Chickens like to eat table scraps, and most of the leftovers from your meals are safe for them to eat. Table scraps alone don’t form a balanced diet for your chickens, so you should use them as a supplemental treat, not the main course, and you should feed them in moderation.
Most table scraps are lower in protein than commercial grower rations. Since baby chicks need plenty of protein to grow and develop properly, we recommend that you wait until chickens are about 3-4 months old before introducing table scraps.
Foods that are Safe to Feed Your Chickens
- Bread – Bread, in moderation, can be fed to your chickens, but avoid moldy bread.
- Cooked meats – Meats should be cut into small pieces.
- Corn – Raw, cooked, or dried corn can be fed to your chickens.
- Fruits – Aside from a few exceptions, most fruits are fine to feed your chickens. Suggestions are apples, berries, and melons (watermelon rinds are one of the favorites with our chickens).
- Grains – Rice, wheat, and other grains are fine for your chickens.
- Vegetables – Most cooked or raw vegetables are find to feed your chickens. Suggestions include broccoli, carrots (cooked or shredded), cabbage, chard, cucumbers, kale, lettuce, pumpkins, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.
Avoid Feeding These to Your Chickens
- Salt – A little salt isn’t going to hurt them, but avoid feeding them too much salt.
- Processed foods – It’s healthier for your chickens to eat leftovers from a home cooked meal than left over pizza or scraps from a TV dinner.
- Raw potato peels – Potatoes are members of the Nightshade family (Solanaceae), and their peels, especially when they turn green from exposure to the sunlight, contain the alkaloid solanine, which is toxic. Sweet potatoes and sweet potato skins belong to a different plant family. They do not contain solanine and are safe to feed to your chickens.
- Garlic, onions, and other strong tasting foods – These aren’t necessarily harmful to your chickens, but they may import an undesirable taste to the eggs that your hens lay.
- Avocado skins and pits – These contain persin, a fungicidal toxin that can be fatal to chickens. For more information, see Persin (on Wikipedia).
- Spoiled or rotten foods – Foods can produce toxins when they spoil.
- Soft drinks
- Coffee or coffee grinds
- Chocolate – Chocolate contains theobromine, which may be toxic to birds.
- Very greasy foods – These can be difficult for your chickens to digest.
- Raw meat – Feeding chickens raw meat can lead to cannibalism.
What are your favorite table scraps to feed your chickens? Have you discovered any other foods beyond those we have listed that are harmful to your chickens?
For more information on feeds and feeding of chickens, see Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, by Gail Damerow.