Chicken Treat Chart—the Best Treats for Backyard Chickens

Here's a list of great treats for your favorite chicken (as well as some to avoid).
By Buff Hooligans · Jan 11, 2012 · Updated Aug 13, 2016 · ·
Rating:
4.84536/5,
  1. Buff Hooligans
    CHICKEN TREATS
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    This is a list of almost everything you can feed a chicken. However, everybody's chickens have their own tiny brains full of likes and dislikes, so while one person's chickens may come running for grapes or watermelon, another person's chickens may turn up their pointy little beaks at it. Anything on this list is safe to feed and worth a try.

    Your comments and feedback are welcome—please post them on: https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/feedback-on-learning-center-treats-chart.21530/#post-188621


    At the bottom of the page are things you should avoid feeding your chickens.

    Treat

    TypeGeneral Opinions
    ApplesRaw and applesauceApple seeds contain cyanide, but not in sufficient quantities to kill.
    Asparagus
    Raw or cooked
    Okay to feed, but not a favorite.
    Bananas
    Without the peelHigh in potassium, a good treat.
    Beans
    Well-cooked only, never dryAlso, greenbeans.
    Beets
    Greens also..
    Berries
    All kindsA treat, especially strawberries.
    Breads
    All kinds—this is a good use for stale bread or rolls.
    Feed starches in moderation.
    Broccoli & Cauliflower
    .
    Tuck into a suet cage and they will pick at it all day.
    Cabbage & Brussels Sprouts
    Whole headHang a whole cabbage from their coop ceiling in winter so they have something to play with and greens to eat.
    Carrots
    Raw and cookedThey like carrot foliage too.
    Catfood * (see bottom of page)Wet and dryFeed in strict moderation, perhaps only during moulting * (see bottom of page)
    Cereal
    Cheerios, etc.Avoid highly sugared cereal such as Cocopuffs, etc.
    CheeseIncluding cottage cheeseFeed in moderation, fatty but a good source
    of protein and calcium
    Cooked Chicken
    .
    They may like it and it won’t kill them, but it just seems so... ummm… wrong.
    CornOn cob and canned, raw and cooked.
    Crickets (live)Can be bought at bait or pet-supply stores.Great treat—provides protein and it’s fun
    to watch the chickens catch them.
    Cucumbers
    Let mature for yummy seeds and flesh.
    EggsHardcooked 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.
    .
    Fish/SeafoodCooked only..
    FlowersMake sure they haven't been treated with pesticides,
    such as florist flowers might be.
    Marigolds, nasturtiums, pansies, etc.
    FruitPears, peaches, cherries, apples.
    GrainsBulgar, flax, niger, wheatberries,etc..
    GrapesSeedless only. For chicks, cutting them in half makes it easier for them to swallow.
    Great fun—they are the chief cause of many entertaining "chicken keep away" games.
    GritsCooked.
    "Leftovers"
    Only feed your chickens food items which are still considered edible by humans, don't feed anything spoiled, moldy, oily, salty or unidentifiable..
    Lettuce / Kale Any leafy greens, spinach collards, chickweed included.A big treat, depending on how much other greenery they have access to.
    Mealworms
    (see photo after the chart)

    Available at pet supply stores or on the internet,
    although shipping is expensive!

    A favorite treat, probably the most foolproof
    option in the books.
    Meat scraps of any kind.Not too fatty.A good source of protein in moderation.
    MelonCantaloupe, etc.Both the seeds and the flesh are good chicken treats.
    OatmealRaw or cookedCooked is nutritionally better.
    Pasta/MacaroniCooked spaghetti, etc.A favorite treat, fun to watch them eat it, but not much nutrition.
    PeasPeas and pea tendrils and flowers
    (thanks to YayChick for the advice)
    .
    Peppers (bell).
    .
    PomegranatesRaw
    Seeds are a big treat.
    PopcornPopped, no butter, no salt.
    .
    Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes/YamsCooked only—avoid the green parts of peels!Starchy, not much nutrition
    Pumpkins/Winter SquashRaw or cookedBoth the seeds and the flesh are a nutritious treat.
    Raisins..
    RiceCooked only
    Pilaf mixes are okay too, plain white rice has little nutrition.
    ScratchScratch is cracked corn with grains (such as wheat, oats
    and rye) mixed in.
    Scratch is a treat for cold weather, not a complete feed. Toss it on the ground and let them scratch for it for something to do.
    SproutsWheat and oat sprouts are great! Good for greens in mid-winter.
    Summer SquashYellow squash and zucchiniYellow squash not a huge favorite, but okay to feed.
    Sunflower SeedsSunflower seeds inthe shell are fine to feed, as well as shelled.
    A good treat, helps hens lay eggs and grow healthy feathers.
    TomatoesRaw and cooked.
    .
    TurnipsCooked.
    Not a huge favorite
    WatermelonServed cold, it can keep chickens cool and hydrated during hot summers.
    Seeds and flesh are both okay to feed.
    YogurtPlain or flavoredA big favorite and good for their digestive systems. Plain is better.


    The most favorite chicken treat of all—mealworms! Note the lightning speed of the chicken lunging for them. By the time my camera was ready to take the next shot, all the worms were gone.

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    Yogurt's a favorite, and it is very good for their intestinal health.

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    Here is Rooster-Red and his chickens enjoying their yogurt.

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    Rooster-Red recommends standing back from your chickens when feeding yogurt, because the stuff flies EVERYwhere!

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    Here's BYC member Punkin's girls enjoying their first taste of yogurt in June 2008:

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    This is a mix of good quality birdseed, raw oatmeal and scratch. I only feed this on cold mornings, and I scatter it sparingly in their run, so they have something to scratch for and occupy their treat-obsessed minds.

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    Here's a Gold-Laced Wyandotte rooster belonging to BYC member "Addiedunn" leaping up for his favorite treat—a whole peanut:

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    Introducing odd treats can result in some very quizzical looks...

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    Here's a bowl of warm oatmeal, girls!

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    Warm oatmeal's even better after a big snowstorm:


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    Some leftover steamed rice with veggies:


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    Don’t feed the following things to your chickens:

    (I'm sure people have experienced exceptions to this list, but if we want to raise our birds the best way possible, it's "better safe than sorry".)


    Item


    Here’s why:

    Raw green potato peelsToxic substance called Solanine.
    Anything really saltyCan cause salt poisoning in small bodies such as chickens.
    Citrus.
    Dried or undercooked BeansRaw, or dry beans, contain a poison called hemaglutin which is toxic to birds.
    Avocado Skin and PitSkin and pit have low levels of toxicity.
    Raw eggsYou don’t want to introduce your chickens to the tastiness of eggs which may be waiting to be collected in the nestboxes.
    Candy, Chocolate, SugarTheir teeth will rot… no, it’s just bad for their systems, and chocolate can be poisonous to most pets.

    A quote from Nifty-Chicken, the Administrator of BYC:

    "I gave up on my birds knowing what was best for them when I caught them all eating a block of Styrofoam pellets."

    Regarding toxicity, the following is copied from a post by DLhunicorn on May 14, 2007 in a thread titled "Potato Peels". (Thank you DLhunicorn for your tremendously helpful and knowledgeable contributions to BYC!)


    "Do not count on your chickens "knowing" what is bad for them...also do not count on these "toxic" plants immediately being identifiable by finding a dead bird the next morning...usually it is a slow process damaging organs , inhibiting the ability of your bird to utilize the nutrients in their feed, etc..

    Toxic Plants:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/comprehensive-list-of-poisonous-plants-and-trees.627282/

    * Regarding feeding CAT FOOD to chickens,

    The following is from DLHunicorn in response to the listing of cat food in this Treats Chart: (A word to the wise, and thank you, DLHunicorn)

    "You all know how I feel on cat food and I have posted the links and reasoning behind my objections several times ...it can potentially be detrimental to your birds health and even deadly in the right circumstances and for this reason I feel it should be left off the chart (as when you put it on it is as if you are condoning its use) I will repost here one of the sources for my objection:

    ..."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 per mature cat per 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). ..."


    You can read and discuss more about chicken treats here:

    Feeding & Watering Your Flock Forum Section
    Topic/Question of the week—Feeding table scraps to your flock
    Topic of the Week - Feeding Treats


    Share This Article

Recent User Reviews

  1. corgis-con-chickems
    "great summary for newbies!"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed May 21, 2019 at 8:58 PM
    It's a great list, but perhaps foods can be added for a more comprehensive reference (and maybe in a PDF that can be printed/ posted on the fridge). If anyone else keeps a garden going... these are some chicken treats that I'd add to the list...

    Our flock absolutely goes NUTS for fennel fronds! They love the tender leaves. I figured this out because I thought I bought dill, but it ended up being fennel of which I am not a huge fan of. I stuff fennel fronds and/or dill into a treat ball for them and they have a blast trying to get it out. They love fennel fronds more than mealworms!!

    And HERBS! They looooooooove fresh oregano. It definitely helps keeping my oregano plants in check. I also give them parsley, celery leaves, mint and sage. The sage is apparently chicken protective from salmonella. I guess that's why there's so many sage and chicken recipes?

    I saw on fresh eggs daily about feeding them garlic -- and how it's apparently also protective for health. I include 3-4 minced garlic cloves every other night -- and they love it. I know garlic and onions are in the same family... but I haven't killed them with garlic yet, which is good.

    Finally -- edible flowers like squash blossoms, marigolds, candelunas, and nasturtiums! They love it when I shred some marigold flowers for them! Or I throw in a whole flower head and they play chicken keep away with it!
  2. D-Bar-B
    "Great article!"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed May 14, 2019
    This is a great list of treats! My girls favorites are bananas, watermelon, cucumbers and of course, meal worms! I tried the cabbage on a string and they completely ignored it even after I tore some leaves off and tried to hand it to them. :confused: They also enjoy cooked oatmeal (with berries) on a cold day. The joke in our house is that hubby only gets a cup of coffee from me in the morning and the chickens get oatmeal. So I've told him when he starts laying eggs for me, I'll cook him a hot breakfast. :lau baby chicks3.jpg chicks7.jpg
  3. Anonymous
    "Best article on bad and good foods for chickens!"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed May 8, 2019
    This gives great info on good and bad foods chickens can or can't have! Thank you for sharing this!

Comments

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  1. 40Acre Momma
    Thanks for the great insight!!
      cluckmecoop7 likes this.
  2. CHRISTISITTYBITTY
    my chickens love herbs like tyme basil lavendar and rosemary for treats didnt see those on the list but will be adding some of your treats
  3. cluckmecoop7
    This is a great article!
      Susan Dye likes this.
  4. jgarner1327
    I cook quinoa in the rice cooker. They really love that and cooked brown rice.
      Susan Dye and featherhead007 like this.
  5. AvaCabo
    ONIONS....you didn't address onions. Any advise? Yes or No for chickens?Thanks.
      Susan Dye likes this.
    1. tamdeva
      Things like onion and tomatoes in moderation because of the acids.
      AvaCabo likes this.
  6. texas75563
    My chickens get bread on a regular basis. They love it! When I clean fish they get the fish guts. On squirrels, rabbits, pigs, and deer they get the organs. They get horn worms and grasshoppers when the weather heats up. They get left overs when there is some left.
      Susan Dye likes this.
  7. Max0815
    I used to feed my chicken scraps that were salty, until my chicken sort of, like puked, so I stopped. Never realized that salty foods can cause sodium poisoning. This is certainly a useful list!
  8. JMB7718
    thank you for the great article! is there any printable version of the lists?
  9. featherhead007
    Although my chickens preferred any type of pasta dish, I had to cut back on treating them to it.
    I found that they quickly could become overweight and some even started Bok boking with an accent. .... No more pasta!
  10. idaholbrook
    Thank you for the great info. I just have one question...why no citrus? I have giving my hens oranges and not ever had a problem. I'd like to know the reasoning behind the no so I don't accidently make my girls sick.
  11. Brookliner
    In the fall just before the 1st frost I cut back my hosta plants to the ground and feed the leaves to the chickens. These plants have never had any toxic chemicals near them.
    I also have a fish pond and when I am cleaning it out in the fall I take all the water hyacinths and water lettuce that have been floating on the surface and toss them into the chicken run. The chickens go crazy for them. I used to compost them but now I just compost the chicken manure.
      DragonParadigm and Susan Dye like this.
    1. featherhead007
      Are you raising chickens, or feathered garbage disposals?
      Susan Dye and Liddy like this.
  12. GotCoop
    Good to know about the cat food. I don't intentionally feed the chickens cat food...but I do leave it out for the barn cats. I'll have to be more careful with where I place it.
  13. Yuo
    What's the difference between deer corn and regular cracked corn for chickens. I see deer corn for less.
      DragonParadigm and Susan Dye like this.
    1. Chicken Huck
      Deer corn is whole corn, sometimes coated to prevent mold and mildew. Cracked corn is corn that has had the kernel removed and has been crushed. Easier for chickens to swallow and digest. Less fat.
      Susan Dye likes this.
  14. SongBaby33
    Brilliant article
    In my opinion one of the best
  15. clawdeen360
    How bout cooked pancakes?
      DragonParadigm and Susan Dye like this.
    1. RoostersAreAwesome
      Probably okay as an occasional treat, but I wouldn't feed them it too often.
    2. clawdeen360
      K thanks!!!
      Susan Dye likes this.
    3. featherhead007
      If you are going to serve pancakes, prepare to offer maple or strawberry syrup, and a side of hash browns. My hens prefer sausage as well.... :)
  16. Hyper_Chicken05
    Nice article, But funny how the owner has not been online in 6 years lol
  17. The Widow Flanagan
    My Ducks love cat food! I was feeding them some almost exclusively, but I ain't no more! Betty White with the bum leg loves it so much it's the only way I can get her up and moving. I plaster the stuff with DE and it really helps that leg. I have a new feeding system now they like and just put a small handful of cat food in the 5 gallons of mix. Mostly Duck and Goose Maintenance mix, cracked corn, mealworms, and a few handfuls of Chix Egg Laying Pellets. Everything has DE coating it. Winter is late (YAY!) so my ducklings haven't seen their first snow yet. Then it's hauling water. Ugh. It's a long way out there, too!
    1. Chicken Huck
      I don't use DE because it kills earthworms as well as intestinal worms.
  18. martins show birds
    our hens love cat food and gobble
      wvchickenchick311 likes this.
    1. Parrot tail aseelbreed
      Parrotnose long tail aseel breed chicks
  19. martins show birds
    our hens love cat food and gobble
      Susan Dye likes this.
  20. KCrawford2014
    I never thought about giving them lobster shells, next time we go to red lobster, I’m skipping the doggie bag! I’m bringing home a chicken bag! Haha
    1. kubotafoot
      A very learned farmer/rancher told me to give the lobster "innards" etc to the flock, but be prepared. The eggs DO change their taste towards lobster. Great for a quiche, tho, any time!
      Susan Dye likes this.
  21. BrainyChicken8761
    Hi everyone,

    Someone has turned this into chicken treat tool. You can choose the snack and it will tell you if your hen can eat it :wee
  22. lamb.dad368
    My chicks are 5 week old could I give them some steamed rice?
    1. analyticalblonde
      I did....they loved it! Don't give them too much though...
  23. FarmerGirl101
    DON'T FEED CHICKENS TOMATOES AS THEY CAN KILL!
    1. paulsmithswife
      I'm sorry, I don't understand. My chickens eat tomatoes and tomato plants as often as they can. And, I haven't suffered a loss. Will you elaborate, please?
      Susan Dye likes this.
    2. Schmay
      From the research I have done and people I have spoken to it seems to be that green tomatoes can be toxic to chickens but the ripe red tomatoes are fine. And the reason you keep them away from the tomato plants is so they don't eat them while they're green.
      Susan Dye and marydale like this.
    3. goosiegosieduckduck
      tomatoes are from the nightshade family, it is not a good idea to let your birds eat the green tomato as they contain the same poison as nightshade also the plant is toxic, too much will kill your birds.
  24. BabyGirl2
    I recently gave my chickens fixed instant oatmeal in ice cream cones. A few young ones were skeptical at first but once the older ones started wolfing it down everyone pilled in.
    1. mamahen29916
      How did you make that?
      Susan Dye likes this.
    2. BabyGirl2
      I follows the directions on box, used water not milk, and allowed to cool. Then put it in flat bottom ice cream cones.
      Susan Dye and mamahen29916 like this.
  25. Kaylalane6
    Are snow peas safe to feed my chickens?
  26. FarrAwayShire
    Thank you for compiling this! Very helpful for newbies like me to have a nice, organized chart :)
  27. iumvs
    The only things my girls like are ritz crackers..
    Great article!
      Bettyboop7499, Ursula09 and Susan Dye like this.
    1. Bettyboop7499
      Buttery, salty, goodness...who doesn't!
      Susan Dye likes this.
  28. grmakk
    Essential information. Thank you!
      Ursula09 and Susan Dye like this.
  29. BigATC
    Thanks! Lots of good ideas.
      Ursula09 and Susan Dye like this.
  30. ChickenGirl.Cluck
    thanks for posting this really a help
      Ursula09 and Susan Dye like this.
  31. coop410silkies
    My birds love insects: meal worms, crickets, grasshoppers, grubs, beetles, etc. My flocks are free-ranging and opportunistic feeders; they graze the wild grasses continually. I have discovered recently some large colonies of earwigs, which the chickens went bonkers over. It is possible to trap them - a lot of people do this with rolled up newspapers - and feed them out to your birds. They are godsends, not pests. Free and not much work.

    An edit, an afterthought: when thinking of treats, think of what your chooks might be needing. For example, my free ranging birds have access to lots of grass, weeds and seeds and bugs, but they don't have access to any fruits or vegetables, so these are high on my list of treats for them. OTOH, my caged birds don't have access to grass and greens and seeds and bugs, so these are high on my list of treats for them. Think of their circumstances when thinking up treats. Is it cold or warm? Do they need an energy supply, or do they need protein? Are they laying eggs, are they growing, are they replacing feathers, recovering from brooding? Are they active, caged, free ranging, slowing down? Do their feathers and combs look good? I sometimes set out a variety of treats and see which they prefer. It is an interesting cure for boredom and often educational.
  32. Chicks17050
    Mine so far like bluebarrys and worms they don’t like bananas or strawberry’s then agin they are 6 weeks old but they slowly geting more to wanting to eat new things expasjlt when they JSU they got put outside the grass was full blamed and pretty now it’s almsot all dead from 4 girls diging and eating it’s sooo cute they my first chicks so this list really dose help me
      Ursula09 and Susan Dye like this.
  33. cstronks
    Cherry Tomatoes were always a favorite of my flock!
  34. meat1709
    Cold Watermelon and tomatoes are a treat i like to give them during the summer to help keep them cool. Corn on the cob is also a favorite of theirs along with mashed potatoes. They go crazy over dried meal worms too. I didn't see it on the list, but they also get chilled grapes in the summer which they enjoy. I guess mine knew a little about what was good for them, because one year i tried planting a garden, and the only thing they didn't touch was the green and yellow bean plants. The rest was gone as soon and the plants were out of the ground. Kind of like how the foam insulation board was that was showing below the siding on my house while I was residing it.
      KCrawford2014 and Susan Dye like this.
    1. Chicks17050
      Yes they can have cold they the same just frozen I did mine bluebarrys and they love it
      Susan Dye likes this.
  35. Susan Dye
    Pineapple? How about the core? Is citrus forbidden because it's acidic or for some other reason? The research I did on citrus said they can eat the fruit but not the peels. Is this the main reason citrus is on the list as toxic?
  36. Leader Bee
    Is there a similar list for Geese?
  37. Lilbit6688
    Love this simple list I've actually copied it and put it up for my kids to consult for our chickens. My chicks seem to like peanuts rolled in spinach as a puzzle treat best. Right next to mealworms and small unlucky grasshoppers.
      Ursula09 and Susan Dye like this.
  38. Kaylalane6
    Can anyone advise if the greenbeans can be fed raw or only cooked?
    I'm thinking cooked based on the chart, but I am a little confused about it.
      Ursula09 and Susan Dye like this.
  39. Hopperkiller
    I planted kentucky wonder pole beans around my run to provide vining shade for my flock. They prune the leaves as high as they can jump. Are the green beans that will eventually start any hazard if they pick them off the vine. This article says no dried beans but doesnt mention chickens self picking green beans.

    Oops just saw the word raw. Guess i will have to pinch off any blooms they can reach. I reckon i will need to find another climbing annual for next year.
      Susan Dye likes this.
    1. Lilbit6688
      Peas! We always had peas around our coops when I was younger and the chickens always ate them before we had to pick them :-D
      Susan Dye and Hopperkiller like this.
  40. Kaylalane6
    I can't wait to try these with my chickens! I think I'll print it and put it on the refrigerator.

    Question: Are these foods ok for chicks and adolescent chickens?
      Ursula09 and Susan Dye like this.
  41. mudgrl92
    Great list!
      Ursula09 likes this.
  42. millermcnutt
    Watermelon, strawberries, yogurt and nuts are my girls all time favorites! Thanks for the complete list, gives me some new ideas.
      Ursula09 likes this.
  43. WildestThing
    Our neighbor gives us bags and bags of ripe papayas and the chickens and turkeys love them. I cut them up and freeze them for especially hot days. They also love banana leaves, coconuts, moringa leaves, mangoes, comfrey and a lot of other things we grow. Living in the tropics presents great chicken snacking options, but mealy worms are the hands down favorite. They jump up and knock them out of my hand. The turkeys love them too. Amazon sells 11 lb. bags of mealy worms at a really good price compared to the feed stores.
      Susan Dye and Ursula09 like this.
  44. karnie123
    Great article. Very helpful.
      Ursula09 likes this.
  45. Bettyboop7499
    I totally forgot about the green bean rule..and fed my chickens raw green beans? What will happen?
  46. mermaidmadi
    My birds went crazy over the cantaloupe! They LOVE cherry tomatoes (which was too funny watching the ducks try to eat!) and pears as well!
      Susan Dye and Ursula09 like this.
  47. Gillybean05
    Thanks for the post! I'll definitely think about feeding them these things when they move out to the coop!
      Ursula09 likes this.
  48. Bettyboop7499
    Your chickens are GORGEOUS, are those Blue Langshans? You can tell they are well cared for and really healthy. Thanks for the article.
      Ursula09 likes this.
  49. Trace Dunaway
    Very informative!
    I have given mine cat food. YIKES!
    What about dog food?
    Yogart is good to know, I often feed it to my spoiled piggy. :)
    Thank you!! <3
      Susan Dye and Ducksandchickens like this.
  50. Ducksandchickens
    My girls LOVE warm oatmeal. They also eat apple cores and grapes. And chives!!
      Susan Dye and Ursula09 like this.

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