Listing all the things chickens will eat that are good for them would be nearly impossible. Chickens will eat just about anything, and the few things that aren’t good for them aren’t good for humans, either. Still, let’s take a quick look at some of the safe kitchen scraps for chickens.
Chickens love just about any kind of fruit, with the exception of citrus fruits. They especially like apples, bananas, berries, peaches, pears, melons, and grapes.
If you make apple jelly or apple cider, save the left-over pulp for your flock. If you have few chickens but a whole lot of pulp, store it in the refrigerator and dole it out a little at a time.
Chickens can safely eat most vegetables. Some can be served raw, others should be cooked.
Chickens like raw beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, corn, cucumbers, garlic, mangels, peas, tomatoes, squash, and sweet potatoes. Soft items like cucumbers and tomatoes, and small items like peas, may be fed whole. Others should be chopped into peckable pieces. Greens that may be fed whole or chopped include cabbage, kale, lettuce, and sprouts.
Cooked potatoes are okay, but raw potatoes are not safe kitchen scraps for chickens. Also avoid any part of an avocado — pit, peel, leaves from the tree — except the soft flesh.
A little cooked pasta is safe for chickens to eat. They like any kind of plain pasta — macaroni, noodles, spaghetti, and so forth. They also go for cooked rice.
If you’ve watched chickens eagerly seek out bugs, worms, and even mice and toads, you know they love meat. And meat is an excellent source of protein that is especially beneficial for conditioning show birds.
Chickens like any kind of meat and seafood. But go easy on the fish if you are growing chickens for you to eat. Otherwise your chicken meat could taste a bit fishy.
Feeding only cooked meat is the safest bet, and that can include well-cooked chicken. Feed lean cuts or remove excess fat, and cut the meat into small peckable pieces.
Chickens will also entertain themselves pecking meat off of bones, but avoid fish bones. Also do not feed your chickens any kind of processed lunch meat.
Chickens like eggs, and eggs are good for chickens. But feed only cooked eggs to avoid training your chickens to eat their own eggs. When you have surplus eggs, scramble them or boil and mash them.
Feel free to include the shells. Hens can get some needed calcium by eating their own recycled eggshells. Rinse off the shells, dry them, and crush them. Then feed them as-is, or stir them into cooked eggs (as in the photo). Recycled eggshells alone will not provide enough calcium for layers, so continue feeding the usual calcium supplement.
Chickens are not mammals, and therefore are not equipped to digest an abundance of dairy products. However, they do like yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, and even milk, all of which — in small amounts — can provide beneficial nutrients.
Just about the only human snack that’s safe for chickens to eat is plain popcorn. That means popped corn before butter and salt, or caramel coating, or any other flavoring has been added.
Avoid all other snack foods, including chocolate and other candy, or anything containing a lot of sugar. So, no donuts. Also no processed snacks. And no fast foods, including left-over French fries or pizza.
Feeding Safe Kitchen Scraps
Here are a few caveats for feeding safe kitchen scraps to chickens. First, with the exception of cooked, mashed eggs without the shells, and small amounts of finely chopped greens, never feed scraps to chicks. One reason is you don’t want to unbalance the carefully formulated nutrition in their starter ration. Another reason is their digestive systems are still developing.
Even for mature chickens, kitchen scraps are not a substitute for a regular ration. Instead they should be considered occasional treats to be fed only in small amounts. A good rule of thumb is to limit such treats to no more than 10% of the flock’s total daily diet.
Another good practice is to remove any scraps the chickens don’t finish the same day they are fed. Left overnight, scraps could start to mold or otherwise spoil. Also they will attract rodents and other undesirable wildlife.
Finally, know that chickens are like humans in that each has different likes and dislikes in what it will or won’t eat. Some preferences reflect the chickens’ current nutritional needs. Other preferences have to do with what chickens can and can’t taste.
And that’s today’s news from the Cackle Coop.
Gail Damerow is the author of The Chicken Health Handbook.