Chickens are omnivores, meaning that they consume a wide array of food. However, there are limitations to what can chickens eat. In this article, let’s investigate the dietary restrictions for our feathered friends!
Can Chickens Eat Vegetables?
Absolutely! Vegetables are an excellent and delicious inclusion to a chicken’s diet. It provides them with essential vitamins, minerals, and flavor.
Chickens have an indulgent pallet, loving many of the same vegetables we humans delight in. A few favorites include:
Not only are vegetables accessible and convenient for chicken handlers, but they are also nutritional powerhouses. Vitamins like C, B6, and E that promote healthy chicken growth can be sourced from these veggies.
In addition to this dietary variety, chickens should have access to grassy areas in their environment. Not only it’s a source of nutrition but an opportunity to trim unwanted overgrowths such as claws or beaks!
Vegetables You Should Look Out For:
When feeding chickens, it’s critical to remember that not all vegetables benefit them. Onions, garlic, and leeks can be toxic to chickens and should be excluded from their diet completely. More examples are:
- Avocado: Avocados possess persons in their leaves, fruit, bark, and seeds that can be fatal for chickens.
- Rhubarb: The leaves of the rhubarb plant contain oxalic acid. The chemical can be hazardous to the chicken’s health and may lead to kidney damage if consumed in excessive quantities.
- Nightshade Vegetables: Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are a part of the nightshade family, and their foliage is bursting with solanine—a harmful compound.
- Raw Potato and Tomato: With their high solanine content, raw potato, and tomato leaves, unripe green tomatoes, and the plants of these vegetables can be toxic to chickens if ingested.
- Garlic and Onions: If hens consume a large amount of these vegetables, it can result in anemia.
It’s essential to be aware that although these vegetables may appear hazardous, they are only a risk when consumed in large amounts. Chickens can consume small quantities of vegetables without any issues. To be safe, it’s always advisable to abstain from serving these vegetables to chickens.
Can Chickens Eat Meat?
Chickens can omnivorously ingest a large selection of foods, including meat. Nevertheless, offering chickens excessive meat is not suggested as their main diet.
Chickens require a diet mainly composed of grains, such as corn and wheat, to fulfill their nutritional needs. However, chickens may enjoy an occasional bite of meat. With that said, it’s not a requirement for their diet and can become expensive if fed regularly.
One important reminder to keep in mind—chickens should never ingest raw meats. Raw meat should be avoided because it can contain bacteria that can harm your feathered friends.
It can contain bacteria that could make the birds ill. Feeding chickens raw meat can not only cause nutritional deficiencies but can also put them at a greater risk of food-borne illnesses.
To keep your chickens healthy, feed them cooked kitchen scraps and meat in small portions. While you may give them cooked meats as a treat, make sure to cut the pieces into tiny bits and throw away any moldy or spoilt food before serving it up!
Can Chickens eat Chicken Meat?
Have you ever wondered if chickens can note their own species? It’s a legitimate inquiry, given that poultry is omnivores. After all, wouldn’t it make sense for them to devour other birds as food sources?
Absolutely! Chickens are unaware of cannibalism, so eating their own kind is simply a source of nourishment to them. For chickens, it’s just like any other type of meat.
Though it may be tempting to feed chicken meat as part of your usual meals for chickens, there is a multitude of reasons why this is not recommended.
For one, the bacteria and parasites present in raw or undercooked chicken can make them sick. Food poisoning, salmonella, and other diseases must all be considered when preparing meals for poultry. Consequently, providing an alternative protein source that does not include animal flesh is likely the best option.
Can Chickens Eat Fruits?
Absolutely, chickens can and enjoy eating various fresh fruits as an occasional treat. However, it’s important to remember that these foods should only be given in moderation. Here are some safe fruits to share with your chickens:
- Berries (Strawberries, Raspberries, and Blueberries)
- Melons (Watermelon and Cantaloupe)
- Apples and pears (avoid the seeds, which contain a small amount of cyanide)
- Peaches and plums
To promote healthy skin and feathers in chickens, abstain from feeding them acidic fruits such as oranges, lemons, and limes.
8 Food Best for Chickens
For chickens to stay healthy and flourishing, they need a diverse diet that is full of all the essential nutrients. So if you’re looking for some great food options for your flock, here are just a few of our favorites:
- Layer feed: To ensure that your chickens lay the highest-quality eggs possible, it is imperative to provide them with a specially formulated commercial layer feed. This specific diet will not only aid in their egg production but give them all of the essential nutrients needed for optimal health and well-being.
- Grains: Grains like wheat, barley, corn, and oats can deliver an energy and protein punch to chickens, equipping them with the necessary sustenance for growth.
- Vegetables: Nourishing chickens with fresh produce, such as dark leafy greens, carrots, squash, and pumpkin, can be incredibly beneficial. These items provide a range of vitamins and minerals and help maintain their digestive system in tip-top condition.
- Protein: Protein is a very crucial part of a chicken’s diet and can be provided by mealworms, crickets, worms, or cooked meat scraps. Fish also makes for a nutritious treat!
- Fruits: Not only do fruits offer vitamins and minerals, but they also provide behavioral enrichment for your pet as a special treat.
- Calcium: To ensure healthy and robust eggshells, chickens require a reliable source of calcium. Fortunately, this mineral can be sourced through crushed eggshells or oyster shells.
- Grit: To properly process their meals, chickens must consume small stones. While they can find the necessary grit while foraging outdoors, you should always have a convenient container available at all times if needed.
In addition to a healthy diet, your chickens must stay hydrated for their digestive system to remain optimized. Without adequate amounts of water available, the health of these animals will suffer.
What Not to Feed Chickens
While Nightshade plants, including tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes, can be added to chickens’ diets in small quantities for a nutritional boost, too much of this flora can be detrimental.
Containing solanine—a naturally occurring toxin that causes stomach pain and diarrhea—consuming large amounts of the plant family could lead to serious health issues or even death in poultry.
The nightshade plants also have other poisonous compounds like nicotine and alkaloids.
Avocado is an absolute no-no for chickens because it contains a toxin called persin. Persin is present in both the fruit and leaves of avocado trees. It can be significantly hazardous to birds like chickens, but humans and other animals remain unscathed from its effects. It’s much better to be on the side of caution when feeding your feathered friends by avoiding avocados altogether!
Consuming avocado can be extremely harmful to chickens. It may result in symptoms such as respiratory distress and fluid accumulation around the heart. For some birds, this can cause death within minutes of ingestion. The amount of avocado consumed and the size of the chicken both affect how severe these reactions will be. It means small amounts or young chickens may experience milder effects than those with larger bodies that consume more avocados.
Onions are a hazard to chickens if consumed in excess due to the presence of N-propyl disulfide. It’s an agent that can harm red blood cells and lead to anemia. Therefore, chicken owners need to ensure their birds only have access to onions in moderation.
The amount of harm that the toxicity can cause will vary based on two things: how many onions are ingested, as well as their growth stage. Immature onions hold higher levels of this compound. So, green onions or scallions would possess more potency than fully-matured ones.
Similar to other animals and birds, chickens lack the capability of breaking down lactose. It’s a form of sugar present in milk.
These reactions can result from digestive issues such as diarrhea, bloating, or abdominal pain. Chickens can certainly consume dairy products in moderation.
However, it is not essential for their diet. For optimal nutritional value, provide them with other healthier protein and calcium sources like insects and grit instead.
Now that you are aware of the dietary needs of your chickens, make sure to provide them with a nutritious and balanced diet. Remember to give them grains and ample amounts of water so they can live healthy lives!
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.