What can chickens eat, the complete A to Z guide

Some of my chickens eating treats

If you have found yourself wondering what you can safely feed your chickens then look no further.

Chickens will eat just about everything they can fit in their beaks, that doesn't mean it is good for them though.

Don't forget you can grow foods yourself to help with the cost of feeding your flock.

What can chickens eat? Or not eat!

In the list below is a complete list of the foods chickens can eat. You can use the table of contents to jump to letter of the alphabet you are looking for.

Table of Contents

A:

 

Acorns:

Acorns are toxic to chickens and must never be fed to poultry.

Tannin or tannic acid is the compound that can cause damage to a chicken’s digestive system and kidneys and neither the acorns and the oak leaves should be avoided. Young leaves and freshly fallen acorns have the most tannin and are therefore the most toxic to chickens. 


Alcohol:

Chickens must never have beer, wine, spirits or alcohol of any type. Booze is fatal for chickens in quite small amounts and as little as 3 grams of pure ethanol can kill a chicken - https://cluckin.net/can-chickens-have-beer-wine-spirits-and-alcohol.html.


Alfalfa:

Alfalfa is fine for chickens and the sprouts can be used to supplement greens in winter. 


Almonds:

Almonds are fine for chickens in small amounts, as are almond butter and chopped or flaked and roasted almonds. See https://cluckin.net/can-chickens-eat-nuts-and-which-ones.html .


Apples, apple skin and apple seeds:

Apples are fine for chickens in small quantities and although the pips do contain trace amounts of cyanide there is not enough to do the chickens any harm at all.

Cooking apples are fine as well. For a full guide about feeding hens apples and how much you can give them.


Apricot:

Apricot is fine for chickens but the pits (the seed in the stone) are toxic to chickens and must never be fed to poultry. That said I have never seen a chicken able to crack the pit open so there is little if any risk.


Ants:

I have never seen mine eat ants. Most species of ant can defend themselves with a formic acid spray which keeps most animals away. If yours do eat ants then that is fine as long as you are not in the habit of using pesticides on the ant colony.


Asparagus:

Any cooked part of the green plant or sprout - Yes. The red seed pods and the seeds they contain are poisonous and the raw greens of the Asparagus plant may cause upset stomachs. 

Have to say most of mine weren't bothered and too much may taint the eggs with an odd flavour and smell although not everybody cam smell or taste methanethiol.


Avocado:

Avocado should not be fed to chickens. Avocados contain a chemical called Persin which poultry cannot metabolise and it is potentially a killer. The skin and seeds contain higher amounts than the flesh of the fruit but it is best to avoid. https://cluckin.net/plants-that-are-poisonous-for-chickens.html .


Aubergine / Eggplant or Brinjal:

Any part of the fruit and skin- yes 

Any green parts - No

You can feed eggplant of Aubergine to chickens and mine seem to quite like it.

As members of the nightshade family, the green parts of the plant contain Solanine which is a poison.

More on feeding Aubergines, Eggplant or Brinjal to chickens. 


B:

Bananas and banana skins:

Banana is fine in small quantities as it contains mostly sugar and starches and contains quite large amounts of potassium.

Banana peel is devoid of nutrients and my chickens will leave it. They will eat it if you chop it up small enough but it is better off on the compost heap. Banana skin will also likely be covered in pesticides.

Further reading about chickens and bananas.


Baked beans:

Baked beans in sauce should not really be fed to chickens.

Baked beans are a heavily processed food with added sugar and salt in the sauce and as such are not a good food for chickens. Low salt and sugar beans often have other additives that chickens should not eat.


Basil:

Basil leaves can be fed to chickens. As with all strongly flavoured foods there is a debate as to whether this can effect the taste of the eggs. I have never found herbs to be a problem. Greens are good for chickens and may help colour the yolks.


Beans:

Beans of all types must be cooked before feeding to chickens as feeding dry raw beans contain toxins that kill quickly and in small amounts. 


Bean sprouts:

Bean sprouts are good for chickens provided they are only fed in small amounts and are fresh. Old beansprouts may contain e coli. Beansprouts are mostly water and may effect digestion.


Beets and beetroot:

Beetroots and the green tops can be fed to chickens. I have heard it said that the deep red colour of beets can bleed out into the yolks leaving them an unappetising shade of pink.

My chickens get all the whole beetroot plants at the end of the growing season and they seem to like them and it never shows in my yolks.  


Bird or canary seed:

Wild bird feeds have not been through the same process to render them safe for food production so may contain contaminants or heavy metals. I would not buy a wild bird food like canary seed for chickens but they will eat if it given the chance.

https://cluckin.net/what-seeds-can-chickens-eat-17-seeds-tested-and-costed.html


Blueberries:

I have to keep my blueberry bushes covered or the chickens clean them completely. Chickens love blue berries and they are just fine to give as a treat. Blueberries are packed full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and relatively low in sugar.

Too many can turn the poop runny and blue.

for further reading on chickens eating berries - https://cluckin.net/can-chickens-eat-strawberries-and-other-types-of-berry-fruit.html


Brazil nuts:

Small quantities of Brazil nuts are fine for chickens. See can chickens eat nuts. 


Bread:

Care is needed with bread and all poultry. It is relatively devoid of nutrients and is almost pure and easily digestible carbohydrate. The fact that my granddad used to fatten hens for the pot with bread crusts soaked in milk should tell you all you need to know.

Bread can also contain a lot of salt and becomes mushy which over time can cause crop problems. I Dry bread for the hens in slices and feed a little occasionally so they have to peck at it over time rather than stuffing it down as fast as they can.


Breakfast cereals:

Chickens can and will eat breakfast cereals but they are not good for chickens.

Most breakfast cereals are too high in fibre, sugar and carbohydrate to be a good food for chickens. Some breakfast cereals contain chocolate which must never be fed to chickens.


Broccoli:

Broccoli is a good green feed for chickens. especially as a way to provide winter greens as they are hardy plants. The whole plant can be fed, leaves, flower head and stalk.

Hang the plant in the run for the birds to peck at to keep them entertained. Broccoli can be fed raw or cooked.


Buckwheat:

Buckwheat seed is fine for chickens, the plant is a relative of Rhubarb and the leaves contain Oxalic acid and should not be given to chickens.

Buckwheat can be sprouted for chickens.


C:

 

Cabbage:

Very good for chickens and because they are so tough they take a long time to eat , keeping them amused for hours. Cabbages are best hung whole for chickens as entertainment.

As I grow my own as well I always give the outer leaves to the hens to peck at.


Cake:

Chickens can and will eat cake but it is low in protein and high in sugar and store bought cake may have many additives which are not good for chickens. I would avoid giving cakes to chickens.


Canola seed:

Canola seed or oil-seed rape is a small, round black seed from the same family as cauliflower and broccoli. 

Canola is fine for chickens and can be easily sprouted as well to provide out of season greens into the chickens diet.


Carrots:

The whole of the carrots plant is fine for chickens to eat and can help colour the yolks in the eggs. Feed cooked or raw, whole or grated. See can chickens eat carrots for more.


Celery:

Celery is fibrous and needs to be chopped into short chunks for feeding to chickens. Contains few calories but some trace minerals and vitamins. The leaves are especially good.

Mine aren't that bothered by celery but do eat it only after making sure I didn't bring anything more exciting with me. For the full article of feeding celery or celeriac to chickens - https://cluckin.net/can-chickens-eat-celery-and-celeriac.html 


Cheerios:

Chickens can have small amounts of breakfast cereals like cheerios but the are carbohydrate and sugar rich foods which are not good for chickens in large amounts.


Cheese:

Chickens can eat cheese and like it very much. Cheese is a good balance of proteins and fats and is good for chickens in small amounts. Cheese that has been processed with too much salt, flavourings and additives should never be given to chickens. 


Chia seed:

Chia is a member of the mint family and chickens can have chia seeds with no worries at all. There are however expensive.


Chocolate:

No. none at all. Chocolate will kill chickens.


Coconut:

Coconut is fine for chickens as long as it has no added sugar, feed it fresh or dried. The coconut oil is useful as a scaly leg mite treatment and a dressing for minor scratches on the skin.

For more on feeding coconut to chickens.


Corn, corn on the cob and corn chips:

Corn can be fed to chickens in small amounts with no problems at all. https://cluckin.net/can-chickens-eat-corn-sweet-corn-and-maize.html 

Corn and it's products are mostly pure carbohydrate and can cause digestive issues and messy bottoms.  They also tend to have quite a lot of added salt and sugar so the amounts should be limited.


Courgette:

Chickens, and all poultry are fine with the fruit and flowers of all the courgette family. This includes summer squash and round courgettes.

Avoid the green leaves and stems of the plants as these have a mild toxin.


Cream and sour cream:

Chickens can have cream but being a dairy product it may effect some birds and chickens do not possess the digestive enzymes to deal with dairy.

Sour cream is better as it has been fermented and will be more easily digested.

Sweetened creams or tinned cream should not be given to chickens.


Crickets: 

Crickets are a powerhouse of protein and copper ( their blood is based on copper, not iron like ours). Minerals, fats and calcium from the shells.

Chickens will eat all the insects you give them but avoid too many as it may upset the protein balance of the food. An excellent choice for during the moult when chickens need a little extra. 


Cucumber:

Chicken seem to love cucumber and it is fine for them. Avoid the green leaves and stems of all the members of the curcubrit family as they have a mild toxin.

Slice down the length or hang in the run for amusement. For more on chickens and cucumbers.


 

D:

Dairy:

Chickens do not possess the enzymes to digest dairy properly and it may effect some chickens badly. Fermented dairy is normally OK for chickens.


Desserts and puddings:

Human desserts and puddings should not be fed to chickens and are often loaded with sugar, chocolate and flavourings which are detrimental to chickens health.


Dog Food:

In theory yes but in reality I would not give dog food to chickens. The nutrient balance is all wrong and you could end up with egg problems.

It is also illegal in some places.


Dried fruit:

Dried fruit seems like it should be good for chickens but can be nearly 50% sugar so should only be given in tiny quantities. Dried fruits like dates have recently had a salmonella scare and sultanas  can be laced with pesticides.


 

E:

Earthworms:

Chickens, and indeed all poultry, will eat just about any amount of earthworms that they can find and a few experiments and trial have been done that show that earthworms are a relatively complete food for chickens .

They are difficult and time consuming to raise in that sort of quantity though. I feed them as treats.

More on feeding earthworms to chickens.


Elderberries: 

Yes chickens can eat elderberries and they seem to love them. But Not too many as they can cause diarrhoea. You may have seen the results on your car after birds have been gorging on them in late summer.

It's a clever way for the plant to spread it seeds before the birds can digest them. Only the berries and not the leaves. 

More on feeding berries to poultry.  


 

F:

Fat balls and pellets:

Fat balls and pellets are wild bird food and not a certified feed-stuff for poultry. Chickens can and will eat fat balls and pellets and will gather under bird feeders to mop up the spillage.

They are made from animal fat and flour with other additives and ingredients such as seeds and meal-worms.  


Fennel:

Fennel is fine for chickens and all parts of the plant can be eaten including the seeds, leaves, the bulb and the root.


Figs:

Chickens can and will eat figs and seem to like them. Figs are low in protein, at just 3% and high in fruit sugars and should be fed only in small amounts.


Fish:

This is another should be OK but I would choose not too. Bear in mind that feeding kitchen and table scraps to chickens is now illegal across Europe and the UK. 


Flax seeds:

Yes, flax seeds are the best natural source of omega 3 oils there are and adding a few to your hens diet will improve them and their eggs no end. Add between 1 and 3 tablespoons per kilogram of feed and never allow them to get wet.


Flowers:

Some flowers are fine for chickens and some are beneficial. They contain trace elements and colour compounds which are known to be good for eyesight and keeping the yolks a golden yellow colours.

For a list of which flowers chickens can and can not eat look here.


Fries and french fries:

Fine if unsalted. Cooked potato is okay for chickens in small amounts.


Fruit:

 


Funghi:

Chickens can eat the same types of fungus that humans can. Avoid all others and wild fungus.


G:

Garlic:

Garlic is used in small quantities in chickens keeping. It is supposed to help support the immune system and help pass worms. It is a member of the onion family and does contain sulphur compound which can be harmful in large quantities. 

I have never used it and am not going to start now.


Ginger:

Yes. Full of antioxidants and known stress reducer. Small quantities only.


Grapefruit:

Fine for chickens but mine ignore it completely - more of feeding citrus to chickens.


Grapes:

Yes. In small quantities as they are very high in sugar. The skin have a fungus that can cause problems.


Grass:

Grass is excellent pasture for chickens and they should all have some on a regular basis. Short grass is best as the long fibrous types can cause crop issues.  Grass should not be treated with chemicals or fertilisers but be left to grow naturally.

Grass is surprisingly high in protein and help make the yolks a good colour. It also contain calcium and other minerals that are very good for chickens. Consider supplementing your birds diet with green sprouted grains if you don't let them free range.


Grass cuttings and clippings:

Grass cuttings or clippings are fine as long as you have never used chemicals, fertilisers and pesticides. 


Green beans:

Fine until the seeds appear in the pods. must be cooked after this stage.


Green peppers:

The fruit, seeds and core are just fine for chickens. Avoid all the green parts of the plants. Feeding peppers to chickens.


 

H:

Ham:

Illegal in the EU and UK. Should be limited because of it's salt content.


Hawthorn berries:

The young leaves, flower buds and berries of the Hawthorn are all edible and have been used as herbal medicines for hundreds if not thousands of years.

The seed contain trace amounts of cyanide but this is never going to cause a problem in a flock getting a few berries a day.


Hemp seed:

If you can find hemp seed at a reasonable price you can feed it to poultry.

Hemp seed is nutritious and high in protein and is a good feed for chickens.

Sprouting hemp may be illegal depending on where you live as growing it often requires a license. 


Herbs:

Nearly all herbs are fine for chickens, I would avoid curry plant. There are specialist egg producers that feed their chickens large amounts of fresh herbs.


Honey:

Fine for chickens although I would caution you against feeding a pure sugar syrup to chickens.


Honeysuckle:

The berries of the edible honeysuckle are fine for chickens, as is the flowers. The leaves, roots and stems contain a mild toxin that may upset the digestion in birds.


 

I:

Ice:

Ice is fine for chickens and can be used to keep the water cold and fresh in the heat of summer.


Ice cream:

Fine in small quantities. Another sugary food.


Iceberg lettuce:

Fine in small amounts, too much gives loose watery poop and Iceberg lettuce contains almost no nutrition at all.


Ivy:

Although the ground ivy is edible all other types can cause skin irritation and symptoms of poisoning in chickens. Ivy berries are amongst the list of the top ten most poisonous berries and should never be fed to chickens.


J:

Jam:

In theory okay but they are pure sugar which is not good for chickens.


Jelly and jelly beans:

Sweets are a no-no for chickens.


K:

Kale:  

All members of the brassica family are fine for chickens. As a keepers who also has a backyard garden I give my kale plants to the chickens when I pull them up rather than wasting them. It keeps the flock amused for hours in winter when there is little greenery about.


Kidney beans:

Cooked kidney beans are fine but they should never be fed raw, as few as 6 will kill a chicken in a matter of hours.


Kiwi Fruit:

High in Vitamin C but also sugar. Fine for chickens but limit the amount you give.


Kohlrabi:

Kohlrabi is a member of the brassica family and the leaves, bulbous stem, roots and seeds are all edible and beneficial to poultry.


 

L:

Leeks:

Leeks are a member of the onion family and should not be given to chickens.


Lemon:

Fine for chickens if your will eat them. Mine don't. See feeding chickens citrus.


Lettuce:

Lettuce is fine in small amounts. Mine aren't really bothered and it isn't that nutritious. Here is a article about lettuce and salad leaves with a video of my chickens ignoring baby leaf salad.


Lentils:

Absolutely have to be properly cooked or they can kill chickens.


 Lime:

Fine for chickens -   See feeding chickens citrus.


Liver:

One of the most nutrient dense foods there is. Illegal in the UK and EU.


Lobster:

Fine for chickens.  Illegal in the UK and EU.


 Lychees:

Fine in small quantities as with all fruit.


 

M:

Marrow:

Yes, chickens can have marrow, they particularly like the seeds of the curcubrit family.


Mealworms:

Chickens can eat mealworms but the dried ones you buy in bulk may be illegal to feed to your flock in some countries.

Chickens love insects of all types but they can upset the protein balance in the diet and should be added with care especially if your birds are free range.

Feeding mealworms to chickens.


Meat:

It is illegal to meat to poultry in the UK and the EU. 

Chickens are omnivorous and will eat meat given the chance.


Mushrooms:

Chickens can eat the same mushrooms that humans can. Cooked is better and if you are unsure then avoid completely.


 

 

N:

Niger seed:

Niger seed is a small black oil-seed closely related to flax. Chickens can eat Niger seed but mine ignored it during testing.


Nuts:

Most cooked and shelled nuts are fine. Nuts are mostly a mix of proteins and fats so could upset the nutrient balance in your chicken feed. See can chickens eat peanuts. 


O:

Oats, oatmeal and porridge:

Oats are almost pure carbohydrate and are not a good feed for chickens on their own. Oats have just 11 to 14 grams of protein per 100 grams which is low to be a good feed for chickens. 

Small amounts of oats can be added to scratch feed.


Olives and olive oil:

Chickens can and will eat olives and consume olive oil.

Olives are nutrient dense and rich in calories, antioxidants and minerals. Olives are however quite salty and you should only let chickens have small amounts.

Olive oil is almost pure fat and does not have the nutritional benefits for chickens.


Onions:

Avoid onions if you can, especially raw ones in any quantity. The sulphur compounds can cause heamolytic anaemia in animals.

Mine tend to avoid them on the veg patch so maybe the chickens know already.


Oranges:

There is nothing wrong with giving chickens oranges, or any citrus. Whether they eat it or not is another story. Mine are nor that bothered and just give it the odd peck.


 

P:

Parsnip:

Chickens can be fed the parsnip root raw or cooked but never the green parts of the plant.


Peanuts: 

Cooked and unsalted is fine. Raw and salted peanuts should not be fed to chickens nor should the shells.

Peanut butter is fine in small quantities but not the overly sweetened or salted ones.

Read more about feeding chickens peanuts. 


Peppers:

Bell peppers and chilli peppers are fine for chickens. Mine eat the seeds first and peck at the rest. The colours help the egg yolks.


 Pineapple:

Although pineapple is high in fibre, minerals and vitamins it should be fed sparingly to chickens because it is very high in sugar and certain enzymes which are not good for anything in large quantities.


Plums:

Plums are fine for chickens in small amounts as they contain large amounts of sugar and little protein.


Popcorn:

Popcorn is fine for chickens as long as it is not salty or sweet.

Un-popped popcorn is fine for chickens.


Poppy seed:

Poppy seeds are not good for chickens in large quantities, more than 6 grams of poppy seeds in a single dose could end up being toxic and causing liver damage.

Because of the way poppy seeds are produced they can contain traces of opiates which can cause humans to fail drugs tests and this is enough to hurt chickens.


Potato:

Potato should always be given cooked. Raw potatoes have also been found to contain anti-nutrients, which inhibit the action of enzymes making absorption of nutrients difficult. A study in the Journal of Food Science determined that these anti-nutrients are mostly found in the peel and significantly decrease during cooking.  

Give sparingly as potatoes are almost pure starch. Read all about feeding potatoes and tubers to chickens.


Pumpkin:

All part of the pumpkin are edible including the flowers, seeds and flesh. The green parts of pumpkin plants should not be given to chickens.

In my experience chickens tend to leave the skin but like all the other parts very much. Mine go mad for pumpkin seeds whether fresh or dried.

Pumpkin makes an excellent peck on distraction for chickens when given whole.


Q:

Quiche:

Fine for chickens as a treat. 


Quorn:

Chickens can and will eat Quorn but the amounts should be limited.

On the face of it Quorn should be good for chickens  as it is a good source of minerals and has little or no added sugar and salt. At just 11 grams  per 100 of protein it falls well short of the 16% that chickens need as is very high fibre which can cause problems in a chickens diet.


R:

Raisins:

It's unfortunate that chickens love raisins so much because they are not really good for them at all. Raisins have a fungus on the surface that can be bad for animals, they are almost pure sugar which will make them fat. Raisins can cause renal failure in some cases and are best avoided.

Rice cooked:

Cooked rice is fine for chickens in small amounts. It is a starchy grain with little nutrition so amounts should be limited. Just give them the scraps rather than cooking it fresh for them. 

Rice raw:

Contrary to popular belief that the rice will swell in the crop and kill the bird, there is no problems with feeding raw or uncooked rice to chickens. They deal with eating dry grains all the time and both wheat and barley absorb more moisture than rice does during digestion.

Chicken keepers of old and modern keepers in the east give their flocks quite large amounts of uncooked rice.

Read more about rice, rice products and feeding chickens.

Rutabaga:

Rutabaga are fine for chickens and can give you flock hours of entertainment, they are especially good in the winter months when natural greens might not around.

Feed Rutabaga whole, tops and all to your chickens.


S:

Safflower seed:

Safflower seeds are good for chickens, they have a balance of nutrients and protein and can often be found at a competitive price.

Safflower seeds also contain antioxidants.


Scratch Grains:

Pre-made and home made scratch grain mixes are a good food for chickens as they increase the variety in the diet and have other uses as extra feed during the moult.

Pulses, beans and uncooked barley should be avoided as they are not good for chickens in any amount.

Read more about feeding your chickens scratch grains or natural flock feeding.


Seeds:

Chickens can eat seeds depending on the plant that produced them. The seeds of almost all grains, sunflower and safflower are fine for chickens. Some need to be processed and treated before feeding to chickens.


Sesame seed:

Sesame seeds are high in beneficial fats and protein while being low in sugar making them an excellent feed for chickens.

Only worth feeding if you can buy them in bulk at a reasonable price.


Strawberries:

Strawberries are rich in antioxidants and contain an anti-inflammatory compound called quercetin. The have a good selection of vitamins and minerals and the colour helps the yolks.

My chickens love strawberries and will jump for them to snatch them out of my hands. They will also eat any amount they can if the get into the garden. All parts of the plant are safe to eat.


Sunflower seed:

Shelled sunflower seed are a staple chicken feed of mine from October to March, they are nutritious and rich  in calories as well as containing minerals and vitamins.

Shelled sunflower seed is better than black oil sunflower seeds as the latter is 40% by weight shell. The shell of the sunflower seed has no nutritional value.


Swede:

Chickens can have swede. The whole plant can be fed and they are a good source of winter greens for chickens.


Sweets and confectionery: 

Chickens should never have sweets or confectionery, they are just pure sugar with additives.


T:

Toadstools:

The types of mushrooms, toadstools and fungus chickens can eat is limited. Avoid if at all unsure.


Tomatoes:

Mine and seemingly all the chickens I know love tomatoes. Feed the fruit only and not the plant as the green parts are poisonous.

Tomatoes are full of antioxidants, several vitamins and a quite afew trace minerals as well. Mine run off them so they can have a whole one to themselves, tomatoes is something my chickens don't like sharing.

See what my hens think of tomatoes.


Tuna: 

Tuna fish is well known for high levels of the heavy metal mercury which is not good for chickens.


Turnips:

I grow turnips specially to feed to my chickens. The turnip plant can be fed whole and the tops are a good source of greenery in winter months.


U:

Ugli-fruit:

A part of the citrus family and fine if you birds will eat  it.


V:

Vegetables:

Nearly always fine for chickens especially if cooked.


Vinegar:

Apple cider vinegar is used extensively in poultry and is fine for birds in small amounts. Avoid distilled or malt vinegar and use sparingly.


W:

Walnuts:

Fine. Served without the shell. See nuts for chickens.


 Watermelon:

Chickens love melon and their seeds. watermelon is fine for chickens especially as a cold treat on a hot day.


 Wheat:

 Fine for chickens. Probably makes up a quarter of chicken feed the world over.


Wheat berries:

Wheat berries are the edible part of the wheat kernel, including the bran, the germ, and the endosperm, before the grain undergoes any processing and they are fine for chickens as part of the scratch. 


X:

Xylitol:

No. Alcohol based. keep all artificial sweeteners away from chickens.


Y:

Yams:

Yam needs to be peeled and cooked before being fed to chickens.


Yogurt:

Yes in moderation as chickens cannot digest milk. Good as a probiotics to restore digestion after treatment or crop problems. 


Z:

Zucchini:

Yes. Good for chickens. Slice the big ones in half or hang them up for the birds to peck at. Further reading on feeding zucchini to poultry and chickens.


For further reading about plants that are poisonous to chickens and general advice of feeding chickens.