Feeding Your Chickens Table Scraps

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 feed them and moderation and use them as a supplemental treat, not the main course.

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 waiting 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.
  • Oatmeal
  • Peas
  • Vegetables – Most cooked or raw vegetables are okay 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 won’t 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 leftover pizza or scraps from a TV dinner.
  • Raw potato peels – Potatoes are members of the Nightshade family (Solanaceae). Potato 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 won’t harm your chickens, but they may impart 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.

Related Reading

For more information on feeds and feeding of chickens, see Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, by Gail Damerow.

This post was originally published in 2011 and was updated on May 25, 2015.
This entry was posted in Feeds and Feeding. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Feeding Your Chickens Table Scraps

  1. James Hammond says:

    Our chickens and ducks go crazy for grapes! That is their biggest treat – and they are a lot cheaper than mealworms for treats.

  2. Jo Anne says:

    My chickens absolutely adore shrimp tails!!! If we have a dinner of shrimp in a restaurant we bring home a doggy bag of shrimp tails and the chickens devour them before the tails hit the ground! It’s amazing!

  3. Howard says:

    We put all the vegi peels including potatoes , a couple potatoes if there aren’t many peels in a pot and cook with a quart or so of water until soft while the water is hot I add a bit of protein supplement, alfalfa pellets and some ground barley to soak up the water and mash together. In winter we feed it warm. They love it.
    Also they eat five gallon buckets of weeds, especially chick weed. This is for about a do end hens.
    Howard

  4. Sharon Spencer says:

    Wonderful list! I admit I have given them avocado and potato skins, thank goodness it didn’t harm them. I won’t be doing that again. Thanks so much for the list.

  5. ms says:

    Yogurt. Plain, homemade, unsweetened yogurt.

  6. Sandra Quick says:

    I just placed my house roo Bootsy..(Iv’e had him in the house since he was min. old…he had diapers.) I placed him with very good friends that have standard chickens but fell in love with my bantams…He won’t be a house roo but he will have 6 hens all to himself. He was sweet, gentle, smart and funny. I miss him already but I think he will be happier and I know he has a loving home…….I know this sounds nuts …. I didn’t plan to become so attached to him but even my dogs miss him.

  7. Phil says:

    CHOCOLATE OATMEAL COOKIES!!! Our hens will snatch them right out of our hands. Our birds also come running when we clink the dinner plate.

  8. Allison says:

    My chickens are insane for cat food! Especially canned. I try now to feed the outdoor cat before I let them out because they will push him aside to get to it. Also I had one incidence where my rooster overindulged in fermenting tomatoes and became intoxicated! He was fine the next day but he really tied one on!

  9. Kay T. Moore says:

    When I come home from work in the evening, I let my girls and one rooster out to run in the yard and garden. After I clean their pen and waters, they gather around and devour about 8 to 10 bananas. Then when it is time for bed I always have “snacks” to round them up and they love it. They really like Thai noodles and rice, brown and white and tons of veggies. One of their favorites is chopped up bologna.Of course I feed them scratch and pellets.

    • Glen Crowder says:

      My silkies come running as soon as they hear my voice. I have to take my veggies and rice to not waste anything I can. I have to get a new pup in order to dispose of everything the racoons don’t finish. My silkies are so sweet and one just comes to the door at nite to come in and sleep on a towl

  10. Patty P says:

    What about eggplant peels (raw)?
    Edible mushroom (the cut off stems), bought at the grocery store?

    Mine adore onions, raw or cooked and grab those up first, along with tomatoes and yellow bell peppers, then the cucumber and carrot peels. I haven’t noticed an off flavor in the eggs, but then I scramble mine every morning with onions anyway. My hens leave lettuce and celery leaves for last. My hens love uncooked rolled oats, all the things mentioned in the blog, cantaloupe, honeydew, sunflower seeds, more.

    I started feeding mine a small treat of minced broccoli, carrots, and peas (cooked) in a shallow bowl at 6 weeks old. I never fed enough to fill their crops, just enough to start them eating veggies. Rarely I gave them a bit of yogurt or cottage cheese since they didn’t need the calcium yet and very much can be harmful to chicks. They are nuts now for cottage cheese!

  11. Amy says:

    The only thing our chickens have turned their beaks up at so far is butternut squash. Weirdos. :-D They love tomatoes and tomato skins and will run around with the little red strips hanging from their beaks!

  12. cristi says:

    I give my chicks the plant my mother calls the burning bush. It is real green in the summer and as fall approaches they turn red. I pull up bags of them, put in a bucket of water, to keep them lush, and give them some daily. Talk about fighting over it they do.

  13. Carol says:

    What about cooked potato skins?

    • Francoise Taylor says:

      I gave mine every morning cook vegetable peel tomatoes all vegie peel with bread in the juice of the vegie cook ,they jump on the backet for it they so crazy about cook scrap,I gave the little scrach grain and rabbit feed when they look for some or for the night when I try to round them back to the coop,they eat strawberry scrap pineaple bell pepper etc…

  14. Pam Lapham says:

    My chickens love spaghetti.

  15. Maria says:

    Why not citrus?

  16. inblume says:

    We give our chickens the ends of the lettuce and all kinds of scraps from our vegetables, and we sometimes give them dried fruit and the last little bit of cereal our son always leaves behind in the box… They love the dried fruit. We were told to give them pumpkin too as it is a natural dewormer…. I love my little flock. They are really starting to lay eggs now!

  17. Betty says:

    Great list! But you forgot one other very serious food to avoid: citrus!

  18. Danny Sleeper says:

    Our chickens really like tomatoes, so I have to make sure I have enough to go around or they will fight over them; they also really do love watermelon.

  19. Ann says:

    With the exception of the garlic, onions and other strong tasting food, I think that list could apply to people too!

  20. Claudia Foley says:

    Our girls love the rice that form a soft crust at the bottom of the pan. I sprinkle flaxseed meal and feed them.

  21. Cyndi McClain says:

    Our chickens LUV when we toss them some of our corn chips. They also love the tomatoes from the garden. We give them the ones that the chipmunks have already pecked at and can’t use in our kitchen.

  22. Cesar Diaz says:

    Before our recent incident with my son’s dog, our chickens LOVED tomatoes and melon rind.

    • inblume says:

      I am sorry about your dog incident… We had to train our dog because she took out 3 of our chickens early on… She doesn’t bother them now, but it took a lot of patience and training. We had to keep them cooped while we were not outside, and just kept telling the dog she had to leave them alone and that it would be alright… Now she doesn’t give them any mind.

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