Chickens may seem like bottomless pits that can digest just about anything without issue, but there are some foods they should avoid! Keep reading to get an idea of what your backyard chickens should not eat for safety reasons.
Always consult a licensed veterinarian about your chickens’ diets and needs.
While not necessarily poisonous to chickens, it has no real nutritional value for them. It can also be high in sodium, which is not great for your chicken’s health.
Onion is not great for a number of reasons. While your birds can technically have it in very small quantities, there are a few reasons to avoid it altogether.
For one, too much onion in a chicken’s diet could result in your eggs having an unpleasant flavor.
Additionally, onions contain organosulfoxides that can cause toxicosis in many animal species. Signs of onion toxicity in birds include diarrhea, loss of appetite, listlessness, paleness, difficulty breathing, and red-tinged urates.
Chickens are free to eat avocado flesh in moderation, but the pits and skin must never be eaten. This is due to the fact that avocado pits / skins contain the toxin persin, which has been associated with heart failure in hens.
Technically, chickens are eating raw meat every time they pick up a bug/worm. Still, though, it is always best to err on the side of caution. Cooking your chickens’ eggs and meat will allow you to avoid worrisome health complications altogether.
Additionally, you don’t want your chickens to get a taste for raw eggs – it is a tough habit to break and will result in many unusable eggs.
Many fruit seeds/pits contain small levels of cyanide which can be fatal for your flock. The fleshy part of the fruit is fine, just make sure to remove the seeds first!
Rhubarb contains anthraquinones, which can have a laxative effect on your chickens.
Raw Potatoes and Peels
Raw potatoes & their peels contain a toxin called alkaloid solanine, which can harm your chickens.
Green Tomatoes / Tomato PLANTS
Your chickens are free to eat a ripe, juicy tomato with no issue. However, they should NEVER eat the tomato plant (leaves, stem, etc). They should also not be given underripe green tomatoes, which contain solanin and chaconine aretoxins.
Beans contain phytohaemagglutinin, a toxin that is fatal to birds when not cooked. Kidney beans are especially dangerous.
If your beans are fully cooked, though, then they are safe for your chickens to consume.
Salt / Super Salty Foods
Salt can impact your chickens’ electrolyte and fluid balance; eventually causing diarrhea, thirst, dehydration, kidney failure, and death. Lots of salt can also cause deformities in eggshells over time.
Processed food doesn’t offer your chickens many nutritional benefits. Over consumption of these kinds of foods can lead to your birds gaining weight, experience digestive issues, and potential heart issues.
High in fat (and oftentimes, salt), these foods are not great for chickens. Potential health issues include weight gain and heart health issues. Offering little nutritional value, it may be best to avoid food that is heavy on grease or oil.
Caffeine can be toxic to chickens as it can increase heart rate, induce arrhythmias and hyperactivity, and even cause cardiac arrest.
Chickens should never, ever have chocolate. Chocolate contains caffeine, which is not good for chickens. Additionally, it contains theobromine, a poisonous substance for chickens.
Chickens should not be fed anything that is growing mold.
According to Dr. Rob Marshall at birdhealth.com, “Mould contamination of food and the environment has a potential to produce fungal toxins (mycotoxins) that are harmful to chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks.”
Citrus fruits aren’t poisonous, per se, but they have been shown to reduce egg production.
Mushrooms & Yard Clippings
Chickens are free to have the same mushrooms as humans, but avoid letting them eat random ones that grow in the yard unless you are a mushroom expert.
Additionally, yard clippings are not food and have no nutritional value. They should not be fed to your chickens.
Rice is another food that is not outwardly bad for your chickens’ health, but does not have much nutritional value and thus should be given sparingly.
Pickles are generally high in sodium and should be avoided for that reason.
Chickens can have dairy products in moderation, but an excess amount may cause digestive issues including diarrhea.
Most cheeses can be high in salt and fat content, so yogurt is one of the ‘safer’ dairy-based treats for your flock.
Salted nuts have too much salt content for chickens. However, unsalted nuts may be okay in moderation. They are still high in fat content, so it’s not the best treat for your chickens.
Chickens adore most protein treats, but ham should be avoided. It is very high in salt content, which is not good for a chicken’s health.
Chickens can have cranberries, but cranberry sauce/jelly may be too high in sugar content.
Plants that are poisonous to chickens:
This list is not fully complete – there are just too many plants out there to reliably get them all. However, we tried to include as many common garden plants as possible! Always consult with your trusted veterinarian before feeding your flock anything new that you are unsure of.
- Bracken Fern
- Oak Trees
- Castor Bean
- Apricot Plants
- Bull Nettle
- Curly Dock
- Ground Ivy
- Horse Chestnut
- Lily of the Valley
- Morning Glory
- Mountain Laurel
- Amaryllis’Trumpet Vine
- Aloe Vera
Happy eating to your flock!
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