Coffee grounds are excellent materials for composting and organic gardening. Many farmers are now using this environmentally friendly material for their yards. However, this poses a significant concern for those raising chickens while also maintaining a garden- can chickens eat coffee grounds if they find them on the ground?
All About Coffee
Where Did Coffee Originate?
Coffee is a standard beverage in many households around the world. It’s a favorite breakfast staple because it provides an energy boost and helps improve one’s attention span.
These benefits trace back centuries ago to the forests of Ethiopia. According to legend, a herder discovered coffee when his goats ate some berries that kept them exceptionally alert throughout the day. He then shared his discovery with an abbot who made a drink out of the berries. The drink kept the monks alert during their evening prayers.
When news of the benefits of these berries reached the Arabian peninsula, the journey across the globe of coffee began. And until now, it is still a beloved drink among millions of people around the world.
What are the Types of Coffee?
There are two major species of coffee plants- the Robusta and the Arabica. Each one produces coffee beans that have their unique flavor profile and caffeine content. Arabica has a sweet, fruity flavor, while Robusta has an earthy, bitter taste. Robusta also has double the caffeine content of Arabica.
How is Coffee Prepared at Home?
While coffee is always readily available at coffee shops, many people still enjoy brewing at home. The key to making a good cup of joe is using fresh, whole coffee beans. The recommended coffee-to-water ratio is 1 gram of coffee to 17 grams of water.
What Are Coffee Grounds?
Coffee grounds are by-products of the brewing process. The shapes and sizes of these leftovers depend on the beans used and the grinding process. However, they would often look like beans, grains, or needles.
While some people regard coffee grounds as waste, some farmers and gardening enthusiasts use them for several agricultural purposes. Coffee is rich in nutrients that can significantly improve the health of plants. It is an excellent compost material since it decreases greenhouse gas emissions and the concentration of heavy metals in the soil.
Coffee grounds are also used to repel garden pests such as flies, mosquitoes, slugs, and beetles since they contain certain highly toxic compounds to insects.
Can Chickens Eat Coffee Grounds?
Coffee contains compounds that are toxic to animals, so chickens shouldn’t eat coffee grounds. While some backyard raisers have claimed that their chickens ignored the coffee grounds on the soil, others have shared that their birds ate some.
It would be best not to take the risk of using coffee grounds in feeds or as gardening materials in areas where you’re raising chickens and they might have access. These birds have unpredictable behaviors and love to forage, and they might accidentally eat coffee grounds off the soil.
Why is Coffee Bad for Chickens?
For all you coffee lovers: you know that jolt of energy you feel after downing a cup of joe? It turns out, it’s not just a perception – it’s due to a chemical called “methylxanthines” present in our beloved coffee.
Notably, this substance is also found in other items such as chocolates and teas.
In fact, this here methylxanthine is actually the planet’s most widely used (and abused) mind-altering, buzz-giving substance.
Now, coffee specifically packs quite the wallop of pure, unadulterated caffeine power. That means trouble for our feathered buddies – even if they scarf down just a sprinkling, it won’t take long for the effects to hit them hard.
From livestock to lil’ critters (even your neighbor’s dog), this stuff is serious business. Within a maximum of half an hour, conditions could rapidly deteriorate for any unsuspecting pet, so make sure to dispose of your used coffee grounds away from the chicken coop.
What is Caffeine Toxicity?
Caffeine toxicity is a condition that results from the ingestion of excessive amounts of caffeine. This syndrome adversely affects calcium absorption and the immune system, which leads to issues in the heart and lungs.
Scientists have studied the addition of caffeine in layer feeds to see if it can improve the chicken’s performance. Results showed that it could interfere with their central nervous, respiratory, and circulatory systems. It can even lead to death.
The addition of caffeine to their diet can also affect the egg-laying performance of hens and the quality of eggs. So whether caffeine ingestion is accidental or intentional, it is not suitable for chickens.
What Are the Symptoms of Caffeine Toxicity?
Chickens that ingest food products that contain methylxanthines, such as coffee and chocolate, may experience the following symptoms:
- Tachycardia or rapid heart rate
Here’s what chicken seizures look like:
Just a friendly reminder: caffeine and your feathered friends; are not a good marriage. Now, I know some folks might think a little bit is not going to hurt anybody – but trust me, it’s better to err on the side of caution.
Because caffeine affects different birds differently depending on their size and how much coffee they eat or drink. And let me tell you, if you feed them enough, those cutie pies could start acting like crazy hooligans, whooping and hollering. But give them a whole heap of the stuff and watch out.
Their little bodies just aren’t built to handle a big old dose of stimulation – that sweet nectar that wakes us in the morning can turn deadly real quick.
So don’t gamble with their lives. Keep that Java away from the flock, my friend. They’ll thank you later! Word to the wise, though, keep an eye on other sources of caffeine lurkin’ around the coop, too (you never know where it’ll show up).
6 Ways to Prevent Caffeine Toxicity
Caffeine toxicity is problematic for pet owners and can be costly for backyard raisers. However, these problems can be prevented.
The following tips can help you keep your livestock safe.
- Using coffee grounds as fertilizers can keep your plants healthy and free from harmful chemicals. If you decide to use them, make sure that your chickens have no access to your garden. Install fences to separate your garden from the coop or the range.
- Do not store the coffee grounds near the feed to avoid contamination. It would be best if they were not kept in one shed. Please keep it away from children’s reach since they might feed them to the chickens or other animals out of curiosity.
- Some farmers and gardeners use coffee grounds to repel pests and insects. However, it is not safe to use them when you’re also raising chickens in your yard.
As an alternative, you may use the following natural insect repellants.
|Insects||Spray, Sprinkle, or Hang||Plant Along the Run|
|Ants, crickets, millipedes, centipedes||Black pepper
Lavender, rosemary, and thyme packets
|Flies||Chardonnay with mango peels
Citrus, eucalyptus, and clover sachets
Check this video out to see how to keep flies away.
- If you use coffee grounds for composting, make sure that you use bins with solid bottoms and secure lids. Elevating them on a sturdy platform would be safer so chickens and other animals might not peck through the aeration holes. Make the base strong enough so the bin won’t be toppled by larger animals because if the contents spill, chickens might forage through the compost materials.
- Avoid using coffee grounds for bedding in your chicken coop. Some backyard raisers use them because they are great deodorizers and are dust-free. However, they are not recommended. Use wood shavings, straw or hay, sand, or recycled paper on your beddings for a safer chicken coop.
- If you have no plans of recycling coffee grounds, make sure to dispose of them in a tightly covered garbage can immediately.
What Other Foods Are Bad for Chickens?
Listen up because this piece of advice is pure gold: never skimp on quality when it comes to feeding your beloved flock. Sure thing, treating them every once in a blue moon is good for the soul; I mean the birdy. Ha ha!
Jokes aside, though, if you wanna keep them healthy, vibrant, and ready to take on whatever life throws at them, it’s important to remember one thing, my friend: the 90/10 rule. In simpler terms, give our fine feathered pals 90% delish, nutritious, and rich complete chow before spoiling them to 10% of the occasional treats. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!
Keep in mind that other seemingly harmless food aside from coffee grounds can harm your chickens. These include the following:
- Avocado pit or skin
- Dried beans and lentils
- Green potatoes
- Raw eggs
- Sugary sweets and treats
- Spoiled food or moldy bread (avoid feeding chickens any food unfit for human consumption)
- Uncooked rice
- Food that is seasoned with excessive amounts of salt
Check out this video discussing food that is bad for your chickens.
What Foods Are Good for Chickens?
Chickens will also enjoy eating other food aside from the usual feeds. Giving them leftovers will also ensure that no food will go to waste. Feeding your flock the following treats can be a time to bond with them and see how they are doing.
- Oats – Raw or cooked oatmeal can be a good meal for your chickens. They are filled with vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, thiamine, and manganese.
- Fruits – Although most fruits are great as treats for your birds, it would be a great idea to feed them the less sugary ones. Mangoes and bananas are not only a rich source of nutrients, and your chickens will find them delicious and refreshing, as well.
- Vegetables – All animals, chickens included, will reap the fantastic benefits of most vegetables.
- Cooked meat – If you’re giving meat to your flock, make sure to chop them into small pieces to avoid choking incidences. Avoid giving them raw meat that might carry harmful bacteria and could harm your chooks.
- Grains – Grains such as barley, corn, and wheat help stimulate a chicken’s foraging behavior. They are also a good source of nutrients and fiber.
- Herbs – Almost all common herbs are safe for chickens. They provide vitamins and minerals and contain medicinal properties. Herbs such as thyme, parsley, and rosemary are an excellent addition to your bird’s diet.
Coffee Grounds Are For the Plants, Not for the Chickens.
So, can chickens eat coffee grounds? The answer is no. Coffee grounds may be an excellent organic material for gardening, but their presence in the yard can harm your flock. There are other treats that are beneficial to your chickens.
You know, instead of giving them something they might not digest quite so well, like old coffee grounds? Trust me; they won’t thank you for it – it just takes up space in the tummies without actually providing any nutritional value. Plus, nobody wants to see their favorite birdie sick from munching on something they shouldn’t have. Just saying.
But don’t worry; there are plenty of things that’ll make your birds happy and clucking, like fresh greens and crunchy seeds. So why not give them something they love?
Good luck! A sound tummy makes a happy birdy.
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken Scratch The Foundry.