Is Feeding Chickens Scraps from the Kitchen Safe?

Can Chickens Eat Tomatoes? Can Chickens Eat Watermelon? Can Chickens Eat Popcorn?

feeding-chickens-scraps

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.

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:

Apples
Apricots
Bananas
(Not the peels)
Beets
(Plus greens)
Blackberries
Blueberries
Bread
(Try to offer healthy bread
to give your chickens the
biggest bang for their buck)
Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage
Cantaloupe
Carrots
(Plus greens)
Cereal
(Avoid sugary cereals)
Cherries
Collard Greens
Corn
(Chickens especially love corn on the cob)
Cranberries
Cucumbers
Eggs
(Hard boiled eggs are yummy, warm
scrambled eggs are perfect on a cold morning)
Fish
Garlic
Grains
Grapes
Honeydew Melons
Kale
Lettuce
Meat
(You can also give your flock the
bones and they will pick them clean)
Nuts
(Avoid salted, seasoned and sugared nuts)
Oats
Parsnips
Pasta
Peaches
Pears
Peas
Plums
Pomegranate
Popcorn
Pumpkins
Radishes
(Plus greens)
Raisins
Rice
Seafood
Seeds
Spinach
(Feed sparingly, too much can interfere
with calcium absorption)
Sprouted Seeds
Squash
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes
(Do not feed green tomatoes, leaves or vines)
Turnips
Watermelon
Zucchini

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.

feeding-chickens-scraps

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.

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Comments
  • Robert B.

    I don’t know if my opinion is based in reality or not, but it doesn’t sound like a good idea to me to feed eggs to chickens. Feeding beef by-products to cows was the common practice that lead to one of the scariest diseases ever, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease). With so many other good choices for treats, I’ll opt to forego feeding eggs to my ‘girls.

    Reply
    • Cows are herbivores so feeding beef and beef by products was not a good idea, for their digestion alone. Chickens are omnivores like us and they need protein. I wouldn’t feed whole eggs, just because they could identify them as food and start eating your fresh eggs. Meat is the first thing mine go for, then seeds, then fruit.

      Reply
  • My 3 girls love homemade chicken soup with barley & noodles! They also love Top Ramen noodles cooked plain.

    Reply
  • I’m kind of new to raising chickens. This is only my second year and I did a little experimenting last year with treats for my chickens. I fed them home grown blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. They also really like the wild huckleberries that grow locally. They really love corn on the cob and water melon, so I’m growing both of them this year for my girls. The chickens also like apples and cabbage. Last year I grew them lettuce, kale and spinach for them. Your list was really helpful. I’m going to try some new things this year.

    Reply
  • prawn heads and shells if you throw them they will hardly hit the ground/also we buy cheap dried pasta and rice cook it in any water youve cooked in or deglazed pans with and they lap it up

    Reply
  • I fix bowls of cut-up fruit for my family, including pineapple; I give kiwi peels and pineapple rinds to the chickens. My chickens literally fight over the pineapple rind, and pick it clean.

    Reply
  • my girls love to peck at the corn cobs (after we eat the corn) and any food from the curcubit family–especially pumpkins in the fall.

    Reply
  • I’ve read that pits of anything like cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, are not good…toxic. and no seeds of apples, pears etc for the same reason. for some reason, my girls won’t eat celery. Even my home grown.

    Reply
  • Mine LOVE cooked warm oatmeal in the winter with corn and frozen corn and peas in the summer

    Reply
  • I take fruits and veggies and put in ice cube trays freeze them. I put in roaster pan and put them in pen. They love them. Gives them a treaty and they get fresh cold water and a treaty also.

    Reply
  • My girls and my magnificent roo, did I mention how magnificent he is…. eat just about anything that comes out of the kitchen. They love left over anything as my family try to stay very far away from highly processed foods. I will say that I had a hen suffer from an internal bug last year that caused her legs to go out from under her and read on backyardchickens.com a recommendation to feed her homemade yogurt with an egg yolk mixed in. She lay in my lap and ate every last drop each time I fed her. The yogurt culture and the protein from the yolk cured my hen within a few days. Yes, my flock will pick a cooked chicken carcass cleaner than a whistle, a watermelon rind down to the outer skin, garden greens, corn cobs, carrot tops, crushed egg shells and an occasional left over scrambled egg, and what ever they can scratch up from the forest floor. They love worms, grubs, beetles (select), meal worms, and the residue from the orchard. I admit to cooking them a wild rice and grains mixture every once in a while which disappears before I can get out of the way.

    Reply
  • I see carrots and carrot tops on the list but mine weren’t interested in them at all. Do yours eat carrots?

    I pretty much discovered that they didn’t like anything at went into stock (celery, carrots, herbs, onions, garlic, peppers). Everything they would eat they got and the rest of my veg scraps went into the freezer to make stock with once I accumulated enough.

    Reply
  • My girls love watermelon, blueberries and tomatoes. When it comes to protein, I haven’t found one they didn’t like. I sprout lentils for them and they love them. Yogurt with ground up eggshell for some extra calcium. Pretty much everything I bring out they love.

    Reply
  • I glanced through the replies but my question is about okra, maybe cut the still green pods in half long way to allow them to get to the seeds, does that sound ok?

    Reply

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