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. Peepsicle
    is it ok if i copy some of your info? I'm trying to put together a binder of some info about chickens, and this is perfect! PLEASE??!!
  2. beccybumbles
    WOW thanks, this page is fab to us new-be's chicken lovers :)
  3. TherryChicken
    VERY helpful! Thank you!
  4. TammyTootles
    great list =] I had trouble loading the link to toxic plants....anybody have another link to that list?
  5. honeyb
    i just gave mine a hole avocado cut in half. they only eat the flesh and theyre fine but i didnt know, i wouldnt risk it in the again .
  6. honeyb
    i read that they like parsley?
  7. honeyb
    whats wrong with banana peels?
  8. pennychaney89
    Really helpful :)
  9. helenshens
    My chickens go crazy for styrofoam too. I try to keep it away from them, but found a styro cooler in the garage missing a huge hole from the corner. What do you suppose happens to it - just passes on through?
  10. 5chickenkid
    They can like dandeilion greens.
  11. Tlawler
    I meant our barred rock hens, though our neighbors are friendly as well (or they wouldn't get any eggs!)
  12. Tlawler
    This list was incredibly useful. We had a summer garden as well as a large field (about 600) of sunflowers, and knowing what "the girls" can/should and cannot/should not eat was most helpful. While our tomato crop was seriously hurt by critter damage, that just meant more for the girls! Out ten barred rock hens, which we got from Tractor Supply on March 2nd, 2012, are laying on average about eight eggs a day, a sufficient number to meet the egg needs of my wife and I and all of our close-friend neighbors. It's pretty kewl. And they are so friendly!
  13. goodmorninglove
    I'm a bit confused. The list above says that cabbage and kale can be given as treats but the link to toxic plants says that they are toxic. Are they safe or are they toxic?
  14. Ellochicken
    Thank You for the very useful important info! My chickens will love you! Thanks for posting!
  15. Gabriellea
    extremely helpful page..Thank you!!
  16. peepsbwithu
    great list. Can they have a bit of green onion mixed in with something else?
  17. JayBaby
    I will definately print this page! Thanks for all the good information!
  18. Hot wing gal
    Thank you so much for this list. I am new to having chickens and I find this site to be very helpful.
  19. RulerOfTheSkies
    I took the pop corn machine outside and popped some corn. My girls went nuts going after the popcorn!
  20. itsthelaw37801
    Since reading this article, I have gotten seedless grapes, cut them into fours, and given them as a treat. They went crazy for them. Must be the juice and the smell. Today, I took tomatoes, cut them up into pieces, and I thought they were going to kill each other over them. We have a watermelon in the floor. May give it a couple of days and see which one wins: grapes, tomatoes or watermelon.
  21. jimandscott
    my girls just go mad for meal worms. i am sure i could train them with mealworms!! (although they are a bit stupid) i am going to get some crickets for my granchildren to give them. that sounds like an absoloot hoot.
    they havent touched brocoly so going to sprout some beans and pulses with the kids to see if fresher stuff will attract them. yogurt is getting a try today. brill article lots of ideas . and will stay away from citrus and cat food. thanks al lot of fun to follow
  22. PurplePoppiPpl
    how old do chickens need to be before they eat corn kernels?
  23. PurplePoppiPpl
    can chickens eat corn kernels whole??
  24. ChickInDelight
    I have also been feeding flax seeds. Please clarify whether it is safe or not.
  25. ChickInDelight
    My kids insist that feeding chicken to chickens is forced canabolism and illegal.
  26. Mendel
    my chickens are like garbage disposals!!!!!
  27. jimandscott
    fantastic info. mealworms are so funny . they run from the other side of the garden tripping over each other to get to them... and they make it so easy to get them back to the saftey of the pen if im going out. we get a lot of foxes round here as we back onto a country park, so if im not around they need the security of the pen,
    again great info, will try more interesting thing for there pen to keep them more entertained.
  28. GuineasGirl
    Thank you so much! I've been wondering what type of table scraps I could give them to add some variety to their diet.
  29. Reurra
  30. jchny2000
    This is fantastic! I am planning ahead for the winter months, so its great knowing whats safe for them well ahead of time.
  31. Our Roost
    Because we are surrounded by the Northern woods in Michigan, forest ferns are at a premium. Both our chickens and 2 ducks seem to enjoy eating the stripped leaves off of them. I have yet to investigate whether these may contain natural toxins harmful to the poultry. The deer in the area eat them all the time which is what drove me to try them as a green for the birds. Any horticulturalists out there with information?
  32. SOchic4
    i got lost on the cat food part, ive fed our chickens can cat food probably ever other couple days because i didnt know any better, so should i completely quit giving it to them or its ok for every once in a while? thanks im a beginner
  33. iluvsedward
    I used to give my chickens raw eggs all the time when we had too many eggs, but I never let them see me crack them open so the wouldnt know how. I'm not sure if they are really smart, or really dumb, but they would lay their eggs in the loft and sometimes the eggs would fall down...
  34. imisabellab
    Thank you so much! I have great snack ideas for my girls. Now the hens in your last three pictures are Buff Orpingtons, right? :D
  35. LazerClaire
    My chickens LOVE coconut! I make my own coconut milk from coconut flakes & so I have a ton of leftover flakes. I dry them in the sun or oven & mix some in with their food daily or let them eat some from my hand to win their love. They like it as much as they like mealworms!
  36. itsthelaw37801
    The mealworms are like getting them hooked on drugs. My husband and I actually call the mealworms "crack". I can shake the container and they all come running like we are best friends.
  37. California_chickie
    This is a great article!
  38. clucky3255
    ND PARSLEY AND AVACADO!
  39. clucky3255
    i will keep away from citris too!
  40. clucky3255
    THe page is very informative and fun!!! thank you for the page! i loved it! and tommorow i am going to treat my chickens and ducks to a tasty treat!! thanks to anyone who helped make BYC possible!
  41. CountryGeorge
    I figure to a chicken there are but two classes of things in the world, things that eat chickens and things put there for chickens to eat. If it don't eat them they will try to eat it!
  42. Chickenhill
    Who needs a dog to help with leftovers...Chicken power! Love to watch the looks and the circling when new foods are offered. Quite entertaining.
  43. Shelby12
    I love learning something new everyday, an all the articles on byc is so informatial:) Thank you.
  44. love my animals
    Thanks for all this info.!
  45. NoZolbitty
    With chocolate , its a naturaly occuring chemical that causes the trouble. many birds cannaot handle it.
  46. Troy6671
    Thanks for the information. I will be offering my girls some new things to eat!
  47. dlbickar
    I read on the net somewhere , to give your chickens cat food because it is high in protein... I also feed my barn ca in the barn where the girls have access, and my girls will get up on his feeding platform and help themselves, I had been giving them wet cat food at night... They love it .. I. guess you shouldn't take everyones advice on the net... I think it was an old farmer that suggested cat food for added protein especially during moult... So this is bad for them?
  48. animallover505
    thanks for the info!
  49. teckelhut
    I have to laugh at treats and how smart chickens are. I was doing some digging and found a small worm so I said "Who wants a worm?" and held it out in my hand until one curious hen came over and grabbed it. Well the word got out. The next time I found a worm, I got out nothing further than "Who wants a..." and I was up to my knees in chickens.
  50. dusky
    :( :( :( My chickens LOVE eating styrofoam, crazy birds! I always yell at my dad when he leaves containers out.. I gave them a banana once and they looked really shocked when they took a bite. lol Must've tasted very weird to them.

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