Foods You Shouldn't Feed Your Chickens
Updated: Nov 3
It's Treat Time!
One of the questions I get asked pretty often is if it’s okay to feed certain foods to chickens. Well, if you’ve been raising chickens for any length of time, you've probably learned that they are pretty smart. For the most part, chickens know what they can and cannot eat. And, they definitely have their favorites!
One of the best parts of raising chickens is that almost nothing goes to waste. They love scraps from the kitchen. However, there are a few items that shouldn’t go out to your flock. I’ve compiled a short list for you below with items you shouldn't feed your chickens. Now, please keep in mind that some people feed their chickens food from the “do not eat” list and say their chickens are just fine. For me, I’d rather air on the side of caution and stay away from these foods because I know they’re not good for them. So, without further ado, here are a few things to stay away from when you’re heading out to the coop to treat your chickens.
Foods & Plants Chickens Shouldn't Eat
Candy and chocolate
Avocado skin or pit
Coffee or tea
Raw potatoes, green potatoes and potato peels
Onions and garlic
Excess salty foods
Dried rice or beans
1. Candy or chocolate - While we humans love chocolate, it can be deadly for chickens. Chocolate contains theobromine, which can cause seizures, vomiting and even death in chickens. So, if you were thinking of sharing your chocolate Halloween candy, Easter eggs or Christmas Santa with your feathered friends, please don't!
2. Avocado - Avocado contains a toxin called persin which is harmful to chickens and can cause increased heart rate, difficulty breathing and general weakness. But here's the scary part: if chickens consume high doses of persin, it could lead to death within just 12-24 hours. So, even though avocado is a superfood for humans, it is best to avoid sharing it with your chickens.
3. Coffee & Tea - Caffeine is also a big no-no for chickens. It can cause heart arrhythmia and even death. So, don't be tempted to share your morning cup of coffee or tea with your chickens.
4. Apple Seeds - While apples themselves are great for chickens, apple seeds contain a small amount of amygdalin, which, upon decomposition in the digestive tract, can release HCN -- or cyanide, which can be harmful in large quantities. So, make sure to remove the seeds before feeding your chickens any apples.
5. Raw Potatoes, Green Potatoes & Potato Peels - Potatoes contain solanine and chaconine, toxic glycoalkaloids that could upset your chickens' digestive systems, leading to diarrhea and vomiting. Potatoes are a great source of carbohydrates for chickens, but green potatoes are toxic. So, if you notice any green spots on your potatoes, make sure to cut them off before feeding them to your chickens.
6. Onions & Garlic - While onions and garlic can be beneficial for humans, they contain compounds that can cause anemia in chickens. So, it's best to avoid feeding them to your feathered friends.
7. Rhubarb Leaves - Rhubarb leaves take the cake for being the most dangerous. They contain oxalic acid, which can affect calcium absorption in birds, leading to kidney failure and death.
8. Raw Eggs - Clever as it may seem, it's not a good idea to feed chicken raw eggs as it could encourage egg-eating in the flock.
9. Salty Foods - Chickens need a balanced diet, which includes a small amount of salt. However, too much salt can lead to dehydration and kidney problems. So, avoid feeding your chickens salty foods like chips and pretzels, or even salty popcorn leftover from the movie theater.
10. Citrus Fruits - Chickens shouldn't eat lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits or any other citrus fruits. Citrus fruits contain high levels of citric acid, which can irritate the chickens' digestive tracts, leading to digestive issues and decreased egg production.
11. Dried Rice or Beans - Dried rice or beans should be strictly off-limits when feeding your chickens as they expand in the chicken's digestive tract, causing a blockage that can lead to death.
Overall, if you stay away from these foods, your flock will pretty much go wild over anything else. A couple of favorite treats in our coop are watermelon, cabbage, lettuce, flax seed, or leftover spaghetti!
Our chickens are like family to us, so we really want to take care of them and make sure their diet is a healthy one. Remember, treats or scraps from the kitchen should never replace their balanced diet of chicken feed. They should be what they’re called...a treat. Ensuring your flock has a healthy diet will ensure they lay amazing eggs and live a long, healthy life.
Until next time,
-The Wing Lady