Chickens can be unpredictable picky eaters. Some chickens may love one food, while others may refuse to eat it. These inconsistencies make many chicken owners question a chicken’s sense of taste. In short, chickens do have a sense of taste, but it’s very different from how humans experience taste.

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How Much Can Chickens Taste?

The types of flavors that humans and animals can taste depend on their taste buds. The more taste buds you have, the more intense flavors become for you.

While the average adult human has between 2,000–10,000 taste buds, an adult chicken has about 350 taste buds. Along with having a relatively small number of taste buds, a chicken’s tastebuds lie at the back of its mouth. Therefore, they won’t taste the flavor of foods until they start to swallow. Considering the makeup of a chicken’s gustatory system, it’s no surprise that they don’t really rely so much on taste as humans do.

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They aren’t at too much of a disadvantage, however. Chickens have excellent eyesight, so many people hypothesize that chickens select food based on the appearance of the food rather than taste.

Although chickens don’t have a strong sense of taste, they can still somehow choose nutrient-dense food. When presented with different types of food, they’ll usually end up selecting the most nutritious option in the lot. Their ability to find and select food most likely has to do with their excellent vision rather than their taste buds.

Can Chickens Taste Flavor?

Chickens can taste bitterness, saltiness, and sourness. They can’t taste sweetness and spiciness. Therefore, you can feed chickens spicy foods, such as jalapenos.

In fact, many chicken owners feed their chickens jalapenos to fight parasites. Jalapenos are also rich in nutrients, including vitamins B6 and C, potassium, and carotene.

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What Things Do Chickens Like to Eat?

Chickens are omnivores, so they enjoy eating a lot of different kinds of food. You can feed chickens a variety of fruits and vegetables:

  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon
  • Lettuce
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Pumpkins
  • Squash
  • Cucumbers
chickens eating watermelon rind
Image Credit: Pam Kirchhoff, Shutterstock

You can also give your chickens different kinds of seeds, nuts, and grains:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Corn
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Wheat
  • Walnuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Pecans
chicken eating seeds
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Chickens will also enjoy eating insects:

Since flavor doesn’t play a strong role in a chicken’s eating preferences, make sure to stick with nutrient-rich foods that will keep your chicken healthy. Also, make sure to give your chicken these treats occasionally. Giving chickens too many treats can lead to them developing diseases and health concerns.

For example, giving too much food with high-fat content can cause chickens to develop fatty liver hemorrhagic syndrome, which can ultimately result in death. Introducing too much protein into a chicken’s diet can lead to kidney disease and gout.

Black australorp chickens_Shutterstock_Ton Bangkeaw
Image Credit: Ton Bangkeaw, Shutterstock

What Should Chickens Never Eat?

Although chickens don’t have highly restrictive diets, there are still some foods that they should avoid.

  • Dried/Uncooked Beans: First, chickens should never eat raw or dried beans, particularly kidney beans. Uncooked beans contain phytohaemagglutinin, which is a toxin that can cause death. Once a chicken eats a dried bean, there’s nothing that can be done to save it.  Cooked beans are perfectly safe for chickens. Only give your chicken beans after you’ve soaked them in water and boiled them for at least half an hour.
  • Avocados: Parts of an avocado contain the toxin persin. Persin can cause difficulty breathing and heart problems.  Chickens can eat the flesh of an avocado because it doesn’t contain any persin. However, they can’t eat the skin or the stone because these parts have persin. If you’d rather stay safe than sorry, it’s best to avoid giving your chickens avocados.
  • Green Potatoes: Potatoes that have gone green and grown sprouts develop toxins called solanine and chaconine. These toxins are in all parts of the potato, and you also can’t cook off solanin.  There’s no safe form of a green potato that you can give to chickens. Therefore, stick with giving your chicken cooked potatoes before they go green.
chickens walking_PHATTARAWATOUM_Shutterstock
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Why is Studying Chickens’ Sense of Taste Important?

Many researchers in agriculture and livestock are invested in researching chickens’ gustatory systems because it helps them identify ways to develop and distribute the most nutritious diets.

Poultry is one of the most widely consumed protein products in the world, so researchers need to understand how taste and a chicken’s other senses affect its food intake. Understanding chickens’ taste responses can help researchers develop feed that’s nutritious and easily consumed by chickens.

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Final Thoughts

Chickens don’t have a strong sense of taste compared to humans. However, they can still taste certain flavors to an extent.

Though chickens lack taste buds, they have developed other means to make sure that they can eat a nutritious diet. In particular, their sense of sight helps them find insects and may even help them identify nutrient-dense foods.

Since flavor doesn’t play a significant role in a chicken’s food preferences, make sure to prioritize nutrients when you feed your chicken. Your chicken can enjoy any treats that you give it, so give them healthy snacks so that they can live long and full lives.

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