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 · ·
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  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.

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    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


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Comments

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  1. OldFarmGirl68
    They say the citrus is bad for the hens eggs. It causes them to be thin and brittle, that's what I've read.
  2. Nutcase
    Wow, the pictures are superb!
  3. LittleBits
    Just found this list! I was wondering why they didn't like potato peelings and I've just started throwing them back on the garden compost since they don't eat them anyway. Also had posted a question elsewhere about feeding raw beans - like pinto beans - for added protein - now I know. Thanks! I'll be reading this more thoroughly later.
  4. mrealm
    Thanks for the list and info!
  5. Kourtnie
    Great article! Thanks for the very useful info...I reference this page often!
  6. ChickenLover200
    mine love bread :D i never heard of chick weed....
  7. Tlawler
    We have an invasive weed know as "chickweed" on the farm. Duiring the winter and late spring, every day the chickens -- 10 barred rock hens -- get cut up pieces of white bread and picked chickweed. They go nuts over the bread, but the chickweed is eaten every day. When the garden kicks in in summer, they'll get zuchinni, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, and "other stuff"

    They also really like rice, grapes, and, well, a lot of other stuff.
  8. ChickenLover200
    what about carrots? like baby carrots i give them to my hens all the time but i don't know if they provide some nutrition or not....
      Freisian likes this.
  9. Tlawler
    We have chickweed growing like ... er ... a weed on our farm, and each afternoorn when I collect eggs they get a little bit of "cheap" white bread (their favorites) and some chickweed (they aren't free range, as we only have 10 hens, and we have off leash neighborhood dogs, foxes, and other predators). They also get some vegetable table scraps, and in the middle/late summer they get scraps from our garden -- tomatoes, various types of squash, etc. Later in the summer when I harvest the seeds from the approximately 600-700 sunflowsers we grow, they get those (shared with our horses)
      Freisian likes this.
  10. Tlawler
    I meant, of course, harvest, not replace the eggs. This May, we are on average getting about 9 eggs a day.
  11. Tlawler
    Aside from Purina Layeena Crumble in the morning, our ten barred rock hens get treats every afternoon when I give them new water and replace the eggs. The treats depend on the time of year. We have tons of chickweed growing on the farm, so currently they get chickweed and pieces of the cheapest white bread I can find (e.g., the 78 cents a loaf at Walmart). When we move later into summer, they get lettuce beyond what we can eat, tomatoes beyond whqt we can eat, squash beyond what we can eat, etc. (we have four different garden plots). When it's later in the summer, they also get sunflower seeds from the approximately 600 sunflowers we plant every year. (Just because they are pretty).
    We've only had the 10 barred rock hens since last march, but they great layers, and are most friendly. They love morning breakfast, and go no nuts over the afternoon "treat" time. I really wish I could let them free range, but we have multiple off leash dogs from neighbors that visit every day, as well as fox and raccoons. They do have an outdoor run that I built that is about 12 feet by four feet, and they have a great chicken coop that indoors is about six feet by five feet, but I'd love to let them free range, but have of them would be eaten in a week.
      Farm Gurl and Freisian like this.
  12. Chicken Goddess
    I feed my chickens crickets, mealworms and pasta. OMG!! chickens love pasta, they scruff on it especially sphagetti ones. they think its a worm.
  13. chickery-do
    I also serve them pineapples, oranges and all sorts of fruits and veggies that they seem to love. What out when you feed them your leftover coleslaw! Especially when it's nice and wet!!!
  14. chickery-do
    My girls go crazy for the heart of the green pepper ( especially the red pepper) and the fleshy inside! I hold onto the top and let them peck at it.
  15. 859007
    thanks for the information
  16. emnicole514
    my chickens go NUTS for banannas and lettuce. they get ample time tof ree range but for some reason in their opinions lettuce is much better than what they have to usually munch on. they dont LOVE the mealworms, but do LOVE slugs and termites.
  17. DuccleLover101
    Awesome! My chickens LOVE blueberries.
  18. tlcnubians
    Our chickens will eat just about anything we put out for them. Goat milk is a favorite treat, especially when it starts separating.
  19. LittleHens
    Thanks for the interesting info!!!
    Oh BTW the golden hens are BEAUTIFUL!!!
  20. BirdMan32
    Thank you!!
  21. Janay
    Wow, this chart is sooooo helpful! Thank you so much!! I am going to print it out and hang on to it. :) I'm also new to BYC and also new to chickens! So I'm trying to learn as much as I can.
  22. saintdeer
    i tie bagels to a string and hang it in the coop...they go crazy every time!
  23. HomesteadDebi
    Great chart! Thank you so much :)
  24. Chikyn
    It is absolutley hilarious to watch the chickens eat my cream cheese and see them smacking with these 'beards'
  25. MrsWolfe
    Thank you for your knowledge and resorces. Being a newby I am always looking to find enough information as I can so I can raise healthy and happy chicks.
  26. redneck farmer
    very nice thank u
  27. lorililly
    what about cinnamon ?
  28. LOVEMYCHICKS03
    chickens love blueberries so much i don't even now what the word for it is!
  29. willowbranchfarm
  30. animallover505
    My hens LOVE citrus! Why can't they have it??
  31. Nutcase
    Great page guys
  32. ComfortChickens
    This is a very informative and helpful list! Thank you for sharing it!
  33. PurplePoppiPpl
    would i be able to give my chickens suet cakes/dough that is for wild birds?
  34. rocketmail
    Is it good to give them choclate flavored yogurt?
  35. Mr MKK FARMS
  36. givemewings310
    is there a printable available for these charts? I don't know how to use different Office programs to make my own, and copying and pasting isn't working too well... I would LOVE to print this as a reminder to post in my kitchen and next to the coop!!
  37. gypsy5583
    Is it ok to feed them egg shells?
  38. Mr MKK FARMS
    Very helpful. Thanks!
  39. love2carve
    I read on a chicken blog or in a chicken magazine a while back where one person fed crickets purchased from a pet store and her chickens got tape worms from them. I don't think its worth the risk!
  40. alaskamom
    My chickens LOVE cucumbers, warm oatmeal (we live in Alaska) and watermelon. They arent huge on lettuce or kale...maybe in a few months when they havent seen grass in a while! ;)
  41. LittleRedCoop53
    Super helpful....thanks~
  42. TriangleMaster9
    I tried feeding my girls some asian pears, oh my gosh they absolutely went nuts! They love those things, although you gotta get them in small peices otherwise they can't get them in their mouths!
  43. ilikehorses2
  44. JSW99
    Thank you! Now I will know what's safe to feed my friends!
  45. beccybumbles
    My 2 girls are obsessed with red seedless grapes, the grapes have been a god send when taming them! (or trying to!) now as a treat and to help keep them entertained, i hide the around the coop, under a rock pile etc.
    this chart is the best i have seen so far thanks :) x
  46. akangel1955
    I live in Alaska and it can get to 30 below here. I feed my girls warm oatmeal, cornmeal mush and prepared baby cereal. They love eating something warm. Some times I make cornbread and pour warm milk over it. They love all dairy products, cottage cheese, sour cream, yogurt, milk. I also give them sunflower seeds and hang suet for them in the winter. I either make my own suet blocks or buy the ones for birds when they go on sale at the end of winter and store them in the freezer. I love this website. Thank you so much for the info. :)
  47. din0nut
    part 2
    Many feeds have citric acid as a preservative.
    Here is an interesting little blurb I found:
    2. Citric acid can increase feed intake and daily gain, improve feed utilization, and enhance resistance to disease. Such as high-temperature season, in broiler diets to add citric acid, can improve Chicken's feed intake, feed utilization and daily gain; Citric acid can promote red blood cell C3b receptor on the synthesis, while the red blood cell C3b receptors exert immune function an important material foundation; Citric acid in the animal body is oxidized into carbon dioxide and bicarbonate, as a blood buffer to maintain the stability of blood PH value; In addition, citric acid is the antioxidant synergist.
    FYI--I give my flock citrus, but not terribly often. I have also been to a number of poultry shows where the birds were given halves of grapefruits to peck at.
    So: your rule is not true, but good luck getting your chickens to eat your orange tree's overflow!
    Sincerely,
    Laree
    www.mypetchicken.com
      blackandtan likes this.
  48. din0nut
    so i asked my pet chicken about citrus and received this answer: part 1
    Thank you for contacting My Pet Chicken.
    A little bit of citrus won't hurt your birds, as with everything else: all things in moderation.
    Too much of any fruit can result in slowed laying, as many fruits contain low-levels of estrogen-like chemicals, which in turn start acting like a form of birth control. Some folks believe too much citrus can cause feather pecking due to increased levels of vitamin C (I have never seen any scientific proof in this, but I guess this is an issue with exotic birds)...others say it can interfere with Calcium absorption (no proof on this either).
      blackandtan likes this.
  49. 5chickenkid
    The mealwoms are hilareous!
  50. Peepsicle
    is it okay if I copy some of your info? I'm trying to put together a binder of some of the things that I know about chickens, and this is perfect. PLEASE??

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