Treats For Your Chickens: What’s Good and What’s Not

We all like to give our birds treats from time to time. I’m sure you’ve seen the info-graphics on what’s bad for your birds, but they don’t give you reasons why. I’m here to give you the answers!

Those pictures never tell you why you shouldn’t be feeding feeding those things to your chickens, so most people ignore them all together. What’s so bad about giving raw eggs? What’s the deal with apple seeds?

Raw Eggs

Honestly, the reasoning behind why you shouldn’t feed raw egg is pretty stupid and needs more common sense. There is nothing wrong with feeding eggs back to your flock. In fact, it’s good for them!

Just keep in mind that you should never crack eggs where the chickens can see it. They aren’t as stupid as most people think and they can make the connection between eggs and the awesome treat you just gave them. Some people scramble eggs first, but the fat in butter isn’t great for them.

Apple Seeds

Apple seeds contain a small amount of cyanide, which is why apples often pop up as something you shouldn’t be feeding your birds. The truth is there isn’t enough cyanide in the amount of seeds your birds are likely to eat to actually worry about it. If you’re really that worried about your birds dying from cyanide, core the apples before you feed them to your chickens. Problem solved.

Meal Worms

This is a huge favorite of most birds and it is an awesome source of protein. If your birds don’t like them, that’s ok! They aren’t weird, different, or sick. Some chickens just don’t like them and there are plenty of other things you can feed them as treats!

Black Oil Sunflower Seeds A.K.A. BOSS

This stuff is awesome. It’s another great source of protein. BOSS can be fed whole or shelled, but it should just be the seeds. No salt or other additives.

Avacado

Merck Veterinary Manual: “Ingestion of avocado has been associated with myocardial necrosis in mammals and birds. Cattle, goats, horses, mice, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, sheep, budgerigars, canaries, cockatiels, ostriches, chickens, turkeys, and fish are susceptible. Ingestion of fruit, leaves, stems, and seeds of avocado has been associated with toxicosis in animals; however leaves are the most toxic part.” Enough said.

Members of the Nightshade Family

White Potatoes

Honestly, I wouldn’t take a chance feeding these to your chickens- cooked or raw. It contains something called solanine that builds up in their system and will eventually kill them. Most cooking methods can’t cook all of the solanine off. I wouldn’t risk it. It might not hurt them them for a while, but it will eventually kill them.

Tomatoes

I’ve seen this listed several times with no explanation. Everyone should be aware that the plant is toxic period. Green tomatoes and plant matter shouldn’t be fed to chickens or any other animal because they contain a lot of solanine. Ripe fruit on the other hand is perfectly fine and won’t hurt your birds at all.

Eggplant

The same rules for tomatoes and white potatoes apply to eggplant. Don’t feed them the green parts or unripened fruit and you’ll be fine.

Dried Rice

Rice can be a nice treat for chickens. Dried or cooked. The misconception behind rice is that you shouldn’t feed it to birds because it will swell up and kill the birds. That’s just not true. I don’t suggest feeding them too much, though. It’ll make them fat, just like it’ll do to us!

Dried Beans

Some people will try to tell you that you can feed dried beans with no problem. Others still will tall you that you can’t. Why is that and what can you do to make it safe for them to eat? It’s simple, but complicated at the same time. Some beans contain hemaglutin, which is an insecticide. It’s toxic to humans and animals. Other beans, like limas, contain another dangerous toxin. You should familiarize yourself with which beans contain toxins before feeding them dried. If it’s a bean or pea that can be found in a premixed salad, you can safely feed it to your birds. Snow peas are safe to feed raw. Beans like limas and kidney beans should be soaked and cooked or sprouted before feeding. They’re just as good for chickens as they are for us.

Ruhbarb

This awesome sour stuff contains oxalic acid, which causes soft shelled eggs. The leaves are toxic all around, meaning we can’t eat them and neither can chickens. I just wouldn’t feed it to them.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes aren’t related to white potatoes and aren’t a member of the nightshade family.They’re actually part of the morning glory family. Perfectly fine to feed to your chickens. Getting them to eat it is another matter.

Onions

Bad all around. Onions can cause major health problems in chickens. Anemia and jaundice are just a few of the problems that can result from feeding this to chickens. Just don’t do it.

Garlic

While garlic is related to onions, it has none of the problems. Garlic is actually good for your birds, just like it’s good for us. I can’t make any claims since I can’t back them up, but the nutritional value alone is worth it! And yes, you can use powdered garlic.

Brassicas 

This includes a wide variety of plants that are awesome for chickens and make great treats. Cabbage, brussle sprouts, collard greens, mustard greens, and kale are all in this family. They are a great treat for chickens.

Cat Food

It’s a huge pet peeve of mine to see someone suggest feeding cat food to chickens. There is nothing good about feeding it to chickens. While most animals need salt in their diet, cat food contains too high of a salt content for chickens. It’s not a good source of protein. Not to mention the slow poisoning of your birds. “While it is nutritionally essential, methionine excesses are far more toxic to poultry than similar excesses of tryptophan, lysine, and threonine (National Research Council, 1994). Force feeding methionine to excess can result in death to chicks (National Research Council, 1994). A dosage of 2 g / mature cat / day (20 to 30 g / kg dry diet) for 20 days induces anorexia, ataxia, cyanosis, methemoglobinemia and Heinz body formation resulting in hemolytic anemia (Maede, 1985). …” Why risk it? Feed BOSS or other high protein treats instead.

 

Think I missed something? Leave a comment below with your favorite chicken treat and why it’s good for chickens!

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3 thoughts on “Treats For Your Chickens: What’s Good and What’s Not

  1. Thank you for taking the time to write all of this down! This is the first year I have had chickens and this is really helpful! My hens love various herbs, grapes, ripe tomatoes and brassicas like cabbage, kale, broccoli but Swiss chard, grasshoppers and sunflowers are their favorite!

    Like

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