If you own chickens, you already know that they are very adventurous eaters. Chickens will eat all kinds of things, from berries and plants to meat and bugs and just about everything in between.
This also includes things that they probably shouldn’t be eating, like the food that we give to other animals in our care.
Most of the time this isn’t a problem, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. On that topic, how about cat food? Can chickens eat cat food safely?
Yes, chickens can safely eat cat food in small amounts. Cat food is not toxic to chickens, but is not nutritionally balanced, and can make them sick.
Make no mistake, your chickens are likely to be pretty enthusiastic about cat food, wet or dry, if they can get at it.
You want to make it a point to avoid feeding them cat food, as a general rule, but on the other hand you don’t need to worry if they steal a bite or two from the cat’s bowl or if you drop a little bit.
Keep reading and we will tell you everything you need to know about cat food when it comes to your chickens.
What is in Cat Food?
Cat food contains everything that a cat needs to stay healthy, and is nutritionally calibrated for their unique biology.
If you care enough to track down the ingredients list on the cat food that you buy you’ll see that it contains meat, and a lot of it, naturally since cats are carnivores. But it also contains a lot more than that.
Cat food will provide cats with fats, carbs and plenty of vitamins and minerals that they need for all sorts of bodily functions, including bone growth, coat health, cellular repair and immunity.
Digging a little deeper, seasoned chicken keepers will notice that cat food contains many of the same things the chickens cannot only eat, but also require in order to stay healthy.
Does Cat Food Have Ingredients that Will Hurt Chickens?
No, not immediately. Cat food contains some things that chickens need in order to thrive, but does not contain any ingredients that could hurt chickens, at least not right away.
This is to say that there is nothing in your average can or bag of cat food that will poison your birds, though nutrient imbalances one way or the other can cause health problems when eaten to excess.
Do You Need to Worry if Your Chickens Get Some Cat Food?
The bottom line is that you really don’t need to worry if your chickens get a little bit of cat food, of any kind.
If you are feeding your cat and your chickens managed to steal a few bits of kibble or swipe a bite or two of wet cat food, it’s nothing to worry about.
As long as you aren’t deliberately feeding it to them in large quantities or over a long period of time it won’t hurt them.
Can Cat Food Keep Chickens Alive?
Yes. In an emergency situation you can give cat food to your chickens and it will definitely keep them alive, at least for a time.
Chickens can definitely make use of the protein in cat food, and the vitamins and minerals present in both wet and dry cat food can help their feathers, immunity and bone development.
Like I said above, though, they should not eat it long term or in large quantities if you have any other choice.
Chickens Should Not Eat Cat Food All the Time
If chickens are allowed to eat too much cat food, or if they are fed cat food as a regular part of their diet over a long period of time, they are going to get sick.
This is because of the aforementioned nutritional imbalances that will result from eating cat food but also because cat food is extremely high in calories and fat.
Weight gain is all but certain, and deadly health issues like fatty liver syndrome might also be a consequence.
Chicken feed is pretty cheap; unless you’re getting some truly sketchy cat food you probably aren’t saving any money.
In any case, regardless of the motive don’t give cat food to your chickens as a regular staple in their diet!
Cat Food Does Not Have all the Nutrients that Chickens Need
Probably the single biggest problem with cat food when it comes to chickens eating it is that it is not nutritionally complete, particularly when it comes to grit and various minerals that chickens need.
Chickens that are forced to eat cat food regularly will be facing a sort of double whammy.
On one hand they will be lacking certain nutrients that they have to have, and on the other hand will be getting too much of other things, macronutrients and micronutrients alike.
This can easily lead to major systemic problems that are difficult to diagnose and treat. If you care about your chickens, you’ll give them chicken feed or a whole and varied diet.
Again, you need not worry about them swiping a bite or two here and there or tossing them a few pieces of kibble as you walk by, but they should not be consuming cat food regularly.
Never Give Cat Food to Baby Chicks
Lastly, you should never, ever give a cat food to baby chicks. All of the problems that adult chickens can experience when eating cat food are multiplied tenfold when it comes to chicks since they have such a delicate constitution.
Chicks grow quickly, but are highly vulnerable to nutritional imbalances, excess or deficit, and cat food is a rule is entirely too rich in both fat and calories for young chicks. Any major problem and they will likely die.
Make it a point to only give your chicks a starter feed that is appropriate to their needs and phase of development, never cat food- even as a treat!
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.