19+ Safe Things You Can Feed Your Chickens
Are you wondering if there are other things that you can feed your chickens?
Perhaps you want to decrease your feed bill, which can be high depending on how many chickens you have. You might want to free range but are unable, so you want to give your chickens a diverse diet.
I fit into that second category. We have over an acre, but we do have neighbors on both sides. One day, we’ll fence in our acre and will be able to fence in our property, but that day isn’t here yet.
So, while I do let my chickens come out towards the evening because they take themselves back into their coop as the sun goes down, I try to feed them the best diet with a range of food.
You can give your chickens way more than just chicken pellets. I put together a definitive list of safe things you can feed your chickens.
Don’t Just Feed Treats
Before I dive into all of the things your chickens can eat, I wanted to touch on the fact that you shouldn’t just feed your chickens treats.
Make sure you provide layer pellets and feed for them. If you want eggs with the highest nutritional value and an overall healthy flock, layer feed is essential.
Feel free to give your chickens all of the fruits and veggie scraps that you have. Keep an eye on everything else. You don’t want to feed them an entire canister of oatmeal.
However, you CAN use these things you can feed your chickens to decrease your feed bill. There is nothing wrong with keeping a bowl on your counter and tossing it to the chickens each morning.
19+ Things You Can Feed Your Chickens
1. Fruit & Vegetables From Your Kitchen
Fruit and vegetable scraps are the most common things that you can feed your chickens. Your kitchen is a never-ending supply of treats for your chickens, and they’re full of nutrients and vitamins needed for proper growth.
Almost any veggie or fruit scrap can be fed to your chickens. Here are some examples that your flock will love.
- Broccoli: You can give it to your chickens raw or cooked. Try putting it in suet bird cage feeders to let them peck at it all day.
- Bananas: Hens love bananas! Not only are they high in vitamins and other important trace elements, but it’s a great way to get rid of all your excess bananas. Chickens can even eat banana peels!
- Grapes: Since grapes do have high sugar content, it’s not good to give them grapes all of the time. Chop them up first to make digestion easier.
- Pineapples: Most chickens dislike pineapple, and you should feed sparingly because of the high sugar content. If your chickens like pineapple, make sure you don’t give them all the time because excess consumption causes fiber balls to develop in their crop.
- Tomatoes: If you toss tomatoes to chickens, you’ll have happy chickens on your hands! Tomatoes are full of vitamins and antioxidants but don’t feed the plant, leaves, or flowers to your chickens because they’re poisonous.
- Apples: You do need to remove seeds before you give the apples to your chickens because the seeds contain cyanide. Also, make sure you chop them up for easier digestion. Applesauce is a favorite for chickens.
- Strawberries: Our hens cannot get enough strawberries or any berries for that matter. Not only are they full of trace elements and vitamins, but strawberries have anti-inflammatory components.
- Potatoes: You can feed your flock cooked or raw chickens, but never give your chickens any green areas of the potatoes. That contains solanine which is poisonous, along with the leaves, plant, and flowers.
- Cabbage: You might have seen pictures of cabbages hung by cords, letting the chickens peck at them as they want. Cabbages are full of vitamins and minerals.
- Pumpkin: Giving your chickens pumpkin, including pumpkin seeds, is a great idea. Tossing your chickens a large pumpkin cut into pieces will keep them busy for hours.
- Watermelon: On a hot summer day, chickens love cold watermelons. They’re full of vitamins and water, so they’re the perfect refreshing, healthy treat.
- Green Beans: You can give your chickens cooked green beans not raw or undercooked beans. The raw versions contain phytohemagglutinin which is actually DEADLY to your flock. Even just a few beans can kill your chickens.
Of course, this isn’t a full list! Chickens love so many other fruits and veggies. All berries, such as blueberries and raspberries, are safe for chickens. Greens, such as kale, lettuce, and spinach, are safe for your flock as well.
2. Grass Clippings
After you cut the grass, you can dump all of the clippings into the chicken run to eat. It’s best to feed short grass clippings rather than long strands which could cause crop impaction. Make sure that the grass wasn’t treated with any chemicals before feeding it to your chickens.
You should never feed your chickens uncooked rice. That rule applies to all birds because rice will absorb water in their digestive tract. That could cause possible blockages or perforation of the intestines.
White rice doesn’t have much nutritional value. Instead, wild or brown rice is a better choice with more nutrients for your chickens.
4. Insects & Bugs
If you have free-ranging chickens, they naturally forage on insects that they find. So, chickens in co-ops need to have access to bugs and insects as well.
I like to send my kids on bug hunts for good munchies for the kids. Worms are an obvious and easy choice for kids to dig up.
Kitchens also love crickets and 100 grams of crickets contains 12.9 grams of protein plus fats and carbohydrates.
Popcorn is corn, so it’s not surprising that this can be a great treat for your flock. It’s full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber Just don’t add any salt or sugar to your popcorn.
6. Meat – Yes ALL Meat!
Believe it or not, chickens aren’t vegetarians. So, when you see chicken eggs labeled in the store as “vegetarian fed,” it’s just a ploy.
Chickens love meat! My husband is a hunter, and we often will toss an entire deer carcass into the run. Our flock will pick the bones clean!
You should trim off all of the fat from the meat, ideally, but chickens can eat all meat. Yes, you can give your chickens whole chicken or turkey carcasses, although it does feel a bit weird to give your chickens a chicken to eat.
Chickens can eat raw or cooked fish. If you fish to feed your family, consider giving the guts of the fish to your chickens. Fish is high in protein and minerals.
7. Cheese & Yogurt
Chickens can handle and eat all sorts of dairy. Cheese is a source of calcium or protein.
You should feed cheese in moderation, as well as any dairy. While chickens can eat and handle dairy in moderation, they shouldn’t be given large quantities of dairy.
For the most part, flowers are safe to give your chickens. Most flowers are healthy for them to eat, but you do need to avoid toxic plants. It’s a good idea to research each plant in your garden first before giving them to your chickens.
You can buy bags of mealworms at most farm and fleet stores. Mealworms are high in protein, so you want to feed them to your chickens in moderation.
It’s a good idea to give your chickens mealworms during fall molting because the extra protein helps with the process. You can give them mealworms fresh and dried.
Yes! You can give chickens eggs; they love eggs. You do want to make sure you give the eggs to your chickens scrambled, not raw. Giving them raw eggs could encouraging egg eating, which is a really bad habit to start.
Cereal is one of those things that leaves you wondering if you should give it to your chickens. Most cereals contain high levels of added sugar, so tossing your chickens a stale bag of Fruit Loops might not be the best idea.
On the other hand, if you have cereal without a bunch of extra sugar, they can contain vitamins and minerals, as well as carbohydrates.
12. Dog & Cat Food
Both dog and cat food can be given to your flock, but it should only be done on a sparingly basis. It’s nutritionally poor for birds, so it shouldn’t be their everyday treat. However, if you have a bit extra at the end of your dog’s bowl, tossing a handful or two won’t be harmful.
13. Oats & Oatmeal
Oats and oatmeal are always a favorite for my flock. They love some warm oatmeal with yogurt and raisins on a really cold, winter morning.
Chickens can eat raw and cooked oats. Some suggest that oats can help to reduce feather picking, and it also contains protein, vitamins, and trace minerals.
If you have extra beans after dinner, you can also toss handfuls of them to your chickens. Just like green beans, beans need to be cooked. Raw beans are highly toxic to chickens.
15. Sunflower & Pumpkin Seeds
Seeds in general are a healthy options to feed to your chickens. Sunflower seeds are beloved by birds, especially the black oil sunflower seeds. They’re great treats because the seeds have high oil and fat contents.
It’s believed that pumpkin seeds can prevent worms in chickens. You can either give them handfuls of pumpkin seeds or the entire pumpkin, cut so they can easily eat it. Pumpkin flesh is just as healthy.
Aside from peanuts, nuts are good for your chickens because they contain saturated fats and high levels of omega fats.
You can even give your flock peanut butter, but do so in moderation because it’s so high in fats. However, the high protein content is great for molting.
However, you shouldn’t feed too many nuts to your flock. Always give the nuts a rough crop before feeding them, and never give moldy nuts.
Quinoa is a powerhouse, old grain for humans, so it makes sense that it’s a great grain to give to your flock as well. If you do want to give your hens grains, quinoa is an even better choice than rice because it provides more nutrients per serving size.
Pasta has plenty of carbohydrates, which are important for chickens. You don’t want to fill your chickens up on only carbs, but it’s not bad to toss your leftover pasta to them!
If your chickens can eat pasta, they can also eat bread. They love bread soaked in milk as a treat, and it also can be used to fatten up chickens heading to the soup pot.
However, bread is nutritionally poor, so it shouldn’t be the main treat. Feed it in moderation
8 Things You Can’t Feed Your Chickens
Who doesn’t love chocolate?
Actually, they would probably LOVE chocolate (I mean really, who doesn’t?), but chocolate contains theobromine which is toxic to your flock.
You might love eggplant parmesan, but chickens cannot eat eggplants. The plant, leaves, and flowers contain solanine, which is toxic to chickens.
If you want to err on the side of caution, peanuts can be bad for small birds and mammals. There is no reliable information to let us know if it’s safe for chickens or not, so I tend to be more cautious.
4. Moldy Food
Never EVER give your chickens moldy food. It can cause your flock to get sick. Just don’t do it.
All parts of the rhubarb plants are a BIG NO-NO for chickens. Rhubarb, while delicious to humans, contains high amounts of oxalic acid. That could kill your flock.
6. Coffee Grounds
Coffee grounds shouldn’t be given to your flock because of the traces of caffeine. Chickens don’t need caffeine, so avoid it. Instead, toss your coffee grounds into your garden because they act as a fertilizer or into your compost bin.
While I’m a huge fan of pickles, especially my zucchini bread and butter pickles, they’re not a recommended treat for chickens.
Pickles are considered processed food, even though you might have home canned them. They tend to be high in either salt or sugar.
8. Avocado Skins & Pits
As much as you might like avocados, the leaves, skin, and stone contain persin, which is toxic to chickens. In theory, you should be able to give your chickens the flesh of an avocado, but that might not be a risk that is worth taking.
Can Chickens Eat Citrus Fruits?
Yes, chickens CAN eat citrus, such as mandarins, orange peels, oranges, lemons, and grapefruits. Now, whether or not your chickens will actually eat citrus is a different story.
MOST chickens avoid citrus fruits. They dislike the strong flavor. You’re more than welcome to try to give them to your chickens, but don’t be surprised if they turn up their noses!
Feed Your Chickens Good Food
Ultimately, feeding your chickens a healthy diet of layer feed and good food is the goal we all need to meet. What your feed your chickens comes out as healthy eggs for your family.