Monday, September 15, 2014

What Can My Chickens Eat?

What Can I Feed My Chickens?

This is one of the questions I keep asking as we are beginning our chicken adventure.  I have done a lot of research using my friend Google.  Listed in this blog entry are the answer I have found to date.  I will continue to research and gain more information as this adventure continues.

After reading many articles here is the short answer, In addition to chicken food, and scratch: Almost anything.

As I searched I was looking for specifics so in the following you will find the long answers: Chickens love table scraps and can eat almost anything you eat and are a wonderful addition to a self-reliant, self-sufficient lifestyle taking care of table and garden scraps throughout the year. .


·             Apples  Raw and Applesauce: (Apple seeds contain cyanide, but not in sufficient quantities to kill)
·             Asparagus  Raw or cooked:  Okay to feed, but not a favorite.
·             Bananas: High in potassium, a good treat (they usually will not eat the peel).
·             Beans:  Well-cooked only, never dry also, green beans are good.
·             Beets and beet greens: Go for it. 
·             Berries of all kinds:  A treat, especially strawberries.
·             Breads of all kinds: Good use for stale bread or rolls - feed starches in moderation.
·             Broccoli & Cauliflower: Good for chickens. 
·             Cabbage & Brussels Sprouts:  Whole head or scraps.
·             Carrots  Raw and Cooked:  They like carrot greens too.
·             Catfood: Wet and dry - in moderation.  
·             Cereal: Avoid highly sugared cereal such as Cocopuffs, etc.
·             Cheese:  Including cottage cheese, feed in moderation, fatty but a good source of protein and calcium
·             Cooked Chicken:  They may like it and it won't kill them, but... ummm SO wrong.
·             Corn on Cob and Canned: Raw and cooked. 
·             Crickets, meal worms, maggots, earth worms, etc: Can be bought as fishing bait, at pet-supply stores or you can raise them yourself. Great treats, provides protein and its fun to watch the chickens catch them.
·             Cucumbers: Let mature for yummy seeds and flesh, peels are good too.
·             Eggs:  Hard boiled,  cooked and scrambled are a good source of protein, and a favorite treat.  Feed cooked eggs only because you don't want your chickens to start eating their own raw eggs.
·             Eggplant: Fruit ok in moderation, avoid peels. Eggplants are in the nightshade family and contain Solanine. 

·             Fish / Seafood: Cooked flesh only. Shells and peelings are high in calcium and beneficial. 
·             Flowers:  Make sure they haven't been treated with pesticides, such as florist flowers might be. Marigolds, nasturtiums, pansies, etc... are all beneficial.
·             Fruit:  Pears, peaches, cherries, apples  
·             Grains:  Bulgar, flax, niger, wheat-berries, etc.  
·             Grapes: Seedless. Great fun - the cause of many entertaining "chicken keep away"games.
·             Grits:  Cooked "leftovers" only.  
·             Lawn Clippings: Only if it's not fertilized and not treated with chemicals or pesticides. 
·             Lettuce / Kale: Any leafy greens, spinach collards, chickweed included.  A big treat, depending on how much other greenery they have access to.
·             Meat scraps of any kind:  Not too fatty.  In moderation, a good source of protein
·             Melon:  Cantaloupe, etc...both seeds and flesh are good chicken treats.
·             Milk: Plain, raw or slightly sour - good for chickens and they love it.
·             Oatmeal  Raw or cooked:  Cooked makes a nice warm treat on a cold winter day - high in protein.
·             Pasta / Macaroni:  Cooked spaghetti, etc, a favorite next to live bugs, but does not contain much nutrition. 
·             Peas:  Peas and pea tendrils and flowers.
·             Peppers: Don't really like them but won't hurt them. 
·             Pomegranates:  Raw, seeds are a big treat. 
·             Popcorn: Popped, no butter, no salt. Seeds, just like any other dried corn, will be fairly indigestible unless you grind it a bit. 
·             Potatoes / Sweet Potatoes / Yams: Cooked - avoid green parts of peels!  Starchy, not much nutrition.
·             Pumpkins / Winter Squash:  Raw or cooked. Both seeds and flesh are a nutritious treat.
·             Raisins: Go for it.  
·             Rice: Cooked only, pilaf mixes are okay too, plain white rice has very little nutrition.
·             Sprouts: Wheat and oat sprouts are great! Good for greens in mid-winter.
·             Summer Squash:  Yellow squash and zucchini, yellow squash not a huge favorite, but okay to feed.
·             Sunflower Seeds:  Sunflower seeds with the shell still on is fine to feed, as well as with the shell off. A good treat, helps hens lay eggs and grow healthy feathers.
·             Tomatos:  Raw and or cooked.  Avoid feeding the plants.
·             Turnips: Cooked. Not a huge favorite but not harmful.
·             Watermelon:  Served cold, it can keep chickens cool and hydrated during hot summers.  Seeds and flesh are both okay to feed. They will peck a rind clean then add rind to compost pile.
·             Yogurt  Plain or Flavored: A big favorite and good for their digestive systems. Plain is better and has less sugar than flavored yogurt.

Again, meat is OK.
 Chickens are omnivores and in the wild they will eat mice, snakes, frogs, lizards and dead carcasses (like eagles, vultures, hawks and ravens do).   It does not make them peck at each other, they will not pick up disease in that manner. Too many chickens in a small area makes them peck at each other.

Some people say no Ham - because of the salt. Ham is ok in very small amounts.

Foods to AVOID FEEDING Chickens:

·             Raw green potatoes and green potato peels: Toxic substance called Solanine. While not fatal they aren't "good" for chickens. Many people feed green potato peels in small amounts. Cooked potatoes that had green peels should be fine, cooking the potatoes reduces toxicity. 
·             Rhubarb leaves: are poisonous to almost everything to some extent with  oxalic acid, the fruit stalks contain low levels of the toxin but in small amounts should be fine. While munching on a few leaves may not kill them, it's certainly not good for them. The effects of oxalic acid are very well documented. 
·             Anything super salty:  Too much salt can overload their little kidneys - remember in moderation.
·             Citrus Peels: Supposedly they interfere with calcium absorption. , But it is a moot point as they really won't eat them anyways.
·             Dried or Undercooked Beans: Contains a poison called Hemagglutinin which is toxic to birds. Hemegglutinin is found in Lectin - which is common in legumes (specially soybeans and kidney beans). Cooking the beans reduces the the toxicity. 
·             Avocado Skin and Pit: Low levels of a toxin called Persin. They are NOT fatal.
·             Candy, Chocolate, Sugar:  Again while not fatal, it's bad for their systems (as most processed foods are to people), and chocolate can be poisonous to most pets.

·             Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs:  Their systems can't clear the toxins. 

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