Can chickens eat watermelon? Yes. They love it! You can feed it to them directly by cutting open the melon and letting them feast. Or you can get fancy. Cooling Watermelon Soup with Mint is one of my favorite hydrating summertime treats for my flock.
While many chicken keepers worry about their chickens being too cold in the winter, what they should really be concerned about is their chickens overheating in the summer. Chickens don’t sweat like humans do. They expel heat from their bodies through their skin and especially through their comb. This is why the Mediterranean breeds of chickens such as the Leghorn, Andalusian, Penedesenca, and Minorca have extremely large combs.
Believe it or not, chickens are most comfortable in temperatures between 45 and 65 degrees or so and when the mercury starts to rise, they will begin to show clear signs of heat stress. When the temperatures rise above 80 degrees you will notice your chickens begin to hold their wings out from their bodies. This is to allow cool air to pass under their wings and allow body heat to escape. They will begin panting. This is another way chickens stay cool. It’s similar to dogs.
In the warm months, there are several things you can do to help alleviate heat stress. Providing lots of shady areas, a well-ventilated coop and cool, fresh water are essential. Chickens don’t like to drink warm water, so adding some ice cubes to the waterers or frozen water bottles will help to keep the water cool longer. I like to set out shallow tubs of water for my chickens. I’ve found they like to stand in the tubs and they like to dunk their heads into the water to cool and wet their combs. Interestingly, their combs essentially act as radiators, giving off excess body heat.
While knowing how to keep chickens cool in extreme heat involves techniques like providing shade and ice water, I like to take it one step further and make watermelon soup for my chickens. Before you ask yourself, can chickens eat watermelon, I can assure you that watermelon is one of my girls’ favorite treats. They are perfectly happy if I just cut a melon in half and let them have at it – they’ll eat the flesh, seeds and even the rind! In fact, the entire watermelon plant is edible for your chickens, so once you’ve harvested your crop, let them eat the stalks and leaves as well.
Cooling Watermelon Soup with Mint
One watermelon of any size halved and insides scooped out
Handful of ice cubes
Handful of fresh mint, plus more for garnish
Using a blender or food processor, puree the watermelon flesh, seeds, ice and mint until smooth. Pour the soup evenly into each watermelon half. Garnish with additional mint leaves.
Serve the watermelon soup on a hot day in a shady spot. If your chickens are like mine, they will finish off the watermelon soup and then eat right down to the green rind. If you leave the rind for them, they’ll usually eat that too! If not, I like to keep filling the empty rind with ice water for them to drink.
Keeping your chickens cool in the summer is extremely critical. If you do notice signs of heat exhaustion in a flock member (a hen lying on the ground, extremely labored breathing, eyes closed, very pale comb and wattles, lethargy, etc.), immediately get her somewhere cool and soak her feet and legs in a tub of cool water to bring her body temperature down. You don’t want to submerge the whole body – wetting a chicken’s feathers renders her unable to regulate her body temperature herself. Give her cool water to drink and some electrolytes, plain Pedialyte or even Gatorade in a pinch, for added nutrients to replace what she has lost. And even if you aren’t interested in taking the time to make my Cooling Watermelon Soup with Mint, offering your chickens chilled watermelon slices in the summer will be greatly appreciated.
When you started raising chickens, did you wonder can chickens eat watermelon? Do you feed your chickens watermelon in the summer, in hot weather? Let us know in the comments below.