Moldy Bread for Chickens: Good Idea or Not?

Compared to most other livestock species you could own, chickens have a pretty varied diet. Yes, they live mostly on nutritious chicken feed, but they can eat nearly anything and are true omnivores.

chicken eating a slice of bread
chicken eating a slice of bread (not moldy!)

Naturally, plenty of owners give them scraps from their own kitchen as a treat or to reduce waste. Some people assert that you can even give chickens old, bad food like moldy bread. Can this be true? Is it a good idea to give chickens moldy bread even if they can eat it?

No, chickens shouldn’t have moldy bread. Bread that’s showing signs of mold can give chickens foodborne illnesses, and certain kinds of toxic mold can make them really sick or even kill them.

Bread isn’t something you should really give to chickens in the first place except as a rare treat, and if you’re giving them old, moldy bread that is better off going into the dumpster, you’re going to seriously endanger their health. It’s just not worth the risk.

I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the hazards associated with moldy bread below…

Chickens Can Eat Food Scraps. Why is Old Bread Bad?

While it is true that chickens can eat food scraps, they should never get any bad, spoiled, or moldy food and that includes bread.

I know the tendency for some folks is to treat chickens and other livestock almost like they are garbage disposals; ideal for the purpose of reducing kitchen waste. But this is a really bad idea.

Moldy bread is only going to greatly increase the chances of your chickens getting sick, or potentially even being poisoned by certain strains of toxic mold. If you care about the health and wellness of your flock, you won’t give them any moldy bread.

Can You Just Break or Scrape the Mold Away?

Maybe. If you have bread that is fresh, or just a little bit stale, and has a small patch of mold on it you can probably break that off and then give your chickens the rest that is still good, with little to worry about. Mold spores, after all, float on the wind and can contaminate almost anything, often being facilitated by moisture or handling.

However, if a loaf or piece of bread is shot through with lots of dark, green, blue, or brownish patches, the bread is too far gone and should be thrown out in the garbage- not to your birds! Don’t go to all the trouble of trying to remove the mold whatever you do, just ditch it.

What Happens if Chickens Eat Moldy Bread?

If your chickens eat moldy bread, there are several possible outcomes.

The first is that nothing happens. Chickens tend to be fairly robust and they might eat a quantity of moldy bread and not get sick. Maybe they’re lucky, and maybe the mold was not toxic, or their immune system was able to cope.

The other outcome is that it could upset their digestive tract in any number of ways, causing diarrhea, loss of appetite, and subsequently refusal of food. Crop and gizzard irritation aren’t out of the question, either.

And, lastly, moldy bread might make your chicken sick. Potentially very sick! In some cases, it could even kill them!

This is no exaggeration, and something that you must take seriously. Although the problem of moldy food is not unique to bread, not hardly, bread is still highly prone to molding as it spoils. And many of the molds that commonly infest bread can have a major, negative impact on the health of your birds.

Symptoms of Toxic Mold Illness

There are different kinds of toxic mold out there, and each of them produces a poison or irritant that is somewhat variable.

From common black bread mold to cladosporium and even some strains of penicillium, there is no shortage of types that can hurt your flock. However, some of the most common and, sadly, worst produce a category of toxins known as mycotoxins.

These toxins can be devastating to the health of people and animals alike, and especially chickens. Generally, your birds won’t fare very well if they ingest a large quantity.

Mold toxicity illness can result in the following symptoms, sometimes being relatively mild and other times being short, sharp, severe, and then resulting in death.

Diarrhea, loss of appetite, and weight loss are very common, as is digestive upset that slows or stops the movement of food through the chicken’s digestive tract.

Egg loss in laying hens is a virtual certainty. Cardiovascular issues are also a known complication, and you’ll be able to tell that your chickens are unwell by checking their combs and wattles for paleness and a shriveled, shrunken appearance.

Serious poisoning will result in a loss of coordination, partial or total paralysis, organ damage, neurological problems, and eventually death.

That is a terrible fate for a chicken considering it was inflicted by a bite of moldy bread. It’s just not worth it! Never give your chickens or any other animal moldy bread.

Can Chickens Eat Good Bread?

Yes, but they should do so sparingly. Bread is nothing but junk food for chickens, even though they seem to enjoy eating it very much.

A few nibbles now and then, or maybe a couple of crusts that are thrown at them won’t cause any harm, but you definitely don’t want to make a habit of it, no matter how fresh the bread is.

Don’t Feed Your Chickens Any Kind of Spoiled Food.

Beyond moldy bread, you don’t want to feed chickens any kind of bad or spoiled food. I know the temptation lots of folks have when feeding their animals leftovers from their own kitchen is to save money and reduce waste from food has gone bad, old, or just a little off.

Just give it to the animals, it won’t hurt them! After all, they have to eat stuff that’s way worse than that in nature, right?”

It’s true that they sometimes do, but they are not in nature and our animals, including chickens, are not invulnerable to foodborne illnesses. You shouldn’t ever give them bad or spoiled food. Not if you care about them, anyway!

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