Don’t Poison Your Flock – What Can Chickens Eat…And Not Eat

what can chickens eat and not eat

A comprehensive list of foods chickens CAN and CANNOT eat.

Are you looking for something other than traditional chicken feed to give to your chickens? It’s time to step outside of the same old mundane diet of dried pellets and spice up your chicken’s diet.

You can serve them up with all kinds of different foods to entertain them, enhance their feed diet, and to just plain ole spoil them.

If you’re curious about what types of chicken feed to give to your brood, read our article “Types Of Chicken Feed.” 

foods chicken can eat and not eat

So, What Exactly Can Chickens Eat And Not Eat?

It would take hours of research and reading on the different foods chickens can and cannot eat. For the sake of saving you time, we’ve compiled one of the most comprehensive lists of foods that are safe to feed to chickens. We’ve also included foods that are waving red flags that you should stay away from!

So have a seat, relax, and let’s peruse all of the different food options for your feathered babies.

Foods That You CANNOT Give To Your Chickens.

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way before we go over foods that are safe to feed to chickens. It goes without saying that processed foods (junk food) are a big No-No for chickens. Junk food is high in sugar/carbs, salt, and chemicals that can be toxic/harmful for poultry of any kind.

For the sake of your feathered pets, you need to know what foods will kill chickens as well as what foods are poisonous/toxic for chickens.

Dry Beans/Legumes

Highly Toxic – can be fatal

NEVER give chickens dry beans.

Beans that are fully cooked are an excellent source of protein for your chickens. Boiling them for 10 minutes or more reduces toxins.

  • Toxin: Phytohemagglutinin (PHA)
  • Causes digestive distress in both humans and animals.
  • The kidney bean is extremely toxic with high fatal probability within two weeks of ingesting.
  • Castor beans contain ricin, which is used in bioterrorism.
Avocado Skin & Pit

HIGHLY Toxic – can be fatal

The avocado’s flesh is okay to give to your chickens but avoid giving them the skin or pit.

  • Toxin: Persin
  • Causes fluid to build up around the heart, problems breathing, organ failure, and inability to stand on a perch.
Salt and Salty Foods

Toxic – can be fatal

Sodium (salt) is required in the diet of chickens. However, too much salt causes salt poisoning.

Foods that fall in this category are nuts, chips, crackers, ham, pork, and more.

  • Salt toxicity
  • Causes severe depression, difficulty breathing, loss of coordination, and an increase in water consumption.
Caffeinated Foods/Drinks

Toxic – can be fatal

You should NEVER allow your chickens to eat or drink anything that contains caffeine. This includes coffee, coffee grounds, tea, tea grounds, and chocolate.

  • Toxin: Caffeine
  • Causes irregular heartbeat, increased heart rate, vomiting, agitation, tremors, seizures, and death.
Citrus Fruit Peel and Seeds

Toxic

There’s a lot of debate in the poultry industry about the safety of citrus. Many chicken owners give their chickens small amounts of the fruit’s flesh.

Nightshade Plants

HIGHLY Toxic – can be fatal

  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Tomatillos
  • Petunias
  • Eggplant
  • Peppers (of any type)
You should NEVER allow your chickens to consume raw nightshade plants.

  • Toxin: Solanine
  • Causes neurotoxicity, paralysis, respiratory distress, seizures, and death
Eggs Eating eggs (raw or cooked) doesn’t pose any danger for chickens. However, eating eggs should be discouraged because chickens will begin eating the eggs in the nesting boxes.
Plants (Toxic) Before you plant something, make sure it’s safe for your chickens.

There are numerous common plants, flowers, and vegetables lurking in a yard that are toxic to chickens.

Onions fall within these toxic plants.

Rhubarb

Toxic

Rhubarb is safe for chickens in minimal amounts. However, large portions are toxic.

  • Toxins: Oxalic acid, anthraquinone glycoside, and other toxins
  • Causes renal failure.
Seeds and Pits of Fruits

HIGHLY Toxic – causes death within a few minutes after ingesting

Fruit seeds/pits are one of the most dangerous things to feed a chicken.

  • Toxin: Cyanogenic glycosides (cyanide)
  • Causes immediate hypoxia.

Foods That You CAN Give To Chickens.

Now that we have the red flag foods behind us let’s look at foods that you can give to your chickens.

Also, if you’re looking for some frozen treats to cool your flock down when it gets hot outside, read our article on frozen chicken treats here.

Dairy

Dairy (milk, cheese, cottage cheese, plain yogurt) can be given to your chickens in moderation. Chickens aren’t able to properly digest dairy products and easily end up with diarrhea, or other digestive issues.

Nuts and Legumes

Adzuki Beans Only Cooked (never raw)
Almonds Finely chopped
Anasazi Beans Only Cooked (never raw)
Barley
Black Beans Only Cooked (never raw)
Blackeyed Peas Only Cooked (never raw)
Chickpeas Only Cooked (never raw)
Corn Offers no nutritional value
Kidney Beans Only Cooked (never raw)
Lentils Only Cooked (never raw)
Mung Beans Only Cooked (never raw)
Navy Beans Only Cooked (never raw)
Oats/Oatmeal Cooked is easier to eat
Pea Beans Only Cooked (never raw)
Pine Nuts Finely chopped
Pinto Beans Only Cooked (never raw)
Popcorn Popped
Rice Only Cooked (wild or brown)
Safflower Seeds Finely chopped
Sesame Seeds
Sorghum
Soybeans Only Cooked (never raw)
Wheat

Fruits and Veggies

We recommend organic produce to reduce the risk of any residual pesticide left behind. If you don’t have access to organic, be diligent about thorough washing all produce before giving to your chickens.

Apple Seeds are Toxic (Remove)
Apricot Pit is Toxic (Remove)
Artichoke
Asparagus
Banana
Bean sprouts
Beets
Blueberries
Broccoli
Brussel Sprout
Cabbage
Cantaloupe
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Cherries Pit is Toxic (Remove)
Corn
Cranberry
Cucumbers
Green beans
Honeydew
Kale
Kiwi
Lettuce
Mango
Okra
Papaya
Peaches Pit is Toxic (Remove)
Pears Seeds are Toxic (Remove)
Peas
Pineapple
Plum Pit is Toxic (Remove)
Potato NEVER feed raw, must be cooked
Pumpkin
Radishes
Raspberries
Spinach
Squash
Strawberries
Sweet Potato Cooked
Watermelon
Yam Cooked
Zucchini

Proteins

Any cooked meat EXCEPT ham.  (it’s loaded with salt)                           Cut into tiny morsels
Seafood
Cat or Dog Food (dry/wet)
Mealworms
Earthworms
Fish Meal
Black Soldier Fly Larvae


 

Chicken DVM contains a list of other plants which are a danger to chickens.

Here’s The Breakdown…

What foods are safe for chickens to eat

The Last “Cluck…”

There’s no more asking, “What can chickens eat and not eat” because you are armed and ready with a list!

Although the lists above are comprehensive, there may be a few foods not listed. Don’t feed anything to your chickens if in doubt. Read up on it first, then feed. 

You can get as creative as you want in feeding different things to your chickens as treats.

Happy “chickening!”

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Foods chickens can eat

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