most prevalent type of clover found in lawns and fields. The small white flowers are edible.
- Red clover: Red clover has pink to red flower heads and is safe for chickens.
- Crimson clover: A variety with crimson red flowers.
- Sweet clover: Taller than other clovers with white or yellow flowers.
It is safe for chickens to eat clover, but ensure the clover you feed your flock is not treated with pesticides or herbicides. You can even let your chickens roam around your lawn filled with clover, as you’ll know it’s chemical-free.
Is Clover Good or Bad For Chickens?
Clover is considered a nutritious edible weed safe and beneficial for chickens to eat white clover. Here’s an overview of the pros and cons:
- High in protein: Clover can contain up to 22% protein, more than most grasses.
- Vitamins and minerals: Clover contains vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and more.
- Natural dewormer: Some types of clover contain tannins and other compounds to help eliminate intestinal worms and parasites.
- Weed control: Chickens will eat clover rather than more problematic weeds.
- Chickens love it!: Most chickens relish munching on fresh clover sprouts and flowers. It provides enrichment.
- Low in calories: Since clover is low in carbohydrates or energy, it can’t meet all the nutritional needs of chickens alone.
- Moldy clover: Wet, decaying clover can harbor mold or fungi toxic to chickens. Only feed fresh, dry clover.
- Pesticides: Clover treated with chemical pesticides or fertilizers could make chickens sick.
Give chickens in moderation, and clover offers valuable nutritional benefits with minimal risks for chickens. While it’s a good source of protein, please don’t rely on it as the sole food source.
How Much Clover Can Chickens Eat?
Chickens can eat clover freely as part of a varied diet. But clover should be at most 20% of total food intake. Too much clover can lead to an imbalance of protein and minerals. Excess clover can also cause loose droppings if chickens can’t digest all the fiber. (Read Feeding Chickens Goat Feed)
To avoid overfeeding:
- Offer clover as a supplemental treat a few times weekly rather than daily.
- Mix a small amount of chopped fresh clover into their regular feed.
- Let chickens graze on clover in the run or pasture for a limited time each day.
- Provide plenty of other greens, such as lettuce and high-calorie chicken feed.
Moderation is vital when you give your chickens to clover. They will naturally eat more of it in spring when clover is abundant and less in winter when other forage is scarce.
How to Prepare Clover for Chickens
To make clover easier for chickens to digest, it’s best to chop or wilt the plant before you feed your chickens so that it won’t be tough for chickens:
- Chop: Use scissors to cut the clover flowers and sprouts into smaller pieces your chickens can swallow quickly.
- Wilt: Let freshly cut clover wilt for several hours before feeding.
- Cook: Lightly steam or boil clover for 1-2 minutes to soften and increase digestibility. Allow to cool so chickens don’t eat it right away when hot.
- Ferment: Try adding some clover to fermented chicken feed.
- Dry: Dried clover will still provide chickens with nutrition. Rehydrate in water before feeding for easier eating and digestion.
Any of these preparation methods ensure that the clover is clean and pesticide-free. Preparing clover every time is unnecessary, but it’s safe to do this for younger chickens.
Health Benefits of Clover for Backyard Chickens
You may wonder, is clover good for chickens? From protein to antioxidants, clover offers several valuable health and nutritional benefits:
Feathers and Eggs
The high protein content of clover makes it an excellent addition to your backyard chickens’ diet. Protein provides amino acids to build strong muscles, produce eggs, and grow beautiful feathers. (Read Can Chickens Eat Pea Plants)
Clover contains abundant vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. This powerful antioxidant boosts chickens’ immune systems and respiratory health.
Vitamin C helps chickens build collagen, which benefits tissue repair and health. It also increases the absorption of iron for healthy blood.
Clover for chickens includes various B vitamins like riboflavin, pyridoxine, and cyanocobalamin. These water-soluble vitamins help convert food into usable energy. B vitamins support metabolism and help chickens get the most nutrition out of their feed.
Laying hens need ample calcium and phosphorus for building sturdy eggshells. Clover contains both essential minerals for your chickens. It naturally supplements the calcium provided in oyster shells.
Clover contains iron, a mineral that helps chickens produce hemoglobin to transport oxygen through the bloodstream. Iron supports energy levels and overall health.
Fiber is vital in digestion, promoting good gut bacteria and healthy droppings. The high fiber content of clover makes it a beneficial feed additive to support your chickens’ digestive systems.
Besides vitamin A, clover contains other carotenoid antioxidants like beta-cryptoxanthin and lutein. These compounds help control inflammation and keep chickens’ immune systems strong.
Some types of clover contain beneficial bioactive compounds like condensed tannins and flavonoids that may help eliminate intestinal parasites. Using clover as a natural dewormer supports overall flock health.
When Should You Avoid Feeding Clover to Chickens?
Clover is a beneficial and healthy treat for chickens, but there are a few situations when it’s best to avoid feeding it:
- Young chicks: Baby chicks under 3 weeks old should not eat clover until their digestive system matures.
- Molting/winter: Skip clover in winter when chickens eat less. The higher protein content can stress chickens during molting. Give clover only occasionally in cold months when other forage is scarce.
- Signs of diarrhea: Discontinue clover immediately if you notice loose, watery droppings, as too much clover can cause diarrhea.
Conclusion: Feeding Clover to Backyard Chickens
Clover can be part of a healthy diet for backyard chickens. These nutritious weeds and grasses offer protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Chickens love munching on tender greens and flowers. You can regularly feed clover to your flock when fed as a supplemental treat in reasonable amounts. Let your chickens enjoy this bountiful harvest from your lawn with clover. (Read Can Parrots Eat Potatoes)
What types of clover are toxic to chickens?
You may ask, can chickens eat crimson clover besides the common types? While most common clovers like white, red, and crimson are safe for chickens, a few varieties can be toxic. Sweet clover in large amounts may be toxic. Alsike clover can cause photosensitization. And moldy clover should always be avoided.
Can I feed clover seeds to my chickens?
You may ask, can you feed chickens clover seeds? Clover seeds add protein and fiber to chickens’ diets. Sprouted clover seeds are the most nutritious. Sow the seeds into their feed or offer free choice in a separate bowl to eat the clover seeds as they desire.
Is clover high in oxalates?
Unlike spinach or beet greens, clover contains oxalates but only in small amounts. The oxalate levels are insufficient to cause health issues for chickens who eat clover.
How do I prepare clover hay for chickens?
Chop dried clover hay into smaller pieces and rehydrate in water before feeding. Soak for at least an hour to soften. This makes the hay easier for chickens to consume and aids digestion.
Should I cook clover before feeding chickens?
Cooking isn’t mandatory but can increase digestibility, especially for young chicks. Boil or steam clover for 1-2 minutes, cool, and mix with their feed. A little raw clover is fine for most chickens too.
Can clover supplements replace chicken feed?
No, clover should not completely replace balanced chicken feed. It’s too high in fiber and low in energy, and chickens can get reliant on it. Use clover as a supplemental treat or mix sparingly with feed before you put food in the chicken coop. Chickens need commercial feed for complete nutrition.