Chicken Treat Chart—the Best Treats for Backyard Chickens

This is a list of everything you can feed a chicken. Anything on this list is worth a try.
By Buff Hooligans · Jan 11, 2012 · Updated Aug 13, 2016 · ·
  1. Buff Hooligans

    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:

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



    TypeGeneral Opinions
    ApplesRaw and applesauceApple seeds contain cyanide, but not in sufficient quantities to kill.
    Raw or cooked
    Okay to feed, but not a favorite.
    Without the peelHigh in potassium, a good treat.
    Well-cooked only, never dryAlso, greenbeans.
    Greens also..
    All kindsA treat, especially strawberries.
    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.
    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)
    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.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    (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).
    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.
    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.
    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.


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

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


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


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


    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.


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


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


    Here's a bowl of warm oatmeal, girls!


    Warm oatmeal's even better after a big snowstorm:


    Some leftover steamed rice with veggies:


    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".)


    Here’s why:

    Raw green potato peelsToxic substance called Solanine.
    Anything really saltyCan cause salt poisoning in small bodies such as chickens.
    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:

    * 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 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

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    Scottiepait, KLIL, Ashria and 73 others like this.

Recent User Reviews

  1. mrs_organized_chaos
    "Thorough article"
    1/5, 1 out of 5, reviewed Jul 21, 2018 at 10:02 PM
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    "Great Guide"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Jul 16, 2018 at 10:03 PM
    Great guide :)
  3. Motivesgeek03
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Jul 6, 2018
    Thank you so much for this post. Only have to go to one place for all sorts of good foods.


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  1. 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.
      PrincessCleo likes this.
  2. 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
  3. cstronks
    Cherry Tomatoes were always a favorite of my flock!
  4. 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.
    1. Chicks17050
      Yes they can have cold they the same just frozen I did mine bluebarrys and they love it
  5. Susan Dye
    Pineapple? It's not citrus, but is highly acidic. Is citrus forbidden because it's acidic or for some other reason?
  6. Leader Bee
    Is there a similar list for Geese?
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
    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
      Hopperkiller likes this.
  10. 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?
  11. mudgrl92
    Great list!
  12. millermcnutt
    Watermelon, strawberries, yogurt and nuts are my girls all time favorites! Thanks for the complete list, gives me some new ideas.
  13. 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.
  14. karnie123
    Great article. Very helpful.
  15. Bettyboop7499
    I totally forgot about the green bean rule..and fed my chickens raw green beans? What will happen?
  16. 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!
  17. Gillybean05
    Thanks for the post! I'll definitely think about feeding them these things when they move out to the coop!
  18. Bettyboop7499
    Your chickens are GORGEOUS, are those Blue Langshans? You can tell they are well cared for and really healthy. Thanks for the article.
  19. 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
      Ducksandchickens likes this.
  20. Ducksandchickens
    My girls LOVE warm oatmeal. They also eat apple cores and grapes. And chives!!
  21. bekind
    When you say beans, do you mean legumes, like kidney beans, or green beans?
    1. Bettyboop7499
      Both dry beans or green beans should be cooked.
  22. Terri126
      webbysmeme likes this.
    1. featherhead007
      I don't give the hens oatmeal anymore, they like it too much and I get attacked... so no more of that!
      webbysmeme likes this.
  23. Smury739
    Are these treats okay for chicks 2-4 weeks old?
      webbysmeme and Ducksandchickens like this.
  24. Tcooper75228
    This was very informative. I'm new to raising chickens and had no idea that you give them treats. Thanks for the info.
  25. Tcooper75228
    This was very informative. I'm new to raising chickens and had no idea that you give them treats. Thanks for the info.
  26. m1chelle1
    :goodpost:Great, comprehensive list. Good for any flock master to know :clap
    thank you
  27. Mr.and Mrs.Greenwood
    my girls love oatmeal!
    1. featherhead007
      I give my hens a special oatmeal:
      laying pellets omega 3 purina, mixed with
      dried cherries
      meal worms
      hen scratch
      sometimes scrambled eggs
      or hamburger.
      but if that roo keeps attacking my leg,......He is gonna be dinner!!!
    2. featherhead007
      Oh and sometimes steamed rice
    3. featherhead007
      flash update: collected 7 eggs and the rooster attacked the bucket I use.. Cracked 4 of them... instant scrambled eggs, I dont waste stuff!
      PolishChickMama and Tarce123 like this.
  28. Tarce123
    At what age can I start feeding them treats?
      ChickyMama6 likes this.
    1. featherhead007
      my chicks were eating cooked rice with meal worms at 2 weeks old.
      now they are laying eggs everyday! yes 2 weeks old.
  29. Kevin_87
    Citrus made the not list. My hens eat the fallen lemons and oranges all winter. Do I need to stop this?
      Leoburns728 likes this.
    1. Susan Dye
      I wondered about all those chickens raised in places like FL. Figured they might be eating citrus:)
  30. featherhead007
    Why not feed the hens well? most of us have eggs for whatever reason, so why not make those eggs special and chemical free? aka: Eat healthy!
      FiddleChics likes this.
  31. AuntRonnie
    Excellent Article! Thanks for the list of what not to feed as well. Very helpful for this newbie.
  32. Ashley McDaniel
    Wow, definitely learned a lot from this article. Love the pics and how the author made it a fun and interesting read. Thanks!
      featherhead007 likes this.
  33. FiddleChics
    Wow! Thank you! Informative and fun! I'm going to keep this list handy! I like the idea of warm oatmeal on cold days for the hens! Like making hot mash for the horses on Sunday mornings... I'd wondered about something for the chickens too! Perfect! :)
      featherhead007 likes this.
  34. omlet the chicken
  35. coop410silkies
    My chickens are committed grass grazers, I am surprised by how much they like to graze, even when offered a continual supply of hi-protein pellets. They come running for snacks, and they are especially fond of meat, eggs, and dairy. Whenever I feed them low protein snacks - like leftover stale, home made WW bread, rice, or corn - I supplement it heavily with a high protein source, which could be extra, hard boiled eggs, milk fermented with kefir, chicken livers, hamburger, mealworms, superworms, etc. I also trap and give them earwigs, and they love whole baby mice. They free range and get their own goodies, too, which I think helps a lot to keep them happy. Sometimes I see them jumping up to grab grass seed heads, and I think it may be good husbandry to knockdown the grass in their pasture fields. I am considering growing worms or grubs, maybe crickets. They do love their insects. and sheep pebbles. And water in dirty puddles. I am amazed that I can even tolerate them.
    1. DaviJones
      Where do you get whole baby mice? Are they live?
      I've been hoping to get some for mine
    2. coop410silkies
      Davi, I used to buy these "pinkies" at pet stores where they sell reptiles. My chicks, bearded dragon, box turtle, and Russian tortoise would feast and squabble over them, laid in a pile on a single large plate. It was a sight to behold. They were indeed live, and they are a good whole food for many kinds of creatures. They are tiny, though, and one doesn't go far; so I switched to rat pinkies. All these are pricey, though, so I switched again to frozen rat pinkies sold by Layne Laboratories. mail order. It was a big success when the reptiles would eat the thawed rat pinkies; chickens will eat anything. Nowadays, I look for mice nests under bales of hay and the like. It is not too hard to raise your own if you live in a mild climate or have heat in an out building. Works best with breeder mice and a rat mother/brooder. You might be able to get some on-line through reptile supply retailers, like LLReptile. You could Google Mice Feeders, too. Caveat emptor, though.
  36. starlessji
    Oh my goodness! I got identical looks from my chooks when I gave them lobster also! :lau
  37. featherhead007
    Can you imagine, I put some shiny marbles in their run and my Beetov-hen pushed all of them back outside the fence. I guess she likes her run free of distractions... Silly bird!
    1. featherhead007
      And she still does!
  38. Frenchie8250
    how do i save this list to pinterest?
  39. Eggs_Over_EZ
    We fed our previous flock chicken livers for the extra protein when they were molting. They loved it. It was hilarious to see a chicken get a large chunk of a liver and start cackling about it. The others were run after her to get it even though there was a trough full of livers still there left. Her cackling made them think she found a prize.
  40. Mrs White
    The last couple of years I have been saving a couple of squash and zucchini from the garden. I either slice it super thin or dice it into small chunks then freeze. Then on super hot days, I'll put it out for the chickens, it's a cooling treat and they love it!
      featherhead007 and dancesCchicks like this.
    1. Tarce123
      Great idea, it gets pretty hot in Santa Clarita, CA in the summers I am going to do this
      featherhead007 likes this.
    2. madlaina
      Frozen slices of watermelon make great chicken(and childrens') icypoles for hot days.
      featherhead007 likes this.
  41. Littlefaceza
    Very informative!! Thanks very much!! I cannot wait to try some of these :) Do chickens like wheatgrass and is it ok to feed? Any other type of herb/plant one can grow at home for them to enjoy?
      featherhead007 and starlessji like this.
    1. starlessji
      My chickens love wheatgrass! They also totally helped themselves to the mint, thyme, and parsley plant beds lol.
      featherhead007 likes this.
  42. luckyplucky
      dancesCchicks likes this.
    1. IzzyMom
      I needed to read this TODAY! I have given raw whole-oats to my chickens in the past mixed with their scratch as a "treat" during the cold winter months. Not anymore! Thank you again :)
      featherhead007 likes this.
    2. luckyplucky
      Just to clarify (I commented on her blog article on this and she responded, which I appreciate) it sounds like very small amounts as a treat *occasionally* is ok, but not ok in large amounts or as a meal replacement. :)
      featherhead007 and IzzyMom like this.
    3. rtj18175
      I read the article and I was surprised. I have fed them warmed oatmeal only a couple of times at the end of a day. No more though.
      featherhead007 likes this.
  43. SimplyLivinthatFarmLife
    Always good to be reminded of what chickens can and cannot have!
  44. Nashonii
    Should you feed chickens moldy bread?
      featherhead007 likes this.
    1. Wolfgang B.
      Definately not! Only feed your chickens what you would still eat yourself.
      featherhead007 and Lenixen like this.
  45. Nannychickchick
    Re forgot to add "CHICKEN Soup"
    Soak said favourite mealworms in a large bowl of hot water, leave overnight .
    Take offering to girls....they will devour plumped up mealworms,.... And drink the 'soup' till its vanished!!! 2 for 1 lol
    They also love 'ready BEAK'. Mix 1>1 warm water and milk into porridge oats,
    Add few raisons, chunks apple, Great treat on cold mornings
  46. achiekitty
    Our chickens don’t like redworms. But they like Kefir. We add water to “rinse” off the empty kefir bottle and put in a bowl. It’s fun to watch them drink it, but I make sure to watch from a distance or I get splashed.

    And they love the perennial tree collard. They jump up to eat to get to the leaves many times in the day. We also have “bamboo scaffolding” around it and the girls roost on the horizontal bamboo to feed on the leaves.
      featherhead007 and barleeb like this.
  47. Wolfgang B.
    Quote: "I gave up on my birds knowing what was best for them when I caught them all eating a block of Styrofoam pellets."

    :lau :gig
    1. View previous replies...
    2. ChikenChik
      My chickens destroyed a pool noodle my kids left within pecking distance of their run....silly things! REALLY freaked me out being new to chickens but they all were fine thank goodness!
      featherhead007 likes this.
    3. ticketism
      Haha, a while back one of my Orpington cockerels got into a random Styrofoam stash that somehow ended up in the yard, and he ate so much of it that he wouldn't eat his grower pellets! Then it became impacted and I had to spend many nights feeding him oil soaked bread, massaging his crop, worried sick about him until he managed to 'pass' it... All over my lap! He also got a bad case of wry neck due to vitamin deficiency and I had to hand feed him a strict diet of vitamins, special high selenium nutrient dense feed mix (honestly it was like preparing a gourmet salad, hahahah), and pediatric electrolyte water several times a day. All the while he was wearing a truly daft looking neck brace made from a toilet roll, just to stop him doing somersaults and vomiting on himself! What an ordeal - Yikes! Some birds seem to be able to pass the Styrofoam just fine, even if rather messily, but I suppose it depends on both the individual bird and the type + amount of polystyrene; coz Orpy was a very sick lad indeed! Maybe there are certain biodegradable/non-toxic/water soluble types they could play with as a fun toy, but I always recommend just keeping it all away from them to be on the safe side. You don't want to lose a bird over something so silly, like I very nearly did.
      featherhead007 and ChikenChik like this.
    4. Coral Cluck
      I have never had styrofoam around my birds. That crap is bad. But I did give them cat treats they love them. With a picky eater I have had lots of cat food the cat would not eat and the chickens love it. Now I read it's bad, scary , glad I didn't poison them.
      featherhead007 likes this.
  48. Susan Dye
    I have heard that whey is good to feed chickens and to soak their oats with, but since lemon juice or citrus acid is often used to produce the curd, I'm confused as to whether or not that counts as being harmful since citrus is harmful. Would love to be able to soak their oatmeal in the whey if it's safe regardless of the agent used to produce the curd in my cheese. Anyone have any first hand knowledge on this?
      VHoff likes this.
  49. Gone to the birds!
    Thanks for a comprehensive list of do's and dont's.
    I will be using the suet feeder idea.
      featherhead007 and dancesCchicks like this.
  50. jgrove
    How old do my baby chicks need to be before they are allowed treats?
    1. Chullicken
      I'd really wait until that five week mark, at that point they are young adults and their systems are more developed. When you start feeding treats at an early age, most commercial brands are high in fat. And you will have to supply them with some sort of chick grit if feeding non production food types.
      featherhead007 likes this.

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