Chicken Treats Guide. Don’t Love Your Pets to Death.

Chicken Treats Guide Don't love your pets to death

If you’re reading this, chances are you have chickens that you consider pets and everyone enjoys spoiling their pets with treats, right? We get a kick out of seeing them run to greet us at the sight of the treat container or the sound of the back door opening. It makes us feel good to see them happy and we are entertained by their antics when they compete for coveted snacks. But the wrong treats and treats in excess can be harmful to their health, stunt growth, shorten their lifespan and interfere with egg production. So, we should be aware of  what can they eat, what should they not eat and how much is too much.

Rachel Divider

A good rule of thumb is: if you shouldn’t eat it, your pet chickens shouldn’t either. Common sense should be the guide in treat selection. The types of foods we require to maximize our own health are the foods we should consider when spoiling our chickens: high protein, whole grains, low salt, low sugar, fruits and vegetables. Milk products are an exception to this general rule as too much can cause digestive upset and diarrhea. Probiotics are a much better choice for chickens for gut health and most complete feeds already contain probiotics and prebiotics.

Rachel Divider
baby chick

HOW YOUNG?

Every new chicken-keeper wants to know how soon fluffy babies can eat treats. Given their tiny size and amount of feed intake, small amounts of treats can interfere with a chick’s nutritional balance. A chick’s growth, development and ability to defend against illness can be negatively affected by too many treats- even healthy choices. I am pretty conservative with baby chicks and snacks. It is fun to spoil them, but I feel that the potential harm outweighs any feel-good benefit and I do not offer my chicks treats at all.

While not a treat, it bears mentioning that oyster shell should never be given to chicks or non-laying chickens as it can interfere with bone development and cause organ damage.

Rachel Divider

EVERYTHING IN MODERATION

When chickens eat treats, they’re not eating feed, which is their primary source of nutrition. Commercially prepared feed is very carefully prepared by poultry nutritionists who carefully monitor the composition of ingredients to ensure that a chicken’s daily vitamin, mineral and protein requirements are met. Supplemental foods (treats/snacks) replace a portion of those essential dietary elements to some degree. Excessive treats, even healthy ones, can cause any of the following: obesity, reduced egg production, malformed eggs, habitual laying of multiple-yolked eggs, vent prolapse, a protein deficiency, feather-picking, fatty liver syndrome, increased risk of heat stroke and heart problems. Treats should be limited to no more than 5% of a chicken’s diet, which amounts to approximately 2 tablespoons of treats in any given day. Treats/scraps/snacks should not be fed to chickens daily due to the obesity-related health concerns which have reached epidemic proportions in backyard chickens. Poultry veterinarian Dr. Annika McKillop recommends cleaning up any treats they have not consumed within 15 minutes.

Rachel Divider

HEALTHY TREATS for CHICKENS

Proteins: beef, chicken, (I know, it seems wrong), eggs, (cooked only so as not to encourage egg-eating) fish, insects (crickets are delicious!) pork, worms (earthworms, mealworms), sunflower seeds (shells on)

Fruits: apples, peeled bananas, berries, coconut flesh, grapes, melon, peaches, pears, pomegranates, strawberries, raisins

Vegetables: asparagus, beans (fully cooked if previously dried), beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, greens, (kale, spinach, mustard) peas, peppers, pumpkin and raw pumpkin seeds, squash

Whole Grains: bread, cereal, pasta, sprouts.

Sprouting grains is an easy way to provide chickens with fresh, nutritious greens any time of year with very little effort.  Learn how HERE!

Rachel Divider

Looking for a homemade treat recipes? Look no further!

Other treats that I have made for my chickens include my Peeps’ Pumpkin Pie,Chickens’ Soup, Molt Muffins and Alfalfa Cake Protein Treats. Click on the links for the recipes!

OCCASIONAL TREATS

  • avocado flesh (but not skin or pits)
  • tomatoes (can cause gastric upset in large quantities)
  • potatoes (but not green parts)
Rachel Divider

ABOUT SCRATCH

Scratch is affectionately referred to as ‘chicken crack’ for a reason; chickens love it, can’t get enough of it and it’s not healthy for them. Scratch typically consists of cracked corn and a mixture of grains, which tends to lack an appreciable amount of protein, vitamins and minerals. Scratch should be thought of as chicken candy and only given in small amounts occasionally, if at all. *Scratch should not be mixed into the flock’s feed.* I never give my flock scratch.

Rachel Divider

NEVER!

  • moldy foods
  • uncooked, dried beans (contain phytohaemagglutinin, which is highly toxic to humans and animals)
  • chocolate
  • coffee
  • alcohol
  • tobacco (even discarded cigarette butts can contain enough nicotine to be deadly to birds)
Rachel Divider

Cooked eggs are a good source of protein for chickens, which can be helpful during a molt, but a better idea is to switch to a higher protein chicken feed for a few weeks. More info on that here.

Rachel Divider

MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT CHICKEN TREATS

FACT:Many foods and food additives that are safe for human consumption can be extremely toxic to pets.”
MYTH: Chickens should not eat avocados.
FACT: Chickens can eat the flesh of avocado in moderation. However, avocado pits and skin contain persin, which can be toxic in significant quantities.

MYTH: Chickens should not eat raw potatoes or potato skins.
FACT: Chickens should not eat GREEN potato skins. The green color indicates the presence of solanine, a toxin that affects the nervous system when consumed in large quantities. However, the average, healthy human would have to eat 4.5 pounds at one sitting to experience any neurological effects. Similarly, a chicken would need to consume large quantities of green potato skins to experience any effects. The leaves and stems of the potato plant levels of solanine that could be toxic to chickens in large amounts.

MYTH: Chickens should never eat onions.
FACT: Chickens can eat onions, chives and garlic in small quantities, occasionally. Sufficient quantities of onion and garlic can be harmful to chickens, causing hemolytic anemia, aka: Heinz anemia. “The alkaloid N-propyl disulphide is present in cultivated and wild onions, chives and garlic, and affects the enzyme, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase in red blood cells,” which can cause Heinz anemia.
“Allicin, which gives garlic its odor, is also a strong oxidant. In rare cases, this chemical can be dangerous and can cause Heinz body hemolytic anemia, as well.”

Rachel Divider
Homemade Flock Block Substitute. Recipe HERE.
Frozen scrambled EggPops. Instructions HERE.
Peeps’ Pumpkin Pie, recipe HERE.
Rachel Divider

Sources and further reading:

www.poultryhelp.com
www.exoticpetvet.net
www.avocado.com
www.merckvetmanual.com (salty foods are okay in moderation, occasionally as long as there is plenty of fresh water available, but never salt alone)
www.wikipedia.org
www.merckvetmanual.com
www.peteducation.com
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Hidden Dangers in the Kitchen

Rachel Divider

guest
595 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ann S
Ann S
7 years ago

Hello,I was out in my chicken run today, which is very large for my eight birds. It is loaded with plants and a deep compost of pine needles, oak leaves and straw. It's been raining a lot and I went out to do some raking to turn things over for them. I came upon TONS of little gray worms, like baby earthworms, next to the one side of their coop (outside). It is a location that sits between the coop and a big bush they love to get under and eat berries/flower buds off of, so it's a little protected.… Read more »

Mindy Stark
Mindy Stark
4 years ago

I see that coffee is bad for them…what about coffee grounds that have been placed in a composting area?

Andrea L
Andrea L
2 years ago

Devastated by what has happened to my 1 year old copper maran. Our hens free range at times but we have had them in the run due to the spring garden. In an effort to satisfy their “green” tooth, we were offering long green grass. She developed a gizzard impaction and had to be euthanized today.

1 115 116 117