What can chickens eat? Well, chickens are omnivores! They can eat both meat and plants. Many chicken owners feed their chickens chicken feed purchased from the local feed mill, but you can provide your chickens with much more variety by offering food scraps from your table, weeds from the garden, or even insects and worms.
Yes, chickens can eat worms. They are a very nutritious treat. For a balanced diet, offer a chicken feed with fresh fruit and vegetables as supplementary snacks.
But which poultry treats and snacks are best for your flock? You have endless options!
Here are some more foods you can and can’t feed to chickens.
- What Can Chickens Eat? A Full List
- 1. Almonds
- 2. Amaranth, Cooked
- 3. Apples
- 4. Apricots
- 5. Artichokes
- 6. Asparagus
- 7. Bananas and Banana Peels
- 8. Basil
- 9. Beans, Cooked
- 10. Beets
- 11. Bird Seed
- 12. Black Soldier Fly Larvae
- 13. Blackberries
- 14. Blueberries
- 15. Bread
- 16. Broccoli
- 17. Brussels Sprouts
- 18. Butter
- 19. Cabbage
- 20. Cantaloupe and Cantaloupe Seeds
- 21. Capsaicin (In Chili Peppers)
- 22. Carrots
- 23. Cat Food
- 24. Cauliflower
- 25. Celery
- 26. Cheese
- 27. Cherries
- 28. Chia Seeds
- 29. Chicken, Cooked
- 30. Chives
- 31. Cilantro
- 32. Cinnamon
- 33. Coconut
- 34. Collard Greens
- 35. Corn
- 36. Cranberries
- 37. Crawfish/Crawdads
- 38. Crickets
- 39. Cucumbers and Cucumber Peels
- 40. Dandelions
- 41. Dog Food
- 42. Edamame
- 43. Eggplants
- 44. Eggs, Cooked
- 45. Eggshells
- 46. Figs
- 47. Fish
- 48. Flax Seed
- 49. Garlic
- 50. Ginger
- 51. Grass
- 52. Grains
- 53. Grapefruit
- 54. Grapes
- 55. Ham
- 56. Insects
- 57. Jalapenos
- 58. Kale
- 59. Kiwi
- 60. Lemons
- 61. Lettuce
- 62. Maggots
- 63. Mangoes
- 64. Mealworms
- 65. Meat
- 66. Mint
- 67. Mushrooms, Store Bought
- 68. Nuts
- 69. Oatmeal
- 70. Oats
- 71. Okra
- 72. Olives
- 73. Oranges and Orange Peels
- 74. Oyster Shells
- 75. Papaya
- 76. Parsley
- 77. Pasta
- 78. Peaches
- 79. Peanut Butter
- 80. Peanuts
- 81. Pears
- 82. Peas
- 83. Pecans
- 84. Pickles
- 85. Pineapple
- 86. Plums
- 87. Pomegranate
- 88. Popcorn
- 89. Potatoes, Cooked
- 90. Pumpkin
- 91. Quinoa
- 92. Radishes and Radish Greens
- 93. Raisins
- 94. Raspberries
- 95. Rice, Cooked
- 96. Shrimp
- 97. Spinach
- 98. Squash
- 99. Strawberries
- 100. Sunflower Seeds
- 101. Sweet Potatoes and Sweet Potato Skins
- 102. Tomatoes, Ripe
- 103. Turnips
- 104. Walnuts
- 105. Watermelon and Watermelon Rind
- 106. Worms
- 107. Yogurt
- 108. Zucchini
- What Can Chickens Not Eat? Full List
- 1. Acorns
- 2. Almonds, Bitter
- 3. Amaranth, Raw
- 4. Apple Seeds
- 5. Avocado
- 6. Beans, Uncooked
- 7. Bread, Moldy
- 8. Cherry Pits
- 9. Chicken, Uncooked
- 10. Chocolate
- 11. Coffee Grounds
- 12. Edamame, Raw
- 13. Eggplant Leaves
- 14. Eggs, Raw
- 15. French Fries
- 16. Meat, Uncooked
- 17. Mushrooms, Wild
- 18. Onions
- 19. Peach Pits
- 20. Potato Peels and Leaves
- 21. Potatoes, Raw
- 22. Rhubarb and Rhubarb Leaves
- 23. Rice, Uncooked
- 24. Soy, Raw
- 25. Strawberry Tops
- 26. Tomatoes, Green
- A Note On Chickens and Fats
What Can Chickens Eat? A Full List
Before we jump right in, it’s critical to note that chickens are healthiest when they have access to a wide variety of foods. In the wild, chickens forage for all of their food, but when we keep hens in coops, we need to provide all of that variety for them while still ensuring they get all the nutrients they need.
So, when feeding chickens, it’s best to rely on a high-quality chicken feed that includes all the essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients your hens need. Then, to spice up their lives and offer nutritional supplements, a good idea to offer occasional treats, including fruits, seeds, veggies, meats, and grains.
So, if you’re looking for ways to give your flock a complete diet, here’s the ultimate list of foods chickens can eat. Let’s start with one of our favorites.
Chickens can eat sweet almonds. Sweet, unseasoned almonds are good for them, but only in moderation. However, be careful not to feed chickens bitter almonds, as they can be toxic to chickens.
There are two common types of almonds: sweet and bitter. It would be best never to give chickens bitter almonds since they contain hydrocyanic acid, a toxin that could kill your feathered friends.
Still, plain, unsalted, unseasoned sweet almonds are a healthy and safe protein source for chickens, making a fantastic treat.
2. Amaranth, Cooked
Chickens can eat cooked amaranth. Amaranth is an excellent source of niacin, calcium, and protein for chickens, but only when cooked. Raw amaranth contains some anti-nutrients that prevent chickens from digesting it.
Amaranth, believe it or not, is currently at the cutting edge of chicken feed science, as researchers are finding out how beneficial it can be for layers and broilers. For example, research from the University of Kentucky indicates that amaranth is a complete substitute for bone-and-meal diets for layers.
Still, for hens to benefit from nutrition-packed amaranth, you must “digest” it for your chickens first. To do so, boil it or dry it well in the sunlight. The heat will break down some anti-nutritive components and make it digestible for your flock.
Chickens can eat apples, but not apple seeds. Apples make wholesome treats for chickens during the cold autumn months when other forage crops have waned. Apple skin, apple sauce, and apple flesh are okay for chickens – but we advise not letting your chickens eat apple seeds due to the cyanide content.
We also refer you to a report from the University of Florida Extension called Chickens 101. The report says that while apple seeds contain cyanide, they usually don’t have enough to kill your chickens.
However, we like to be on the safe side anyway.
Chickens can eat apricots. But you must remove the pits and leaves, as they are toxic to chickens. Additionally, like most fruits, apricots contain high amounts of sugar, so you should only feed them in moderation.
Chickens can eat artichokes and artichoke leaves. They can also eat artichoke hearts. However, don’t let chickens eat the stem or the bottom hairy part.
Artichokes are an excellent treat for chickens but are not a great ingredient for chicken feeds. They contain some essential nutrients for poultry, like vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber, and water, but they are not very nutrient dense.
So, only give your flock small bits of artichoke leaves and hearts as a treat in moderation.
Chickens can eat asparagus, but it might make their eggs taste odd. Asparagus is a healthy, nutrient-dense veggie for your chickens, but it’s best to feed it in moderation. Otherwise, the asparagusic acid in the veggie might make your eggs taste like sulfur.
In addition, feeding your chickens a lot of asparagus scraps may cause digestive issues such as diarrhea. So, save it as an occasional treat.
7. Bananas and Banana Peels
Chickens can eat bananas and banana peels. However, they don’t typically like banana peels and may ignore them. Banana peels aren’t at the top of your chicken’s list of yummy snacks to eat.
We also read a fascinating study about the effects of chicken weight gain and banana peels. The study indicated a corn-based feed ration with 25% banana peel powder could provide optimum egg production and weight gain for chickens. (Yes. We found the results surprising too!)
Learn More – Can Chickens Eat Banana Peels?
Basil is a great herb to give your chickens!
Chickens can eat basil. Basil helps boost the immune system, may boost growth, and can improve the taste of your chickens.
Several studies indicate that sweet basil directly affects how quickly broiler hens grow and how good their meat tastes. Other studies also suggest that basil can ward off parasitic insects and flies from your coop when fed to chickens, reducing the chances of spreading harmful bacteria like salmonella.
9. Beans, Cooked
Chickens can eat all kinds of cooked beans, including green beans, black beans, lentils, and kidney beans. However, it would be best to never feed chickens dry or uncooked beans, as they are toxic.
Dry, uncooked beans contain lectins, which are poisonous to human beings and chickens. However, when you cook beans thoroughly, these lectins break down and become digestible. So, never eat uncooked beans, and don’t give dry beans to your hens!
Additionally, if you want your flock to stay healthy, only feed them cooked beans occasionally. Too many beans and your chickens may fill up on legumes, which can reduce their interest in foraging and result in stunted growth.
Chickens can eat raw or cooked beets. Beets contain many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that promote healthy development in chickens.
According to the MSD Veterinary manual, beets are one of the best sources of vitamin A for chickens. However, be sure to give your flock beets in moderation, as they contain quite a lot of sugar.
It’s also safe to feed chickens beet pulp, but again, provide it to your hens in small quantities as a treat.
11. Bird Seed
Chickens can bird seed and most commercial bird food. Since chickens are birds, it makes sense that they can eat bird seed. However, bird seed may not contain everything your chickens need to stay healthy.
Bird seed makes an excellent snack for your chickens, but you should never use it as a replacement for your go-to, nutrient-dense chicken feed. Bird seed mixes may not contain enough vitamins for your hens and are often very high in fat.
So, while you can give chickens bird seed as a snack or treat, it’s not a complete diet for your hens.
12. Black Soldier Fly Larvae
Chickens can eat black soldier fly larvae. The best part about black soldier flies is that your flock-mates love eating them. Chickens prefer them over celery tops or bean sprouts. For sure!
We also read a fascinating piece from The Backyard Gardener and the University of California’s ANR blog.
A black soldier fly guide they wrote mentioned how black soldier fly larvae may turn soil acidic. And acidic soil might hurt worms! So, if you keep a worm farm or compost bin on your homestead, you might want to avoid soldier fly larvae. Good to know!
Blackberries make a nice treat for your chickens but should not replace chicken feed. These berries are one of the healthiest fruits for your chickens, as they thrive in forested habitats where chickens live in the wild.
Still, while blackberries may be a favorite treat for your hens, don’t go overboard. These little berries are full of sugar, and you should feed them to your hens sparingly.
Chickens can eat blueberries, and they are excellent chicken treats.
When researching if chickens can eat blueberries, we found an adorable article from the University of Maryland Public School of Health about joyous backyard broods! The article talks about comforting chickens with delicious goodies like blueberries, leftover bread, and cake.
Yes. Cake! Chickens love cake! But please, only in moderation!
Chickens can eat bread, and they love it. However, bread has little nutritional value for chickens. So they should not eat a lot of it. Also, do not feed chickens moldy bread, as it could make them sick.
The University of Minnesota Extension blog (one of our favorite chicken-raising sources) wrote an excellent article on raising backyard chickens for eggs. Their guide noted how chickens enjoy eating grains like bread, oats, and cracked corn.
However, they also note these yummy snacks for chickens aren’t a reliable source of nutrients. Chickens love an occasional treat, but never forget a fully-balanced chicken feed!
Broccoli makes a good treat for chickens, and it is full of vitamins and minerals.
The leaves and flowers of broccoli are a good source of vitamin A, and some studies have even proven that feeding chickens broccoli as a supplement can improve the quality of your chicken products, from meat to eggs.
However, you can feed your chickens too much broccoli. This veggie contains goitrogens, which affect hormone production in both chickens and humans. When it comes to your flock, too much broccoli can cause goiter in your hens, resulting in energy and feather loss.
Other vegetables like kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and cabbage also contain goitrogens. So, save these veggies as a healthy snack and only use them as small supplements.
17. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are good for chickens but can be tough to eat. To make it easier, cook them or chop them up into small pieces before feeding them to your chickens. Also, never feed your chickens too many brussels sprouts, as they can interfere with hormonal health.
Like broccoli, brussels sprouts contain goitrogens, which can cause thyroid and other hormonal issues in both chickens and humans when you eat too many of them.
Ultimately, remember to keep your chicken’s diet balanced. They can eat cruciferous veggies, but remember to serve them as a dessert after feeding your hens a healthy, balanced chicken feed.
As crazy as it sounds, chickens can eat butter. However, it is not healthy for chickens, and you should avoid giving it to your hens.
While a little bit won’t harm a chicken, you should never go out of your way to serve it to your hens.
While Merck’s Veterinary Manual states that butter is a good source of vitamin A, butter also contains quite a bit of fat. Fats are essential in a healthy chicken’s diet, but too much fat is not beneficial. It can lead to various problems, such as Fatty Liver Hemorrhagic Syndrome.
In addition, commercial butter may contain some additives, such as sugar and salt, that are unhealthy for chickens.
So, if your chickens eat a scrap of bread with butter, it’s not the end of the world. However, butter is not one of the best sources of fats for chickens, and when you feed hens too much butter, you could be offering them an overdose of lipids.
Cabbage is a good treat for chickens, but it should not be a staple of their diet.
We also got inspired by a lovely article from Michigan State University MSU Extension about managing chickens during winter. They suggest suspending a cabbage head in your chicken coop to entertain chickens during winter.
We love the idea! The chickens get free entertainment and a healthy snack. You can’t lose!
Still, remember that, as I mentioned above, cabbage contains goitrogens, which, when offered in excess, can cause endocrine issues in chickens. So, save cabbage as a snack and ensure your hens fill up on a balanced chicken feed before setting a head of cabbage out for them. In addition, make cabbage a rare snack.
20. Cantaloupe and Cantaloupe Seeds
Chickens love eating whole cantaloupe, seeds, rind, and all. Not only is cantaloupe something they love eating, but it may also save their life. In addition, cantaloupe is a good source of vitamin A.
The Merck Veterinary Manual describes a vitamin A deficiency as a condition that is often unrecognized.
Many chickens are on a seed or nut-based diet, which isn’t ideal, as those foods are ‘deficient in more things than vitamin A.’ A vitamin A deficiency can cause many issues, depending on whether the reproductive, digestive, or respiratory tract is affected.
According to veterinary sourcebooks, signs of a deficiency can include things like sneezing, difficulty breathing, poor feather quality, and anorexia. Eventually, a lack of vitamin A can result in death for hens.
For that reason, Merck’s Manual recommends feeding a formulated diet with the right amount – but not an excessive amount – of vitamin A precursors (a substance that can be converted into vitamin A in the body).
If you believe your chickens aren’t receiving enough vitamin A, here is a list of foods containing it or its precursors:
- Broccoli leaves and flowers
- Chili pepper
- Dandelion greens
- Egg yolks
- Sweet potato
- Turnip foliage
Read the full informative text at Merck’s.
This is another great reason for growing chicken forage. I grow my forage in a chicken tunnel. Initially, I built these tunnels to keep chickens in. Now, I use them to keep chickens out!
You can make up your own mix of seeds for your chicken forage or buy pre-mixed seed packets. This is a great way to add beneficial herbs and greens high in nutrition. I believe that chickens will self-browse and snack on the things they need – and what better way to offer this than a chicken buffet?
21. Capsaicin (In Chili Peppers)
Chickens can eat capsaicin, but they cannot taste it. Capsaicin is the active component in chili peppers belonging to the Capsicum family. Chili peppers are a good source of vitamin A for chickens.
Many people intentionally feed chili peppers to their chickens, as studies have proven that chili powder can make laying hens more productive and increase their circulation.
One thing that has always bothered me about this indisputable fact is that peppers are from the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes, eggplant, and potatoes. These plants contain a toxin called solanine, which can kill chickens.
However, according to horticultural researchers, when fully ripe, chili peppers lose most of their solanine contents, making them harmless to chickens. Still, it’s critical to note that pepper leaves and stems still contain solanine, so keep pepper plants far away from your hens. Likewise, never offer chickens unripe or green peppers.
Chickens eat carrots, including cooked carrots, carrot tops, raw carrots, and baby carrots. However, these root veggies are high in sugar, so only offer them to your flock as a treat.
Carrots are a great source of vitamins and nutrients for your chickens and make an excellent forage plant.
23. Cat Food
Chickens can eat dry cat food in moderation. Cat food contains plenty of protein, vitamins, and minerals, which can be a beneficial supplement in a chicken’s diet.
Cat food can be a beneficial source of protein for chickens undergoing molting. However, it is not a suitable replacement for balanced chicken feed.
In addition, keep in mind that cat food is formulated for cats, not chickens. As such, we recommend that you do not feed your flock cat food regularly!
Chickens can eat cauliflower, but it should be given only as a snack. It does not replace their fully-balanced chicken feed and contains goitrogens, so it can cause health issues if you feed it to your chickens in excess.
Chickens can eat celery, as it is pretty nutritious for your flock! However, I’ve found that celery is not their favorite food, especially when it’s a whole stalk.
If you want to offer your hens celery, try chopping the stalks finely – my girls love celery that way. They also quite enjoy pecking at the foliage.
Chopping celery finely and mixing it with other foods your chickens love is a great way to get them to eat it, too.
Chickens eat cheese, but they should not eat a lot of it. Cottage cheese is one of the healthiest cheeses for chickens, as it contains a moderate amount of fats, water, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals.
Cheese, like other dairy products, contains more fat than chickens need daily. For that reason, it’s critical to offer hens cheese very sparingly.
However, if you want to give your flock a treat they will love, offer each chicken around a teaspoon of cottage cheese no more than once a month. The whey in cottage cheese makes it a much healthier, more digestible option for feeding chickens.
Chickens can eat cherries, but you should never give chickens the cherry pits. Cherry stones contain trace amounts of cyanide, which can kill chickens and other animals.
Like many other tree-growing fruits, you must remove the seeds from cherries before feeding them to your hens. Additionally, it is critical to keep the leaves of cherry trees away from chickens, as they may also contain cyanide.
Learn More Here – Can Chickens Eat Cherries, or Are They Poisonous?
28. Chia Seeds
Chickens can eat fresh, dried, or gelled chia seeds. Chia seeds are one of chickens’ best sources of fats, calcium, and boron.
However, like all things, moderation is best. When feeding chickens chia seeds, only offer them a small amount as forage or a treat. A teaspoon or tablespoon per hen should be sufficient.
29. Chicken, Cooked
Can chickens eat chicken? Well, yes, they can! But make sure it is cooked chicken. Since chickens are foraging birds and omnivorous opportunists, chickens can eat meat and even leftover chicken.
However, if the chicken meat you feed your chickens has any chicken-bourne disease, parasite, or bacteria, that pathogen will pass on to your flock. Therefore, the USDA has made it illegal to feed chickens to chickens in the USA.
So, if you accidentally end up giving your chickens a bit of chicken meat, it’s likely that nothing bad will happen. However, it’s best not to offer your hens chicken meat.
Chickens can eat chives in small quantities. Still, feeding chickens too many onions, shallots, or chives can introduce health issues such as Heinz anemia.
A small amount of chives will not harm your chickens. In fact, studies have even proven that feeding hens small quantities of chives semi-regularly can reduce E. coli populations in your coop.
However, when you offer hens too many alliums, such as garlic, chives, or onions, you may be putting them at risk for blood disorders.
According to veterinarians, too much allicin, the compound that gives chives their unique smell, can cause red blood cells to burst in chickens and many other animals. This condition is called Heinz anemia, and it can be deadly.
Still, it takes quite a bit of chives to affect a chicken’s blood cells, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Feed your chickens chives sparingly or only offer them as a forage plant.
Chickens love cilantro, and it is a fantastic herb to place around your coop. Not only do chickens love pecking at cilantro – it contains plenty of vitamin A, vitamin K, potassium, and zinc.
According to the pros as Stonybrook, cilantro also makes a fantastic antifungal herb for warding off infections in chickens. Planted outside the coop as a forage plant, it can also ward off parasites, mold, mildew, and harmful bacteria.
Chickens can eat cinnamon. Cinnamon is antioxidant, antibacterial, and antifungal. Thus, it can support healthy immune systems in your flock.
According to studies, cinnamon has a whole host of benefits for chickens. However, most notably, it can reduce cholesterol levels, strengthen eggshells, and support immune health.
While cinnamon is suitable for your chickens, offering it sparingly or as a supplement is best. In most cases, it’s best to mix less than a teaspoon into your hens’ scratch mix or treats.
Yes, chickens can eat coconut. Researchers have proven that coconut meal and oil can improve egg quality, productivity, and feed conversion ratios in hens. However, that’s only when the hens also get a well-balanced chicken feed.
Coconut is only good for chickens when you give it to them in moderation as a supplement.
For example, in this study from the International Journal of Poultry Science, researchers proved that coconut meal increased egg production in hens when they offered the flock a chicken feed with 10% coconut meal.
However, when they increased the amount of coconut meal to 15% and 20%, there was no change in egg production.
Researchers saw similar results when studying the effects of coconut oil on the egg quality and feed conversion ratio of hens. Again, the results were positive, as the coconut oil helped, but only when it was 2% of their diet.
34. Collard Greens
Like most leafy green vegetables, chickens love collard greens. Collard greens can be a great source of calcium and vitamin C for chickens. However, too many collard greens can introduce hormonal issues in hens.
Collards are a good source of vitamins A, C, and B6, plus they are a significant source of calcium. For that reason, they are an excellent treat for chickens.
Chickens can eat corn, including corn on the cob and corn husks. Corn is used in many chicken feeds and is one of the best additives for chicken scratch.
Corn is an important source of carbohydrates in your chicken’s diet. Other great sources of carbohydrates for chickens include:
Chickens can eat cranberries, dried, cooked, or fresh. Cranberries are lower in sugar than most fruits and are packed with beneficial antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that support health in chickens.
Like most fruits, it’s best to offer cranberries to your hens in moderation. You don’t want to overdose your hens with sugar!
However, as a treat, chickens love these berries. Our editor often offers their flock a big bowl of water with a few handfuls of cranberries floating on the surface to their hens for the fall and winter holidays. It’s like a chicken rendition of bobbing for apples!
Chickens can eat both the meat and the shell of crawfish. Crawdads are a great protein and calcium-rich snack for chickens. Plus, chickens will gladly eat your scraps and peck at the shells. However, crawfish might make your eggs taste fishy.
While crawfish are a fantastic snack for your chickens, there’s one caveat. Some people have claimed that crawfish make their chickens’ eggs taste fishy.
It turns out that some chickens have a specific genetic mutation that causes a fishy taste in eggs after they consume fish. In chickens with this mutation, the hens deposit excess trimethylamine (TMA), the amino acid that makes fish smell, in their eggs.
However, not all hens have this genetic mutation. So, if you want to feed your hens fish, give them a bit and see how it goes. If something tastes fishy, you might want to keep the crawdads for yourself.
Chickens enjoy eating crickets. Whether alive or fried, crickets are one of the best protein sources for your hens.
Hens have a long history of eating crickets as one of their main protein sources. So, if you want to up your flock’s protein intake, look no further than crickets!
Chickens sure can eat crickets, and they are a great source of protein for your flock!
39. Cucumbers and Cucumber Peels
Chickens can eat every part of a cucumber, including the peels. These veggies make an excellent snack, as they are high in fiber and water, supporting a healthy digestive system.
Cucumbers are not nutrient-dense, but they do contain vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B, vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium. For that reason, they make a very healthy treat.
However, it’s best to avoid feeding your flock cucumbers before they eat their regular chicken feed. Cucumbers are filling thanks to their high fiber content, but since they have hardly any carbs, proteins, and fats, a cucumber might spoil their appetite before your hens get the nutrition they need.
Plus, chickens don’t need that much fiber, anyway.
Chickens can eat dandelions, and these weeds are one of the best forage plants for them. You can pull dandelions out by the roots to eliminate this weed from your yard while giving your chickens a treat.
Backyard chickens can also help themselves to the dandelions and other weeds in your yard.
Dandelion greens are a good source of vitamin A for your chickens.
41. Dog Food
Chickens can eat small amounts of dog food. However, dog food is specifically formulated for dogs, and is not a suitable replacement for chicken feed.
Dry dog food or kibble is a decent protein and fat-rich treat for chickens, but it does not contain everything a chicken needs to stay healthy. In some cases, it may contain salt and too much protein for a chicken, which could also introduce health issues if they eat too much.
Chickens can eat edamame, but they should not eat it raw. Edamame, or soybeans, are in almost every protein-rich chicken feed. However, raw edamame contains anti-nutritive components that you need to extract with heat before feeding them to your hens.
Like other beans, edamame contains protein inhibitors, which prevent chickens from fully digesting the soybeans. For that reason, fresh and raw edamame won’t provide much nutrition to your girls.
Still, extracting these protein inhibitors takes a bit of heat. So to prepare edamame for your flock, boil it, steam it well, or sun-dry it. This process will break down the inhibitor and make all those beneficial proteins available to your hens.
Yes, chickens can eat eggplants, either raw or cooked. They contain antioxidants, folic acid, phosphorus, and vitamin C. However, the plant is not safe for chickens, only the fruit.
As we mentioned when discussing the safety of consuming peppers, chickens can only eat ripe eggplant because the leaves, stems, and unripe fruit of eggplants contain solanine. Solanine is one of the more toxic chemicals when it comes to chickens.
So, while eggplant is an excellent treat for chickens, keep your flock away from eggplant leaves, stems, and plants.
44. Eggs, Cooked
You can feed your chickens eggs as long as you cook the eggs first to prevent salmonella or other infections. Fried eggs, scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, and poached eggs are all okay.
Egg yolks are a good source of vitamin A, protein, and fat. So, next time your chickens lay too many eggs for you to eat, you might want to consider cooking them up and bringing them back to the coop.
Eggshells are rich in calcium, which your chickens need plenty of to keep their eggs strong. Plus, chickens love eating them. Just be sure to grind up the eggshells before serving them to your hens.
Here’s how to offer your hens eggshells:
- Rinse the shells.
- Then, you can dehydrate them in an oven or dehydrator until they become brittle. It just takes around 10 minutes in the oven at medium heat.
- After that, crush the shells to make them look less like eggs. Otherwise, some of your hens may either become possessive over the eggshells or develop a taste for fresh eggs.
- Then, place the shells in a container for your hens to peck at.
There are many other ways to serve eggshells to your girls, but that method has worked best for me.
Chickens can eat both fresh and dried figs. Figs are a fantastic source of nutrients for your hens, but they also contain a fair amount of sugar. So, feed them to your hens as an occasional dessert.
Figs contain iron, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, all of which are fantastic for chicken health. They are also rich in both fiber and water, supporting a healthy digestive system.
Chickens can eat fish, either raw or cooked. However, some chickens have a genetic mutation that makes their eggs taste fishy when they consume fish. Additionally, avoid feeding fried or battered fish to chickens.
Fis is full of healthy fats, proteins, and minerals for a healthy flock. It’s one of the best meaty treats to offer to your hens.
However, when feeding fish, avoid serving up anything with added fats or preservatives, and don’t offer your hens any processed fish products.
In addition, be aware that, as we discussed when investigating if hens could eat crawfish, some chickens have a genetic mutation that makes their eggs taste fishy anytime they consume fish. So, if your eggs taste fishy after serving your flock some flounder, your hens may have that mutation.
48. Flax Seed
We’ve heard from several chicken-caring colleagues that flax seed increases the omega-3 content of chicken eggs.
But is that true? We researched to find out!
We found a 2003 chicken egg composition and flax study published on the National Library of Medicine website. The study concluded that ISA-Brown and Shaver White chickens who eat flax seed deposited markedly more n-3 fatty acids on their eggs.
However, the study also cites the concern of liver hemorrhages in chickens eating flax seeds due to the high fat content. We also read from a source we trust (North Dakota State University Extension) that flax is safe for chickens, swine, and horses.
So, to stay safe, don’t give chickens more than a teaspoon of flax seeds per week.
In small amounts, garlic helps support a chicken’s immune system. Garlic may also be effective in controlling worms in your flock, as is cayenne pepper.
As with chives and other alliums like onions, too much garlic can harm your hens. These plants contain allicin, which can lead to Heinz anemia in chickens when they consume too much. This type of anemia results in the chicken’s red blood cells bursting, leading to eventual death.
So, while a little bit of garlic can benefit hens, never go overboard. One small clove per week is more than enough to reap the benefits without any adverse side effects.
If you’re battling worm problems, food-grade diatomaceous earth has been shown to be relatively effective in controlling worms (but it may not be enough to treat an entire infestation).
Ginger is a great stress reducer for chickens, as it relieves oxidative stress and may even increase growth rates in hens.
Some studies indicate that ginger powder, added to a chicken’s diet as a supplement at 1%, increases growth rates in broilers due to lessened stress. However, when the percentage went up to 2% ginger powder, the chickens suffered from stunted growth rates.
So, while a little bit of ginger is great for chickens, too much might stress their digestive systems. So, exercise moderation when it comes to ginger, and only offer a little pinch every week or so.
Various grass cultivars are among the favorite forage crops for chickens. However, eating grass won’t help the chickens reach their nutritional requirements.
It reminds us of an excellent meat-type chicken feeding guide we read from the Pacific Northwest Extension. A section of their report says that chickens can benefit from foraging because they gain exercise. However, since chickens are monogastric, they don’t fully digest grass and don’t receive much nutritional gain from eating it.
Commercial chicken feed usually contains cereal grains, such as wheat, barley, sorghum, corn, or rye. These are all safe for chickens to eat.
You can make homemade chicken scratch using some or all of these ingredients and spread it on the floor of your chicken coop to provide your flock with some ‘forage.’
However, keep the following in mind. The University of Georgia states:
Scratch feed should not be considered a complete feed for any type of bird. Simply a collection of cracked grains, it does not have a complete balance of any of the nutrients a chicken needs to live.
It should only be thrown out as an occasional treat for the birds. It also should never be mixed with a complete formulated diet. Doing so causes a nutrient imbalance in the total diet of the birds, increasing the calories while reducing the protein, vitamin, and mineral content.The University of Georgia
The Alabama Cooperative Extension provides some exceptional information in their PDF, Nutrition for Backyard Chicken Flocks. They state the following on the feeding of grains:
Grains are high in energy and low in protein, minerals, and vitamins; therefore, excessive grain feeding in proportion to complete feed can result in severe nutritional deficiencies. This concept is particularly important because the overuse of grain feeding may affect egg production
Chickens can eat grapefruit and peels, but they may not like them. Most chickens avoid citrus fruits due to their high acidity, but they offer tons of vitamin C for healthy immune systems and citric acid for healthy digestion.
Additionally, citrus fruits are a great source of both fiber and water.
If your chickens enjoy grapefruit, just remember to feed it in moderation due to its high sugar content.
Chickens can eat grapes in moderation. They contain vitamins A and C, copper, calcium, and the B vitamin complex.
The most important thing to remember about grapes when feeding them to chickens is that they contain a lot of sugar. So, give them to your chickens sparingly as an occasional dessert.
Chickens love gobbling up ham, but make sure you slice it in small chunks. Otherwise, your chickens might choke. Ham also contains a fair amount of salt, so feed it to chickens in moderation.
Believe it or not, chickens love to eat ham! They voraciously peck at it until nothing is left. Unfortunately, however, that also means that it poses a choking hazard unless you cut it up into little bite-sized chunks.
In addition, be careful not to offer your chickens too much ham. It contains a lot of salt in most cases, which is not good for chickens. If they consume too much at one time, they could suffer from salt intoxication, which affects the liver and brain of chickens and may prove fatal if untreated.
Chickens love eating grasshoppers, potato beetles, ticks, termites, and other insects. They also eat the larvae of insects. However, they do not like eating every insect. For example, they avoid box elder bugs and Asian ladybeetles due to their scents.
But, we urge caution. Some bugs (like ticks and bed bugs) can cause issues for chickens. We also read an excellent article from the University of Rhode Island indicating that ticks might eat your chickens! (It’s true that chickens eat ticks. But sometimes, ticks also eat chickens!)
Not only can chickens eat jalapenos, but they offer several health benefits. However, the jalapenos must be ripe. Otherwise, they may contain solanine, which is toxic to chickens.
We’ve read that jalapenos may increase egg production, improve the immune system, and improve fertility. Plus, people have fed peppers to chickens for centuries to keep predators away from scrap bins and waterers.
With so many potential benefits, jalapenos are one of the best snacks for your flock!
Still, as we mentioned when discussing eggplants and chilis, unripe peppers and pepper plants contain solanine, which is toxic to chickens. So, only serve your hens ripe peppers and keep them away from pepper plants.
Chickens can eat kale in moderation, and most chickens seem to like it. Kale is an excellent source of water, fiber, potassium, calcium, and vitamins C, K, and A.
While kale is an incredibly healthy and nutritious treat for your chickens, you should only give it to them in moderation.
Like most other cruciferous veggies, kale contains goitrogens, which prevent iodine from entering a chicken’s thyroid. Therefore, if the hens overeat kale, they may experience hormonal issues. However, to deactivate these goitrogens, you only need to heat up the kale by boiling, steaming, or baking it.
Additionally, a little bit of raw kale will not harm your chickens. Just don’t offer them a whole head of it at a time.
Chickens will eat kiwi, but it is easier to eat if you slice it for them first. My girls will not eat kiwi fruit unless it’s cut down the middle. It seems the hairy skin puts them off – or maybe they can’t smell the delicious fruit inside!
The only thing to remember when offering chickens kiwi is that it is very sugary. So, treat it like a dessert for your hens.
Chickens can eat lemons in moderation but may not enjoy the taste. Still, lemons aid digestion and immune health, so it won’t hurt to offer some to your flock.
The citric acid in citrus fruits is very beneficial for digestion in chickens, so if you can get them to peck at a lemon, it will do them good. In addition, lemons are rich in vitamin C, which can boost immunity.
If you notice that your chickens are willing to eat lemon, be sure not to go overboard. Lemons are fruits, so they are more of a weekly treat than a daily snack for hens.
Chickens love fresh greens, such as lettuce and spinach. And it reminds us of an excellent article from Grow Appalachia (Berea College) about gardening with chickens.
The author reflected upon growing a private chicken garden stuffed with lettuce, kale, and other leafy goodies. The chicken garden is also a protective barrier to help keep chickens from predators. And also lets the chickens forage at their fancy!
We love the idea, especially if your flock has a few older mature chickens.
Chickens can eat maggots – and they love them! Maggots are a part of most wild chickens’ diets, and they are one of the very best sources of protein and fat for your flock.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “the early bird gets the worm,” but have you ever heard that “the early chicken gets the maggot?”
Most maggots are fantastic for chickens and can be part of a well-balanced poultry diet.
Still, there are some exceptions and things to keep in mind when feeding chickens maggots. Read all about it in our article Can Chickens Eat Maggots?.
Mangoes are safe for chickens and contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. Still, since they are a sugary fruit, it is best only to offer them as an occasional treat.
Mangoes are a great source of vitamins A, B5, B6, K, and E, and they also contain antioxidants, copper, folate, potassium, and magnesium. So, as far as fruits go, they are incredibly healthy for your hens!
Many people feed chickens mealworms to add protein to their diets. Worms aren’t only yummy treats for chickens. Worms also have excellent protein content!
And we read a convenient guide from the Cornell University Small Farms Program about raising insects for protein. The article notes how insects (like mealworms and crickets) are reliable protein sources for human and livestock consumption.
Chickens can eat meat scraps in moderation. However, you should cook the meat first to prevent spreading diseases or parasites. It’s also best to cut it and remove the fat, as chickens may develop Fatty Liver Hemorrhagic Syndrome if they consume too much fat.
Believe it or not, chickens need meat to survive. As scavenger-like opportunists, chickens can eat all sorts of meat, not just bugs. Chickens can consume meats such as fish, beef, pork, lamb, and even chicken.
However, too much meat is not good for chickens, especially if it has a significant amount of fat.
While chickens need a bit of fat to stay healthy, they are sensitive to it, and their livers cannot digest much of it at once. If they eat too much, their liver will become fatty and hemorrhage, leading to death.
So, cut off as much fat as possible if you feed your hens meat, and try to feed your chickens leaner cuts. You should also cut the meat into small bits to prevent choking.
Chickens can eat mint, and you can freeze it in ice cubes as a cool summer treat. You can also put fresh or dried mint into your hen’s nesting boxes to help calm them.
Mint is an excellent plant to keep growing near your coop. This herb is naturally pest-repellent, discouraging mice, flies, and other unwanted bugs from infesting your chickens’ living spaces.
In addition, it is safe for chickens to eat, and it naturally lowers a chicken’s body temperature. So, it’s one of the best snacks for your flock in the summertime!
67. Mushrooms, Store Bought
Store-bought mushrooms are safe to feed chickens. Mushrooms are high in protein and low in both fats and carbohydrates, making them one of the best snacks for chickens.
Still, it’s usually not a good idea to allow your chickens to eat those mystery mushrooms cropping up in your backyard. We recommend removing wild mushrooms from your chickens’ foraging spaces if possible, just to stay on the safe side.
Chickens can eat nuts as long as they are shelled and unsalted. Nuts such as peanuts, walnuts, sweet almonds, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, pistachios, and pine nuts, are all safe for chickens to eat, but only in moderation.
While most nuts are usually safe for chickens, they are always very high in fat, which can cause potentially fatal issues in chickens. For example, conditions such as Fatty Liver Hemorrhagic Syndrome, caused by overconsumption of high-fat foods, are very common in chickens and can be fatal.
For that reason, most experts recommend feeding chickens no more than one nut per week.
Additionally, some nuts, such as acorns, macadamia nuts, and chestnuts, are not safe for chicken consumption.
Chickens can eat oatmeal as long as it is shelled and unsalted. They can eat cooked oatmeal as well as uncooked oatmeal. However, it is critical not to feed chickens too much oatmeal, and oatmeal might not be the best choice for chickens.
Shelled, salted, and cooked oatmeal is a good snack for chickens, as it contains the protein and carbohydrates necessary to develop and stay healthy.
However, oatmeal, and oats in general, contain beta-glucans, which are often called anti-nutritive factors. These compounds make some nutrients indigestible to chickens (and people, too). So, oatmeal might fill your chickens up without offering much of its nutrition.
Still, most of these beta-glucans dissolve when you cook oatmeal. Plus, studies have shown that the beta-glucans in oats only change the flock’s food conversion efficiency when feeding chickens a diet of 40% oats or more.
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding feeding oatmeal to chickens because of these beta-glucans, but at the end of the day, an occasional oatmeal treat will not harm your chickens, nor will it do too much to limit their digestion.
If you want to learn more about how chickens digest oats and the downsides to feeding oats to your flock, you might want to check out what the pros at the University of Kentucky have to say about it.
Even though chickens don’t need lots of fiber, oats are a favorite snack choice for chickens.
It reminds us of many of our favorite sources (including the University of Illinois College of Vet Medicine) saying that chicken snacks should only make up around ten percent of a chicken’s diet. So – oatmeal and oats are okay snacks for chickens. But don’t overdo it! Your flock doesn’t need that much fiber or sugar content.
Like tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers, okra contains a small amount of solanine, but chickens can safely eat it in moderation. However, only serve okra to chickens if it is ripe.
Okra seeds, pods, and flesh are all safe for chickens to eat when they are ripe enough for humans to eat. If it is unripe, don’t toss it to the chickens. Okra belongs to the nightshade family, and the plants within this family all contain solanine. As the fruits ripen, the solanine transforms and dissolves, making the okra fruits edible.
So, just be sure that your okra is ripe. Also, keep your flock away from okra plants, as the leaves and stems contain solanine.
Chickens can eat olives in moderation. Olives are a good source of calcium, iron, and healthy fats, but do not allow your chickens to eat too many because of their salt content.
Olives are a fantastic snack for chickens, but you can only offer your hens a few at a time. Aside from the fact that they have a lot of salt in them, they are also fat-dense. While salt can lead to salt intoxication, too much fat can lead to Fatty Liver Hemmohorage Syndrome.
So, only offer each chicken one or two olives a week at maximum.
73. Oranges and Orange Peels
Although chickens can eat oranges and orange peels, they don’t tend to like them much. There is some concern that they may make the chicken’s eggshells soft, but that may be a myth.
For the most part, chickens know what they need and will eat the foods that fulfill their nutrient needs. Since oranges are not toxic to chickens, it won’t harm them for you to offer them to the flock. Still, all your hens will likely avoid these little orange fruits, so it’s not often worth feeding them oranges.
74. Oyster Shells
Chickens can eat oyster shells, and they are a common calcium supplement that can boost egg production in your hens. Providing oyster shells to your chickens can also ensure their eggs’ shells are durable.
Unlike most foods on this list, oyster shells do not necessarily need to be a snack or treat. In fact, most layer feeds already include powdered oyster shells for better egg production.
However, it never hurts to offer your hens some extra oyster shells.
Chickens can eat papaya fruit in moderation. Papaya is a safe, healthy fruit for chickens, but contains a lot of sugar. A little goes a long way.
Papaya is a good source of vitamin A for chickens, so it makes an excellent supplement.
There is a bit of controversy over whether papaya seeds are good for chickens. These seeds are said to be antiparasitic and full of protein, but some sources claim that papaya seeds are very bad for chickens. Others say that they are simply too hard for chickens to digest.
Because of all these conflicting claims, we recommend removing the seeds from papayas before feeding the fruit to your flock. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Chickens love parsley, and it is high in vitamins A, C, and K. We’ve also heard some homesteaders say that it helps hens lay more eggs.
Parsley is a fantastic herb to offer to your chickens, and it’s another excellent plant to grow for your hens to forage on. Aside from its high vitamin content, parsley is said to increase circulation.
According to studies from the Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, parsley also contains polyphenols, which are antioxidants that help to improve egg quality and egg production in chickens.
Chickens love pasta, but try to feed sparingly. Pasta contains little nutritional value other than carbohydrates, which chickens don’t need that much of. In addition, only serve chickens cooked pasta.
Chickens adore pasta, especially when you fold other treats into the noodles!
However, pasta is very high in carbs, and it doesn’t offer much else for your hens. For that reason, treat pasta more like a dessert than a side dish and feed it to your chickens no more than once a week.
Also, since pasta is filling, be sure that your chickens have had an opportunity to eat plenty of their chicken feed before giving them pasta. That way, they won’t spoil their appetite by eating noodles.
Chickens can safely eat peaches, but you must remove the pits and slice them up. Like cherries, peach stones contain cyanide.
Chickens love peaches since they are so sweet. However, that means you’ll need to ensure that you don’t offer your chickens too many. Otherwise, the sugar might stress your hens out, giving them something akin to a sugar rush.
In addition, when serving larger fruits like peaches, it’s usually a good idea to slice them up into small chunks so your hens can digest them more easily.
If you're worried about your turkeys, poultry, or chickens flying the coop and hopping your fence, then give them one less reason to leave. Give them delicious chicken treats!
Harvest Delight is perfect for mature birds and mixed flocks. It contains boatloads of raisins, peanuts, whole grains, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, carrots, and flax seeds. The ingredients sound good enough for us to eat. But - don't do that. Save it for your turkeys - and poultry!
79. Peanut Butter
Chickens love peanut butter but only feed to chickens in moderation. Peanut butter is rich in protein, but it contains a lot of fats and sugars. Too many fats and sugars, and your chickens may suffer from some health issues.
As we already mentioned, chickens can’t eat too much fat since their livers simply cannot process it very well. So, be very careful when offering chickens peanut butter.
Offer each hen no more than a teaspoon per week, and ensure you are not feeding your chickens too many other fatty foods when you offer them peanut butter.
Peanuts are safe for chickens in moderation, but chickens should not eat peanuts with any added seasonings, butter, salt, or oil. Additionally, you should avoid feeding chickens raw peanuts.
Peanuts are a good source of protein and fats for chickens, but these nuts are nutrient-dense, so you should not offer your hens too many. Otherwise, you could introduce digestive issues or liver problems in your flock.
Likewise, any peanuts that you feed your chickens should be cooked – either boiled or roasted. Raw peanuts contain an anti-nutritive factor called trypsin. This enzyme prevents chickens from digesting other proteins and might result in your chicken not getting enough nutrition.
However, removing trypsin from peanuts is easy. You just have to heat the nuts. This fact is also true for other legumes, such as soybeans and other beans.
In addition, you should only feed your chickens plain, unsalted, unseasoned peanuts.
Pears are a very nutritious snack for chickens, as they contain fiber, water, vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium. Before feeding chickens pears, remove the seeds, as they may contain cyanide.
Pears are one of the best fruits for chickens, as they are pretty low in sugar compared to other fruits. They also contain plenty of water, which is always good for digestion.
Chickens can eat peas dry, cooked, or raw, and peas are one of the main ingredients in quite a few chicken feeds. Frozen peas make a nice treat on a hot summer day.
According to the agriculture experts at the University of Kentucky, a chicken can tolerate a diet that consists of 20% peas.
However, when switching hens to a pea-based diet, they generally don’t produce as many eggs or grow as quickly, so soybeans are much more popular in commercial chicken feeds.
Still, because they contain so much protein, you can’t go wrong feeding your hens peas as a treat!
Pecans contain healthy fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber for chickens, but you must feed them in moderation. Pecans contain a lot of fat, and chickens cannot digest fats quickly.
While pecans are a healthy and safe supplement for chickens, they can be too nutrient-dense for your flock when you do not feed them in moderation. As we have discussed, chickens can quite literally overdose when consuming too much fat, developing Fatty Liver Hemmhoragic Syndrome.
When feeding fat-rich nuts like pecans or walnuts, only offer your flock a few nuts. Half of a nut is plenty for one chicken.
In addition, be sure to shell the nuts for your chickens!
Chickens can eat small amounts of pickles, but your chickens may not like them very much. Additionally, pickles are salty, so don’t give your chickens too many.
A few bits of pickles here and there won’t harm chickens, but most chickens will avoid them due to their sour smell and salty taste.
However, if you find that your chickens do appreciate pickles, be sure to only offer them in moderation.
Chickens only need a tiny amount of salt to stay healthy, and since pickles are packed with it, one little dill chip should do the trick for your hungry hens.
Chickens can eat pineapple, but only as an occasional treat. Pineapple is low in protein and fats but has a lot of sugar, vitamins, and minerals.
Chickens really enjoy pineapple, and it goes quickly! That’s good news considering that pineapples are packed with water, include fiber, and offer an abundance of vitamins A, E, and K. They also contain iron, potassium, calcium, and folate, among other minerals.
However, remember that too much sugar is not healthy for chickens – or humans, for that matter! Only serve your flock pineapple every once and a while as a fun treat.
Chickens can eat plums as long as you remove the pit before serving it up. The pits inside plums and peaches may contain trace amounts of cyanide.
Plums contain plenty of water and just enough sugar for your chickens, so they make a delicious and healthy snack. However, as is the case will all fruits, be sure to serve your flock plums sparingly, as too much sugar could imbalance your chicken’s diet.
Chickens love pomegranates and pomegranate seeds. Pomegranates are a safe, healthy, and nutritious treat for chickens, and they may support a healthy immune system in your flock.
Studies have shown that pomegranates can help chickens fight off infections, working as both an antioxidant and antimicrobial food. Other studies have indicated that pomegranates can help chickens digest fats.
In addition, at the end of the day, chickens just love pomegranates, so they make a delicious and healthy treat.
Chickens can eat popped or unpopped popcorn. However, they should not eat buttered or salted popcorn.
As is the case with standard cracked corn, chickens love to eat popcorn! It’s also a very healthy grain for chickens, as it contains the complex carbohydrates they need to stay healthy. Corn also has some protein in it which makes it extra healthy.
When serving your chickens popcorn, just be sure that you don’t add any butter, salt, or flavorings. These additives are significantly less healthy for chickens than plain corn.
89. Potatoes, Cooked
Chickens can eat cooked potatoes, but not raw potatoes. You should never feed your chickens potato peels or green potatoes, as these may contain solanine.
Like peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant, potatoes are from the nightshade family and contain solanine. However, a ripe potato only contains trace amounts of solanine, making it safe for chickens.
Despite the lowered quantity of solanine in mature potatoes, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. So, before giving chickens potatoes, be sure to really heat them – we recommend a thorough peeling and a long boil – before serving them to your flock.
Still, cooked potatoes are more than safe for chickens! They are super healthy. Potatoes contain complex carbohydrates, potassium, and vitamin C.
Chickens can eat pumpkins! Pumpkins and other squash are very healthy and safe for chickens, and your flock will love eating pumpkin seeds and pumpkin guts.
We recently read a fun pumpkin and apple article from the NC Cooperative Extension blog that mentioned feeding pumpkins to chickens. Their guide noted that chickens love eating pumpkins if you cut the rind. That way, your chickens can get to the good stuff inside the pumpkins much more easily.
Chickens can eat quinoa, but you must wash it first. Quinoa is covered in saponins, which are bitter, sticky organic compounds. To make it taste good to your chickens, you can wash or cook off these saponins.
While rinsing makes quinoa taste better, cooking it before offering it to your chickens is also a good idea. Cooking the quinoa breaks down the nutrients to their simplest state, allowing chickens to digest the quinoa and absorb its nutrients more easily.
Quinoa contains protein, B-complex vitamins, manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, and calcium, some of the most important nutrients for your chickens. So, it makes a fantastic treat!
However, you should still only feed it in moderation, as it can be very filling and turn your chickens off of their regular feed.
92. Radishes and Radish Greens
Chickens love radishes and radish greens, but you should chop up the radishes to make them easier to eat.
Radishes are a fantastic, water-packed, low-sugar treat for chickens. For that reason, radishes also make an excellent addition to a forage garden for your flock.
Chickens can eat raisins in moderation. Raisins are safe for chickens, but they contain tons of sugar, so a few too many raisins could give your hens a sugar rush.
While grapes and raisins are both very healthy for chickens, raisins, in particular, are dense with sugars. In addition, raisins don’t contain much water, which means that you’re basically offering your chickens candy when you toss them some raisins.
So, treat the raisins like candy. One or two is more than enough for a chicken.
Raspberries are a favorite chicken treat. Plus, raspberries are a healthy snack for chickens, as they are a good source of vitamin C and calcium.
Like most other edible berries, chickens love raspberries. While your flock will thank you for an offering of these sweet berries, remember to offer them sparingly, as they are very sweet.
95. Rice, Cooked
Chickens can eat cooked rice. Chickens can eat cooked brown, white, or wild rice. However, never add any salt or seasonings to rice before serving it to your chickens.
Rice is one of the better grains to offer to your hens, as it contains protein, selenium, thiamine, niacin, and vitamin B6.
Another question that people frequently ask is whether it is safe for chickens to eat uncooked rice. Some people claim that uncooked rice will expand in a chicken’s stomach, causing the chicken to explode! While no one can completely prove that claim to be false, rice may expand in a chicken’s digestive system, blocking it up and causing impaction.
Still, some farmers feed their chickens uncooked rice all the time and have reported they have never had an issue.
So, while the jury’s out on the dangers of uncooked rice for chickens, we recommend cooking rice before feeding it to your chickens. Just in case.
Chickens love eating both the shell and the meat of shrimp. Shrimp shells are an excellent source of calcium, and the meat is full of protein with minimal fat. So, shrimp are very healthy for chickens.
However, one thing to note here – if you feed your chickens shrimp or any kind of fish product, your eggs might start tasting slightly fishy. Some chickens have a genetic mutation that causes them to deposit the compound that makes fish smell into their eggs. However, not too many chickens have this mutation.
So, if you start to notice fishy eggs after feeding your chickens shrimp, at least you’ll know the cause.
Spinach is very nutritious for chickens as a supplementary snack. Spinach is a healthy source of vitamin A, potassium, iron, folate, choline, manganese, zinc, and many more vitamins and minerals. However, it also contains oxalates, which may interrupt calcium absorption in chickens when they eat too much spinach.
The anti-nutritive factors in spinach, called oxalates, are fine for chickens when eaten in moderation. However, if you offer your chickens spinach all day every day and they consume too much of this leafy green, your flock may have issues absorbing calcium from their diet.
However, don’t worry too much. It takes a lot of spinach for it to start affecting your chickens’ health negatively. Just be sure to offer it as a treat, and your girls should stay happy, nourished, and healthy.
Some people even feed their chickens very small amounts of spinach every day to improve the color of the chickens’ egg yolks.
Chickens love squash, and squash seeds may act as a natural dewormer. We don’t believe enough studies have been performed to fully claim this statement as true. However, one study we found does suggest that squash seed is active against some parasitic worms in chickens.
This reminds us of a helpful article published on The University of Wisconsin-Madison (Livestock Extension) blog about preparing poultry for winter.
The winter prep guide notes that squash, leafy hay forage, root veggies, and pumpkins are excellent winter snacks for your chickens. Such healthy snacks help chickens stay active when huddled indoors over winter, and it’s fun to let them mix up their diets now and then!
Chickens can eat strawberries, but not the green tops. Strawberries are healthy chicken treats. We know chickens could eat gallons at a time, but remember not to let their supplementary snacking equate to over ten percent of their total diet!
As we wrote in our detailed article on feeding chickens strawberries, strawberries contain hydrogen cyanide. Strawberries don’t contain as much as apple seeds, but the calyx and green stems of the strawberry plant are toxic – to chickens and us!
A freshly harvested strawberry contains the highest amounts of hydrogen cyanide in the top and stem. The amount is probably not enough to kill a chicken. However, it may be enough to make them feel a little queasy. It can also have a negative impact on egg production and digestion.
Dried strawberry leaves are perfectly safe – the poison concentration drops off over time.
100. Sunflower Seeds
Not only can chickens eat sunflower seeds, but they are perfect supplements for molting chickens. When your chickens molt, they need all the nutritional help they can get!
But what should you feed your molting hens?
Well – we read from the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine that molting chickens benefit from high-protein diets. Hens need plenty of protein to help regrow feathers. Sunflower meal has a high protein content and can be an excellent supplementary snack for your molting birds.
However, Merck’s Veterinary Manual says that sunflower seeds are low in calcium, deficient in amino acids, and high in fat. Safflowers seeds are even high in fat content, but they are equally inadequate in amino acids and calcium.
Provide your chickens with a nutritionally sound diet that is not too high in seeds and nuts. The occasional handful of whole sunflower seeds is a fantastic treat for your chickens. Just don’t go overboard!
101. Sweet Potatoes and Sweet Potato Skins
Sweet potatoes belong to a different family than potatoes and are safe to feed chickens cooked or raw, including the skins, leaves, stems, and vines. It’s best to cut up sweet potatoes for your chickens for easier digestion.
102. Tomatoes, Ripe
Chickens can eat ripe tomatoes, but green tomatoes and tomato plants are unsafe for chickens. Tomato plants and green tomatoes contain solanine, a toxin that can fatally harm chickens.
However, you should never feed underripe tomatoes, tomato leaves, or tomato plants to your flock! We’ve read from multiple reliable sources that tomato plants are poisonous to livestock, who tell us that tomatoes, like eggplants and peppers, belong to the nightshade family.
While very ripe nightshade fruits, like tomatoes, are safe for chickens, any other part of the plant may contain solanine, which may poison your flock.
We also read an old tomato pomace study published on the University of California archive blog proposing how tomato pomace might be a healthy source of vitamin E for broiler hens. So, ripe, processed tomatoes can be a great treat for your chickens!
Chickens can eat turnips and turnip tops, both raw and cooked. It is easier for them to eat cooked turnips or chopped-up turnips.
So, turnips are not just a good snack for your chickens. They are very healthy!
However, since turnips have stringy, tough leaves and hard roots, it is usually best to either dice or steam them before serving them to your chickens. That way, they will be able to digest them better.
Chickens can eat walnuts as long as they are shelled and unsalted. Still, only offer chickens walnuts in moderation, as they are high in fat.
Walnuts are perfectly healthy for chickens, but you must monitor how many walnuts your hens eat. These nutritious nuts have plenty of omega-3 fatty acids to support neurological health in your hens, but their high-fat content may introduce health issues such as Fatty Liver Hemmhoragic Syndrome if your offer too many to your chickens at one time.
So, only offer each of your chickens around one walnut to stay on the safe side.
105. Watermelon and Watermelon Rind
Chickens eat watermelon. Like most humans, chickens love watermelon. We think melons are arguably our chicken’s preferred source of natural sugars.
The University of Arizona Extension blog also published one of our favorite chicken treat articles featuring watermelons. It mentions how frozen watermelon makes an excellent chicken treat during the hot summer days.
Sounds good to us!
Frozen watermelon is like a natural popsicle! It’s perfect for chickens during the hot summer weather. Plus, it contains lots of water to keep your hens hydrated.
Worms are a protein-rich source of nutrition for chickens. You could even start a worm farm to raise your worms for use as chicken feed.
Overall, worms are one of the best “meat” sources for your chickens, as they are part of a wild chicken’s natural diet. So, you really cannot go wrong with worms!
Chickens can eat small amounts of yogurt since they have trouble digesting milk. Still, chickens can benefit from the probiotics and proteins in yogurt.
Yogurt is a tasty treat for chickens and also provides probiotics, but be sure to only offer your flock a little dollop at a time. Chickens may experience digestive issues when you give them too many dairy products, just like many humans.
Chickens love zucchini. Split the zucchini lengthwise down the center to make it easier for them to get at the insides.
An excellent article we read from the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resource blog also gave a critical zucchini tip! They mention that you should cut the gourd so your chickens can eat it without fuss.
If you serve whole zucchini chunks, your chickens will have trouble eating it. So, to help your hens get to the good parts, slice the zucchini into small bite-sized pieces!
What Can Chickens Not Eat? Full List
Chickens can’t eat everything! Here’s a list of food they should avoid.
Chickens cannot eat acorns, as they contain a toxin that may harm livestock. However, if your chickens eat one or two acorns, it shouldn’t hurt them.
Acorns, while they may seem like a good nut to offer your chickens, contain a chemical that can be toxic to your flock.
According to experts at Oklahoma State, no one is sure about what precisely causes oak poisoning in chickens and other animals. However, if your hens eat enough acorns, they may experience potentially fatal kidney, liver, and stomach issues.
Most of the pros suspect that the cause of the poisoning is tannic acid, a bitter chemical that you can find in things like wine, black walnuts, and eucalyptus.
2. Almonds, Bitter
Almonds that have a bitter taste can be toxic to chickens. Bitter almonds are from the prunus amaris tree, and they are smaller than sweet almonds. These almonds contain a farm of cyanide.
Bitter almonds aren’t just unsafe for chickens – they are also toxic to humans, according to health professionals at Washington University.
This smaller, more bitter-tasting variety of almonds can be made safe to eat with a leaching and cooking process that removes the cyanide, but in general, it’s best to avoid feeding your hens any bitter almonds, whether they are cooked or not. Chickens are smaller and more sensitive to this chemical.
3. Amaranth, Raw
Chickens should not eat raw amaranth, as it contains anti-nutritive factors, or protein inhibitors, and tannins that prevent chickens from digesting their food well.
Like most grains, raw amaranth contains some compounds that may interfere with your chickens’ digestion, and when uncooked, it can also cause health issues.
However, when you cook or heat amaranth, these compounds break down, making the plant digestible for your flock.
4. Apple Seeds
Chickens cannot eat apple seeds, or, at least not too many. Apple seeds contain hydrogen cyanide, although a few seeds shouldn’t hurt a chicken.
While apple seeds contain cyanide, they don’t contain so much that one will kill a chicken. So, it is always the best practice to remove apple seeds from the apples that you feed your flock, but if you miss one, it’s likely that nothing bad will happen.
Chickens can eat avocado flesh. However, never feed the skins or pits to your chickens. They are harmful to chickens.
While chickens can eat avocado flesh, or the green part that we generally eat, you must keep the pits and skins away from your flock. The skin and pit of avocados contain persin, which may harm a chicken’s respiratory and circulatory systems.
6. Beans, Uncooked
Chickens should not eat uncooked beans. Raw, dry beans contain anti-nutritive factors that prevent chickens from digesting them.
Dry, uncooked beans contain lectins, which are proteins that prevent chickens (and humans) from digesting their food.
These lectins, however, break down and disintegrate when you heat them too much, which is why human beings should only eat cooked beans. Likewise, be sure to cook beans before offering them to your chickens.
7. Bread, Moldy
Chickens should not be fed anything with mold on it, including moldy bread. Mold can make chickens sick.
We read from the University of Kentucky Poultry Extension that moldy foods introduce potential vitamin B1 deficiencies and digestive issues. The article also explains that even if you remove the mold, the toxins remain! So – always toss moldy food.
If the food looks moldy? Chuck it in the trash or the compost!
8. Cherry Pits
Chickens can eat cherries, but not the pits. Like most tree-growing fruits, cherry seeds and pits contain a form of cyanide. However, few chickens can actually break into a cherry pit, so if you accidentally drop one in your flock’s scrap bin, there’s likely no need to worry.
It’s always best to remove cherry pits from cherries before offering them to your chickens to stay on the safe side.
9. Chicken, Uncooked
Chickens should not eat uncooked chicken due to the risk of salmonella and parasites. While chickens can eat cooked chicken, raw chicken may transmit diseases into your flock.
Never feed your chickens any uncooked animal meats, including chicken, beef, or pork. While meat is a good source of protein for chickens, raw meat may contain harmful bacteria such as E. coli or salmonella.
If your chickens eat these bacteria, your hens’ eggs may become infected, and you may have a full outbreak on your hands eventually.
Chickens cannot eat chocolate, as it contains many things that could put their health at risk. These include caffeine, excessive sugar, excessive fat, and worst of all, theobromine.
While caffeine and too much sugar or fat are not good for chickens, theobromine is lethal to poultry. This compound is fast-acting and can cause fatal digestive issues in chickens according to researchers at the European Food Safety Authority.
Theobromine has similar effects on cows, sheep, pigs, and dogs, which is why you should keep chocolate to yourself.
11. Coffee Grounds
The caffeine in coffee can be toxic to chickens, so they cannot eat anything that has touched coffee grounds. Instead, save your coffee for the compost pile.
While many researchers regard coffee grounds and coffee as an effective natural pesticide for gardens, the compound that makes it a good pesticide, caffeine, is highly toxic to chickens and other animals such as dogs.
12. Edamame, Raw
Chickens should not eat raw edamame. Like other beans, edamame contains protein inhibitors, which prevent chickens from fully digesting the soybeans.
For that reason, fresh and raw edamame won’t provide much nutrition to your girls, and it may give your chickens upset stomachs.
Still, as we mentioned, cooked beans are safe for chickens, as the cooking process extracts and breaks down the protein inhibitors in the beans.
13. Eggplant Leaves
The leaves of the eggplant plant contain solanine, which is not safe for chickens. Keep all eggplant plants far from your chickens and be sure to keep unripe eggplants away from your coop.
Like pepper plants, potato vines, and tomato plants, eggplant leaves and stems are toxic to chickens. Only ripe eggplants are safe for chickens, as the solanine degrades after the fruit ripens.
14. Eggs, Raw
Raw eggs are not safe for chickens to eat. While raw eggs may contain harmful bacteria such as salmonella, feeding hens raw eggs could lead to them actively eating eggs from the nest!
Overall, you should never feed your chickens raw eggs. It poses a health risk, as any harmful bacteria in the eggs could infect your chickens and spread.
Plus, if your hens figure out how tasty their eggs are, they might start breaking the shells before you can get to them.
So, be sure to cook eggs fully before offering them to your chickens, and make sure any egg shells you feed them are unrecognizable as eggs.
15. French Fries
Processed foods or foods heavy in salt and fat are not healthy for chickens. The occasional french fry won’t hurt your chicken, though!
French fries are very salty and high in fat, so you should never offer your chickens more than one occasional french fry every once in a while. These snacks, while they are unhealthy for your hens,. won’t do any harm as long as you feed them in careful moderation.
16. Meat, Uncooked
Chickens should never be fed raw meat. Raw meat can be harmful to chickens, as it could contain bacteria such as E. coli or salmonella and parasites that may infect your entire flock.
While cooked meat is safe for chickens to eat, never feed your chickens any meat that you would not eat yourself. You should be sure to thoroughly cook it, and don’t feed your chickens meat that has gone bad.
17. Mushrooms, Wild
Some wild mushrooms are toxic, so it is best to avoid feeding them to chickens. However, chickens like many animals, are surprisingly good at ‘sniffing out’ toxic foods. You may find they naturally avoid toxic mushrooms!
While it’s best to remove unknown wild mushrooms from your chickens’ foraging areas to prevent them from poisoning, most chickens know to avoid toxic mushrooms. So, if a few wild mushrooms pop up and you don’t notice them, your chickens should be able to determine if they are safe or not.
Still, we recommend keeping wild mushrooms out of reach and removing any potentially toxic mushies from your chickens’ grazing spaces to stay on the safe side.
If your chickens lay eggs, feeding onions can make the eggs taste funny. Large amounts can also lead to anemia, as onions contain allicin.
A little bit of onion won’t do any harm to a hen, but it could alter the taste of its eggs, giving them an oniony flavor that is generally not very yummy.
Still, on top of that, the compound that gives onions their smell, allicin, can cause Heinz anemia in chickens, a form of poisoning where the chickens’ red blood cells burst. It takes quite a bit of onion for this condition to develop in chickens, but due to the other side effects, its best to keep onions away from your flock.
19. Peach Pits
Chickens can eat peaches, but not the pits. As is the case with cherries, apples, pears, and other tree-growing fruits, peach pits contain varying amounts of hydrogen cyanide, which is poisonous to chickens.
Still, peach flesh is perfectly safe and healthy for chickens to eat. So, just de-pit and de-seed your fruits before offering them to your flock.
20. Potato Peels and Leaves
Potato peels and leaves could contain solanine, so chickens cannot eat them. Solanine can cause a whole host of digestive, respiratory, and neurological issues in chickens, and solanine poisoning could even be fatal.
Peeling all potatoes before offering them to your chickens is a must. In addition, you should keep potato plants far from your chickens to ensure they don’t try to taste the leaves or vines, which often contain high amounts of solanine.
21. Potatoes, Raw
Be careful feeding potatoes to chickens. Green or raw potatoes can contain solanine and are not safe for chickens to eat. You should only offer fully ripe, peeled, cooked potatoes to chickens.
Before feeding chickens potatoes, peel them and boil them well to remove any remaining solanine. Then, strain the water out to get rid of those toxins for good.
22. Rhubarb and Rhubarb Leaves
Rhubarb and rhubarb leaves should not be given to chickens because they contain oxalic acid. Oxalic acid can cause liver failure and even death in chickens.
Rhubarb, while it may seem like a good, sweet snack for chickens, is not safe for them. So, keep rhubarb plants far from chickens and never stick any in their scrap bin!
23. Rice, Uncooked
Uncooked rice is likely not safe for chickens, and feeding your chickens uncooked rice is not worth the risk. Some people claim that rice expands in a chicken’s stomach, introducing digestive issues. Additionally, uncooked rice is not easy for chickens to digest.
While the jury’s out on whether rice actually expands in a chicken’s stomach, it is true that chickens have a difficult time digesting dry, uncooked rice. So, if you want your flock to enjoy rice, be sure to cook it first!
24. Soy, Raw
Chickens should not eat raw soy. Like other beans, soybeans and edamame contain protein inhibitors or anti-nutritive factors that interrupt digestion in both chickens and humans. However, these compounds dissolve and leach out when you cook the edamame.
Additionally, soy contains linoleic acid, which is critical for chickens. So, cooked soy is beyond good for chickens.
25. Strawberry Tops
The green top part of the strawberry contains cyanide, so chickens cannot eat them. A few strawberry tops probably won’t cause your chickens too much trouble – but if they eat more than a few, it can cause problems with their digestion and egg production.
It may be safest to remove the tops before feeding the strawberries to your chickens.
26. Tomatoes, Green
Green tomatoes and tomato plants contain solanine, so chickens cannot eat them. They can eat ripe tomatoes, however.
As we mentioned when discussing eggplants, peppers, and potatoes, unripe fruits that grow in nightshade plants (like tomato plants) contain solanine, which is toxic to chickens. Thus, only offer chickens ripe fruits from these plants.
A Note On Chickens and Fats
One final bit of wisdom I want to share with you is about chickens and fats. I stumbled upon this interesting article by Dr. Jacquie Jacob from the University of Kentucky, published on the Poultry Extension website.
Examples of saturated fats that can be used in poultry diets include tallow, lard, poultry fat, and choice white grease. Examples of usable unsaturated fats include corn oil, soy oil, and canola oil. Common sources of supplemental fat in commercially produced poultry feeds include animal fat, poultry fat, and yellow grease.Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky
I highly recommend reading this article – it’s full of wisdom gems! Dr. Jacquie states that chickens need a specific type of fatty acid called linoleic acid. Chickens cannot make this fatty acid from other nutrients so you need to include it in their diet.
There you have it! Our ultimate list of foods chickens can eat. And also foods chickens can’t eat!
Also, we’re curious to learn which snacks and poultry goodies your chickens love the most.
If you have poultry snacks that we missed – please let us know!
Thanks for reading.
And have a great day!