Language is one of those evolving features of culture in which similar sounding words often get conflated or used interchangeably. That’s true of the case of pawpaw and papaya, names sometimes used to refer to an orange, melon-like tropical fruit. This widespread practice has contributed to folks thinking pawpaw and papaya are the same, when they’re actually two different types of plants.
Pawpaw, a member of the Asimina genus, has eight species that are native to 26 American States and southern Ontario, Canada and is less common than the more widespread papaya which includes 45 cultivated species (Carica papaya), in the genus Caricaceae. Most papayas are grown in the West Indies, Latin America, Hawaii, and Africa. We know it as a tropical fruit most commonly consumed fresh or as juice.
Native to Mexico and Central America, papaya is valued for its nutritional and digestive properties. It also has a long history of use in traditional medicine and to treat intestinal worms, dengue fever and wounds.
The fresh fruit is a rich source of protein-digesting enzymes, iron, calcium, flavonoids (beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and cryptoxanthin), and vitamins A, B and G. It contains more vitamin C than oranges.
I’ve written about both superfoods and natural remedies for chickens: papaya fits into both categories in that it is a highly nutritious food that also has medicinal properties.
Uses Of Papaya For Chickens:
All parts of the fruit – young leaves, skin, flesh and seeds – are considered beneficial, both for their nutritional contribution and as a medicinal.
The black seeds embedded in the centre of the pulp represent about 16% of the fresh fruit weight and are considered a by-product. Papaya seeds are a viable protein-rich feed additive for chickens since they are readily available and the seeds are less expensive than the flesh.
The seeds have been shown to improve growth in meat birds and have antimicrobial, antiparasitic and antioxidant properties as well as being immune system boosters.
- Antibacterial: Papaya seeds have been shown to be effective against Staphylococcus, Bacillus cereus, E. coli, Salmonella, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
- Anticoccidial: Poultry farmers in eastern Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo use papaya for control of coccidiosis. A study of broiler chickens with coccidiosis confirmed the addition of 0.1- 0.2% neem (Azadirachta indica) and powdered papaya added to the chickens’ feed for six weeks was beneficial against coccidia.
- Antifungal: Adding papaya extract may help prevent sour crop, a fungal infection caused by Candida albicans yeast.
- Antiparasitic: Chickens fed papaya latex collected from the unripe skin was shown to be effective in reducing Ascaridia galli (roundworms) and Capillaria eggs by 78%.
- Researchers at the University of Dschang (Cameroon) found that diluted papaya seeds can be used to treat chickens suffering from gastrointestinal parasites like Heterakis sp. and Eimeria (coccidia). Seeds were sun dried for two weeks, then pulverized and diluted in water at concentrations of 10 g/litre. A small amount (0.2 ml) was given to each hen resulting in a significant decrease in the number of parasite eggs.
- Antiviral: Farmers in eastern Uganda have successfully used an extract made of papaya roots and seeds to treat chickens with Newcastle Disease.
- Egg Quality: feeding dried skin (25g/kg) improves egg albumin quality and yolk colour.
- Weight gain: weight increases with dietary dried papaya skin when fed up to 80 g/kg.
I often get unsold papayas from our local food recovery program for free. I usually just slice them open and give them to my flock as is and they eat the skin, seeds and flesh.
Credits: Poultry DVM; Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation; University Of The South Pacific, Samoa; Veterinary World. Featured photo: Bitchin’ Chickens eating papaya