Feeding Buckwheat to Poultry

Small and Backyard Flocks May 05, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Written by: Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky

Buckwheat is a summer annual grown widely throughout the world. Buckwheat is often grouped with the grains, but it is not a true grain because it is not a grass. Buckwheat has favorable agronomical characteristics. The period from planting to harvest is only 10 to 12 weeks. Buckwheat often yields a better crop on poor soil than the true cereals. Buckwheat can also be included in an organic crop rotation to disrupt the weed cycle. It can be double-cropped with wheat, and it is popular with beekeepers because the resulting honey has a distinctive flavor.

Use in Poultry Diets

The amino acid composition of buckwheat appears to be nutritionally superior to that of cereal grains, but this has not translated into good performance of poultry fed buckwheat-based diets. Buckwheat contains protease inhibitors and tannin, antinutritional factors that appear to inhibit performance. Buckwheat has some potential as a protein supplement to cereal grains. Buckwheat has a high lysine content, which can compensate for the lower lysine levels common in cereal grains.

Although some research shows that broiler feed can be composed of up to 60% buckwheat with no impact on overall body weight of the poultry, there is a reduction in feed efficiency when buckwheat composes so much of the diet. Diets of animals raised outdoors should not include such high levels of buckwheat. Buckwheat contains fagopyrin, a substance that increases skin sensitivity to ultraviolet (UV) light, leading to sunburns. It is recommended that poultry raised outdoors be fed a diet of no more than 30% buckwheat. As the cost difference between organic corn and buckwheat widens, it becomes more economical to include buckwheat in broiler diets.


Buckwheat: A multi-purpose, short-season alternative. Robert Myers and Louis Meinke, University of Missouri.

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