There is quite a debate about whether or not to feed chicken meat to chickens.
Some believe it will lead to cannibalism or have moral qualms about feeding chicken meat to their flock.
Regardless of our feelings about whether or not to feed chicken meat to chickens, there is still the question of the safety and health concerns around tossing raw or cooked chicken meat to the flock.
Chickens can eat chicken meat. They are omnivorous animals and opportunistic eaters, and many enjoy picking meat off the bone. There are concerns about giving raw chicken meat as it may lead to salmonella or cannibalistic behavior. If you decide to give your flock chicken meat, make sure it is cooked.
Before tossing an old rotisserie chicken to your flock for them to snack on, there are a few things to consider.
We’ll go over everything you need to know about whether it’s safe to feed chicken meat to chickens.
Can Chickens Eat Chicken Meat?
Chickens often act as garbage disposals for kitchen scraps and leftover meals.
Some food items are dangerous for backyard chickens to eat, but for the most part, they can digest an extensive range of food items with no issues.
Most chicken owners keep food scraps and treats to a minimum to keep their flock healthy, which is essential for their overall care.
It is equally important to ensure that chickens’ treats are safe for their digestive system.
From a strictly scientific perspective, it is perfectly fine for chickens to eat chicken meat.
Chickens are very good about picking the meat off the chicken bones and won’t injure themselves in this way.
Some people worry about offering chicken meat to flock mates for health reasons, worries about cannibalism, and moral concerns.
Many flocks will avoid eating a dead chicken in the coop unless they are extremely hungry.
The smell of dead chicken will usually scare the flock away as the scent is associated with a predator or danger.
While it is best to keep meat scraps to a minimum as part of a balanced and complete diet for your backyard flock, it is fine to toss leftover rotisserie chicken scraps for the flock to pick the bones clean as a tasty treat.
However, it is crucial to never provide raw chicken, spoiled chicken, or undercooked chicken to your flock.
As a rule of thumb, do not give anything as a treat to chickens if you would not eat it.
Will My Chickens Become Cannibalistic From Eating Poultry Meat?
One major concern about providing chicken scraps as a treat for chickens is the possibility of them developing a taste for the meat and becoming cannibalistic.
Raw chicken smells a lot like the flesh of a dead chicken.
This is one of the many reasons you never give your flock raw chicken.
There is a chance your flock will develop a taste for it and start to kill each other.
As chicken keepers, it is essential to avoid this at all costs.
Many backyard chicken owners find their flock will run away from raw chicken.
The smell of raw poultry is similar to the smell of fresh chicken carcasses, a scent associated with danger.
Chances are your flock won’t go for raw chicken unless they are hungry or you have a particularly voracious or aggressive chicken.
Backyard chicken raisers who do offer chicken leftovers to their chickens don’t have their flock turn cannibalistic.
While cannibalism is unlikely from feeding chicken scraps to your flock, it should make up a small amount of their diet.
Their primary food source should be high-quality chicken feed with the occasional healthy treat.
Although it is very unlikely, ensure your poultry birds have consistent access to food so they don’t get too hungry and potentially look to their flock mates as a meal.
Is It Safe To Feed Chicken To Chickens?
Many poultry owners also wonder about health concerns around offering chicken meat as a healthy treat.
With stories about mad cow disease and other anecdotes about diseases spread from eating certain types of meat, it is reasonable to be cautious.
However, there is little to no evidence of something like this occurring by offering poultry meat as a healthy treat to a flock.
Lean meats, in general, are a great treat for chickens as they are omnivorous and opportunistic eaters.
While meat is a moderately healthy treat for chickens, it’s essential to consider the sodium, spices, and oils on leftover chicken.
Do not give chicken nuggets or chicken lunch meat as a treat for chickens.
There is a lot of sodium and other ingredients capable of causing upset to the gastrointestinal tract or runny chicken poop.
Related: What your chickens’ poop means about its health.
Undercooked and uncooked chicken poses its own risk of salmonella and other diseases often responsible for contamination of chicken meat.
If you are processing your backyard poultry, keep the rest of the flock away and clean up all scraps.
Poultry birds are susceptible to a wide range of diseases and dangerous bacteria.
These diseases are often capable of causing food poisoning in humans but are also contagious to the rest of your poultry birds.
No one wants contamination of chicken meat from eating raw poultry.
Keep it away from your flock at all costs.
How To Safely Feed Chicken Meat To A Backyard Flock
If you plan to start feeding your chickens some poultry meat here and there, it’s essential to consider a few things to keep them happy and healthy.
For starters, chickens should not be given meat as part of their regular meal.
It is much better to offer it as an occasional treat. Here are a few tips to consider to keep your chickens healthy if you offer them poultry meat.
If leftovers or an old rotisserie meal have been in the fridge longer than a week, do not give it to your chickens.
Bacteria grows on old food and is harmful to our chickens and us.
If you would not eat it, do not give it to your birds.
Only leave a chicken carcass in the coop for 20 minutes.
Whatever your flock picks off in 20 minutes is what they get; leaving the chicken bones and carcass in the coop will lead to bacteria growth and potential health issues for the entire flock.
Make sure to remove it quickly to prevent this from occurring.
Keep an eye on your flock after giving them chicken.
If there is any irregular chicken poop, aggressive behavior, or a decrease in egg production, your chickens may not be suited for eating the meat.
While this is unlikely, it is still vital to ensure you don’t cause unwanted behavior or digestive issues to your backyard flock.
Avoid giving overly spiced, fried, or breaded chicken to your flock.
These extra ingredients, oils, and spices are often too much for the gastrointestinal tract of your chickens.
Remove all the seasoned skin from a rotisserie meal before giving it to the backyard flock.
The excess oils often cause diarrhea and runny chicken poop, leading to dehydration and other issues if they continue to eat overly fatty or greasy foods.
Safer Alternatives For Healthy Treats For Chickens
There are some risks with providing chicken meat to your backyard flock, especially if it is spoiled or uncooked chicken.
While the primary food source of your flock should always be their commercial chicken feed, there are plenty of other options outside of chicken products.
Consider consulting some chicken feeding guides for more in-depth information, but here are a few great options to offer as a healthy treat for chickens as part of a balanced diet.
Check out everything chickens can eat and not eat in our full guide at the link.
Carrots are a great treat.
Cooked carrots, canned carrots, carrot greens, and baby carrots are great options for a healthy treat.
Chickens also love carrot shavings, carrot tops, and carrot stalks leftover from food prep in the kitchen.
Tomato is another healthy treat.
Make sure it is ripe tomato fruit and no parts of the tomato plant.
There are compounds in green tomatoes, tomato plant stems, and tomato leaves capable of poisoning chickens and causing health issues.
Giving some bread to chickens is okay as an occasional treat.
Giving bread in moderation will make your flock quite happy, but too much is not good for them.
Bread grain is hard to digest and may cause digestive issues for your flock in too high of quantities.
Yogurt and cheese in moderation is another great treat for chickens.
It is high in fat so should be given sparingly.
Cucumbers are an excellent hydrating option for chickens to eat.
They have a very high water content, so they are perfect for keeping chickens cool and hydrated in the summer and hot temperatures.
Like cucumbers, melons are another fantastic, healthy, and hydrating treat.
Crack open a watermelon for your flock or allow them to pick at leftover watermelon rinds to stay hydrated and healthy in the hot months.