Chickens eat just about anything you throw their way.
While this is excellent for making good use of table scraps and leftovers, it leaves the dangerous possibility of your backyard chickens eating something they shouldn’t.
One dangerous food item is chocolate, but what happens when a chicken consumes it?
Chickens can’t tolerate theobromine and caffeine in chocolate. All chocolate, whether dark or light, contains these chemicals. Caffeine and theobromine cause various issues from digestive upset to cardiac arrest and, ultimately, death. Chocolate is fatal to chickens, even in small doses.
There aren’t many food items fatal to chickens, but chocolate is one of them.
Let’s look more into what happens when chickens eat chocolate.
Why Can’t Chickens Eat Chocolate?
When a chicken eats chocolate, they have a slim chance of surviving.
There are certain toxic elements of chocolate like theobromine and caffeine.
Whether it is dark chocolate, white chocolate, or milk chocolate, it is very toxic and fatal.
Any type of chocolate you see is made from cocoa beans.
There is naturally occurring theobromine and caffeine in these chocolates, but the levels of these chemicals are significantly higher in dark chocolate.
As you may already know, chocolate is also lethal to cats and dogs.
While the reasons are different, it’s important to save the chocolate for yourself and keep it far away from your domestic and farm animals.
Chickens can’t handle even a small bit of chocolate, including chocolate chips.
They experience various symptoms from toxicity to kidney failure to digestive upset and worse.
Most chickens will die within 24 hours of consuming chocolate.
This means no tossing leftover chocolate cake or a few chocolate chips to your flock.
It is extremely dangerous.
It may be tempting to throw all our leftovers to our chickens, but chocolate should be avoided at all costs.
Toss stale chocolate chip cookies and chocolate cake in the trash and keep all pecks of chocolate far away from your chickens.
In addition to the lethal elements of chocolate, there tends to be a lot of fat and sugar in desserts.
This does not qualify as a healthy treat for your chickens.
Can Chickens Eat White Chocolate?
Some chicken owners wonder if it is okay for their chickens to eat white chocolate.
Sometimes we have leftover treats with white chocolate and want to give them to our chickens to enjoy.
While white chocolate may have significantly less theobromine and caffeine than darker varieties, it still contains lethal chemicals.
All types of chocolate are lethal to chickens.
Save these tasty and sweet treats for yourself and keep them away from the backyard coop.
As a chicken owner, it is important to educate yourself on what is safe as treats for chickens to eat and what is potentially toxic.
While we love to indulge in some decadent chocolate treats, it is a serious life and death situation for our beloved flocks.
Consider keeping a list of foods on your fridge to consult whenever you want to toss something to your chickens.
Label what may be a toxic food and what is safe chicken food.
This way, you’ll avoid unwanted loss and ill health among your flock.
What Is Toxic In Chocolate For Chickens?
There are a few elements in chocolate that are toxic to chickens.
Some are lethal, and some are simply unhealthy.
The unhealthy ingredients include fats, sugar, and oils.
These undesirable substances cause digestive upset, obesity, and other health issues.
There are toxic substances in chocolate as well.
These are the more serious and pressing concerns regarding keeping chocolate away from chickens.
Theobromine is present in all types of chocolate.
It naturally occurs in the cocoa bean used to make the delicious treat.
The amounts of theobromine vary among types of chocolate, with darker varieties having a higher theobromine content and lighter chocolates having significantly less.
Regardless of the amounts of theobromine in whatever type of chocolate you have, it is lethal to chickens.
Chickens do not weigh very much, so it doesn’t take much to cause serious issues.
Symptoms of theobromine toxicity vary but commonly result in heart issues, cardiac arrest, increased heart rate, and ultimately death.
Theobromine affects the nervous, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems and acts as a natural diuretic.
This is part of what excludes chocolate from being a suitable treat for chickens.
Caffeine is present in many things, including coffee, tea, and soda.
It is also included in the cocoa bean used for chocolate.
Chickens are so small even minute amounts of chocolate are capable of causing adverse health effects.
The most common symptoms include increased heartbeat and kidney damage.
This is also why keeping your compost heap away from your chickens is important if you put coffee grounds or tea bags into the mix.
What Else Is Toxic To Chickens?
While it seems the digestive tract of chicken can handle just about anything, there are quite a few things to avoid giving to your flock in addition to chocolate.
Knowing what to avoid giving your chickens will ensure a happy, healthy, and long life free of health complications.
Some types of food cause digestive upset but nothing worse.
There aren’t a lot of food items lethal to chickens, but as a chicken owner, it is best to familiarize yourself with the toxic food items to ensure you avoid giving them to your chickens.
Check out our guide to what chickens can eat for a list of safe and some unsafe items for your birds.
Uncooked beans are incredibly toxic to chickens.
Kidney beans seem to be the worst variety, but any uncooked beans will cause serious issues and even death in chickens.
All types of beans, including adzuki beans, brown beans, butter beans, cannellini beans, and the cacao beans used in chocolate, are all incredibly toxic.
Humans also have difficulty digesting uncooked beans, so it makes sense how chickens also struggle.
Offering cooked beans or baked beans to your chickens is a great snack so long as there is not a lot of oil, salt, spices, or seasoning.
Canned beans are okay to give to chickens as they are properly cooked.
Dried beans are the ones to avoid giving to your flock.
Green Potatoes Or Green Tomatoes
Cooked potatoes and ripe tomatoes are fine for chickens to eat which is why it may come as a surprise to some chicken owners how toxic the raw and green parts of both plants are to chickens.
Green potato skins or green peelings contain solanine and chaconine.
These chemicals are found in green potatoes and green tomatoes as well.
They are extremely toxic even though the ripe part of the plant is fine for chicken food.
You’ve likely noticed the green potato skin when peeling potatoes and think the skins may make a good chicken treat.
Unfortunately, this is not the case as the chemicals in the green parts of both plants are neurotoxic.
This means they attack the nervous system causing respiratory issues, paralysis, and diarrhea, and are even fatal in large enough doses.
Avocado Skin and Pit
Avocado is another plant containing healthy and toxic parts.
The avocado flesh is a tasty and healthy treat for chickens, but the skin and pit are toxic.
The avocado peels and pits contain persin, which is very toxic to chickens.
If you have an avocado tree on your farm, keep your chickens away from it as well.
The leaves and sticks of the avocado tree have persin in them as well.
Consuming even small amounts of persin cause a range of issues for chickens.
They may experience increased heart rate, labored breathing, apathy, weakness, and unrest. It is interesting how avocado flesh contains so much goodness for chickens, including omega-3, iron, and potassium, but the other parts of the fruit and plant are harmful.
To avoid unnecessary risk, many chicken owners avoid giving avocado to their chickens altogether.
Moldy Or Rotten Food
As a general rule of thumb, it is best not to give anything to your chickens you wouldn’t eat personally.
If you have old leftovers in the back of the fridge, chances are you would not see them as safe or fit for you or your family to consume.
The same is true for your chickens.
Bacteria and mold grow on old food and are just as harmful to your chickens as they are to you.
Don’t give moldy or rotten food to your chickens.
Compost moldy fruits and vegetables and ensure your chickens won’t get to them.
Rotten food and moldy food are not safe for any animal to consume.
Mold growing on old nuts, corn, and apples is particularly risky for consumption.
The mold growing on these food items produces a toxin called aflatoxin.
This is known to contribute to the development of liver cancer in humans and animals.
Make sure you do not give moldy nuts or corn to your flock, as it may cause severe health issues over time.
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