Most chickens enjoy table scraps but it is important to feed them in moderation and use as a special treat because they are not part of a balanced diet.
We recommend waiting until your chickens are about 3 – 4 months old before you introduce them to table scraps. Baby chicks need plenty of protein to grow and develop properly and table scraps are lower in protein than commercial grower rations.
If you are looking to feed table scraps, following are some that are safe for your chickens to consume:
- Bread (in moderation) — Avoid moldy bread.
- Cooked meats — Cut the meat into small pieces before feeding.
- Corn — Raw, cooked, or dried corn
- Fruits — Most fruits are fine to feed your chickens. Apples, berries, and melons (watermelon rinds are one of the favorites). Some of our customers say their chickens really enjoy grapes.
- Grains — Rice, wheat, and other grains are fine for your chickens.
- Vegetables — Most cooked or raw vegetables are okay. Suggestions include: broccoli, carrots (cooked or shredded), cabbage, chard, cucumbers, kale, lettuce, pumpkins, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.
- Misc. — We have had customers tell us their chickens also enjoy shrimp tails, unsweetened yogurt and spaghetti. One customer told us they serve pumpkin to their chickens because it is a natural dewormer.
Not all foods are safe for your chickens to consume. Here are some that you should avoid feeding:
- Salt — A little salt won’t hurt them but avoid feeding them too much.
- Processed foods — It’s healthier for your chickens to eat leftovers from a home-cooked meal than leftover pizza or scraps from a frozen microwaved meal.
- Raw potato peels — Potatoes are members of the Nightshade family (Solanaceae). Potato peels, especially when they turn green from exposure to the sunlight, contain the alkaloid solanine, which is toxic. Sweet potatoes and sweet potato skins belong to a different plant family and do not contain solanine. They are safe to feed to your chickens.
- Avocado skins and pits — These contain persin, a fungicidal toxin, that can be fatal to chickens.
- Spoiled or rotten foods — Foods can produce toxins when they spoil.
- Soft drinks
- Coffee or coffee grinds
- Chocolate — Chocolate contains theobromine which may be toxic to birds.
- Very greasy foods — These can be difficult for your chickens to digest.
- Raw meat — Feeding chickens raw meat can lead to cannibalism.
A few foods you will probably want to stay away from, only because they could cause an undesireable taste to the eggs your hens lay are: garlic, onions, and other strong tasting foods.
For more information on feeds and feeding of chickens, see Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, by Gail Damerow.