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Are Holly Berries Poisonous To Chickens?

Keeping backyard chickens as a way to keep pests in your garden under control or as a source of fresh eggs has skyrocketed in recent years and more and more people continue to start keeping backyard chickens.

We have also seen a correlating spike in the number of people reaching out and asking various questions about caring for their backyard chickens with people commonly asking if holly berries are poisonous to chickens or not so we wanted to publish a dedicated article going over chickens and holly berries.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer regarding the toxicity of holly berries and chickens and although holly berries are considered toxic to humans, plenty of wild birds will happily eat them in large quantities without issue.

It does seem that most chickens avoid eating holly berries though but some have eaten holly berries without issue but only in small quantities.

As with most things when it comes to chickens, if in doubt, simply avoid the food source and stick to something like a high quality chicken feed as the primary source of food for your chickens.

If you have free-roaming chickens in your garden for pest control, consider ways that you can restrict your chicken’s access to where your holly bushes grow to reduce the chances of them eating the holly berries.

Are Holly Berries Poisonous To Chickens?

There is no definitive answer on if holly berries are poisonous to chickens that is backed up by scientific research with the majority of responses to chickens eating holly berries just being observations from other chicken owners.

The majority of chickens seem to just avoid even trying to eat holly berries but the chickens that have eaten small amounts of holly berries do seem to be fine.

This can be common with members of the animal kingdom and their food sources due to taking different evolutionary paths to humans.

As we touched on earlier in the article, a large number of wild birds have evolved to be able to eat holly berries without issue even though they are toxic to humans so the digestive system of chickens may have taken a similar evolutionary route and this could by why some backyard chicken keepers report their chickens eating holly berries without issue.

Another reason for this could be due to there being over twenty different species of holly bush with the berries of each species having different toxicity levels to each other.

It could be that some of the people on social media reporting that their chickens eat small amounts of holly berries have a less toxic species of holly that chickens may be able to eat in small amounts without issue but this does not guarantee the same for other species of holly.

Will Free Roaming Chickens Eat Holly Berries?

It seems that many free roaming chickens will actually avoid most holly bush species due to the spikes on the leaves of the bush reducing the chances of the eating holly berries.

Some species of holly bush don’t have particularly long spikes on their leaves though increasing the probability of free roaming chickens getting closer to the holly bushes and eating the holly berries.

You also have to factor in that some people will keep their holly bushes potted or elevated in some other way so the holly berries can end up falling off the bush and hitting landing on the floor away from the protection of their spiked leaves.

With chickens loving to forage so much, this does increase the chances of your chickens coming across the holly berry but even then, it does seem more likely that your chicken will just ignore the holly berry and look for other food.

We don’t know the reason behind this but chickens having the option to eat a holly berry and then intentionally walking away from it without eating it is commonly observed in backyard chickens.

This is not always the case though and some chickens will eat the berries if they are given the chance so keep this in mind but it does only seem to be a small number of chickens who will eat holly berries.

Should You Intentionally Feed Your Chickens Holly Berries?

We would not recommend that you intentionally try to feed your chickens holly berries as there is no guarantee that they are not toxic to chickens.

Just because some chicken keepers post on social media about their chickens eating holly berries without issue does not mean the same can be said for your chickens as different species of holly have different toxicity level while different species of chicken may have different tolerance levels.

This just adds too many variables to calculate for any intentional chicken feed with the risk being too high in our opinion, especially when you can just use a high quality chicken feed for your chickens that poses no risk to them at all.

Some people who keep chickens and have holly bushes in their yards or gardens will intentionally go out and collect the berries that have fallen from their holly prior to opening their chicken’s coop for the day to further reduce risk too.

Other options can be to try and net off areas of your yard or garden to prevent your chickens from even being able to get close to your holly.

For the most part though, the majority of chickens will tend to avoid even trying to eat the holly berries as if they have some type of instinct to tell them not to eat them.

There are a number of reports on social media from chicken keepers whos chickens have eaten holly berries without issue too so even if your birds do eat some holly berries, it would seem that they have a large chance of not having any problems anyway.


That brings our article going over if holly berries are poisonous to chickens to an end and we hope that you have found our article helpful. There are plenty of other suitable food options that you are able to give to your chickens that don’t pose a potential risk to them so we would recommend that you stick to safe chicken feed mixes or take steps to try and restrict your chickens access to the area of your garden where your holly grows to be safe.