Out of all the foods you might give to your chickens, or any birds for that matter, rice is probably the most contentious.
Plenty of people that you ask on the matter will swear that Rice will kill birds, usually by swelling up in their stomachs and bursting them. Scary stuff, but is it true? Can chickens eat rice?
Yes, chickens may eat raw and cooked rice safely, though they should do so sparingly. Rice is very calorie-dense and mostly carbohydrates meaning it can promote weight gain. However, brown rice is packed with vitamins and minerals, and can be a nutritious treat for chickens.
And that’s the bottom line. The biggest risk that Rice poses to any chicken is making them gain weight.
The old wives’ tales about it blowing out their stomachs or making them completely explode or just that.
Even so, there is more you should know about feeding rice to chickens. Keep reading and we will tell you everything you need to know.
Nutritional Profile of Rice
There are many varieties of rice out there, and many that chickens may eat, but in the interest of keeping your birds as healthy as possible while giving them a well-rounded treat, we will look at the nutritional profile of brown rice.
Brown rice is surprisingly well-rounded nutritionally and is abundant with most of the B vitamins, and it even has a little bit of folate.
It also contains many important minerals, including some that are difficult to get from other sources.
Manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and selenium are all found in great amounts, with lesser amounts of iron, potassium, zinc, and calcium.
Brown rice also contains a good shot of protein, but it is mostly carbohydrates.
Health Benefits of Rice for Chickens
Rice, given sparingly, can do quite a lot for your chickens. The B complex vitamins are useful for all sorts of metabolic processes and overall cellular health, while folate is essential for the creation and maintenance of DNA and RNA.
The minerals that rice contains are just as important, with iron being essential for the production of new red blood cells and the oxygenation of blood, phosphorus, and calcium being necessary for strong and healthy bones, and potassium being vital for balancing electrolyte levels.
The carbohydrates in rice will also give birds a boost of energy, particularly when they are dealing with temperature extremes.
This can make rice an important warming food and cold weather or important for helping to prevent heat stress in hot climates.
Can Chickens Have White Rice?
Yes, chickens may have white rice, even though nutritionally it is the most lackluster of the rice varieties.
Can Chickens Have Brown Rice?
Yes, chickens can definitely eat brown rice and it is advised you serve brown rice to them since it is among the best of them, nutritionally, and is also quite tasty.
Can Chickens Eat Flavored Rice?
No, you should not serve chickens any flavored rice that comes from a box with a seasoning packet or has been pre-seasoned.
These seasonings invariably contain tons of sodium which are very bad for chickens. See the later section for more information.
Can Chickens Eat Rice Raw?
In what is no doubt going to be a shock to some readers, yes, it is completely safe for chickens to eat rice when it is raw. So many old legends and rumors abound on this topic it is difficult to separate fact from fiction, but it is true.
Raw rice will not harm chickens in any meaningful way. It doesn’t swell up in their stomach, it doesn’t make their intestines explode and it doesn’t plug up their crop. Chickens can eat raw rice just fine.
If anything, however, some chickens seem to snub raw rice. Even though it seems like something chickens would love to gobble up, some birds just show a decided lack of preference for it.
However, if your birds do like it, there is no harm in serving them rice raw so long as you pay attention to portion and calorie intake.
Can Chickens Eat Rice Cooked?
Yes, and this is the preferred way to serve rice to your chickens. Contrasted with raw rice, many chickens seem to love cooked rice, and the fact that you can add other wholesome foods to cooked rice or even mix a little bit of their usual feed with it makes it far more appealing than when it is raw.
Never Feed Rice to Chickens that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
On the subject of cooking rice, you should never, ever feed rice to chickens that have been cooked with harmful ingredients.
A harmful ingredient is anything that your chickens shouldn’t eat at all, or should only have in sharp limitations.
For instance, the aforementioned seasoning packets that come with seasoned rice are a no-go for chickens.
They are invariably packed with salt and sugar that is bad for your birds, promoting weight gain at best, and leading to serious intestinal distress at worst.
Not for nothing, these harmful ingredients might lead to serious and life-threatening complications, including fatty liver hemorrhagic syndrome, sodium poisoning, high blood pressure, and more.
None of these is something you should risk giving your chicken your table food, and all of them are a bad way to die.
Stick with plain, unseasoned rice or rice that has been mixed in with wholesome, healthy foods only.
How Often Can Chickens Have Rice?
So rice, generally, is a healthy and nutritious option for chickens but you still want to give it to them sparingly.
Rice, no matter the color, is extremely calorie dense and it is mostly carbs meaning it is an easy thing for your chickens to start gaining weight if they eat it regularly.
If you don’t want chubby birds walking around the yard, you should only give them rice a couple of times a week and it along with other nutritious snacks and treats should make up no more than 10% of their total calorie intake.
Preparing Rice for Your Flock
If you want to, you can scatter a little bit of raw rice around the yard to let your chickens peck at it, but you generally don’t want to give them a big bowl or tray full of it because it is an easy thing for them to overindulge.
By far the best way to give rice to your chickens is by cooking it. All you need to do is cook it until it is soft, and then you can give it to them as is or mix them with their feed or other wholesome treats.
Can Baby Chicks Have Rice, Too?
Baby chicks can have rice safely once they reach about 6 weeks of age, but you are generally advised against this.
Rice is very filling and quite fattening, and chicks should subsist primarily on starter feed until they reach adolescence.
Still, if you want to let your chicks nibble on a little bit of cooked rice or try a few grains of raw rice, it shouldn’t hurt. Just don’t let them eat too much!
Make Sure You Clean Up After Serving Rice to Your Flock
One thing to keep in mind after serving rice to your flock is that it decomposes quickly, and is known for becoming something of a breeding ground for bacteria.
You don’t want your birds eating any food that has gone bad because it can make them sick, just like it makes people sick.
Once your birds have had their fail, particularly of cooked rice, make it a point to go in and remove it and clean up any that they might have scattered around.
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.