What Can Chickens Eat? Can You Feed Chickens Table 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. Generally, 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.

Feeding Rule of Thumb → 90% Commercial Feed + 10% Treats = A Healthy Chicken Diet

Just like humans, chickens enjoy variety and their diets can gain depth through nutritious treats. If your chickens free-range, they will find treats like spiders and ticks while they're out and about. 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.

Can Chickens Eat Pumpkins?

Fruits and vegetables are a healthy addition to a chicken’s diet. Chickens can eat pumpkins and their seeds. They are packed full of nutrients. 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.

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What Can Chickens Eat? 

The following is a list of common kitchen staples that your flock might like to sample.

Bananas (Not the peels)
Beets (Plus greens)
Bread (Try to offer healthy bread to give your chickens the biggest bang for their buck)
Brussels Sprouts
Carrots (Plus greens)
Cereal (Avoid sugary cereals)
Collard Greens
Corn (Chickens especially love corn on the cob)
Eggs (Hard-boiled eggs are yummy, warm scrambled eggs are perfect on a cold morning)
Honeydew Melons
Meat (You can also give your flock the bones and they will pick them clean)
Nuts (Avoid salted, seasoned and sugared nuts)
Radishes (Plus greens)
Spinach (Feed sparingly, too much can interfere with calcium absorption)
Sprouted Seeds
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes (Do not feed green tomatoes, leaves or vines)

Can Chickens Eat Dairy?

Dairy products can be fed to a backyard flock. However, dairy products in large amounts can cause diarrhea. Make sure to feed cheese, cottage cheese, milk and yogurt in moderation. If you live near a dairy farm, whey — the liquid that’s expelled during the cheesemaking process — can be fed to chickens. It’s full of protein and nutrients, but should be kept to a minimum.

How to Feed Treats

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. 
  • Treat balls that you buy at the farm supply store 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 add in some dried mealworms for extra protein. You can purchase the 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 bit that way and they get a fun treat.
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