Aside from eggs, one of the best parts about having chickens is how willing and eager they are to take care of unwanted food.
Fruits and vegetables passed their prime, and leftovers from the back of the fridge often get tossed in the trash and wasted.
Some of our scraps make excellent treats for chickens.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been tempted to toss them into the coop for the flock’s enjoyment.
Inevitably the question crosses your mind, and you wonder if it’s safe for your chickens to eat.
Luckily, we have an exhaustive list of everything your chick can and cannot eat.
Chickens are omnivorous animals and experts at foraging for food. Given a chance, chickens will eat or attempt to eat anything they get their beaks on. Chickens are opportunistic eaters, but there are still some food items to avoid, like overly salty, moldy, or fatty foods.
Regardless of your experience with keeping backyard chickens, it’s always a good idea to refresh and educate yourself on what your flock can and cannot eat.
We want happy, healthy birds, and our list will help you determine what’s safe for your flock to eat.
What Fruits Can Chickens Eat?
Most fruits are completely fine for chickens to eat.
They have a special love of berries, melons, and apples but will eat just about any fruit you give them.
Some chickens won’t enjoy particularly sour fruits like citrus.
Many chicken keepers have noticed this aversion with pineapple and oranges particularly.
|Fruit||Good For Chickens?|
|Avocado||Yes (the flesh)|
|Apples||Yes, but remove the seeds|
|Cherries||Yes, but remove the pit|
Can Chickens Eat Watermelon?
Watermelon is an excellent snack for chickens. If you crack open a whole watermelon, your girls will have so much fun tearing it apart to get to the goods. If you live in a location with particularly hot and humid summers, watermelon makes an excellent cooling and hydrating snack for the flock.
Other melons like cantaloupe and honeydew make excellent snacks as well.
Chickens love to peck and scratch at melons, making them a very entertaining and healthy snack.
Can Chickens Eat Bananas?
Bananas are another nutrient-rich fruit chickens love. If you’ve left a bunch of bananas unattended, give the brown, spotty fruits to your backyard chickens. The fruit is packed with niacin, iron, magnesium, and trace elements. They also pack vitamins A, B6, and C.
Can Chickens Have Tomatoes?
Tomatoes are a nutritious and tasty treat to toss in the coop. Chickens enjoy ripping into the fleshy parts as they eat. Tomatoes pack potassium, antioxidants, and fiber into a snack chickens love. They also are high in vitamins like C, B, and K.
While the fruit is fine for chickens to eat, the rest of the plant is toxic.
Do not allow your chickens to peck at and eat any part of the tomato plant.
Solanine is found in plants and is incredibly toxic to chickens.
Can Chickens Eat Blackberries?
Blackberries are a good snack for chickens. They are packed with healthy antioxidants. The fruit also contains vitamins like potassium, vitamin C, and calcium. Some chickens don’t appreciate the taste of blackberries, but they’re worth tossing into the chicken run to see if they will eat them.
Can Chickens Eat Grapes?
Grapes are edible for chickens, but you’ll want to feed in moderation. It is also important to only provide seedless grape varieties to your birds. The fruit is a fun snack for chickens. They pack vitamins A, B, and C while incorporating trace minerals like calcium and copper into your chicken’s diet.
Can Chickens Eat Raisins?
Raisins are safe for chickens, but only if used sparingly. Raisins are edible for chickens, but high amounts may cause some issues. Renal failure is linked to excess consumption of raisins by chickens. Like other foods with high-sugar contents, raisins may also lead to weight gain and obesity.
Can Chickens Eat Avocados?
Avocadoes are OK for chickens, but only the flesh. Avocados are fine for chickens to eat but only the inside. The skin and pits of avocados contain persin, which is very toxic for chickens. The leaves of the plant are also poisonous to backyard chickens.
Many chicken keepers keep all avocado parts away from their birds just to be safe.
It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to table scraps and leftover food for chickens.
Can Chickens Eat Strawberries?
Strawberries are a favorite among chickens. The sweet berry treat packs antioxidants and trace minerals, making it a very healthy snack choice for your backyard flock. They also contain vitamins A, C, and B9. Quercetin is an anti-inflammatory also found in the fruit.
Feed your chickens strawberries as a special treat as most love the fruit.
If you find yourself with strawberries a little past their prime, treat your backyard chickens so long as the fruit is not excessively moldy or rotten, as this causes health problems.
What Other Fruits Are Good For Chickens To Eat?
Here’s a quick list of some other fruits to know about.
What Vegetables Can Chickens Eat?
We’ve all been guilty of forgetting about a head of lettuce or broccoli crown in the back of our fridge.
It happens more often than most of us would like to admit for some of us.
You’re luckier than most if you have chickens, as they will gladly take your forgotten veggies.
Before you go ahead with treating your backyard chickens, make sure to confirm the vegetables are OK for them to eat.
Many chicken keepers also use vegetables as a form of entertainment for chickens.
Hanging a head of cabbage or lettuce in the chicken coop is a great way to stimulate chickens and let them peck at it.
Not only does this make the vegetable last longer, but it also keeps the flock entertained.
|Vegetables||Good For Chickens?|
|Potatoes||Yes, no skins|
|Cooked Vegetables||Yes, if not too fatty or salty|
Can Chickens Eat Bell Peppers?
Chickens can eat bell peppers. However, most chicken keepers find their backyard flock is not particularly interested in the taste. It is essential to note the toxicity of bell pepper plants for chickens. Do not allow them to peck at and eat bell pepper plants or leaves.
Can Chickens Eat Cucumbers?
Cucumber is an excellent hydrating snack for chickens. Their high water content makes them an ideal treat to throw in the coop to help your backyard flock stave off dehydration. Both the peels and flesh of the cucumber are perfectly fine for chickens to eat.
Cucumbers also contain lots of vitamins and minerals as well as anti-inflammatory properties.
Another plus is how much most chickens love to eat cucumber.
Can Chickens Eat Broccoli?
Broccoli is safe for chickens to eat. The vegetable is rich in vitamins and nutrients. It’s low in fat, making it a healthy choice for your flock.
Many chicken keepers will keep broccoli heads in a suet cage like this to keep their chickens entertained while pecking at the treat.
Can Chickens Eat Potatoes?
Potatoes are acceptable for chickens to eat. Chickens may eat raw or cooked potatoes. However, it is essential to note the toxicity of the green parts of potatoes and the skins.
Chickens can’t eat these parts of the potato.
They contain solanine which is poisonous for chickens.
Potato plants are also toxic to chickens.
Plants of the nightshade family have leaves, flowers, and stems toxic to your chickens.
Keep them away from these plants if you have them growing in your garden.
Can Chickens Eat Carrots?
Carrots are an excellent snack for chickens. Many chicken keepers also give the carrots greens to their backyard flock. Carrots are rich in vitamins and fiber, making them a nutritious addition to your chickens’ diet.
Some keepers like to chop up the carrots and greens before tossing them in the coop to make it easier for their birds to eat.
Can Chickens Eat Cooked Vegetables?
Cooked vegetables are fine for chickens to eat.
There are a few questions to ask yourself before giving any cooked vegetables or food items in general:
- Is it high in fat?
- Is it salty?
- Is it moldy or rotten?
If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, it is not safe to give to your chickens.
While these may not necessarily be toxic or poisonous, they may disrupt digestion and cause some problems for your birds.
It’s always better to err on the side of caution with anything too salty, fatty, or moldy.
What Other Vegetables Are OK For Chickens To Eat?
In general, chickens may enjoy most vegetables.
They are low in fat and sugar, making them a very healthy choice.
Some root vegetables are high in carbohydrates and should be given to chickens sparingly.
Other vegetables like leafy greens are excellent for egg production.
They are also low in fat, carbohydrates, and sugar while hosting many benefits from high levels of vitamins and minerals.
Here’s a list of less common veggies to know about:
- Leafy Greens
- Brussel Sprouts
Can Chickens Eat Grains?
Grains are another great option for chicken treats, but some are safe and unsafe for your hens.
Chickens may eat most grains so long as they are not too high in sugar, fat, or salt.
It is also unacceptable to give your flock moldy, rotten, or excessively old food.
Can Chickens Eat Rice?
Rice is acceptable for chickens.
Sometimes we forget about the pot of rice we cooked for dinner last week.
Luckily, our loss is our chickens’ gain.
So long as the rice is not especially seasoned or salty, it is perfectly fine.
Can Chickens Eat Bread?
Chickens have no problem digesting bread. Many traditional farmers used to soak bread in milk to fatten hens up. While bread is not a particularly nutritious food item for chickens, they will still enjoy pecking at bread, especially a stale baguette. Do not give moldy bread to your chickens.
Can Chickens Eat Pasta?
Cooked plain pasta is fine for chickens to eat. Ensure it is not overly greasy, as high amounts of fat content do not make a good snack for chickens. The same is true for overly salty pasta.
Some chicken keepers will break up uncooked pasta and give it to their chickens, but we don’t recommend it.
Pasta, in general, is not very nutritious, and the high carbohydrate content may contribute to weight gain and obesity.
For this reason, we recommend pasta as an occasional treat.
Is Meat OK For Chickens To Eat?
It may seem odd to give meat to your chickens, but they are omnivorous. Most of your chickens’ foraging efforts go into finding tiny grubs, beetles, and worms. They will even eat small rodents, snakes, and toads if they catch them. Chickens are very opportunistic eaters.
The protein in meat helps boost the amount of protein in your chickens’ diets.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when feeding chickens is trimming excess fat.
Too much fat is bad for our chickens’ digestion and egg-laying productivity.
While it may seem wrong to some of us, many chicken keeps will throw the end carcass of a turkey or chicken into the coop to let them pick at the scraps.
Beef and pork are also acceptable for chickens to eat.
Meat should be given in moderation.
It should also never be given to chickens uncooked.
Raw meats are more susceptible to causing disease and infection in chickens.
The same is true for moldy meat. Never give moldy meat to your flock.
Some chicken keepers like to occasionally give cat and dog food to their chickens.
This is fine in moderation but should not be given in higher quantities.
Related: Will chickens eat fire ants?
Can Chickens Eat Dairy?
Chickens can eat dairy, but they do not digest it very well. It is not necessarily toxic or poisonous, but it will cause stomach upset in large quantities. For this reason, we recommend giving dairy food items to your chickens sparingly.
Cheese makes a great occasional snack for chickens due to its high protein content.
Since cheese tends to be high in fat and sodium, it should not be a regular addition to your chickens’ meals.
Yogurt is another dairy item good to occasionally give to your backyard flock.
Even though chickens have a tough time digesting dairy, the probiotics and live cultures in yogurt help to boost intestinal health.
Occasionally adding some plain yogurt to their feed will help improve intestinal health.
One dairy item you should avoid giving to your flock is butter.
It is mostly fat and salt and is not good for chickens.
While it is not poisonous, it will cause an upset stomach and throw off their digestion.
Can Chickens Eat Eggs?
Chickens can eat eggs. Their shells contain valuable trace minerals like calcium, and many hens will seek them out when they are deficient in certain minerals. The drawback of giving eggs to chickens is once they develop a taste for eggs, they will seek them out in the coop.
Eggs are beneficial food for chickens in many ways they are beneficial to us.
They contain protein, calcium, and essential vitamins and minerals.
Many chickens experiencing calcium deficiency will instinctively eat their eggs to supplement their diet.
Many chicken keepers will save eggshells and feed them back to their chickens as a vitamin and mineral-rich snack to boost their nutritional profile.
The main drawback of feeding chickens eggs is the unwanted egg eating behavior in the coop.
Some chickens will actively seek out and eat eggs in the coop once they get a taste for them.
This is a very difficult behavior to break.
Here are some tips to take into action if you find yourself with a coop full of chickens eating their eggs:
- Collect eggs regularly. This limits the chicken’s access to eggs to eat.
- Make sure your chickens are getting enough protein. Chickens deficient in something are significantly more likely to seek out and eat eggs in the nest. Add different protein-rich snacks into their diet to stop the egg-eating behavior.
- Place a wooden or ceramic decoy egg like this into the nesting boxes. The chickens will attempt to peck and eat the egg. Many keepers find this decoy egg very effective at stopping chickens from eating their eggs in the nest.
Can Chickens Eat Nuts?
Nuts are protein-packed and healthy snacks for us humans, but what about chickens?
Most nuts are excellent snacks for chickens.
They are high in fat and should be given in moderation.
Their high protein content makes them great for chickens.
Many chicken keepers will give extra nuts around molting time to boost health.
Walnuts, pecans, almonds, and cashews are excellent for chickens.
You’ll want to make sure the nuts are unsalted.
It’s also important to cut nuts coarsely into smaller bites to make it easier for your chickens to eat.
In moderation, nuts are a great snack to boost protein in your backyard chickens’ diets.
Can Chickens Eat Peanuts?
Peanuts are a protein-packed snack great for chickens in moderation. Like other foods high in fat, they contribute to obesity and health problems. Make sure the peanuts are unsalted and give sparingly to chickens to keep chickens from gaining weight unhealthily.
It is also important to never give chickens moldy peanuts or other nuts as they are known to cause respiratory illnesses.
What Other Nuts Can Chickens Eat?
Chickens can eat most other nuts so long as they are chopped coarsely, unsalted, and free of any mold.
Here are some other nuts to consider adding as an added treat to the meals you give to your flock:
- Pine nuts
- Brazil Nuts
Can Chickens Eat Ginger?
Ginger is an excellent snack to feed your chickens. The root stimulates appetite while also packing antioxidants, stimulating blood flow, and improving egg-laying. If you have the root, it is great to toss your chickens.
Studies show the effects of ginger root and stress-reduction, which is also a great benefit.
Ginger root is also celebrated as an egg-laying stimulant which is helpful if any of your hens are having a rough time in their nesting boxes.
Many experienced chicken keepers sprinkle the ginger powder into commercial feed to improve egg-laying performance among their hens.
Quite a few studies have proven the effectiveness of this practice.
If you have egg-laying hens, we recommend adding fresh or powdered ginger into your chickens’ food to capitalize on all its amazing health benefits.
Can Chickens Eat Flowers?
There are many flowers chickens can eat, but quite a few they should not.
If you have any toxic flowers in your garden, we recommend establishing strong borders and boundaries to keep your flock away from the poisonous plants.
Chickens tend to be fairly intuitive about what they can and can’t eat, but it’s always good to be extra safe.
This is especially true if you have free-range chickens and allow your backyard flock to explore and forage around your property.
The flowers of the Nasturtium plant are an excellent snack for your chickens.
The flowers are known to have antibiotic qualities.
They are also considered to be high in antibiotic properties.
Many chicken keepers also use the Nasturtium flower as a natural dewormer.
Squash flowers are a great snack for chickens.
The flowers from the squash plant are rich in vitamins and essential minerals.
Most notably, the flowers contain calcium, iron, and vitamin A.
Make sure to protect your squash plants as your chickens will love the taste and eat whatever blooms they find.
Marigolds are beautiful flowers to plant in gardens but did you know they are also a great snack for your backyard chickens?
The flowers help to keep insects away from the coop.
Eating Marigolds will help add antioxidants to your chickens’ diet.
Many chicken keepers also notice more vibrant yellow egg yolks when their chickens indulge in some Marigold blooms.
Many people use the Echinacea plant for various medicinal purposes.
The flowers of the Echinacea plant are great snacks for chickens.
It is especially beneficial in fighting off respiratory illnesses.
Chickens tend to be more susceptible to respiratory problems, so planting some Echinacea for them to munch on will help boost their strength in fighting off disease.
Dandelions are a great source of calcium, vitamin A, and iron.
The flowers are also known for their incredible detoxifying properties.
If you have dandelion weeds popping up on your lawn, let your backyard flock pluck them up.
Not only will you have fewer weeds on your lawn, but your chickens will also get a little health boost while they’re at it.
Can I Give Leftovers To My Chickens?
Sometimes we don’t do our best work in the kitchen and are left with a lot of food nobody in the house wants to eat.
Is it OK to give your leftovers or less-than-perfect recipes to your chickens?
After all, no one enjoys wasting food.
The unfortunate truth is most of your leftovers won’t be acceptable for your chickens to eat.
We tend to cook with salt, oils, and spices.
These things are not agreeable with your chickens’ digestive systems.
If you have plain leftovers like steamed vegetables, plain rice, plain kinds of pasta, and bread, give them to chickens.
Recipes with lots of sauces, butter, seasonings, and ingredients are problematic to give to your backyard flock.
While we may wish our chickens could double as garbage disposals, they have health needs, and it is not worth risking their well-being by giving them certain foods.
There are some leftovers acceptable for your backyard flock but make sure to check all ingredients are chicken-friendly, and there is no excess salt, fat, or mold on the food.
What Foods Help With Egg-Laying?
Whether you have a small backyard flock or a large-scale egg-laying production farm, you may be wondering if there is anything to add to improve your laying hens’ performance.
Many chicken keepers want to improve the quality of the eggs they collect from the coop.
Luckily, there are some great options to add to your chickens’ food to supplement nutrients and get better eggs.
Egg abnormalities happen, check out the link for a list of why this might happen and what to do.
Eggshells are high in calcium and great for laying hens.
It is a great way to boost the nutrients in your laying hens’ diet.
Some chicken keepers will scramble eggs and give them to their chickens.
This is often done when any of the laying hens are sick.
Keepers will also give it to their flock after the end of winter to boost nutrients.
Sunflower seeds are high in fat and protein and make a great treat for chickens.
They are also high in omega-3 fatty acids.
All of these are important for egg-laying and the chickens’ overall health.
Many backyard farmers will give sunflower seeds to their chickens to increase the number of eggs their chickens lay.
Fruits like watermelon, berries, and apples are fantastic healthy snacks for your laying hens.
Fruits like melon boost hydration, and nearly all fruits pack vital vitamins and minerals.
Supplying fruit as a snack to your backyard flock helps boost their overall health.
You will see the results in both the quantity and quality of the eggs laid in the coop.
Scratch grains are a great food to incorporate into your chickens’ diets.
They are high in carbohydrates, making them a good occasional addition to feed.
It is primarily used in the winter as a supplement and should be used with care.
Overfeeding of scratch grain results in obesity and weight gain.
Cracked corn is a favorite amongst our clucking friends.
It is high in carbohydrates and therefore should be used sparingly.
Many chicken keepers use cracked corn to improve metabolism and add some weight to hens during the wintertime to keep them warm at night.
Greens are one of the best things to give to chickens to improve egg quality.
Dark leafy greens rich in iron are celebrated for their effects on egg yolks.
Incorporating dark, leafy greens into your backyard chickens’ diet is known to produce richer, more vibrant yolks.
Many chicken keepers give their flocks greens like kale, arugula, and spinach to improve the quality of the eggs.
What Foods Are Best To Give Meat Chickens?
If you are keeping chickens for meat, you’ll want to take a slightly different approach to how you feed them.
Meat chickens are typically fed high-protein diets early on in their life and then switched to a feed with less protein.
If you give treats to your meat chickens, you’ll want them to be high in protein.
Foods like nuts and meat are high in protein but should be fed sparingly and not in place of their feed.
Some chicken keepers will boost the weight of their chickens before killing them.
To do this, they often spread cracked corn and wheat.
The high carbohydrate content helps to add weight quickly.
The most important food to give your meat chickens is their feed.
Do not skimp out on the quality of their food.
This will be the predominant source of protein, vitamins, and minerals necessary to produce healthy chickens for food.
What Foods Should I Not Give My Chickens?
While chickens are fairly tolerant of most foods, it’s important that everyone who keeps chickens understands what they should not eat.
Some of these foods will simply cause indigestion, but others are incredibly toxic.
Keep all these food items away from the coop to keep your backyard flock happy and healthy.
Apples are a great snack for chickens, but the seeds are toxic.
They contain small amounts of cyanide and should be given to chickens.
Avocado pits and peels are toxic to chickens.
The fleshy green part of the fruit is fine for chickens to eat, but do not toss whole avocados in the coop.
Eggplant is one vegetable chickens can’t eat.
The entirety of the plant is toxic for them.
Do not allow your birds to eat the skin, leaves, plants, or vegetables.
They are all very dangerous for chickens to consume.
Marshmallows are pretty much pure sugar.
Too much sugar is very bad for chickens.
It contributes to obesity and unhealthy weight gain.
These health conditions tend to lead to a steep decline in egg production.
Raw Potato Skins
Raw potato skins contain solanine which is toxic to chickens.
Potato plants are also not good for chickens to eat.
Peeled raw potatoes with no green skin are fine for chickens to eat.
Cooked potatoes are also OK for chickens but should be fed in moderation due to their low nutritional value.
Dried beans are not good for chickens.
They are very difficult to digest and highly toxic.
Make sure any beans you give to your backyard flock are properly and thoroughly cooked.
Coffee grounds are toxic for chickens.
Caffeine is not good for animals and should never be given to animals, including chickens.
Another compound called methylxanthine is found in coffee grounds.
It is also dangerous and toxic to chickens.
Fruit pits are toxic and dangerous to chickens.
For the most part, the fruit themselves are fine for the chickens to eat.
Peaches, pears, plums, and cherries are fine for your flock but make sure you remove the pit before handing them over.
The same is true for grapes.
Make sure the grapes are seedless.
Some dairy is fine in moderation but should be avoided for the most part.
Cheese is fine to give your chickens in moderation and provides a good source of protein.
Yogurt provides live cultures and probiotics to improve intestinal health.
Butter should be avoided for its high fat and salt content.
Dates should be given very sparingly.
They are very high in sugar and contribute to obesity and weight gain.
This is especially problematic for laying hens who tend to decrease egg production when overweight.
Moldy food is very dangerous to chickens.
It causes illness, infections, and disease.
A good rule of thumb is never giving your chicken something you wouldn’t eat.
Some molds kill chickens.
Be safe and throw it away.
You don’t want to cause serious or fatal health problems for your birds.
Pickles are another no-go for chickens.
Pickles are very high in sodium and unhealthy for your flock.
Do not give pickles to your backyard chickens.
Rhubarb is high in oxalic acid, which is extremely toxic for chickens.
The entire plant is toxic for chickens.
If you grow rhubarb in your garden, make sure to put fences and boundaries in place to keep your flock away from the plant.
Nightshades are vegetable plants.
The leaves and actual plants are very toxic to chickens.
Some of the vegetables from the plants are fine in moderation for chickens.
These include bell peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes.
Even if the vegetable is safe for the chicken, the plant should be avoided to keep your flock happy and healthy.
How Often Should I Give Chicken Snacks?
Knowing what your chicken can and cannot eat is a great first step, but knowing how often you should give chickens extra treats is also very important.
As a general rule, your backyard flock should have a diet consisting almost entirely of their commercial feed.
Many chicken keepers follow and recommend the 90/10 rule.
The 90/10 rule is 90% feed, and 10% treats. Most chickens eat about ½ cup of feed each day.
This means the number of treats each day should, on average, be just a few tablespoons.
Supplementing feed with healthy treats like fruits and vegetables helps to boost vitamins and minerals but should be given in moderation.
Quality chicken feed supplies most of the nutritional needs.
It is great to give your chickens fruits and vegetables, but it should not be the primary source of their food.
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