Jessica is an experienced pet mom with dogs, cats, rats, fish, axolotls, a gecko, chickens, and ducks.
One of the many benefits of having chickens is that they love to eat scraps from the kitchen. There are so many foods they can eat, and giving them kitchen scraps saves on feed costs, which means the eggs you get are even less expensive! Giving them table scraps helps give your chickens some extra nutrients, helps the environment by preventing food waste, and saves money, so it really is a win-win.
Although chickens are not picky eaters, there are definitely things that they shouldn't be fed. This article will go over common foods that are not safe for your chickens to eat.
Raw potatoes and potato peels contain solanine, which is toxic to chickens. The highest concentration of solanine is in the peels, eyes, and any green parts of the potato. All nightshade vegetables contain this toxin. Surprisingly, sweet potatoes are completely safe to give to chickens, since they are not a part of the nightshade family.
Apple Seeds and Cherry Pits
The fruit and peels of the apple are completely safe, but make sure not to feed your chickens the seeds. This same rule applies to cherries. Apple seeds and cherry pits contain cyanide. Cyanide cuts off oxygen to the cells, which can be fatal for your chickens. If your chickens have eaten apple seeds, they may develop a discolored comb (pale or bluish) and have trouble breathing. If this happens, taking them to the vet could be life-saving.
Dogs are not the only animals that cannot eat chocolate, it is also harmful to chickens. Chocolate contains theobromine, which is what makes it toxic to birds. This is bad for their digestive tracks and their hearts. Eating even a small amount of chocolate can cause cardiac arrest in birds. Dark chocolate is the most dangerous because it has the most cocoa, but all types of chocolate can be harmful.
Just like us, chickens should eat unhealthy treats in moderation. Greasy, fatty, salty, and highly processed foods are hard for them to digest. This can lead to gastrointestinal problems and obesity. These foods aren't poisonous, but they are not good for them. They can still have small amounts of these foods. A french fry here and there is ok, but a whole container is definitely not.
Chickens can't eat coffee grounds because of the caffeine. Eating coffee grounds could cause caffeine toxicity which can negatively affect calcium absorbtion and the immune system, causing issues in the heart and lungs. Ingesting too much caffeine can cause restlessness, heart problems, seizures, and even death.
Avocado Skins and Pits
The pit and skin of avocados contain persin. Persin is a chemical that causes respiratory problems in chickens. This chemical can even lead to death, so it is very important to keep the pit and skins away from your birds. However, the actual fruit of the avocado is perfectly safe, and chickens usually really enjoy it.
Anything Rotten or Moldy
Chickens are ok to eat overripe fruits and vegetables, but they shouldn't eat anything rotten or moldy. Mold is a fungus, so any amount is unsafe for chickens to consume. This is also something to watch out for with your chicken feed. If it gets a little wet it could get moldy, and then the bag would be unsafe for your chickens.
Eating moldy food can cause mycotoxicosis. This can cause extreme weight loss, oral ulcers, and kidney and liver failure.
This seems like an innocent treat for chickens; you probably notice them eating grass all the time. They love grass, foraging, and eating plants from the garden! However, eating grass clippings can cause an impacted crop. An impacted crop is when long blades of grass bind with feed, causing a blockage. This stops any other food from passing through. If you would still like to give them grass as a treat, a finely mulched small handful shouldn't cause any problems.
Eating eggs may not hurt your chickens - cooked eggs are actually very good for them, but giving them raw eggs can lead to behavior problems. Your chickens may start eating their own eggs, and then you won't get any to eat. Once your chickens start eating their eggs, it is extremely difficult to get them to stop. There are online forums filled with ideas, but some people never have any luck. Even worse, if you add new hens to your flock, they often learn this behavior from the others.
Eggs and shells are totally safe for your chickens, but it is best to cook them first.
Works Cited and Further Reading
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2022 Jess H