While most humans are extremely allergic to poison ivy, several animals can safely consume it.
It is hardly surprising that chickens show no adverse effects after eating or coming in contact with poison ivy.
So the question is – Can Chickens Eat Poison Ivy?
It is a general consensus that chickens can consume small amounts of poison Ivy as treats.
That said, if your chickens have been eating poison ivy, you should be extremely cautious while handling them as they can transfer residual allergens to you.
But the last time I emphasized being careful with poison ivy, someone asked me: “Have you been watching Batman?”.
If that’s the case, I assure you that poison Ivy is neither fictitious nor some woman.
Anyways, if this is the first you are reading about poison ivy.
Then, you must be wondering:
What Is Poison Ivy?
Now, poison ivy can cause skin rashes in apes and in some species of hamsters.
However, this plant appears to be safe for most animals.
In fact, animals like songbirds, goats, and deer specifically look for poison ivy as treats.
Consequently, some scientists have even theorized that:
However, this may not be true at all.
You see, urushiol reduces microbial growth as well as the reproduction of certain pests.
Furthermore, only selective insects tend to reside in poison ivy leaves and flowers.
So, this evidence suggests that:
Most likely, poison ivy developed Uroshiol as a natural antimicrobial and pesticide agent.
And so, animals that fondly eat poison ivy may also benefit from these characteristics.
Or, eating poison ivy is more like a natural way to rid an animal of pathogens.
But this does not answer:
Why Are Humans Sensitive To Poison Ivy?
Because our immune system is too vigilant.
You see, urushiol is an oily resin that is completely harmless.
Now, T-cells tend to eliminate sick cells.
So,when produced specifically through CD1 receptors they release interleukin-17 and interleukin-22 into the bloodstream.
These immune proteins target cells containing urushiol (see figure 1), or all those cells exposed to poison ivy.
Therefore, the blisters produced by poison ivy contain human skin dead cells.
These cannot further trigger allergies to others.
Figure 1: Representing How Poison Ivy Causes Allergy in Humans
About 10-15% of all humans are naturally tolerant to poison ivy. However, some humans can even develop sensitivity with repeated exposures to the Poisonous Ivy.
But elderly people rarely experience poison Ivy allergy. It’s because the immune system lowers down with increasing age.
Anyways, what’s the use of all this discussion if you still cannot recognize and avoid poison ivy. So, I present to you:
Identifying Poison Ivy
Now, poisonous ivy is a climbing plant that typically grows on trees.
However, it can also grow on pavements, buildings, walls, and even cracked corners.
Normally, poisonous ivy stem and leaves are greenish in color.
A single leaf is composed of three leaflets, with one large leaf in the middle and two small leaves joined by short stalks on either side.
The leaves are lance-shaped with distinct lobes or margins along the edges.
Young leaves are glossy and reddish, but old leaves appear green and rather rough.
The flowers are white and only grow in spring however, seeds or fruiting bodies are found on the underside of leaves nearly all times.
Poison ivy has different shades and appearances in different seasons, making it somewhat tricky to recognize.
Here is a list of changes in poison ivy’s appearance with each season:
|Spring||Red or green||Green||Green Flower buds.||Buds turn into off-white flowers.|
|Summer||Flashy red to Green.||Green||Flowers present till||Pollination occurs.|
|Fall||Yellow, Red-orange, and faded leaves.||Green-red.||Absent||–|
|Winter||Deep red leaves shriveling off.||Leafless stalks with a red tinge.||Absent||Buds and leaves start to appear by the end of the season.|
Since urushiol is present in poison ivy sap which means the plant is only toxic when it is damaged enough to release sap.
You see, even insects and strong wind can squeeze out poison ivy sap.
Furthermore, the urushiol is oily and tends to stick on surfaces for a long time.
Therefore, the entire poison ivy should be treated with care, damaged or not.
I suggest you don’t directly touch poison ivy even to identify it.
So what about chickens?
Is it bad for them?
Let’s find out
Is Poison Ivy Bad For Chickens?
Well, there is no evidence available to suggest that poison ivy is unhealthy for chickens.
Poison ivy should add nutritional value to a chicken’s diet.
Furthermore, poison ivy may help chickens naturally reduce pathogenic bacteria.
That said, the nutrients in poison ivy are limited.
But, over-consumption of poison ivy can cause malnutrition or perhaps toxic effects.
One should never try to give poison ivy as a complete meal to chickens or any other animals.
The rule of thumb for excelling in poultry is to give chickens all kinds of foods but in moderate amounts.
How Should I Feed Poison Ivy To My Chickens?
Since poison ivy is toxic to human skin, you can only appropriately feed poison ivy to your chickens while free-ranging.
You must ensure that you don’t handle your chickens right after they have eaten poison ivy.
Well, because poison ivy residues can transfer from chickens and other pets to their human owners.
But this suggestion brings us to another dilemma.
“Why Should One Even Feed Poison Ivy to Chickens?”
You see, chickens have so many options to eat, that going out of the way to feed them poison ivy seems rather unnecessary.
Also, your chicken is likely to live a long life without ever tasting poison ivy.
Quite literally as your chickens are likely to live long enough to see their grandkids’ grandkids.
Unless, of course, you wish to fry your chickens young and then eat them.
So, you can simply avoid the whole cumbersome experience of feeding poison ivy to chickens.
But perhaps, your chickens ate some poison ivy while free-ranging so you may be thinking…
What You Should Do If Your Chicken Eats Poison Ivy?
Well, clean the chickens, contaminated surfaces, and then take a shower.
You see, a small amount of poison ivy is alright for your chickens, you on the other hand are more at risk of exposure.
Since urushiol is an oily resin, you need to use lipid-cutting soap like dishwashing detergent.
You can also use specific poison ivy removing products like Technu handwash.
I suggest you do the following:
- Give your chickens a dust bath before letting them enter their coop. Later give them a proper soapy water bath, but use gloves while handling them.
- Wash your hands with dishwasher soap and warm water. This will remove urushiol from your skin and will remove any allergic reactions. The warm water may remove any preliminary itching.
- If you have any cuts on your hands or arms, then wash your hands with dishwasher soap and cool water. This will slow down the spread of poison ivy in your body.
- Wash the utensils, tools, or any fabric that has come in contact with poison ivy or the chickens while they were feeding on the plant.
- Since poison ivy residues can stay in a single place for days. Therefore, always wash chicken eggs with soapy water before using them.
I must mention that chickens are unlikely to increase poison ivy spread by producing droppings-containing poison ivy seeds.
Since poison ivy seeds are already exposed to stomach acids, most of these digested seeds lack the ability to germinate further.
But if the spread of poison ivy was all you were concerned about, then you must be wondering:
How Do You Kill Poison Ivy?
Here is a list of the most commonly used methods for killing Poison Ivy.
|Biological Control||Certain animals like goats and sheep specifically look for Poison Ivy to consume it.
And so, one can simply get a goat to eat poison ivy.
|Physical Removal||Wear gloves, masks and rubber clothes. Cut down poison ivy stalks and put them in plastic bags by turning them inside out, exactly how you remove the dog waste.
Wash all your equipment and then wash up.
|Chemical Control||Spray poison Ivy specific pesticides such as Roundup to chemically remove these plants.||
|Salting In||Create concentrated brine solution (Salt in water) and spray water around poison Ivy to dip the plant roots in salt.||
|Home-Made Pesticide||Add and Mix:
Spray this solution on poison ivy for at least two weeks.
|Homebased remedy that works effectively:
|Combination Method||Snip the plant body as much as you can.
Sparingly apply pesticides on the remaining stems and roots by using some brush.
Here are a few more suggestions to help you:
- The best time yon rid yourself of poison ivy is late summer around July or August.
- If you are spraying pesticide use flat sprinklers rather than conical jet nozzles. This will reduce the amount of pesticide needed to cover the poison ivy plants.
- You can use diesel or oil to remove urushiol though, this method will be too harsh for your hands.
- If inflammation starts, wash your hands several times and then apply either cortisone gel or calamine gels to reduce inflammation. However,
Regardless of the intensity of inflammation, do seek professional advice.
Urushiol is an oily substance so, burning this may turn it into unburned fumes that may directly enter through lungs.
Since inflammation of the lungs can cause respiratory distress or even death by suffocation never try to kill poison ivy by burning the plant. Doing so may cause severe health concerns or even death.
But poison ivy is the least of your concerns when free-ranging chickens.
There are certain plants that are harmless to humans but may be toxic for chickens.
Now, you may be thinking can chickens avoid such poisonous substances.
Will Chickens Eat Poisonous Plants?
They certainly will if they find it appetizing enough.
You see, most poisonous substances have a bitter taste to them and chickens instinctively reject most of these plants.
But they may eat all those foods that are sweet in taste but poisonous.
So, chickens will eat anything, eventually.
Besides, last time I checked chickens cannot google to check if their food is healthy for them.
Anyways, all it comes down to what is available to your chicken.
I present to you the foods that you need to keep an eye on.
1. Edible Plants Poisonous to Chickens
|Plant||Toxin for Chicken||Remarks|
|Avocados||Persin||Overdose can cause respiratory distress, edema, and even death.|
|Citrus||–||Chickens seem to preen more than usual.|
|Eggplants||Solanine-like chemicals are present. These mainly include||Best avoid raw eggplants.|
|Raw or Dried beans||Phytohemmaaglutin||Cooked beans may be alright.|
|Green Potato Skins||Solanine||Toxic in high quantities.|
|Spinach||Oxalates||Calcium absorption is affected.|
|Onions||Thiosuphates||May cause hemolytic anemic.|
|Unshelled Nuts||May contain mycotoxins||Avoid moist or old walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, and peanuts.|
|Leaves of Rhubarb, Potatoes, or Tomato Plants||Oxalate crystals and glycoalkaloids||May cause renal failure.|
|Iceberg lettuce||–||Causes diarrhea. So, it’s best to avoid.|
|Seasoned and Processed food||–||Salt, Sugar, Coffee, Liquor.|
2. Ornamental Plants Poisonous for Chickens
Here is a list:
- Azalea and foxglove
- Buttercup family
- Cherry laurel and Mountain laurel
- Daphne and Honeysuckle
- Lily, Jasmine, and Tulip
- Sweet Pea
- Mexican poppy and Tobacco
- Monkshood and Wisteria
- Taxus Yew
3. Wild Pasture Plants Toxic for Chickens
These may include:
- Black locusts
- Castor Beans
- Corncockle and Hosenettle
- Death camas
- European Black Nightshade
- Poison and Water Hemlock
- Rosary Pea
- White snakeroot
Now, all these lists are neither complete nor absolute.
It’s because we rarely come across studies specifically discussing the role of these plants in killing a chicken.
Another thing is, individuals of the same species respond differently to numerous chemicals.
While poison ivy is not toxic to chicken, you should be careful giving it to your chickens.
I hope this article helped you in understanding, identifying, and making an informed decision regarding feeding poison ivy to your chickens.
If you are already suffering from poison ivy, I hope you get rid of the skin rash as well as poison ivy growing in your yard.