Did you know that pigs eat meat? It’s true, they do, and though they aren’t purely carnivores like some other animals pigs really like to tuck into any meat they can get.
And, believe it or not, pigs have even been known to eat bones. I mean eat them entirely, not just gnaw on them!
For homesteaders who own chickens, leftover, cleaned carcasses often go to the pigs. But this practice is very contentious among pig herders, and it’s hard to figure out whether or not it’s truly okay. Let’s get to the bottom of it: Is it safe for pigs to eat chicken bones?
It is reasonably safe for pigs to eat chicken bones. Pigs can crush, swallow, and digest bones but they can be hazardous. Raw bones can cause foodborne illnesses, and cooked bones may splinter and cause internal injuries.
I know it’s a grim topic, but wild pigs will often eat other animals, particularly fresh carcasses, and leave nothing behind but some clumps of fur and maybe some teeth.
They are that voracious! So naturally our domestic pigs can at least theoretically handle the eating of bones. The question is, are bones really beneficial for them?
This is a highly nuanced question and one we’ll need to explore in-depth for you to make an informed decision. I’ll tell you more in the rest of this article.
Do Pigs Normally Eat Bones?
Yes, they do. In the wild or left to their own devices, pigs will happily eat any bones they can find, especially if they are already hungry.
Are Bones Digestible by Pigs?
Yes, they are. Pigs have surprisingly powerful digestive systems, and a pig’s stomach is able to dissolve bones and prepare nutrients in them for extraction through the production of special proteins. It turns out they aren’t eating them for no reason!
Do Pigs Even Like Chicken Bones!?
Yes, they do, I’ve seen it plenty of times. Much of the time, pigs will instinctively eat bones because they’re a good source of calcium and they know that the marrow contained in bones is extremely dense with other nutrients they need, including additional protein.
That’s why most pigs need very little prompting to eat bones at all in any setting. Kind of worrying when you think about it, but it’s the truth.
Are Chicken Bones Beneficial for Pigs?
Yes, generally speaking. I know this answer is bound to draw some fire, but it’s the truth. Looking at the nutritional content of chicken bones and their benefits, they can provide lots of resources that pigs need to be healthy and can also help keep their teeth clean.
However, the real question is whether or not these benefits are worth it in light of other, safer, and less troublesome options. That’s for youto decide, but we’ll explore all of the factors in detail as we go on…
What Sorts of Vitamins and Minerals Do Chicken Bones Have?
Assuming we’re dealing with just chicken bones, ones that don’t have very much meat left on them, you can depend on them to give pigs a big dose of calcium but also a great shot of other macronutrients they need in the form of protein and fat. This is thanks to the super-nutritious marrow locked away inside the bone.
But aside from that, bone marrow has a huge assortment of other vitamins and minerals that can greatly benefit your herd: Vitamins B1, B2, and B12, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E, along with plenty of phosphorous and iron.
Are Chicken Bones Harmful to Pigs in Any Way?
Yes, they definitely can be. How likely this is depends on the preparation, the size of the chicken bones, and how accustomed your individual pigs are to eating them.
Probably the first and most serious concern with bones is associated with feeding them raw bones. Pigs are capable of eating raw animal protein, of course, but that doesn’t mean that they should.
Eating any kind of raw meat or other raw animal product, including chicken bones, is associated with drastically higher instances of foodborne illness and infestation by parasites.
The other hazards associated with bones are:
- ❌ choking,
- ❌ internal laceration,
- ❌ and gut impaction.
Bones, of course, are very hard, and even though chicken bones (like the bones of most birds) are way less dense and quite soft by comparison, they still have a nasty tendency to get stuck when swallowed.
Sometimes, they will splinter and stick internally in soft tissues! An internal puncture or laceration can lead to blood loss or infection and subsequently death.
Gut impaction occurs when enough debris manages to lodge in a pig’s stomach or elsewhere in the intestinal tract and then blocks the flow of food. This, likewise, is a significant medical emergency.
Out of all of the things that a pig might eat, at least concerning actual food, bones are some of the very worst offenders concerning the above conditions. Something to keep in mind before you decide to give chicken bones to your herd…
Should Pigs Eat Raw Chicken Bones?
Probably not. Raw bones are far more likely to infect a pig with bacteria, viruses, or parasites, and that in turn can make the entire herd sick.
Should Pigs Eat Cooked Bones?
Yes, assuming you plan on serving chicken bones to your pigs. Cooked bones have a higher tendency to snap and splinter, but they’re also much softer and easier for pigs to digest to say nothing of much safer generally because all the bacteria and other harmful microorganisms are dead.
I know plenty of folks who give their pigs leftovers, cooked bones from a chicken dinner or rotisserie chicken and don’t have any issues.
Caution: Feeding Pigs Chicken Bones Might Give Them a Taste for Live Chickens
Now, there’s something else you need to know before you give your herd chicken bones.
This is another contentious topic, but from my observations, I’ve noticed there’s definitely a tendency for pigs to start developing a taste for whatever animal produced the bones if you get my meaning.
Said another way, your pigs might start looking at your chickens, if you have any, or those of your neighbor as a live food source. This is especially likely if you give them raw chicken bones.
It’s also worth mentioning that pigs that are fed meat and bones generally might, and I emphasize might, become more aggressive because they develop a taste for it. However, this is only likely to be a problem if you aren’t feeding them enough otherwise.
Just something to keep in mind. I do…
How Often Can Pigs Eat Chicken Bones?
I prefer to only give my pig’s bones as an occasional supplement to their usual diet. They aren’t nutritionally complete for them, and they’re too problematic for them to get a steady serving of them.
I’d advise giving them bones no more than once a week, and keeping the total intake at no more than 5% of their total calories.
This will prevent pigs from growing too eager for bones, and also minimize the likelihood of negative outcomes from internal injury or gut impaction.
How Can I Feed My Pigs Chicken Bones?
Always cook any chicken bones you’re going to give to your pigs. After that, I strongly recommend you use kitchen shears or a sturdy cleaver to process them down into smaller sections that are far less likely to stick in their throat or in their gut.
Also, keep an eye out for aggression between pigs. I’ve noticed a definite tendency for scuffles if some pigs aren’t getting enough, so feed them carefully.
Can Piglets Have Chicken Bones, Too?
No. Even when piglets have finished weaning and are on solid foods, I’ve found that bones are just too problematic for them. Wait until a baby piglet is fully mature, physically, before you allow them to try chicken bones for the first time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are chicken bones safe for potbelly pigs?
Yes, chicken bones are safe for potbelly pigs according to all the guidelines above. But they also pose a risk in all the same ways.
Are chicken bones safe for mini pigs?
Yes, they are, assuming the mini pig is fully mature. As expected, make sure you give them proportionally smaller bones or even smaller pieces of larger bones so they can swallow and digest them safely.
Are chicken bones safe for kunekune pigs?
Yes, they are, according to all of the instructions and guidelines provided above.
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.