What can chickens eat, the complete A to Z guide

Some of my chickens eating treats

If you have found yourself wondering what yoyu 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.

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:

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.


Ants:

I have never seen mine eat ants. Most species of ant can defend themselves with a formaic 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 part of the green plant or sprout - Yes.

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


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 startches 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.

Further reading about chickens and bananas.


Blueberries:

I have to keep my blueberry bushes covered otr the chickens clean them completely. Chickens love blue beriies 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


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 grandad 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.


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.


C:

 

Cabbage:

Very good for chickens and beacause 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.


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.


Chocolate:

No. none at all. chocolate will killl chickens.


Courgette:

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

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


Crickets: 

Cricket 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 chicken sneed a little extra. 


Cucumber:

Chicken seeem 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:

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.


 

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 beed 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:

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 componds which are known to be good for eyesight and keeping the yolks a golden yelleow colours.

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


Fries and french fries:

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


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 memeber 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 quantites 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 fiberous types can cause crop issues.  Grass should not be treated with chemicals or fertilzers but be left to graw naturally.

Grass is suprisingly 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 grainss if you don't let them free range.


Grass cuttings:

Grass cuttings 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.


Honey:

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


 

I:

Ice cream:

Fine in small quantities. Another suggary food.


Iceberg lettuce:

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


J:

Jam:

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


Jelly beans:

Sweets are a no-no for chickens.


K:

Kale:  

All memebers 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.


Kiwi Fruit:

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


 

L:

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.


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 food there is. Illegal in the UK and EU.


Lobster:

Fine for chickens.  Illegal in the UK and EU.


 Lychees:

Fine in small quantites 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.

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

Feeding mealworms to chickens.


Meat:

 

 

N:

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:

 

Onions:

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

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


 

Oranges:

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


 

P:

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 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.


Popcorn:

Popcorn is fione as long as it is not salty or sweet

 

Potato:

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

Give sparingly as potatoes are almost pure starch.


Q:

Quiche:

Fine for chickens as a treat. 


R:

Raisins:

It's unfortunate that chickens love raisins so much because they are not really good for them at all. Rasins 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 poular 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.

S:

 

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.


Strawberries:

Strawberries are rich in antioxidants and contain an anti-inflammatory compond called quercetin. The have a good selelction 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.


 

T:

 

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.


 

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 cider vinegar and use sparingly.


W:

Walnuts:

Fine. Served without the shell.


 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:

Yogurt:

Yes in moderation as chickens cannot digest milk. Good as a probiotics to retore 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.