When people think about feeding chickens, the image of a farmer reaching into a bucket of grains and tossing it to the chickens often comes to mind. What else do chickens eat? They will eat a variety of things. What about meat? Yes, chickens will eat meat. Chickens are omnivores, meaning they will be both meat and plant products.

Chickens also do not seem to be picky eaters. They will eat almost anything! However, is meat good for chickens? This article goes over if you should feed your chickens meat as part of their diets or if eating meat is harmful to their overall health.

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Can chickens safely eat meat?

Yes! Since chickens are omnivores, they will find various things to eat when they forage outside that will meet their nutritional needs – including other animals to eat. Seeds, vegetation, and insects are typical meals for foraging chickens. Chickens will even munch on toads, frogs, small snakes, or skinks. Even mice are on the menu for chickens if they catch one! Those are all forms of meat and are safe for chickens to consume. Those animals provide chickens with the protein they need for healthy body function and egg production.

chickens walking on grass
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How much meat should I feed my chicken?

Chickens are omnivores, not carnivores. Never put your chicken on an all-meat diet. Meat does not provide your chicken with the other nutrients they need to stay healthy. If you control what your chickens eat or cannot allow them to forage outside, it is a good idea to include meat in their daily meals. If you have a flock of dozen chickens, provide them with the rough equivalent of 4 tablespoons of meat chunks or minced meat along with their feed.

Feed (also known as pellets or crumbles) is an essential part of their diet. Quality chicken feed contains wheat, oats, cracked corn, soybean meal, or a combination of those foods as the main ingredient. Recipes also contain a type of oil for necessary fats. Some formulas may even contain ground oyster shells or bone meal for additional calcium and protein. Nutrients from the feed, some vegetables, and small portions of meat are what chickens need to grow healthily.

Lohmann brown chicken
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What kind of meat can I give my chickens?

When it comes to what kind of meat to give your chickens, anything goes! Well, that is not entirely true. Chickens can eat most meats safely, but there are some considerations:

  • Avoid processed meat. Meats like bacon or luncheon meat are heavily processed. This includes fast food as well. Burgers, fish patties, fried chicken, and chicken nuggets are all on the ‘no-no’ list of meats to feed your chickens. There is a high level of preservatives, salt, and unhealthy fats in those meats. Feeding your chicken those kinds of meats could have negative effects on their health.
  • Cooked or raw? Chickens can eat both! The small animals they forage for outside are not cooked. If the meat is of good quality, you can give your chicken either raw or cooked meat. But the quality of the meat must be checked, whether it is raw or cooked. Are you thinking about giving your chickens some of that leftover meat from last month that has been sitting in your fridge? If it looks old, slimy, or moldy, throw it in the garbage can, not to your chickens!
  • Trim the fat. If you have leftover trimmed fat from pork or beef from your dinner, know how much fat you give your chickens. While chickens need fats in their diet, you should give the trimmed fat from pork and beef in moderation. Feeding your chickens a very high-fat diet is not beneficial for them, but some fats are necessary for healthy chickens.
  • Feeding your chickens, um, chicken. Some people feel a bit awkward feeding their chickens cooked chicken. There is nothing dangerous about feeding your chickens leftover unseasoned cooked chicken. They need protein for healthy organ growth and egg production, so it is fine feeding your chickens any form of poultry. Avoid fried, breaded, or sauce-covered chicken.
Chickens Eating
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Feeding your chickens meat is one way to ensure they get the proteins and some fats that they need to have a balanced diet. The best kind of meat to give them should be unprocessed, unfried, and not overly seasoned. The meat can be on the bone, as chickens will have no problem pecking away at the carcass to get to the good stuff.

What about eggs?

It is not a good idea to feed your chickens raw eggs or eggshells. Why? They might develop a taste for them and start eating the eggs laid in their coop. If you are trying to hatch chicks, you might find that the now egg-loving chickens are making that impossible. Instead, you can scramble the eggs and then give them to your chickens.

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What is a balanced diet for a chicken?

All animals need a balanced diet, and this includes chickens. For chickens, they need to have a balance of water, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, as well as vitamins and minerals.

  • Water. This may seem like an obvious thing to give your chicken, but it is often not thought about as much as it should be. Ensure that there is plenty of clean water for your chickens throughout the day.
  • Carbohydrates. This will be the bulk of your chickens’ diet. The carbohydrates can come in various forms: ground cornmeal, oats, wheat, barley, or sorghum. Chicken feed often uses two or more of those carbohydrates in their recipes. These grains will compromise between 60-70% of their daily diet.
  • Fats. Chickens can get fats from seeds, chicken feed, or meat. Fats provide chickens with energy and allow them to absorb essential vitamins.
  • Proteins. Chickens need to have protein to aid in their growth and egg production. The protein can come in different types. Usually, the chicken feed will contain 1-2 forms of proteins: soybean meal, sunflower meal, fish meal, or meat by-products.
chickens in coop
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In addition to water, carbs, fats, and proteins, chickens need vitamins and minerals. Vitamins are needed for egg production, muscle health, carbohydrate metabolism, and overall growth. Minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus, are needed for healthy bones and healthy metabolism. Many brands of chicken feed are fortified with extra vitamins and minerals that can assist with egg production.

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Overall considerations

Chickens can consume most meat safely. If you allow your chickens to forage, and they come across a frog, mouse, or small lizard, they will have them as part of their meal. Meat is beneficial for chickens as it is a source of protein. Chickens will significantly benefit from having a small amount of meat in their diet.

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