Most chicken’s are not picky when it comes to food. As a rule of thumb, chicken’s can eat almost anything that we can eat, but there are a few important exceptions. Sometimes a chicken will know what is bad to eat and what is good to eat, but we must still be careful what we offer them. These good and bad table scraps for chickens will help you make sure you are feeding your flock beneficial foods!
Since knowing what your chickens can’t eat is important we will start with bad table scraps first. Most of these foods will not be fatal to your chickens immediately but in large quantities or over time they could lead to health problems or even death! Some of these foods contain toxins in small amounts while others are just down right bad to feed to your chickens. Following these guidelines will ensure you are not feeding your chickens something that could potentially harm them.
Bad Table Scraps
- Apple Seeds- contain small amounts of the toxin cyanide
- Asparagus- could cause an off flavor in eggs
- Avocado (flesh, pit, skin, and leaves)- contains the toxin persin which is associated with myocardial necrosis in chickens
- Dry or Uncooked Beans- contains hemaglutin (a natural insecticide) which is toxic for chickens; soaking, cooking, or sprouting the beans removes the toxin
- Citrus- excess Vitamin C from citrus fruits could reduce calcium absorption which creates thin shelled eggs or a drop in laying
- Eggplant- member of the nightshade family, leaves are toxic, should only be fed to chickens if it is completely mature and cooked
- Onions- contains the toxin theosulphate which destroys red blood cells resulting in anemia
- Raw and Cooked Potatoes- member of the nightshade family which contains the toxin solanine, this toxin also kills red blood cells
- Rhubarb- also a member of the nightshade family
- Tomatoes- unripe tomatoes along with the vine and leaves also contain solanine; ripe tomatoes contain minimal solanine so very ripe tomatoes can be fed to chickens in moderation
- Sweets- includes cookies, cake, ice cream, cupcakes, donuts, candy, and gum
- Highly Processed Foods- includes white bread, buns, bagels, crackers, cereal, and other boxed foods
Now that we have this list of bad table scraps, lets move onto everything that you can feed your chickens! This list is much longer and even contains some foods that are very beneficial for your chickens!
Good Table Scraps
- Fruits- grapes, mangoes, peaches, plums, pears, apples, papaya, pomegranate, watermelon, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, elderberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries
- Squash- pumpkin, summer squash, zucchini, cucumber
- Root Vegetables- carrots, beets, radishes, sweet potato
- Leafy Greens- lettuce (not Iceberg lettuce though), collard greens, chards, spinach
- Peppers- bell peppers, cayenne peppers
- Green Beans
- Whole Grain Bread Products- whole grain breads, buns, and bagels, sugar-less crackers and cereals, cooked pasta and rice, oats
- Seeds- sunflower seeds, flax seeds
- Unsalted Nuts- almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts; be sure to shell the nuts and chop them up into bit sized pieces before offering them to your chickens
- Popcorn- unsalted, not buttered, and air popped
- Cooked Meats- hamburger, chicken, turkey, lamb, pork, steak; you can also feed your chickens raw hamburger and steak scraps
- Seafood- fish, shellfish, lobster
- Eggs- both raw and cooked
Following this long list of foods you can feed your chickens I should make note that food scraps and treats should only make up about 10% of your chicken’s diet. Ideally you should give your flock treats in the afternoon, after they have already had their fill of their normal feed. As a guideline, offer more leafy green treats, fruits, and vegetables than nuts, popcorn, meats, and seafood.
There are some more treats that chickens can eat, but only in small amounts. Here are some treats that should be fed in moderation:
- Brussels sprouts
- Peanut butter- peanut butter is high in fat, so only use it as a special treat
- Dairy products- chicken’s have a hard time digesting the milk sugars in dairy
The reason why most of these foods are on this list (with the exception of peanut butter and dairy products) is because they contain goitrogens. Goitrogens interfere with thyroid functions so foods that contain them should be fed in moderation.
Now we have covered what chickens can’t eat, what they can eat, and what should be fed in moderation! Your chickens can help you compost table scraps and save some money! Have fun spoiling your flock, just remember to not over do it!