Can Chickens Eat Bread? 3 Things you Should NOT Feed your Chickens

This post was most recently updated on September 28th, 2020

Some people call chickens ‘two legged pigs’ and will feed them anything. It is actually the chickens natural behaviour to compete for fresh food and they will eat it quickly, no matter what you are feeding them. One of the most commonly asked questions in the beginner chicken world is “can chickens eat bread?”

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Below we look at whether chickens should eat bread, as well as many other things that you should avoid feeding your chickens.

There are some common foods that you should not be feeding your chickens. What you don’t want is for the chickens to fill up their crop with low nutrient foods, and to miss out on all the goodness of the high nutrient foods.

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Can Chickens Eat Bread?

Bread is a common food for well meaning people to feed to chickens and ducks. The problem with feeding chickens bread is that it can easily form a ball in the crop which can lead to catastrophic blockages.

Yeasts and sugars in the bread can ferment in the crop which increases the pH of the crop contents, which changes the bacteria and other microbiome that grow in the crop. This can then lead on to chronic cases of sour crop that are very hard to treat.

So, in short, no, ideally you would not feed chickens bread.

If you do decide to feed bread to your chickens, try breaking it up and soaking it with some apple cider vinegar overnight. This will both increase the acidity, making it easier to digest, as well as breaking up the fibres to help stop it balling up in the crop.

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Here are 3 foods you should not be feeding your chickens

1. Milk

It turns out that chickens are lactose intolerant! Milk is high in protein and other minerals, but the lactose can give the birds upset stomachs.

If you do give milk products, try small amounts of cultured ones, think yogurt or cheese as they have a lot less lactose in them.

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2. Porridge

There is nothing wrong with a small volume of porridge later on, but oats are very low in protein and fat, both of which chickens need.

Porridge fills up a chickens stomach, so they don’t have room for the high nutrient foods they need to be eating.

Oats have virtually no vitamin A, D or E and high in beta glucans that birds cannot digest. Too many beta glucans will form a sludge in the gut, causing blockages.

3. Raw Eggs

This is for two reasons. 

1 – It can encourage the chickens to seek out and eat their own eggs.

2 – Chickens can carry salmonella, raw eggs from contaminated chickens will spread the disease amongst your flock.

Here are some other foods that you should avoid giving your chickens:

  • Onions and garlic can give the eggs an off taste
  • Fresh potato peels, especially those tinged green, contain a toxin called solanine.
  • Avocado pits and skins both include a potentially fatal toxin called persin.
  • Avoid feeding your flock rhubarb and citrus.
  • Undercooked or dried beans contain an avian toxin called hemaglutin.

Generally speaking, a well fed chicken will not attempt to eat toxic foods as their only taste buds are ones for bitter food, bitter foods are usually toxic, and they are quite good at not eating them!

The best advice is to feed a balanced, commercial feed first, then let the chickens eat their other food, treats or forage later in the day. This will ensure they are getting all the nutrition they need for growth and egg production.

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Treats that you CAN feed chickens

This list is largely taken from the backyardchickens forum.

Apples Raw, cooked and applesauce
Asparagus Raw or cooked
Bananas Without the peel
Beans and green beans Well-cooked only, never dry
Beets Greens and cooked root
Berries All kinds
Breads Only in small amounts, preferably soaked in ACV
Broccoli & Cauliflower
Cabbage & Brussels Sprouts Whole head
Carrots and tops Raw and cooked
Catfood Wet and dry- Feed in strict moderation, perhaps only during moulting
Cheese Including cottage cheese
Cooked Chicken
Corn On cob and canned, raw and cooked
Crickets (live) Can be bought at bait or pet-supply stores.
Cucumbers Let mature for yummy seeds and flesh
Eggs Hardcooked and scrambled are a good source of protein, and a favorite treat.
Eggplant .
Fish/Seafood Cooked only.
Flowers -Marigolds, nasturtiums, pansies, etc Make sure they haven’t been treated with pesticides,
such as florist flowers might be.
Fruit Pears, peaches, cherries, apples
Grains Bulgar, flax, niger, wheatberries,etc.
Grapes Seedless only. For chicks, cutting them in half makes it easier for them to swallow.
Grits Cooked
“Leftovers” Only feed your chickens food items which are still considered edible by humans, don’t feed anything spoiled, moldy, oily, salty or unidentifiable.
Lettuce / Kale Any leafy greens, spinach collards, chickweed included.
Mealworms Available at pet supply stores or on the internet
Meat scraps of any kind. Not too fatty, A good source of protein in moderation.
Melon Both the seeds and the flesh are good chicken treats.
Oatmeal Raw, fermented or cooked
Pasta/Macaroni Cooked spaghetti, etc.
Peas Peas and pea tendrils and flowers
Peppers (bell) .
Pomegranates Raw
Popcorn Popped, no butter, no salt.
Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes/Yams Cooked only—avoid the green parts of peels!
Pumpkins/Winter Squash Raw or cooked seeds and flesh
Raisins .
Rice Cooked only
Scratch Scratch is cracked corn with grains (such as wheat, oats
and rye) mixed in, not a complete feed.
Sprouts Wheat and oat sprouts are great!
Summer Squash Yellow squash and zucchini
Sunflower Seeds Sunflower seeds inthe shell are fine to feed, as well as shelled.
Tomatoes Raw and cooked.
Turnips Cooked.
Watermelon Served cold, it can keep chickens cool and hydrated during hot summers.
Yogurt Plain or flavored

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