Including Chickpeas in Organic Poultry Diets

Organic Agriculture July 25, 2014 Print Friendly and PDF

eOrganic author:

Dr. Jacquie Jacob Ph.D., University of Kentucky

NOTE: Before using any feed ingredient make sure that the ingredient is listed in your Organic System Plan and approved by your certifier.


Chickpeas (Cicer arietinum L.), grown primarily for human consumption, are a valuable source of protein, minerals, and vitamins in many parts of the world. There are two types of chickpea, Kabuli and Desi, which can be distinguished by their seed color and geographical location (Bampidis and Christodoulou, 2011). Kabuli varieties are a white to cream color, and have a Mediterranean and Middle Eastern origin. Desi varieties are wrinkled and come in a variety of different colors.


Although chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) play a primary role in human nutrition, rejected and excess seeds are a potential protein and energy feedstuff for use in poultry diets. The protein content of chickpeas varies considerably depending on the variety and growing conditions. Reported protein levels vary from 13.7% to 34.0% (Bampidis and Christodoulou, 2011).

As with other legumes, chickpeas contain antinutritional factors including protease and amylase inhibitors, lectins, tannins and oligosaccharides (Torki and Karimi, 2007). These antinutritional factors interfere with nutrient absorption by the digestive tract. Most of the antinutritional factors in chickpeas can be inactivated by heat treatment. The effectiveness of the heat treatment depends on the temperature and exposure time. The antinutritional factor content of chickpeas is reported to be 30-40 times less than soybean meal, and it is possible to use some varieties raw (Cordesse, 1990).

The chemical composition of chickpeas is similar to field peas, except that the fat content is higher in chickpeas (Cordesse, 1990). The crude protein content of chickpeas ranges from 12% to 30%. When used in poultry diets, methionine and cysteine are the first limiting amino acids.

Feeding Chickpeas to Poultry

Spanish researchers reported that inclusion of raw chickpeas to 20% of the diet of growing chickens had no effect on growth performance but did alter the relative weights of some digestive organs (Brenes et al., 2008). In particular, the pancreas weight was increased. Enlargement of the pancreas frequently occurs in chickens fed diets containing trypsin inhibitors and/or lectins (Brenes, 2008). The level of chickpea inclusion could be raised to 30% when using extruded chickpeas.

Other research has shown that replacing more than 10% of the soybean meal in a broiler diet with raw chickpeas adversely affected performance (Torki and Karimi, 2007; Farrell et al., 1999). Supplementing the diets with ß-mannanase improved the body weight gain of broilers receiving a soybean-chickpea-based diet (Torki and Karimi, 2007).

Chickpeas can be included in layer diets up to 25% with no adverse effects on production but, again, there was an increased pancreas weight and high gut viscosity. The latter results in increased moisture in the litter and can increase ammonia levels (Perez-Maldonado, et al., 1999).

Higher levels of chickpeas can be used if the antinutritional factors are destroyed using heat treatment. Extrusion is the heat treatment most commonly used in research with chickpeas. It destroys the antinutritional factors and improves the utilization of starch, fat and protein. Extruded chickpeas were included in turkey grower diets to 30% with no adverse effects on performance (Christodoulou et al., 2006).

The conflicting research results reported for inclusion of chickpeas in poultry diets may be a result of differences in the concentrations of the different antinutritional factors, which are, in turn, affected by conditions under which the chickpeas are grown (Singh, 1988). Differences in trypsin inhibitor content are reported to range from 6.7 to 14.6 units/mg. Similarly, the levels of chymotrypsin inhibitor content ranged from 5.7 to 9.4 units/mg (Singh, 1988).

References and Citations

  • Bampidis, V. A., and V. Christodoulou. 2011. Chickpeas (Cicer arietinum L.) in animal nutrition: A review. Animal Feed Science and Technology 168:1–20. (Available for purchase online at: (verified 8 Jan 2014)
  • Brenes, A., A. Viveros, C. Centeno, I. Arija, and F. Marzo. 2008. Nutritional value of raw and extruded chickpeas (Cicer arietinum L.) for growing chickens. Spanish Journal of Agricultural Research 6:537–545. (Available online at: (verified 8 Jan 2014)
  • Cordesse, R. 1990. Value of chickpea as animal feed. p. 127–131. In: Saxena M. C., J. I. Cubero, and J. Wery (eds.) Present status and future prospects of chickpea crop production and improvement in the Mediterranean countries. Zaragoza. (Options Méditerranéennes : Série A. Séminaires Méditerranéens; n. 9.) (Available online at: (verified 8 Jan 2014)
  • Christodoulou, V., V. A. Bampidis, B. Hucko, and Z. Mudrik. 2006. The use of extruded chickpeas in diets of broiler turkeys. Czech Journal of Animal Science 9:416–423. (Available online at: (verified 8 Jan 2014)
  • Farrell, D. J., R. A. Perez-Maldonado, and P. F. Mannion. 1999. Optimum inclusion of field peas, faba beans, chick peas and sweet lupins in poultry diets. II. Broiler experiment. British Poultry Science 40:674–680. (Available for purchase online at: (verified 8 Jan 2014)
  • Perez-Maldonado, R. A., P. F. Mannion, and D. J. Farrell. 1999. Optimum inclusion of field peas, faba beans, chick peas and sweet lupins in poultry diets. I. Chemical composition and layer experiments. British Poultry Science 40:667–673. (Available for purchase online at: (verified 8 Jan 2014)
  • Singh, U., 1988. Antinutritional factors of chickpea and pigeonpea and their removal by processing. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition 38:251–261. (Available for purchase online at: (verified 8 Jan 2014)
  • Torki, M. and A. Karimi. 2007. Evaluation of dietary replacement of soybean meal by chickpea supplemented by enzymes on performance of broiler chicks. World Poultry Science Association, Proceedings of the 16th European Symposium on Poultry Nutrition 651-654. (Available online at: (verified 8 Jan 2014)


This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.