70 Things Chickens Can Eat & 30 Food Items to Avoid

Raising chickens can be a rewarding and fun experience.

It’s fascinating to watch feathered flocks pecking and scratching around the yard. Have you ever wondered what you can feed to maintain healthy and productive chickens?

In this write-up, I’ll share 70 such things that chickens can eat.

Before that, let’s know why it is essential to provide a balanced diet for chickens.

Importance of Using a Balanced Chicken Feed

The diet you provide your chickens influences egg production, the flavor of the meat, and their vibrant plumage.

It is more than just filling their stomachs.

A balanced feed lays the foundation for thriving and happy chicken.

Young chickens that aren’t laying eggs need nutrient-rich feed to build stronger bones, strengthen the immune system, and develop the digestive system.

Much like humans, without proper nutrient-rich feed, chickens won’t be able to reach their full potential.

Not providing the required nutrients can result in a weak flock. For instance, low levels of calcium in chicken feed lead to thin and brittle egg shells.

Note: Nutritional needs of chickens differ with growing stages.

Protein needs of young chicks are usually 14-18% by feed weight; laying hens need 16-18% of the feed weight, and roosters need 9%. (Source)

Homemade Chicken Feed

As chicken feed is expensive, first-time chicken growers would love to make their chicken feed at home.

With homemade chicken feed, you’re able to provide the most possible natural diet to your flocks.

Apart from this, you can increase or decrease ingredients to make it nutritious.

Just remember to include these five essential nutrients in the feed: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, and vitamins.

A simple chicken feed recipe includes:

  • Wheat – 30%
  • Corn – 30%
  • Peas – 20%
  • Fish Meal – 10%
  • Oats – 10%
  • Poultry Nutri-Balancer – 2%
  • Free Choice Kelp
  • Free Choice Aragonite

Mix the listed ingredients and serve your chickens.

Apart from this, you might want to serve different things to your feathered flocks. Below mentioned are 70 such things that can be used as chicken feed.

Check this: How to Keep Chickens from Getting Bored?

List of Foods that Chickens Can Eat

  1. Grains (corn, wheat, barley)
  2. Seeds (sunflower seeds, flaxseeds)
  3. Fruits (apples, berries, melons)
  4. Vegetables (leafy greens, carrots, peas)
  5. Insects (mealworms, crickets, flies)
  6. Cooked Eggs
  7. Dairy Products (yogurt, cheese)
  8. Legumes (beans, lentils)
  9. Fish (cooked)
  10. Nuts (peanuts, almonds)
  11. Oats
  12. Rice
  13. Quinoa
  14. Millet
  15. Buckwheat
  16. Amaranth
  17. Pumpkin seeds
  18. Sesame seeds
  19. Popcorn (unsalted, unbuttered)
  20. Spinach
  21. Kale
  22. Swiss chard
  23. Broccoli
  24. Cauliflower
  25. Cabbage
  26. Brussels sprouts
  27. Celery
  28. Cucumber
  29. Zucchini
  30. Squash
  31. Bell peppers
  32. Tomatoes (ripe, in moderation)
  33. Strawberries
  34. Blueberries
  35. Raspberries
  36. Blackberries
  37. Peaches
  38. Pears
  39. Bananas
  40. Mangoes
  41. Pineapple
  42. Papaya
  43. Watermelon
  44. Cantaloupe
  45. Honeydew
  46. Oranges (in moderation)
  47. Lemons (in moderation)
  48. Limes (in moderation)
  49. Grapes (seedless, in moderation)
  50. Cherries (pitted, in moderation)
  51. Plums (pitted)
  52. Apricots
  53. Fig
  54. Dates
  55. Coconut (fresh or dried)
  56. Almonds (unsalted, shelled)
  57. Walnuts (unsalted, shelled)
  58. Cashews (unsalted, shelled)
  59. Pecans (unsalted, shelled)
  60. Hazelnuts (unsalted, shelled)
  61. Macadamia nuts (unsalted, shelled)
  62. Pistachios (unsalted, shelled)
  63. Brazil nuts (unsalted, shelled)
  64. Chestnuts (unsalted, shelled)
  65. Chia seeds
  66. Hemp seeds
  67. Pumpkin flesh (cooked)
  68. Sweet potatoes (cooked)
  69. Carrots (cooked)
  70. Beets (cooked)

How to Save Money on Chicken Feed?

Raising chickens can be expensive if you’ve to buy feed from the store regularly.

Making your chicken feed at home is one way to avoid or reduce the cost of feed.

A few more ways are listed below.

Free-ranging

Allow chickens in your backyard or fenced area to forage for insects, worms, grass, and other natural. This provides additional protein and nutrients to their diet at no extra cost to you.

Grow Your Feed

Planting grains, vegetables, and herbs can provide supplementary feed for your chickens.

Consider growing crops like corn, sunflowers, kale, and comfrey, which are nutritious and easy to cultivate.

Bulk Buying

Purchase chicken feed in bulk quantities to take advantage of discounts offered by feed stores or suppliers. Buying in bulk typically reduces the cost per pound or kilogram, saving you money in the long run.

Substitutions

Supplement the commercial feed with kitchen scraps, garden surplus, and leftovers from your meals.

Many kitchen scraps, such as vegetable peels, fruit cores, and cooked grains, are safe and nutritious for chickens.

Just make sure to avoid feeding them anything on the “do not eat” list.

Homemade Chicken Feed

Consider making your chicken feed mixes using locally sourced ingredients.

This allows you to tailor the feed to your flock’s nutritional needs while potentially reducing costs compared to commercial feed.

Recipes often include grains, legumes, seeds, and supplements like calcium and vitamins.

Feeding Scraps

Partner with local bakeries, restaurants, or grocery stores to acquire food waste, such as stale bread, fruit and vegetable trimmings, or expired produce.

This diverts food from landfills while providing free or low-cost feed for your chickens.

Fermentation

Fermenting grains before feeding them to your chickens can increase their digestibility and nutrient availability while reducing the amount needed. This process also helps prevent feed wastage and spoilage, ultimately saving you money on feed costs.

Co-op Purchasing

Consider joining or forming a feed-buying cooperative with other poultry owners in your area.

By purchasing feed in bulk together, you can leverage collective buying power to negotiate better prices from suppliers.

Minimize Waste

Implement feeding practices that minimize feed wastage, such as using feeders designed to reduce spillage and feeding smaller quantities more frequently to prevent overeating and spoilage.

Rotate Pastures

If you have access to multiple grazing areas, rotate your chickens between pastures to allow vegetation to recover and minimize reliance on purchased feed.

By implementing these strategies, you can effectively reduce your chicken feed costs while ensuring that your flock remains healthy, productive, and well-nourished.

Check this: How to Raise Baby Chicks without Heat Lamp?

Avoid these Food Items

  1. Avocado (contains persin, toxic to chickens)
  2. Chocolate (contains theobromine, toxic to chickens)
  3. Onions (can cause anemia and digestive issues)
  4. Garlic (can taint the taste of eggs and cause digestive upset)
  5. Citrus Fruits (high acidity can upset the digestive system)
  6. Rhubarb (contains oxalic acid, toxic)
  7. Raw Potatoes (contain solanine, poisonous)
  8. Tomato Leaves (contain solanine, toxic to chickens)
  9. Moldy or Spoiled Foods (can cause illness or death)
  10. Caffeine (found in coffee grounds and tea bags, can be lethal)
  11. Salty Foods (can lead to electrolyte imbalances)
  12. Sugary Foods (can cause obesity and digestive issues)
  13. Fried Foods (high in unhealthy fats)
  14. Processed Foods (lack nutritional value)
  15. Raw Beans (contain lectins and enzyme inhibitors)
  16. Green Potatoes (contain solanine)
  17. Junk Food (chips, candy, etc.)
  18. Alcohol (toxic to chickens)
  19. Medications (without veterinary supervision)
  20. Tobacco (contains nicotine, toxic)
  21. Dried or Uncooked Beans (contain lectins)
  22. Avocado Pits and Skins (contain person)
  23. Moldy Bread (may contain toxins)
  24. Dairy Products (in excess, can cause digestive upset)
  25. Greasy Foods (may lead to obesity and health issues)
  26. Processed Meats (high in salt and unhealthy additives)
  27. Fruit Seeds and Pits (contain cyanide in some cases)
  28. Raw Eggs (risk of salmonella contamination)
  29. Raw Fish (may contain harmful bacteria)
  30. Human Supplements (not formulated for chickens may be detrimental)

Conclusion

Chickens need nutrient-rich feed according to their growth stage.

Calcium, proteins, minerals, carbohydrates, and fats in the feed help the chicken to strengthen their bones, build a robust immune system, and improve their digestive system.

Various things can be used to feed chickens, but first-time chicken growers must refrain from giving certain things to flocks.

For instance, moldy bread, tobacco, and junk food aren’t the right things for your feathered flocks. 

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