Chickens are an excellent solution for reducing kitchen scraps and waste. They love to eat scraps from the kitchen. They can eat almost anything and are known for avoiding foods that shouldn’t be eaten. That being said, there are a few things you should never feed your chickens.
A Few Common Sense Items
Here are some commonsense items. Never feed your flock food scraps that are high in fat or salt or food that is rotten, spoiled, or moldy. The mold which grows on soft fruits like nuts, corn, and apples produces toxins.
Things Never to Feed Your Chickens
Yes, chickens will eat almost anything, but it is essential to know what's good for them and what's not. While some things on this list won’t do much harm, others will make them ill in large quantities, but a few are downright fatal, so it’s important to know which items fall into which category!
While cooked Amaranth is acceptable and actually recommended, raw amaranth contains growth-depressing antinutrients.
Apple seeds are on the list of things never to feed chickens because they contain amygdalin, which becomes cyanogenic glycoside. When metabolized, cyanogenic glycoside becomes hydrogen cyanide (HCN). Once enough HCN is accumulated in the body, your chickens can suffer from cyanide poisoning. A healthy chicken would only need to consume about ¾ of a teaspoon of apple seeds to begin to see negative effects.
The flesh of the avocado is fine for your flock, but the pits and skins are toxic to chickens. They contain a toxin called persin, which is potentially fatal.
Undercooked or dried beans can be harmful because they contain a compound known as hemagglutinin, which can inhibit the digestion of everything the bird eats and is almost always fatal to poultry.
As tasty as it is, butter contains too much fat to be safe for chickens. Small amounts shouldn’t cause significant issues, but remember your birds are small, and quantities can add up quickly.
Cherry pits, like apple seeds, contain amygdalin and are an absolute no. The flesh of the cherry, however, is a welcome treat for any flock.
While small amounts may be beneficial, it is also possible for citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and oranges to interfere with calcium absorption causing soft eggshells.
Most people know that chocolate can be harmful to pups. But it can also be toxic to chickens! Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine. The darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it has and the more dangerous it is. Chocolate is known to cause heart problems in birds, ranging from an irregular heartbeat to full cardiac arrest.
Onions contain sulfur compounds that break down into thiosulfinates, which can cause red blood cells to rupture, resulting in hemolytic anemia. Whether the onions are raw or cooked makes no difference, and poisoning can occur whether a chicken eats a lot of onions all at once or in small amounts over a long period of time. Garlic also contains thiosulfinates, but only in trace amounts compared to the much higher concentration in onions.
The toxins found in green potatoes are solanine and chaconine. Both of which are found in the peel, the flesh, and the sprouts. It’s important to note that solanine is not altered by cooking. In contrast, cooked potatoes are fine for chickens, but any part of the potato that is green will cause drowsiness, paralysis, and, eventually, death.
Raw potatoes are another no-no. They contain starches that don’t digest well and antinutrients concentrated in the skin that inhibit the activity of certain enzymes needed to break down proteins for digestion. A few scraps of raw potato or raw skins won’t harm your chickens, but too much at once can cause digestive discomfort.
Like humans, chickens can eat the rhubarb stock, but the leaves contain oxalic acid, which is toxic to your flock.
JLike the green potato, the green tomato (and tomato leaves) contains solanine. The ripe sweet fruit of this nightshade is perfectly fine for your flock, but never the leaves, and never if the tomato is unripe.
Keeping Your Flock Healthy and Safe
As you can see from this list, there are not a whole lot of items that your chickens can’t eat. At the end of the day, preventing problems caused by inappropriate foods is primarily a matter of common sense. As a general rule, don’t feed your flock anything you wouldn’t eat yourself, and always in moderation.
Your chicken's diet should comprise 90% properly formulated chicken feed and 10% scraps and treats. And remember that when you do provide treats, you should always provide healthy, wholesome treats that complement your flock's diet.
If you are concerned about specific foods in your chicken's diet, feel free to ask about them in the comments below, and as always, until next time,