Chickens are certainly industrious eaters. Anytime they are awake and not confined they’ll be out pecking around, getting into things, and looking for that next tasty morsel.
If you have an outside dog around, too, chances are you have probably noticed your chickens getting after the dog’s food when given half a chance. Is that okay? Can chickens eat dog food?
Yes, chickens can safely eat dog food. However, it is not nutritionally complete for them and certainly shouldn’t be a regular part of their diet. Dog food is designed to meet the nutritional needs of dogs, not chickens. It often contains too much protein, fat, and sodium for chickens and not enough calcium.
The good news is that dog food won’t hurt your chickens unless they are eating it all the time. You can even give them a little bit as a savory treat every now and again.
But before you go tossing some of poochie’s leftovers to your flock read on to learn everything you should know.
Nutritional Profile of Dog Food
The nutritional profile of dog food varies from brand to brand, but generally speaking, it is quite different from chicken feed.
Dog food is typically higher in protein, fat, and sodium than chicken feed. It often contains grains and filler ingredients like corn or wheat which chickens can nonetheless eat safely.
Dog food is designed to provide a dog with the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Most brands contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, and E, iron, calcium, and phosphorus.
Some foods also include additional supplements, such as Omega-3 fatty acids or glucosamine.
Benefits of Feeding Dog Food to Chickens
While dog food certainly isn’t nutritionally complete for chickens, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any nutritional benefits to feeding it to them. The vitamins and minerals in dog food can supplement a chicken’s diet and help them stay healthy.
Vitamin A, for example, is essential for chickens’ vision and immune health. Vitamin C helps support the immune system and can help reduce stress.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage. Iron is necessary for the production of red blood cells, and calcium is essential for strong bones and eggshells.
The higher protein content in dog food can also be beneficial for chickens, particularly if they are molting or laying eggs.
The additional protein can help them regrow their feathers and produce strong, healthy eggs.
Glucosamine is beneficial for building cartilage and cushioning joints.Omega-3 fatty acids are natural inflammation fighters and some evidence suggests they can help reduce cancer risks.
Can Chickens Eat Dry Dog Food?
Yes, chickens can eat dry dog food. Even though some kibble seems quite hard when you hear your dog crunching on it, the same thing can be said for chicken feed!
Your chickens won’t have any issues swallowing small kibble pellets, or pecking apart larger kibble.
Can Chickens Eat Wet Dog Food?
Yes, chickens can have wet dog food, too. However, you should take care to offer it in moderation.
Wet dog food is obviously very moist, and too much moist food can lead to health problems in chickens. It can cause watery dropping, for example, or encourage the growth of harmful bacteria.
Additionally, wet dog food can go bad very quickly, especially in warm weather.
Can Chickens Have Dog Treats?
Yes, chickens can have dog treats like biscuits or meat snacks. However, as with dog food, these treats should be given in moderation.
Dog treats are often very high in fat and calories, which can lead to obesity and other health problems in chickens.
How Often Can Chickens Have Dog Food?
Chickens can have dog food as an occasional treat, but it shouldn’t be a regular part of their diet.
A few pellets of kibble or a small scoop of wet food here and there is fine, but don’t overdo it. This could be once or twice a week in tiny amounts, or a larger serving once a month.
Generally, your chickens should be subsisting on chicken food for 90% of their calories, plus or minus. The remainder can be composed of supplemental whole foods and treats, like dog food.
Preparing Dog Food for Your Chickens
When you’re ready to feed dog food to your chickens, there isn’t much to it. You can toss some dry kibble into their enclosure or put wet food in a bowl or dish to keep it off the ground and hopefully off of their feet.
Alternately several smaller bowls scattered around will let all of your birds have a chance at getting some.
Be Cautious of Serving Chickens Leftover Dog food from Your Dog’s Bowl
It must be pointed out that there is a small but non-zero chance that your chickens could contract diseases from eating dog food, particularly wet food, previously munched on by the dog.
While the risk is low, it’s still there. If you do feed your chickens dog food, resist the temptation to toss your dog’s leftovers to them, and be sure to wash their bowl and any dishes they may have come into contact with afterward.
Similarly, your dog can contract certain diseases or parasites from the chickens, so you should not let your animals eat buffet-style out of the same container.
Can Baby Chicks Have Dog Food?
Yes, baby chicks can eat dog food. However, you should make sure that the dog food is ground up or crumbled into small pieces so that the chicks can easily eat it, and wait until they are at least 6 weeks old before letting them have a little bit.
Keep in mind, too, that baby chicks don’t do well with wet foods, so it is best to avoid giving them any wet dog food. Dry kibble is okay.
Always Cleanup after Giving Dog Food to Your Chickens
Whenever you give your chickens dog food and whatever kind, always clean up afterward. Pick up any uneaten food so it doesn’t spoil and attract pests, and wash any dishes or bowls that were used.
Dog food is highly, ah, fragrant and seems to attract animals from far and wide.
If you don’t want every raccoon, opossum, skunk, and neighborhood dog congregating in your backyard and potentially hurting your birds, stealing eggs, or importing fleas make sure to clean up thoroughly after every feeding.
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.