Will Raw Peanuts Hurt Birds?

Raw peanuts can be harmful to birds. They contain trypsin inhibitors, which could cause pancreas or kidney damage. There is also the possibility of the peanuts containing aflatoxin, which could damage the liver. To be safe, peanuts should be roasted before feeding.

What Are Trypsin Inhibitors?

Although peanuts have the word “nut” in them, peanuts are actually a legume. That means it’s in the same family as most beans.

Soybeans and lima beans have trypsin inhibitors, as many other beans have similar properties that make them hard to digest.

These are anti-nutrients that serve as a defense mechanism for the legume. It disrupts the digestion of whatever animal eats it.

All plants have these to varying degrees. Think of it this way: birds and animals have talons, claws, sharp beaks, and teeth to protect themselves from predators. Plants don’t have those things, so they use anti-nutrients like trypsin inhibitors to do the job.

Legumes themselves are especially notorious for their level of anti-nutrients. There is a reason you have probably never seen a human eat a raw kidney bean (aside from the fact that it would taste awful).

Peanuts are no different, and while this does not mean that one single peanut can kill a bird instantly, chronic consumption can cause digestive issues that could eventually damage the kidneys and the pancreas.

The cooking process destroys these anti-nutrients, or at the very least, lessens them. This is why nearly every plant is easier to digest when cooked rather than raw.

For this reason, a nice roasting in the oven will help ensure that the birds are safe to feast on as many peanuts as they can eat!

What Are Aflatoxins?

Aflatoxins are a common toxin found in popular agricultural crops. It’s become a problem with many legumes, and peanuts are one of the primary culprits!

The toxin is produced by a fungus causing harmful bacteria to form. The main bacteria that affect peanuts are Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus.

Peanuts are a warm-weather crop, common in the southern United States. This warm weather is exactly where these aflatoxins like to hang out.

The National Cancer Institute has identified these aflatoxins as dangerous to humans, with potential effects leading to liver cancer.

If these nasty bacteria can affect humans in such a severe way, one can only imagine the damage they could present to birds.

Another important fact to note is that because of the nature of this toxin, the peanuts are not free from contamination once they’re harvested.

Aflatoxins, like nearly all fungi, love humid environments. Think of it as the athlete’s foot of plant fungus (gross, I know, but you won’t forget it).

If the peanuts are packed incorrectly or stored for too long in a place with poor ventilation, they could become infected and pose a danger to any bird who consumes them.

To make things worse, aflatoxins are heat resistant, so raw or cooked peanuts will carry risk. Thankfully, these toxins are relatively easy to avoid when purchasing peanuts, as most reputable brands test their product before sending them out to market.

Because of the stringent safety procedures, most peanuts bought in the United States are just fine for humans and birds, but whether you decide to feed your birds raw peanuts or roasted ones, this is something you should be aware of.

The Argument For Raw Peanuts

Everyone can agree that they’ve never seen a bird operate a microwave or a grill. When a robin snatches up a juicy worm from the ground, it typically doesn’t fly over to a pan and fry it in olive oil.

All jokes aside, why should we bother to roast our peanuts before feeding them to the local birds? If they were to come across peanuts in the wild, they would snatch them up and eat them raw. No cooking or second thoughts required. It’s hard to argue with that logic. Birds survived just fine before we came along to feed them.

The argument for raw peanuts is indeed a good one, but there is still a reason to believe that roasted peanuts will be the safer bet.

While raw may be fine for most birds, why run the risk when you could quickly roast them in your oven?

The peanuts won’t lose any nutrients, and the birds will still get the necessary energy they need from them.

Obviously, if you choose to use raw peanuts, it’s unlikely you’ll see birds dropping dead on your deck, but if you can save them some digestive stress, why not? Throw them in your oven for 15-20 minutes and they’re ready to go. Easy as that!

The Best Way To Feed Your Birds

So you’ve got your bag of peanuts, and you’re ready to share them with the birds visiting your deck. What do you need to know before you feed them?

Raw peanuts could be okay, but you risk causing the birds some digestive problems. Putting the peanuts on a baking sheet and roasting them for 20 minutes can ease some of these issues. Be sure when you do this to avoid any seasoning though, as salt and other flavorings can do serious harm to the birds.

Whether you go with raw or cooked, it’s important to think about what method is best to feed the birds. The easiest way to offer the peanuts is to scatter them across the ground. However, before doing so, it’s best to crush the peanuts or grind them up, so some smaller birds can’t choke on them.

This may be unnecessary, especially for bigger birds like blue jays, but why not play it safe? Another great way to ensure that the birds don’t choke on the peanuts is to get a nice mesh feeder where the holes in the mesh are too small to pull a whole nut out. With this method, you also get the added benefit of watching the birds the whole time since they can’t grab the peanuts and fly away!

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