Feeding chickens scraps from the kitchen is a great way to give them healthy treats and make sure your leftovers don’t go to waste. Next time you clean out your refrigerator, scrape the dinner plates or bring home leftovers from dinner out, why not set some aside for your flock? They’ll love you for it!
Lots of folks wonder about what to feed chickens for treats. A general rule of thumb is if it’s good for you, it’s good for them, remembering to leave out anything that’s fried, sugary, salty, alcoholic or moldy.
First, let’s talk about chicken treats in general. Just like humans, chickens enjoy variety and their diets can gain depth through nutritious treats. Treats can also serve as a boredom buster during times of confinement and as an attention-grabbing device when you’d like your flock to focus on something else; like when you’re introducing new members. Keep in mind 90 to 10 as a good percentage for commercial feed vs. treats in a healthy chicken diet.
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What Can Chickens Eat?
Fruits and vegetables are a healthy addition to a chicken’s diet. You may wonder can chickens eat cucumbers? The short answer is yes. Also, can chickens eat pumpkins? Yes. Pumpkins and their seeds are packed full of nutrients and can have de-worming properties. So when fall comes around, be sure to grab a few extras for your flock. And, by all means, save the pumpkin guts when you’re carving jack-o-lanterns.
Common kitchen staples that can be eaten and enjoyed by your flock:
(Not the peels)
(Try to offer healthy bread
to give your chickens the
biggest bang for their buck)
(Avoid sugary cereals)
(Chickens especially love corn on the cob)
(Hard boiled eggs are yummy, warm
scrambled eggs are perfect on a cold morning)
(You can also give your flock the
bones and they will pick them clean)
(Avoid salted, seasoned and sugared nuts)
(Feed sparingly, too much can interfere
with calcium absorption)
(Do not feed green tomatoes, leaves or vines)
When feeding chickens scraps, dairy products are a common kitchen staple that raises questions. Dairy products can be fed to a backyard flock. However, dairy products in large amounts can cause diarrhea. So make sure to feed cheese, cottage cheese, milk and yogurt in moderation. If you live near a dairy farm, whey can be fed to chickens. Whey is the liquid that’s expelled during the cheesemaking process. It’s full of protein and nutrients. But again, it should be kept to a minimum.
How to Feed Treats
My chickens free range and know to come when I walk into the yard with treats. But there are creative ways to make it fun when feeding chickens scraps from the kitchen. A whole cabbage can be hung from the ceiling of a coop; just high enough so the chickens can reach it but have to work at it a little. This provides hours of entertainment as the chickens jump and peck to get the cabbage. There are also treat balls you can buy at the farm supply store. They can easily be opened, filled with smaller treats and hung in the coop and run. Chickens can have suet during the colder months to help keep them warm. You can purchase pre-made suet cakes or make your own suet cakes using ingredients from the list above like oats, seeds and nuts and maybe adding in some dried mealworms for extra protein. You can purchase same suet feeders as you would use for wild birds and hang them around the coop and run. (Just make sure not to share chicken suet feeders with the wild birds. This can spread disease.)
Feeding chickens scraps from the kitchen can be fun for both you and your flock. It’s a great way to interact with your birds and make sure their diet is well-rounded. Pay attention as you’re feeding chickens scraps, soon you’ll find they have favorites and you can be sure to provide them more often. Always be on the lookout for treat opportunities for your flock. I know I like to fill up my bag of popcorn (minus the butter) from the movie theater and bring it home for my birds. I stretch my dollar a little further that way and they get a fun treat.
Do you like feeding chickens scraps from the kitchen? What are some favorites for your birds? Let us know in the comments below.