Can Chickens Eat Watercress? Is it Safe for Them?

Your flock of chickens will attempt to pick at anything from plant stems to your toes, but can chickens eat watercress? Leafy vegetables are an excellent food source high in protein and a great healthy treat for chickens.

Watercress was discovered to fight against cancer cell growth in test tube studies and has been used in ancient medicine. (1) It’s perfectly fine for chickens to eat watercress.

Key Takeaways

  • Chickens can eat watercress in moderate quantities.
  • Watercress is rich in essential nutrients such as Vitamin K, E, C. 
  • It can help with better immune and nervous system functions. 
  • Larger amounts of watercress are not recommended due to its nutrient-dense nature. 

In this article, I’ll take you through interesting nutritional facts about watercress, how much of it to feed your chickens, what greens to avoid, and more, so keep reading ahead!

READ MORE: Can Chickens Eat Figs?

3 Facts About Watercress

It’s an interesting aquatic or water plant and comes from the same family as broccoli, the cruciferous family. (2)

It grows in fresh water and is gaining popularity among people due to its low caloric content yet high nutritional value, especially for fulfilling the trace amounts of nutrients required in your body.

Here are a few important nutritional details you should be aware of while asking can chickens eat watercress.

1. Watercress Improves The Immune System

Some studies have displayed the immune system boosting abilities of watercress. These abilities included a boost in hemoglobin, “corpuscular volume,” and levels of protein.

All of this combined showed that the food source was responsible for boosting immune system function and could be related to an improvement in the improvement of nervous system function too.

The truth is watercress is actually an entire plant with an incredible variety of chemical substances with medicinal and biological properties. However, those who don’t relish its slightly bitter taste might not think so!

2. Watercress Is An Excellent Source Of Calcium

These brassica plants make a good treat for chickens because they can provide calcium.

Calcium contributes to the bone growth in chicks and is necessary for egg-laying chickens. Calcium deposits are necessary for aiding hens through contractions when laying eggs.

Hens need calcium for a better functioning reproductive system.

Moreover, it helps fulfill various roles for the improvement of the cardiovascular and digestive systems; this includes absorbing phosphorus in the digestive system.

It is also necessary for adequate nervous system function.

3. Watercress Is Packed With Nutrients

Like many other green plants, watercress is filled with complex vitamins and includes Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and more.

It also includes calcium, iodine, iron, and phosphorus.

Calcium is a necessary part of chicken diets, and any healthy treats you might offer your backyard chickens need to include this.

According to the CDC, it’s ranked at the top in the US Center for Disease Control’s list of “Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables.” (3) It scores 100% on the nutrient density score.

Vitamin C in watercress helps decrease inflammation and improves immune system functions by boosting white blood cell production to fight infectious diseases.

Nutritious Plants To Feed Your Chickens

As chicken owners, you will know it’s necessary to stick to FDA-approved chicken mostly feeds as the primary food source, especially so egg production does not decrease.

However, the occasional vegetable and plant can be good for your chickens. Here are some of the most nutritious plants you can add to the list of foods okay for your chicken to eat.

Before you read on, take a look at how creative you can be as a chicken owner by planting an entire pecking garden of green vegetables and plants to provide health treats!

Some of the eaiest chicken greens you can grow include:

  • Mint
  • Silverbeet 
  • Lettuce 
  • Rocket
  • Sage
  • Fennel
  • Nasturtium 
  • Borage 
  • Parsley

All of these plants can add some nutritional value to your chicken’s diet and can become favorite treats!

How Much Watercress Is Okay For Chickens?

Watercress should never be the chicken’s primary food source and should be added to the list of foods in the chicken diets infrequently.

This is because while it is nutrient-rich and its peppery taste makes it the occasional healthy treat, it can cause many problems if it becomes a daily part of the chicken’s diet.

An excess of nutrients can cause substantial harm to your chickens.

It is best not to exceed one dose of the vegetable every 2-3 weeks. Make sure you’ve thoroughly rinsed it.

I know some of us like to eat raw watercress or as part of some dish, or if we’ve grown a crop of watercress, either free-ranging chickens are likely to attack it, or we might hand them some leftovers.

But large amounts of calcium and iron can lead to egg binding in chickens in addition to bone ash and detrimental bone growth in chicks.

Increased levels of oxalic acid will also endanger your chickens; green leafy vegetables like watercress and spinach can also lead to increased oxalic acid levels.

It’s tempting to discard fresh greens by feeding them to the chickens, but you should keep them to yourself.

Poisonous Garden Plants To Protect Your Chickens From

If you have backyard chickens, it’s entirely possible they might peck at poisonous garden plants within your garden and suffer from serious conditions, if not death.

I recall some of my chickens mysteriously contracting conditions I couldn’t figure out until I realized they were eating some daffodils from my garden. Imagine the shock!

Here are some poisonous garden plants you need to avoid growing to protect your flock of chickens.

  • Rhubarb 
  • Ferns
  • Green Tomatoes
  • Eggplants
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes 
  • Beans 

These are some of the most commonly grown plants on properties and backyards, which is why I’ve mentioned them, although there are many varieties of plants you should look up and avoid planting.

Like the daffodils I’ve mentioned above, some other flowers include lily of the valley, azaleas and rhododendrons!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can chicken eat salad cress?

Chickens can actually eat salad cress and a variety of other lettuces such as ice berg, oak leaf, romaine etc. Rocket is okay for them to eat too.

2. Can chicken eat rice?

They can enjoy brown rice and white rice as long as they are cooked.


Can chickens eat watercress? Yes, but only once every 2-3 weeks, in moderation, as with most things. If you grow vegetables or greens for your chickens, let me know about your experiences in the comments below!


1. Watercress: Health benefits and nutritional breakdown [Internet]. 2019. Available from:

2. The 13 Healthiest Leafy Green Vegetables [Internet]. Healthline. 2018 [cited 2022 Dec 14]. Available from:

3. Di Noia J. Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach. Preventing Chronic Disease [Internet]. 2014;11. Available from:






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