Bread is a staple food item, enjoyed by many people in all sorts of regional and cultural variations around the world.
It is also known by most that birds tend to love bread and breadcrumbs.
Most of us have fed ducks at a lake or seen a cagey crow making off with a hotdog or hamburger bun. But can chickens eat bread?
Chickens may eat bread, but it is true junk food for them and problematic. Though they enjoy it, it is mostly just a source of calories. Most types of bread are not a good source of nutrition for chickens. Save the occasional handful of bread crumbs or crusts as a rare treat for your flock.
Bread is a staple food for people, but consumption by chickens is not advised.
Chickens should eat a diet that is mostly chicken feed, with some greens and bugs for protein and essential nutrients.
Though the occasional bit of bread will not hurt your chickens it is a choking hazard and can cause other problems. Keep reading to get the full story on feeding bread to your chickens.
Nutritional Profile of Bread
When it comes to bread, there are a wide variety of types to choose from.
And while all bread contains the same basic nutrients in the form of carbohydrates and a little protein, there can be significant differences in the overall nutritional profile of different types of bread.
That means you chickens could get more or less from it depending.
For example, whole wheat bread typically contains more fiber than white bread.
This is because the bran and germ are still intact in whole wheat flour, whereas they are removed during the milling process for white flour.
As a result, whole wheat bread can provide a more filling option that can help to better nourish chickens.
Additionally, many types of rye and other breads contain whole seeds, which offer a unique flavor as well as a source of antioxidants and extra vitamins.
These are probably the best kinds to give chickens when you want to treat them occasionally.
Never Give Chickens Bread Dough
You should never give your chickens bread dough because it can be dangerous for them.
When bread dough is mixed, the yeast begins to break down the carbohydrates in the flour, releasing carbon dioxide gas in the process. This is what makes bread rise as it bakes.
If a chicken eats bread dough, the process of fermentation will continue in their crop (a part of their digestive system where food is stored before it enters the gizzard).
The carbon dioxide gas will build up and cause the crop to expand, potentially leading to a condition called bloat. This is a very serious condition that can be fatal if not treated quickly.
So, while baked bread itself is not necessarily bad for chickens, you should never give them bread dough. If you have any leftover dough, toss it or freeze it instead.
How to Prepare Bread for Feeding to Chickens
If you do decide to give your chickens some bread as a treat, there are a few things to keep in mind in terms of preparation.
You can give your chickens fresh bread or stale bread; just make sure it isn’t molded. Various mold species can make chickens sick, just like us.
Next, try to only give them small pieces that they can easily consume.
Remember that chickens don’t chew with their mouths as we do; instead, they swallow bits of food and then it gets “chewed” in their gizzard.
Ideally, you should break the bread into small pieces or crumble it up into crumbs before giving it to your chickens.
This will help them to digest it more easily and prevent any potential issues. But if you are giving your birds large, crusty pieces they can probably break it up easily enough with their beaks.
Never Feed Bread to Chickens if it Contains Bad Ingredients
While you can definitely give your chickens leftover or stale bread from your own kitchen, you must be sure that the kind of bread is safe for them to eat.
There are some types of bread you should never give to your chickens, even as a treat.
For example, any bread that contains cheese, excess sugar, or any other highly caloric or forbidden foods. These flavored breads could potentially make your chickens sick.
Can Baby Chicks Eat Bread, Too?
No, you should never feed chicks bread, even though they will happily eat it.
Chicks have delicate digestive systems that are not yet equipped to deal with complex carbohydrates like those found in flour.
Too much bread can cause digestive issues, impaction and even lead to fatal dehydration in chicks.
So, while you can give the occasional piece of bread or crumbs to your adult chickens as a treat, it’s best to avoid giving it to chicks altogether.
Risks of Over-Feeding Bread
As mentioned several times, you don’t want to give your flock bread too often. It’s fine as an occasional treat, but if you give them bread on a regular basis it could start to cause some problems.
For one thing, chickens can easily become overweight if they eat too many carbs. Just like us, their bodies are not designed to process large amounts of simple carbohydrates on a daily basis.
This can lead to all sorts of health problems down the road, including heart and liver disease.
In addition, it can cause crop impaction, a condition in which the chicken’s digestive system becomes physically blocked.
Additionally, feeding your chickens too much bread can actually cause nutrient deficiencies.
This is because bread is not a very nutrient-dense food, being low in protein and other essential nutrients that chickens need to stay healthy.
If your chickens are eating a lot of bread, they might not be getting enough of the vitamins and minerals they need from other sources.
But worst of all, bread has a propensity to cause choking as it swells or sticks in your poor birds’ throats.
And of far more concern, bread can lead to instances of a blocked crop or the “sour crop” condition.
Sour crop is a condition that results when the local environment inside an affected chicken’s crop undergoes a pH change that allows harmful bacteria and other microscopic life to flourish.
This usually occurs due to an influx of sugar or yeast, two things found abundantly in- you guessed it- bread!
Depending on the individual bird, even a little bread is enough to trigger sour crop or cause the crop to impact and block, either of which is potentially fatal. Just another reason why you shouldn’t feed bread to chickens.
At best, they can and will fill up on the bread to the exclusion of healthier options! This is why it’s important to only give your chickens bread rarely, if at all.
Consider Using Bread to Help Administer Liquid Meds
Here’s a tip: if you ever need to give your flock liquid medication, you can actually use bread to help, especially when they are used to bread as an occasional treat.
Simply dip a piece of bread in the liquid meds and then offer it to the chicken.
They will happily eat the bread and consume the medicine without realizing it. Just like giving a dog a pill hidden in some cheese…
This trick can be helpful if your chickens are sick or need ongoing treatment and they won’t eat it directly.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.