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Can Chickens Eat Kudzu?

Kudzu, also known as Japanese arrowroot, is a drought-resistant perennial legume that grows by climbing and coiling over other plants and trees. Kudzu has many benefits. You can use it for grazing your livestock temporarily, and it makes good hay. However, is it suitable for poultry, and can chickens eat kudzu?

Chickens can eat the leaves, vine tips, roots, and flowers of kudzu as part of their normal diet without any adverse effects. Kudzu vines, seeds, and seed pods are not fit for chickens to eat. Kudzu contains 22-23% crude protein, perfect for the healthy growth of chickens.

In this article, we will talk about chickens, kudzu as a feed for chickens, and whether they like it or not. We will also discuss if kudzu is poisonous for chickens and what kind of health benefit it entails for the poultry.  So let’s get right into it.

Image of mother and baby chicken finding feed into the paddy plant

Do Chickens Like To Eat Kudzu?

Many chickens enjoy eating kudzu as part of their regular diet. Chickens may display a personal preference for one part of the plant over another, and they may only eat part of the plant. Other chickens will prefer plants other than kudzu.

In other words, some chickens will eat it – and others won’t. Thankfully, most hungry chickens aren’t too picky and will clean up whatever’s left. So if you absolutely have to have your chickens eat kudzu, then let them clean up scraps before you refill their feeder.

Kudzu is a nutrient-rich, high-quality forage for livestock, and chickens like to eat it as part of their regular diet. Farmers in the southern part of the United States had been using kudzu to feed their livestock on lands with limited options of animal feeds, and they are happy with the reception of this vine from the chickens.

You can feed kudzu to chickens by hand or as a grazing crop. Using kudzu will not only solve the problem of fodder for livestock but will also control the spread of this invasive perennial legume.

Is Kudzu Healthy for Chickens to Eat?

Kudzu can help chickens to gain weight and stay healthy. The Alabama Polytechnic Institute carried out an agriculture experiment to study the effects of feeding kudzu to different animals, and they concluded that it has a positive and safe impact on chickens.

Here’s a quick recap of the experiment, just so you don’t have to read the full scientific paper.

The institute carried out the experiment for a period of 5 years. During this time, the chickens were divided into three groups. One group of chickens received hand-fed kudzu. The second group received it as a grazing crop. The third group, however, did not receive any kudzu.

The results of the experiment showed the usefulness of kudzu. The two groups of chickens given kudzu as part of their diet laid an average of ten eggs in a month, while the other group only managed six eggs per month. Moreover, the study also found a difference in weight in the chickens, with the chickens eating kudzu weighing more than their counterpart.

The conclusions of this experiment are proof that chickens not only like to eat kudzu, but it is also suitable for them.

Is Kudzu Poisonous for Chickens?

The leaves, vine tips, roots, and flowers of the kudzu are safe to eat. However, the vines, seeds, and seed pods of this legume are inedible. Moreover, the nutrient value of the leaves decreases as the content of the vine increases.

Important note: it’s not currently known if the kudzu vines, seeds, and seed pods are poisonous for chickens. However, the current scientific thinking is that these are, at the very least, inedible for our poultry friends.

Image of sliced kudzu roots on white background
Image: Sliced kudzu root

How Do I Feed Kudzu to Chickens?

Chickens can be given raw leaves to eat, or leaves can be slightly baked or fried before being fed to chickens. The shoots of the young kudzu are tender enough to be included in any chickens’ feed.

Kudzu, along with having a high content of crude protein, also has a sixty percent Total Digestible Nutrient (TDN) value. That means eating it will release more digestible energy, which the body needs to ensure adequate growth.

Kudzu also contains isoflavones which have several health benefits, including playing a part in reducing inflammation in animals. Additionally, Kudzu roots contain compounds similar to estrogen, which helps in the growth and reproductive cycles in animals.

Moreover, kudzu extracts are also beneficial in lowering blood pressure and regulating heart rhythm in animals.

All these benefits can help the livestock if you add kudzu to their regular diet. 

Is Kudzu Good for Other Animals?

Kudzu is not only advantageous for chickens, but some studies prove that kudzu is excellent for other farm animals like dairy cattle, goats, and hogs.

The Alabama Polytechnic Institute carried an experiment to see the effects on milk production when the dairy cows are fed kudzu and when they are fed grass pastures. Two groups of dairy cows with two cows in each group were formed, and only one group was given the kudzu feed.

If you don’t want to read the next few technical paragraphs, let’s keep it simple: eating kudzu is good for cows, pigs, and other livestock animals. It can help them be stronger, produce better milk, and put on more weight.

Here’s a more in-depth summary of the studies I read for this article.

After observing for a period of 84 days, the researchers noted that the cows on kudzu feed produced 426 pounds of milk in excess of the pasture grazing cows. Moreover, the pasture grazing cows gave 22 pounds less butterfat than their kudzu eating equivalents. The researchers also observed a significant difference in the weights of the two groups, where the kudzu-eating cows gained 108 pounds and their counterparts lost a total of fifty-two pounds.

The institute carried another experiment to find out the effect of kudzu on the health of pigs and hogs. The officials noted that the hogs and pigs on kudzu feed gained weights of up to 11 pounds. However, they also stated that if a supplement of corn and tankage was added to their kudzu feed, the gain in weight was between thirty-four to thirty-nine pounds.

However, the hogs love to eat kudzu roots and make a mess in rooting them up. On the one hand, it is good that they remove these invasive legumes from the roots and prevent them from growing again, but on the other hand, they make a total mess of the ground. As a precaution, you should place rings on their noses before letting them graze on the kudzu field.

Similar experiments were performed for beef cattle. The observers noticed again from 70 to up to 137 pounds when kudzu was added to the cattle’s routine diet.

If you’d like more information on which other animals can eat kudzu while skipping the scientific papers, don’t despair. I’ve got a whole series on which animals can eat kudzu. Here are the links to those articles.

Most livestock animals can eat kudzu, and it’s actually healthy for them. Just make sure you read the appropriate article for more information.

Image of a flock of backyard chickens polishes off some leftover garden produce, including peas and pumpkins.

What Else Can Chickens Eat?

Chickens are omnivores and enjoy eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, seeds, nuts, bugs, and any small animals they can catch and swallow whole. Chickens require a diverse diet to be healthy, whether as a layer or a meat chicken.

Our chickens love to eat a lot of things. Here are some of their favorite treats.

  • Pill bugs or potato bugs (my kids love to catch them and feed them to their chickens)
  • Most bugs they can catch and eat
  • Kitchen scraps
  • Mice (you can read more about chickens eating mice in my article here)
  • Most Fruits
  • Most Vegetables
  • Seeds

Chickens are great at eating most anything you aren’t sure if it’ll be okay in your compost bin. Just make sure that the pieces are either small enough to not be a chicken choking hazard or large enough that they can be pecked apart while being eaten.

Things You Shouldn’t Feed Chickens

While chickens are amazing at eating most things, they shouldn’t be fed a few things. These can either be choking hazards, toxic, or tend to be a food sensitivity to chickens.

  • Avocados
  • Citrus
  • Caffeine (including coffee and tea)
  • Chocolate
  • Salt
  • Green nightshade family fruits (potatoes and tomatoes)
  • Raw beans
  • Onions
  • Unshelled nuts
  • Rhubarb leaves
  • Moldy or rotten food
  • Processed human foods
  • Fruit pits or seeds

This is just a quick list, but it’ll give you a good idea of the foods you shouldn’t feed your chicken. Isn’t it nice that kudzu isn’t on that list?

Final Thoughts

Kudzu is a fast-growing and invasive vine that has wreaked havoc in the southeastern parts of the United States. Kudzu was initially introduced in the US to stop the soil erosion, but it spread at a rapid pace damaging anything in its path. That is why it is also renowned as the ‘vine that ate the south.’

The farmers in the south started using kudzu as a feed for their livestock to control the spread. The application proved very effective because the farm animals loved it, and it had a productive effect on the health of these animals. Using kudzu as a feed not only solved the problem of forage on lands with limited resources it also helped control the escalation and roll out of these legumes.

Kudzu has many benefits, but it should not be utilized as a replacement for regular feed for a longer period of time.  However, using kudzu feed in a controlled amount or as a supplement would be constructive for the proper growth of the farm animals.

So go ahead and let your chickens eat the kudzu. It’s not only a good way to control the kudzu, but also to keep your chickens healthy. Just don’t let them eat the vines, seed pods, or seeds. Some chickens will naturally avoid those parts of the plant but keep an eye on them anyway.

And if you ever suspect there’s an issue related to your chicken’s diet or kudzu consumption, note what they ate and call your veterinarian right away.

Are you wanting to feed your chickens kudzu as part of a feed-free diet? That’s awesome. Make sure you read my complete guide to going feed-free here: How to Raise Chickens Without Feed (And Why it’s Better!) That’ll help you know exactly how to feed your chickens naturally and safely.

Cite this article as: “Can Chickens Eat Kudzu?” Backyard Homestead HQ, 11 September 2021, backyardhomesteadhq.com/can-chickens-eat-kudzu/.

Resources

It’s important to learn from your own experience, but it’s also smart to learn from others. These are the sources used in this article and in our personal research to be more informed as homesteaders. 🙂

  • “Kudzu – Wikipedia”. En.Wikipedia.Org, 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kudzu#United_States.
  • Sturkie, DG. “Kudzu: Its Value and Use in Alabama.” Auburn University, aurora.auburn.edu/bitstream/handle/11200/1887/1079CIRC.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.
  • The Open Sanctuary Project, Inc. “Things That Are Toxic To Chickens.” The Open Sanctuary Project, 9 Sept. 2021, opensanctuary.org/article/things-that-are-toxic-to-chickens.