If you’re like most people, you probably think that the only thing chickens can eat is chicken feed. But that is not true.
Chickens are actually omnivores and can eat a variety of foods, including many of the same foods that people can.
It is nice to know that you can share some foods with your chickens, but not everything that we eat is safe for them. So, what human foods can chickens eat?
Chickens can eat many vegetables and fruits that people can, cooked or raw, along with most meats and even some grains in moderation. Chickens can also safely eat certain foods as treats occasionally, like bread, popcorn, and similar items. It should be noted that chickens should never be fed leftovers or human dishes prepared with ingredients that could be harmful to them, however.
In this article we will discuss the different types of “human” food that chickens can eat.
We will also talk about the importance of a balanced diet for chickens and how to make sure your chickens are getting the nutrients they need no matter what you are feeding them.
Chickens Can Eat Many Fruits and Vegetables
Chickens can eat most fruits and vegetables, cooked or raw. Fruits and vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals for chickens, as well as fiber which is important for their digestion.
Some of the most popular fruits eaten by people happen to be the best fruits and vegetables for chickens include:
- Green Peppers
These are just a few of the many fruits and vegetables that chickens can enjoy, too.
It is important to remember that while chickens can eat most fruits and vegetables, there are some that they should avoid.
Meat is Definitely on the Menu
So chickens can eat all kinds of produce, but they aren’t vegetarians. Chickens are omnivores, and that means they eat meat.
In fact, meat is an important part of a chicken’s diet because it provides them with protein, which is essential for their growth and development.
While you might not think to give your chicken a steak or roast beef, you definitely can, and there are other types of meat that are perfect for chickens. Some of the best meats for chickens include:
- Chicken (Yikes!)
These are all great sources of protein for chickens, and they will enjoy them just as much as we do. Laying hens and growing adolescent birds in particular need plenty of protein, as well as birds that are molting.
You might be wondering if it is safe to feed your chicken meat that is raw. The answer is yes, chickens can eat raw meat.
In fact, some people believe that feeding your chicken raw meat is the best way to give them the nutrients they need.
However, you should be aware of the risks associated with feeding your chicken raw meat.
Raw meat may contain bacteria that can make your chicken sick, and though they aren’t as vulnerable to such germs as we are, it is still something to keep in mind.
Chickens Can Also Have Grains, Sparingly
Chickens will also readily eat many grains, though these should be a small part of their diet.
If you’ve ever seen a chicken scratching at the ground, you might think that they prefer a diet of seeds and grains.
And while it’s true that chickens enjoy eating these foods, too much of a good thing can be detrimental to their health.
Grains contain high levels of carbohydrates, which can lead to obesity and digestive problems in chickens.
In addition, chickens who eat too many grains may be more susceptible to parasites and disease. As a result, it’s important to limit the amount of grains that chickens consume.
That being said, a little bit is just fine, and they will derive nutrition from it. Chickens can have grains such as:
These are all perfectly safe for chickens to eat, but should only be given to them in moderation.
The Occasional Treat Won’t Hurt Your Chickens
Though you should never feed your chickens serious junk food, there are some treats that won’t hurt them. A little bit of crusty bread, some plain popcorn, yogurt, and even a tiny bit of cheese are okay.
Don’t make a habit of feeding this stuff to your chickens, but with a little care you can share whatever you are snacking on with them. You can try giving your chickens a little bit of the following to see if they like it:
As you can see, there are a lot of different things that chickens can eat. By providing your chickens with an occasional treat, you can be sure that they will remain interested in what you are serving them.
Don’t Feed Chickens Things Made with Harmful Ingredients
Chickens are such big and varied eaters, it might be more helpful to list what they can’t eat.
Though it is true that chickens can eat most of the things that people eat, chickens cannot handle and shouldn’t have many of the ingredients and some whole foods that people do. The consequences can be life-threatening for them!
Many things can lead to serious weight gain in chickens or even serious health issues down the line.
Fatty liver syndrome, salt poisoning, hypertension, and more could be caused if your chickens eat any of the following:
- Seasoning Mixes
- Artificial Ingredients
Worse yet, some foods that people and other animals can eat may prove to be deadly poisonous to chickens. Never feed them any of the following, or any food prepared with the following as ingredients:
- Fruit Pits (and some seeds)
- Green Potatoes or Tomatoes
- Rhubarb Leaves
Any of these things could potentially be harmful to your chickens, so it is vital that you avoid feeding them to your feathered friends. It is up to you to know what any food contains before you hand it over.
Make Sure Your Chickens are Getting Complete Nutrition, Whatever You Feed Them
Like any animal, chickens need complete and well-rounded nutrition in order to thrive. You are right to assume that they can get most of their nutrition from a varied diet of wholesome foods listed throughout this article, and that is true.
However, it will be quite difficult for chickens to get everything they need from such a diet, no matter how diligent you are.
It is best that chickens get the vast majority of their calories (and near total nutrition) from a well-rounded chicken feed.
A quality chicken feed will have all of the vitamins, minerals, proteins, and other nutrients that a chicken needs to stay healthy.
They should live on this feed for 90% of their total calorie intake. There are many different types of chicken feed available on the market, so it is important to do your research before you buy anything.
Proper chicken feed will provide your chickens with everything they need to stay healthy and thrive.
Since there are as many different types of chicken feed available and even more types of chickens, it is critical that you do a little research to optimize the feeding plan for your flock.
That being said, chicken feed isn’t everything: it is equally important to supplement your chickens’ diet with fresh and wholesome foods listed above.
These supplements and treats should make up the remaining 10% of their caloric intake and will ensure your birds have a varied diet that will keep them happy and well.
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.