Can Chickens Eat Pineapple? (Tingly Tongue)
Chickens can eat small bits of pineapple as a treat, but it's not a healthy food source. If you've ever eaten fresh pineapple, you know how it leaves you with a tingly tongue and a burning sensation in the mouth. It's the same for chickens.
- Chickens can eat fresh pineapple in moderation
- Cooking or heating the pineapple reduces the harmful enzymes
- Pineapples are high in sugar and increase the risk of Sour Crop
- Avoid feeding the peels; they are too hard to digest
- Don’t feed jams or processed pineapple food
Can Chickens Eat Pineapple?
Chickens can eat small amounts of pineapple as a treat, but it's not a good food source. The bromelain and citric acid in pineapple irritate the mouth and digestive system. It's also high in sugar, which increases the risk for Sour Crop, and can cause blood sugar-related health conditions.
Nutritional Value of Pineapple for Chickens
Pineapples are 85% water, and the fruit doesn't contain many macronutrients as a food source. They almost have no proteins and fats, and the carbs are mostly sugar.
|Slice Pineapple (56g)||Amount||% DV Laying Hen|
|Vitamin A||32.5 IU||~1%|
|Vitamin C||26.8 g||~27%|
|Folate (Vitamin B9)||10.1 µg||~1%|
|Vitamin B6||0.063 mg||~2%|
Pineapples are rich in vitamin C, vital for bone health, growth and development, iron absorption, and the chicken's immune system. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that protects the body against free radicals and wards off inflammation.
The tropical fruit is a good source of manganese for humans. But for laying hens, it doesn't come near to their daily needs. A thin slice of pineapple only contains 0.519mg of manganese, which is roughly 4% of what a Leghorn pullet needs daily.
Harmful Substances in Pineapple for Chickens
Although generally safe, (over)feeding chickens pineapple scraps bring some health risks.
Pineapples come with some challenging properties:
- Bromelain: fresh pineapples contain bromelain, a digestive enzyme that breaks down meat. It's what's causing the burning sensation on your tongue. Too much bromelain will cause irritation and affect the chicken's digestive system.
- Acidity: pineapples are highly acidic, with a pH of 3 to 4. This is at the same level as the acidity in the chicken's stomach or proventriculus. Food is digested in the chicken's stomach at pH 1.5–3.5. Too much pineapple can upset their stomach.
- Sugar: the tropical fruit is high in sugar, which creates an ideal environment for yeasts that can cause Sour Crop. Pineapple's glucose, fructose, and sucrose have a high glycemic index and spike blood sugar levels.
- Skin: the parts of the pineapple skin are very hard to digest and can cause obstructions in the digestive system
The combination of bromelain, high acidity levels, and sugar poses some challenges to the chicken's digestive system. Overfeeding can result in negative health effects.
Health Risks of Pineapple Overfeeding in Chickens
Feeding chickens with more than 10% of their daily food intake in pineapples increases the risks of:
- Sour Crop: the high sugar content in tropical food increase the risk of Candida-infections. Chickens buffer food in their crop after they eat. High sugar concentrations speed up the fermentation process and boost yeast growth.
- Irritation of mouth and esophagus: eating pineapple leaves you with a tingly tongue and a burning sensation in the mouth. The culprit is bromelain, a digestive enzyme that breaks down meat. It destroys the protective mucus of the mouth. With the protective mucus torn down, the high acidity of pineapple causes a stinging sensation.
- Upset Stomach: fresh pineapples have acidity levels that can be as high as the acidity levels in the chicken's stomach. The food digestion in chickens starts in the proventriculus, where it's broken down biochemically by pepsin. Although small pineapple bits can help digestion, overfeeding can cause upset and challenge the stomach wall.
- Impacted Crop: undigested parts of the pineapple skin can cause a partial or complete blockage that results in food getting stuck in a chicken's crop
- Hyperglycemia: the abundance of sugars in pineapple can cause hyperglycemia, a state where chickens have elevated blood sugar levels. Hyperglycemia causes high blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, liver problems, and many other diseases.
How to feed Pineapple to Chickens
When you feed pineapple to chickens, there are a couple of things to consider:
- make sure the pineapples are ripe - unripe pineapples can upset the stomach and cause diarrhea. Make sure the flesh is yellow.
- don't feed the pineapple skin - the skin is too hard for chickens to break down and digest. It can obstruct the digestive system and cause an impacted crop. The undigested food can cause problems in their digestive system.
- don't feed jam or juices - stay away from jams, jellies, juices, and any processed pineapple food. It generally comes with high sugar concentrations to make counter the sour taste
- cook the pineapple - if you cook or heat the pineapple, you remove a lot of the bromelain enzymes that cause sore throat and irritation
Bromelain for Chickens
Pineapples contain bromelain, a digestive enzyme that breaks down meat and proteins. Oftentimes pineapple is served as a side dish in chicken diners to aid digestion. It's also used in the poultry industry to tender chicken meat.
If you've ever enjoyed a piece of fresh pineapple, you'll surely recognize the stinging sensation when your tongue grows sore. Pineapple makes your tongue, lips, and roof of the mouth burn up to the point where it can blood. It's like the pineapple is eating you.
That's not too far from the truth. Bromelain dissolves the protective mucus in the mouth. The citric acid in pineapples then burns the flesh. To avoid a burning sensation, cooking can remove much of the bromelain.
How much pineapple can chickens eat?
Small amounts of bromelain can aid in digestion and has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. However, too much will irritate a chicken's mouth and digestion system. The question is how much is too much, and at this point in time, nobody knows.
Scientific research uses roughly 40-gram bromelain a day in dietary supplementation. That's about 50ml of pineapple juice. And since pineapple is mostly water, that might correspond to a thin slice.
However, scientists use bromelain extract in clinical conditions. Fresh pineapple is also acidic, which has an influence on how bromelain reacts in the stomach. So there are a lot of things going on at the same time.
The only thing that's clear is that the chicken's digestive system is not built to digest pineapple.
Pineapple Waste in Poultry Supplementation
A large part of the pineapple is inedible skin. However, the pineapple peel still contains many micronutrients and bromelain. Countries with high pineapple production are searching for new ways to deal with an abundance of pineapple waste. One of the possibilities is to repurpose it to create poultry supplements.
There is some anecdotical evidence for poultry supplementation:
- One study in 2020 studied digestive enzymes in pineapple waste. They found xylanase, protease, and cellulase can be applied as poultry supplements.
- A study in 2019 concluded that dietary supplementation of small amounts of bromelain has an antibacterial effect and reduces the E. coli population in the chicken's digestive system
- An earlier publication in 2019 suggests supplementing chicken feed with 0.45 g/kg bromelain extract to enhance antioxidant capacity
The last study on bromelain supplementation used white Lohmann laying hens and did not find any effect on laying performance or egg quality. However, they found a positive effect on egg yolk serum proteins and antioxidant enzymes.
Remember that all these studies happen in clinical conditions and are in no way a substitute for the real world.
- Bananas - learn about the health benefits for chickens
- Mango - we discuss whether chickens can eat sweet mango
- Oranges - the benefits and risks of feeding oranges to your flock
- Strawberries - power food for humans, but what about chickens?
- Grapes - the pros and cons of feeding grapes to chickens
Some other reads:
- Can chickens eat and taste spicy food – here we discuss the taste of chickens
- Can chickens eat onions – the risks and how onions are used as poultry supplements
- Can chickens eat chocolate – several variants of chocolate are toxic to chickens
Some articles we mentioned here:
- The chicken digestive system – how chickens digest their food
- The chicken respiratory system – how chickens breathe and why it’s so different from how we breath
If you want to learn more about chicken feed, please consult our 'Chicken Food Page' to go and see every specific food article we address, including all articles on what chickens can and can not eat. Or go to our listicle food summary on 'The Classroom'.