This post was most recently updated on March 1st, 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.
Here are 3 foods you should not be feeding your chickens
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.
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.
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|
|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|
|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.|
|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.|
|“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|
|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|
|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.|
|Watermelon||Served cold, it can keep chickens cool and hydrated during hot summers.|
|Yogurt||Plain or flavored|
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