Chickens are some seriously diverse eaters. After seeing the long list of foods that chickens will happily eat, it’s pretty difficult to think of them as picky eaters. Just like dogs, chickens will eat pretty much anything you offer them, except chickens will eat the leafy greens too, which dogs often show disdain for.
From fruits and weeds to insects and animals, chickens are voracious omnivores. They’ll eat plant-based foods and animal proteins, providing a complete mix of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and essential nutrients. Many chickens will get a lot of their food from simply foraging. While foraging, chickens will eat grass, weeds, flowers, insects, small animals, seeds, and whatever else they manage to find.
But when your chickens aren’t foraging, what should you be feeding them? If you’re unsure, the following 99 foods are a great place to start. These foods are all safe for chickens, and many of them are favorite foods of the species. For easier browsing, we’ve split the foods into groups, such as vegetables, fruits, and kitchen scraps.
The 99 Foods That Chickens Can Eat
Truthfully, the list of foods that you can’t feed to chickens is much shorter than the list of foods that you can. This list isn’t conclusive, but this list does a great job of covering the basics. Dive into each food group and figure out which foods you want to offer your chickens.
Fruits are loaded with vitamins and minerals that are essential for chicken health. Many fruits are safe for chickens, and you can feed them to your chickens daily without problem. However, citrus fruits should be avoided, such as lemons, limes, and grapefruits, as these can cause diarrhea and might even slow down egg production.
These fruits are safe for your chickens:
As omnivores, a lot of a chicken’s nutrition will come from plant-based foods, including vegetables. You can offer veggies to your chickens every day as they’re loaded with vital nutrients that can help keep your chickens healthy.
However, many of these veggies grow on plants that could be toxic for chickens, so only offer them the flesh of the vegetable and never the plant. For example, tomatoes and potatoes are safe for chickens, but the leaves of the tomato and pepper plants are not. Also, never feed avocado to a chicken, as the pit and skin are full of persin—a toxin that can be deadly for chickens.
These veggies are A-OK for your chickens:
Flowers and Weeds
Most people aren’t particularly big on eating plants, other than fruits and vegetables. Chickens, on the other hand, have no such qualms and will eat a wide variety of plants, including grass and many common weeds, making it much easier to feed chickens through foraging.
These flowers and weeds are all on the table for your chickens:
- Wild violet
- Bee balm
Insects are small and offer a large dose of protein, which is necessary for omnivores like chickens. Chickens might be omnivores, but they’re certainly not predators, so they can’t hunt down larger prey. As such, chickens will often eat insects they dig from the ground while foraging. Additionally, you can offer your chickens insects as protein-packed treats that are tasty and offer a health boost for your birds.
Try out any of these little critters to satisfy your chickens:
- Insect trail mix
Though chickens are far from apex predators, if the opportunity to eat a slightly larger animal presents itself, chickens will take advantage. These birds will eat many smaller animals, including everything on this list. That said, not every small animal is safe for chickens. While frogs are safe for chicken consumption, toads can be deadly if ingested!
Fret not if you see your chicken taking down one of these critters:
- Feeder fish
Kitchen scraps can be safe for your chickens to eat, though you’ll have to be a bit careful. Not all of the spices and seasonings you’ve used on your food are safe for chickens. For instance, you don’t want to feed your chickens anything with garlic or onion on it. However, many cooked human foods are totally safe, though you’ll want to limit the amount of salt your chickens get.
As long as you’ve checked for seasonings, you’re in the clear to share some of these human treats with your chickens:
29 Foods You Should Never Give to Chickens
As you can tell from this list, chickens can eat quite a lot of foods without worry. That doesn’t mean they can eat everything though. There are many foods that chickens should never eat. These can cause health problems, weight gain, or may even be poisonous to a chicken. Some of these foods can be fed to chickens in other forms, such as uncooked pasta, which is safe to serve to chickens cooked, but never raw. Other inclusions on this list are the leaves of vegetable plants which might be toxic to chickens, even though the vegetable produced by the plant is safe.
Steer clear of allowing your chickens to partake in these foods:
- Uncooked pasta
- Uncooked beans
- Tomato plant leaves
- Rhubarb or rhubarb leaves
- Potato plant leaves
- Moldy, rotten, or spoiled food
- Ice cream
- Green potatoes
- Fruit pits and seeds
- Fried foods
While chickens can’t eat all the same foods we do, they’re not far off. Many foods that people eat are perfectly safe to share with chickens. That means that a lot of your kitchen scraps could be recycled to your chickens, reducing your overall waste. But be certain not to feed your chickens anything that’s on the unsafe list. Stick to the foods that are known to be safe for chickens and avoid any poisonous or toxic foods, seasonings, and additives.
- Related read: Do Chickens Eat Mice? Are Mice Bad for Chickens?
Featured Image Credit: Nataliya Nazarova, Shutterstock