Raising backyard chickens means that you have natural composters right at your fingertips! However, just because chickens act like they can eat anything, there are a few food items that you should avoid giving to them. There are Good & Bad Table Scraps for Chickens that you should be aware of as you feed the leftovers to your flock.
Looking for even more info on chickens and homesteading? Check these out: Keeping Chickens Cool in the Summer, All About Storing Fresh Chicken Eggs, Do Chickens Need a Heat Lamp?, We Built an A Frame Chicken Tractor, and much more!
Should Chickens Solely Eat Table Scraps?
While backyard chickens are valuable in the fact that they can eat foods that may otherwise be wasted in our trashcans, your flock cannot completely relay on scraps for their diet.
Scraps are not supplements, but they do add an additional source of energy and nutrition to your flock’s diet. To feed your flock table scraps, simply keep these principles in mind:
- View table scraps as “treats”. They’re not bad for chickens to consume, but they’re also not their main source of nutrition.
- Fruits and vegetables add variety to your flock’s diet.
- Grain and seed based scraps are just supplementing the grains and seeds already present in the feed they should have access to each day.
- Food scraps should make up about 5-10% of your flock’s diet. The rest should come from their feed.
- Ideally, you should give your chickens scraps in the afternoon after they’ve had their fill of their normal feed.
Good & Bad Table Scraps for Chickens
Foods That Are Bad For Chickens:
Please Note: Most of the foods in this category will on be fatal to your chickens, but if fed in large quantities they could lead to health problems or even death. These foods should be avoided, but your chickens will likely be fine if one of these foods is consumed occasionally or by accident!
- Dry or uncooked beans -contains hemaglutin (a natural insecticide) which is toxic to chickens. Soaking, cooking, or sprouting the beans removes this toxin.
- Caffeine and chocolate
- Sugars and sweets -think cookies, cake, ice cream, candy, gum, donuts, and so on.
- Highly processed foods -white bread, buns, bagels, crackers, cereal, and other boxed foods.
- Unripe members of the nightshade family -eggplant, tomatoes, rhubarb and raw potatoes.
- Fast food -high in fried fats.
- Citrus -the acids from citrus fruits can reduce calcium absorption, thus resulting in thin shelled eggs or a drop in laying.
- Onions -contains small amounts of thesulphate (a toxin which destroys red blood cells, thus resulting in anemia.
- Apple Seeds -contain a small amount of the toxin, cyanide.
- Avocado (pit, skin, and leaves) – contains persin (a toxin associated with myocardial necrosis in chickens.
- Peanut Butter -high in fat, so only use as a special treat.
- Fats -lard, butter, tallow should be avoided in large quantities.
- Oils -coconut oil is the best oil for chickens to consume, but only on occasion. All other oils should be avoided.
- Dairy Products -chickens have a hard time digesting the milk sugars in dairy.
Foods That Are Good For Chickens:
The foods on this list provide nutrition and variety to your flock’s diet. These scraps can be offered in large quantities and fed more frequently. Some of them simulate the greens and berries that free-roaming chickens would naturally forage for.
- Whole Grain Bread Products
- Seeds -sunflower seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds.
- Unsalted Chopped Nuts -almonds, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts. Chickens can choke on unshelled and whole nuts, so be sure to shell and chop them into smaller pieces before giving them to your chickens.
- Popcorn -unsalted, not buttered, and air popped.
- Seafood -fish, shellfish, and lobster.
- Cooked Eggs -feeding them raw eggs could result in them eating their own eggs.
- Vegetables -Peppers, green beans, peas, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, spinach, turnips, corn, squash, zucchini, carrots, beets, radishes, cucumber, pumpkin, lettuce, and chards.
- Cooked Meats -hamburger, turkey, lamb, pork, steak. Chickens can also consume raw hamburger and steak scraps.
- Fruit With a Pit -don’t feed the actual pit to the chickens since it does contain a little bit of toxin -peaches, plums, mangoes, and cherries.
- Berries -blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, elderberries, raspberries, strawberries, and cherries.
- Fruits -grapes, mangoes, peaches, plums, pears, apples, papaya, pomegranate, watermelon, honeydew melon, and canteloupe.
- Sprouts and Fodder
More on Chickens:
- Keeping Chickens Cool in the Summer
- Do Chickens Need a Heat Lamp?
- How to Keep Chicken Eggs from Freezing
- All About Our Breeds of Chickens
- Everything You Need to Bring Chicks Home