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What to Feed or Not Feed to Chickens

What to Feed or Not Feed to Chickens

What to Feed Chickens

You’ve run out of chicken feed – again. Before you reach for that avocado on your kitchen counter or that pack of dried beans in your pantry, you need to know what to feed chickens and what’s potentially toxic to them.

Besides, nutritious feeds don’t have to come with a hefty price tag attached to them. There are plenty of viable alternatives you can use to satisfy their hunger cravings.

Without further ado, here’s a comprehensive guide on what to feed or not feed to chickens.

What Can Chickens Eat?

If you’re wondering – What can I feed my chickens? The answer is – a lot.

You always want to go for quality chicken feed, particularly if you’re rearing hens for eggs. You want something that’s packed with protein and calcium. It also needs to have the right amount of vitamins to boost their immune system for your chickens to stay strong and healthy.

The good news is – most commercial feeds come with an adequate supply of these nutrients and minerals, depending on the age and respective nutritional requirements of your flock.

While we don’t recommend this, there’s a lot you can feed your chickens without having to buy feed. Poultry generally has a high affinity for anything with protein. Insects in particular – dead or alive – are a huge hit with them.

They also enjoy pecking on seeds like wheat and sunflower. You also can’t go wrong with corn. To be honest, it’s probably easier to list the foods they can eat compared to those they can’t.

Here’s a table of suggested treats for your chickens as an alternative to commercial feeds.

Fruit, Seeds, and Plants Safe for Chickens

FruitSeedsPlantsProteinsGrainDairy
BananasHempKaleEggsMilletWhey
BerriesFlaxPumpkin & SquashBlack Soldier Fly LarvaeOatsCheese
CantaloupePumpkinSpinachDried River ShrimpRyeMilk
WatermelonSunflowerLettuceMealwormsWheatPlain Greek Yogurt

Cooked oatmeal, cooked rice, flax, and corn are also excellent choices. If you’re up to it, consider cultivating black soldier fly larvae, crickets, and worms. Chickens can’t get enough of creepy crawlies. Not to mention the fact that they are nutritious, packed with protein, and readily available in your backyard.

All these are safe treats for baby chicks too. They typically eat many of the same foods as adult chickens, just in smaller quantities. Chicks do, however, require a higher amount of protein in their diet to help them grow properly. Mealworms, Waxworms, Dubia roaches, shredded meat, and eggs are excellent sources of protein for your developing brood.

What Not to Feed Chickens

Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Regardless of how harmless some foods may seem, they can turn out to be toxic and, in some cases, even lethal for your poultry.

Foods Bad for Chickens

FruitVegetablesLegumesGrainsOther
Apple SeedsChardsDried BeansDried RiceSalt
Avocado Skins & PitsOnionsRaw BeansUncooked RiceSugar
Peach PitsGreen Potatoes  Chocolate
Rhubarb LeavesUnripe Tomatoes  Moldy Food

What Is Poisonous to Chickens

Here are the top five foods that could potentially kill your flock.

1. Avocado

You’ve probably heard that avocados, in general, are poisonous to chickens. That’s true – to some extent. It depends on which part of the avocado you’re feeding to them.

Safe as they may be for humans, avocados have a toxin in them known as persin. When consumed in large quantities, this compound may cause poultry to develop heart and respiratory complications, resulting in death in less than 48 hours.

Scary as that may be, persin is found in high concentrations in the skin and stone of the avocado, as well as the bark and leaves of the trees they grow on (if you happen to have one growing on your property. Don’t feed these to your chickens under any circumstances.

The delicious fleshy part of the avocado has significantly lower levels of the toxin. If you’re not crazy about avocados and wanted to give them to your flock instead, do it in moderation. Just the fleshy part, though.

2. Chocolate

It is common knowledge that chocolate is harmful to cats and dogs. This applies to chickens as well. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which are known to cause cardiac arrest in birds. A chicken can die within 24 hours of consuming chocolate, so keep those sweet treats to yourself.

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3. Green Potatoes and Unripe Tomatoes

These contain toxins known as chaconine and solanine,both found in the sprouts, flesh, and peel of green potatoes and unripe tomatoes. Feeding these to your flock will cause paralysis and eventual death.

4. Moldy Foods

Not all mold is bad. After all, penicillin is, essentially, “mold juice.” On the other hand, the mold that grows on soft fruits is toxic.

Some toxins are more dangerous than others, like those produced when mold grows on apples, corn, and nuts. In short, if it has mold, don’t feed it to your chicken. It is wildly carcinogenic.

5. Raw or Dried Beans

Eating raw or dried beans is known to cause serious illness in humans. For chickens, however, ingesting dried beans is always fatal. They contain phytohaemagglutinin, a toxin that can kill poultry in less than an hour.

To make beans safe for your flock, you need to soak them for at least six hours, discard that water, and rinse them thoroughly. Then, boil them in fresh water for a minimum of 30 minutes.

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Balanced Nutrition for Healthy Development

There you have it – what to feed or not to feed to chickens. Keep in mind that the foods we’ve detailed here only serve as a treat and not as an entire meal replacement. If you’re considering this as a permanent alternative to feeds, then you’ll need to grow them in your garden all-year-round.

If that sounds like too much of a hassle, you can simply go the commercial feeds route. It guarantees that your chickens get all the nutrients they need and in the quantities required.

For more information on bird health, use our online Vet Chat to talk to any of our qualified avian veterinarians today.

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