Broccoli is a common cool-season crop grown in many gardens. Whether you love it or just tolerate it, we all know that this member of the cabbage family is great for our health.
But whether you grow broccoli in your garden or buy it from a store or market, you might be wondering whether birds can eat broccoli, too.
Do Birds Eat Broccoli?
Birds do indeed eat broccoli.
If you do decide to grow broccoli in your garden, birds can become a problem as they try to eat your crops entirely before you get the chance to harvest.
Birds can be a common agricultural and horticultural pest when growing broccoli and other related members of the Brassica plant family. Other related plants in the cabbage family include cauliflower, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, etc.
Garden birds and pet birds will eat broccoli when it is offered, both raw and cooked.
Which Birds Eat Broccoli?
Pigeons are known to eat broccoli growing in the garden, and several other birds may also give it a go.
When I first got an allotment to grow my own food years ago, I made the mistake of leaving a bed of broccoli plants uncovered, and within a very short period, a flock of pigeons descended and ate the lot. Just a few sad stems were left.
Which Parts of Broccoli Do Birds Eat?
Do Birds Eat Broccoli Seeds?
Birds will sometimes eat broccoli seeds that you have sown in a garden before they get the chance to germinate. Broccoli seeds are quite bitter and don’t appeal to many birds, but they can occasionally be a problem when growing this crop.
Do Birds Eat Broccoli Seedlings?
It is more likely that birds will eat seeds once they sprout. Birds can often decimate the crop if your tiny seedlings are not protected. They may nibble them or pluck them whole from the ground.
Do Birds Eat Broccoli Leaves?
Birds also eat the more mature leaves from broccoli plants.
Pigeons, again, are a major culprit, and if you keep chickens, you will also have to keep them away from crops you are growing for yourself. When given the opportunity, chickens will eat broccoli down to the ground.
Do Birds Eat Raw Broccoli Florets?
Birds also often peck at and eat the florets that form on broccoli plants. Two main types of broccoli are commonly grown—heading broccoli, also called Calabrese, and sprouting broccoli, with smaller florets.
With both types, birds may sometimes eat the heads or florets before you get the chance to do so.
How To Stop Birds Eating Broccoli in the Garden
Where birds are a pest in a vegetable garden, the only surefire way to protect your broccoli crop is to cover it. Cloches, row covers, or netting can be used.
Though you should be careful when using the netting that this does not represent a hazard to birds in which they could become trapped or tangled.
Covering broccoli is a good idea in any case since other pests can trouble an uncovered crop, such as cabbage flies and the caterpillars of cabbage white butterflies, for example.
But as well as covering crops, there are also other steps that you should take to reduce the amount birds ‘steal’ from a vegetable garden.
Key among these things is making sure that there are plenty of other food sources around for the birds in other parts of your garden.
If there are plenty of natural sources of sustenance around, birds are far less likely to become a serious issue for home growers.
So plant plenty of native plants for fruits, berries, nuts, seeds, and flowering plants to draw beneficial insects to your garden that many birds also like to eat.
Is Broccoli Good for Birds?
So, we have established that birds do eat broccoli when it is growing in a garden, and will also often partake when it is fed to them at a bird table, or when it is given to pet birds.
But just because birds eat something, that does not necessarily mean that it is good for them.
Fortunately, in the case of broccoli, the birds are making a good choice. Broccoli is indeed a safe and healthy food for birds to consume as part of a varied and balanced diet.
Raw broccoli is 89% water, 7% carbohydrates, 3% protein, and contains negligible fat.
It is a rich source of vitamins C, and K, and has moderate amounts of several B vitamins, the dietary mineral manganese, as well as lower proportions of other micro-nutrients.
All of these characteristics, which make broccoli a healthy food for humans to eat, also make broccoli a healthy addition to an avian diet.
While broccoli on its own obviously won’t provide birds with everything that they need, it can be a healthy supplemental food when provided in moderation—alongside a range of other natural foods.
How To Feed Broccoli to Birds
We have already established that birds will eat raw broccoli from the plant, and they will also take it when it is provided by humans on purpose.
The florets, stems, and leaves can all be eaten raw, and a range of birds will be happy to do so.
But if you wonder if birds can eat broccoli you might also be wondering whether you can feed excess or leftovers to birds in your garden or your pet birds.
Can Birds Eat Cooked Broccoli?
Raw, uncooked broccoli has a better nutritional profile, and some of the health benefits are lost through cooking this vegetable. Generally speaking, the longer the cooking time, the less nutritionally beneficial the broccoli will be—for us and the birds.
But cooked broccoli can be easier for some birds to eat and digest, and the different textures may make it more appealing to some. Even when cooked, broccoli can still be a healthy addition to a wild or pet bird’s diet.
Can Birds Eat Frozen Broccoli?
Frozen broccoli shares the same nutritional profile as broccoli fresh harvested from a garden. So as long as you thaw this out before you serve it, it is absolutely fine to include this in your pet bird’s diet or to leave it out for backyard birds.
If you purchase fresh broccoli from a store or supermarket rather than growing it yourself or picking it up from a local farm shop or farmer’s market soon after it was harvested, frozen broccoli may often actually have a better nutritional profile.
This is because broccoli starts to lose some of its healthful properties the second it is harvested.
Store-bought broccoli may have been off the plant much longer than broccoli that has been frozen since it is often frozen quickly after the harvest.
Can I Feed Leftover Recipes Containing Broccoli to Birds?
If you have some leftovers containing cooked broccoli, it will often be fine to offer these to pets or wild birds.
However, it is important to make sure that you do not give birds anything with salt added. These elements are overly fatty, so make sure that the other ingredients in the recipe are also safe for birds to eat!