You probably already know that chickens are omnivores. These versatile birds are big eaters and will gobble up just about anything, from veggies, fruits, and nuts to bugs and worms.
But omnivore means that they eat meat, too, right? Do chickens eat actual meat?
Yes, chickens can and should eat meat, and it is an important part of their diet. Meat (particularly low fat) is one of the most nutritional foods for chickens, especially during growth, during the molt, and when they are healing from injuries.
Chickens are definitely carnivorous, and we’ll eat pretty much any kind of meat given half a chance.
However, if you’re going to supplement their diet with meat you need to know how to give it to them and how much they can have. Keep reading to learn what you need to know.
Health Benefits of Meat for Chickens
Meat is undeniably healthy for chickens. Is a major source of protein, fat, and many vitamins and minerals, all of which are essential for good health in chickens.
Perhaps the best attribute of meat is as a source of nutrition during challenging times.
When a chicken is going through rapid growth, molting, or healing from an injury their body will use up resources at a prodigious rate.
Meat is one of the few foods that will be able to supply enough protein quickly enough to help your bird get through a challenging season.
A lack of protein during any of the aforementioned instances can delay progression or result in negative outcomes through malnutrition.
Supplementing your birds’ usual diet of feed with choice cuts of meat is a great way to ensure they are getting enough protein and other resources they need.
Can Chickens Eat Beef?
Yes, chickens may eat beef and greatly enjoy it. Beef is one of the better meat options for feeding to your chickens since it is easy to get, relatively inexpensive, and has a great nutritional profile.
Can Chickens Eat Fish?
Yes, most chickens will eat fish so long as it is fresh. Fish is particularly high in healthy fats and other trace nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids that will greatly benefit your birds.
Can Chickens Eat Pork?
They sure can. Chickens will eat pretty much any kind of meat you give them, and that includes pig.
Pork can be a great, healthy alternative to beef and you don’t have to hesitate about giving it to the flock.
Can Chickens Eat… Poultry?!
As I’m settling as it might be to consider, yes, chickens will eat poultry, including turkey, duck, and even chicken meat!
Most chicken owners know that given a chance chickens will resort to cannibalism, either on dead chickens or their own eggs.
Accordingly, if this is something you’d rather not encourage, don’t feed your chickens chicken meat; stick to other species of bird instead.
Can Chickens Eat Meat Raw?
Yes, chickens may eat raw with one caveat. Though chickens were opportunistic feeders in the wild, they should not necessarily eat carrion.
Any raw meat that is given to your birds should be fresh, clean, and healthy.
Can Chickens Eat Meat Cooked?
Yes, chickens definitely enjoy cooked meat though it will lower its nutritional profile just a little bit.
However, cooking meat ensures that harmful germs and parasites are destroyed prior to feeding, so it does have its advantages.
Never Feed Meat to Chickens that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
On the subject of cooking, you must never feed any meat to your chickens that has been cooked or otherwise prepared with ingredients they cannot have.
Salt, sugar, oils, excess butter, and other seasonings are all bad for chickens, specifically when eating in excess.
You might enjoy a juicy, fat steak or a delicious filet of fish prepared with all the trimmings, but that doesn’t mean your birds can have it.
Do Not Feed Chickens Any Meat that is Spoiled or Rotten
Contrary to popular belief you should not feed your chickens any meat that is spoiled or rotten as mentioned above. Chickens are not specific eaters of corpse flesh like crows and vultures.
They might eat it enthusiastically, but there is the potential for contracting bacteria, viruses, or parasites from poor quality or rotten meat, and some of them may get passed back to you!
Caution: Bacteria in Meat Can Harm Your Chickens
When considering giving meat to your chickens you generally want to have the attitude that you should prepare it for them like you prepare it for yourself.
Meat that has sat out for longer than an hour or two at room temperature is likely to host harmful bacteria. Depending on the species of bacteria, it might harm your chickens.
Therefore, you should only give your chickens raw meat that has been kept at a safe temperature immediately prior to serving it to them.
Alternately, cooking meat will destroy any harmful germs.
How Often Can Chickens Have Meat?
Chickens love meat, and they’ll eat it pretty much anytime they have the opportunity but you must be responsible and limit their intake.
Experts recommend feeding your chickens a “90/10” diet, or in some cases an “80/20” diet.
The majority of that diet should be nutritionally complete chicken feed, with the remainder made up of wholesome supplemental foods like produce and, yes, meat.
That means the amount of meat your chickens get is always going to be fairly small since it will only be around 10% to 20% of their total calorie intake.
Meat is greatly enjoyed by chickens and it is good for them, but it is not nutritionally complete, and like most things, overindulgence can lead to health problems.
Preparing Meat for Your Flock
You have several options when it comes to preparing meat for giving to your chickens.
They can have it raw or cooked, as discussed, but if you are serving it to them raw it must be fresh and healthy. No spoiled or rotted stuff.
If you are serving it to them cooked, remember that it cannot have any adulterating ingredients and you should let it cool before serving it to them.
Whichever way you go, you should cut the meat into small pieces it is easy for your birds to handle based on their size and they’re eating habits.
Chickens don’t chew their food, or at least they don’t chew it with their mouths. They swallow their food whole where it is ground up and reduced in the gizzard.
This means that tough or stringy cuts of meat might be a choking hazard if they try to gulp down a piece that is too large.
One should also keep in mind that chickens, like we discussed, really like meat and are likely to fight over it so make sure there is enough to go around and you spread it out on trays or bowls where all of them will have a chance to get their fill.
Can Baby Chicks Have Meat, Too?
Baby chicks can have meat, but you’ll want to wait until they are at least 6 weeks old before they try their first, tiny tidbit.
Chicks have extremely delicate digestive systems and specific nutritional requirements.
That means that the meat, with its high protein and fat content, might upset them and lead to loose stools or diarrhea which can spell trouble for chicks.
Always Clean Up After Serving Your Chickens Meat
One last reminder, you must clean up thoroughly after serving meat to your chickens.
The aroma of meat will attract every other carnivorous or omnivorous animal in the area, including predators of chickens.
You might be ringing the dinner bell in a way you don’t intend if you carelessly leave meat out for your flock!
On another note, though meat does not rot as quickly as produce it will raise a terrible stink and become a health hazard once it does, and you don’t want your chickens coming back around once they get hungry again to peck at spoiled meat because they can get sick in turn.
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.