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

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.

RELATED POST: Raising laying hens the right way

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.

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.

ApplesRaw, cooked and applesauce
AsparagusRaw or cooked
BananasWithout the peel
Beans and green beansWell-cooked only, never dry
BeetsGreens and cooked root
BerriesAll kinds
BreadsOnly in small amounts, preferably soaked in ACV
Broccoli & Cauliflower
Cabbage & Brussels SproutsWhole head
Carrots and topsRaw and cooked
CatfoodWet and dry- Feed in strict moderation, perhaps only during moulting
CheeseIncluding cottage cheese
Cooked Chicken
CornOn cob and canned, raw and cooked
Crickets (live)Can be bought at bait or pet-supply stores.
CucumbersLet mature for yummy seeds and flesh
EggsHardcooked and scrambled are a good source of protein, and a favorite treat.
Fish/SeafoodCooked only.
Flowers -Marigolds, nasturtiums, pansies, etcMake sure they haven’t been treated with pesticides,
such as florist flowers might be.
FruitPears, peaches, cherries, apples
GrainsBulgar, flax, niger, wheatberries,etc.
GrapesSeedless 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 / KaleAny leafy greens, spinach collards, chickweed included.
MealwormsAvailable at pet supply stores or on the internet
Meat scraps of any kind.Not too fatty, A good source of protein in moderation.
MelonBoth the seeds and the flesh are good chicken treats.
OatmealRaw, fermented or cooked
Pasta/MacaroniCooked spaghetti, etc.
PeasPeas and pea tendrils and flowers
Peppers (bell).
PopcornPopped, no butter, no salt.
Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes/YamsCooked only—avoid the green parts of peels!
Pumpkins/Winter SquashRaw or cooked seeds and flesh
RiceCooked only
ScratchScratch is cracked corn with grains (such as wheat, oats
and rye) mixed in, not a complete feed.
SproutsWheat and oat sprouts are great!
Summer SquashYellow squash and zucchini
Sunflower SeedsSunflower seeds inthe shell are fine to feed, as well as shelled.
TomatoesRaw and cooked.
WatermelonServed cold, it can keep chickens cool and hydrated during hot summers.
YogurtPlain or flavored

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