How can chickens eat so many different foods?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Carrie Lynn, Nov 14, 2010.

  1. Carrie Lynn

    Carrie Lynn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 30, 2010
    S.E. Michigan
    After learning about the incredible range of foods that can be given to chickens, I'm curious.
    How can it be that chickens can eat such a wide range of foods?
    What is it about the species that makes this possible?
    I mean, can you imagine most other birds eating everything from yogurt to raw fish, apple cores, to cheese, to each other?
    I get the seed/grain/fruit connection, other birds do that. I'm thinking chickens are scavengers/predators too. But you don't hear about eagles, hawks and owls eating seed and grain. Do they? I don't know of other birds that would come to yogurt. How is it that chickens can digest milk products? Perhaps other species would if given the opportunity.
    Anyone have any answers for me? Perhaps a good article? I'm intrigued...chickens are so cool.

    Carrie Lynn
  2. Cluckn Crazy

    Cluckn Crazy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 25, 2010
    Peterborough, Ontario
    I agree with your post. I'm not a fan of giving dairy to chickens (or people for that matter). I feel chickens should be fed as close to what a wild, omnivorous bird would select on its own. The trouble is, the chicken has been domesticated for so long, we have learned they are quite tolerable of many foods. You can find information that supports diets ranging from kitchen scraps/free range to sprouted organic grains/seeds. Do what feels right to you. Good luck!
  3. RIBill

    RIBill Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 7, 2010
    Crows eat everything and anything. I saw 3 of them standing under a wild bird-planted crab apple tree jumping up, flapping wildly and pulling off a crab apple to eat it. Just the other day, I saw a pair hunt for, catch, kill and eat a mouse or a vole. I'm sure they would eat fish, fruit, bugs, etc. I think what it comes down to is all food is converted to its base parts (carbs, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals). Just because a creature doesn't eat a particular food doesn't mean they physically can't. I don't see many birds flapping under a cow looking for a drink. I also don't see them warming milk on a stove, inoculating it with acidophiles bacteria and keeping it warm for 4-12 hours. Everything has a daily energy (carbs, fat, protein) requirement. How you meet those requirements doesn't really matter. After that, you just need to meet your vitamin and mineral intake requirements. Feed manufacturers are just trying to formulate something that meets these needs as cheaply as possible. Most people try to do the same thing with treats, while providing a little diversity. Of course, a chicken would be perfectly healthy, dietary-wise, just eating feed. They may not, however, be happy. In the end, though, I think treats are more about making chicken keepers happy than chickens. [​IMG]
  4. Carrie Lynn

    Carrie Lynn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 30, 2010
    S.E. Michigan
    What about the amino acids? Are they necessary to digest and assimilate nutrients, or am I getting amino acids confused with something else?
    Certainly they don't manufacture the aminos needed to digest dairy. Just wondering, not arguing.
  5. Tala

    Tala Flock Mistress

    Quote:Cultured dairy, such as yogurt, buttermilk, etc. with live bacteria in it is considerably easier to digest because the good bacteria break it down for us (them) [​IMG]

    Enzymes break food down too, and some of them are made in the body, but some come included in food but they are broken down when heated - that's he secret behind raw diets, the birds consume some raw foods that have enzymes in them.
  6. Carrie Lynn

    Carrie Lynn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 30, 2010
    S.E. Michigan
    Thanks all, I appreciate the info [​IMG]
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2010
  7. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Overrun With Chickens

    May 8, 2007
    Chickens eat a wide variety of foods all the time. There are other birds that eat a lot of different types of foods, too. There are also species of birds that eat more specialized diets. Some eat a lot of fruit, some mainly eat insects, some eat mostly nectar, some eat mostly meat, some eat a lot of seeds and grains. Most of these eat some insects all the time and more when they are rearing chicks, although large raptors just go for the meat. Some of these eat a bit of other types of food.

    When you look at animals, reptiles or fish, you see the same thing. Some eat mainly meats, some eat mainly plants and some eat a lot of different types of foods. So, it doesn't surprise me that bird species also have such a wide range of dietary preferences and needs.

    Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Proteins can be made from different combinations of amino acids or different proportions of amino acids, depending on the animal or plant.

    I think you are thinking of probiotics or enzymes, that help break down food in the digestive tract. Probiotics are beneficial bacterias that help us digest food easier, like the one used to culture yogurt. It also creates a pH in the digestive tract that is different from the pH favored by some of the bad bacterias, that can make us or the chickens sick. So, they are good for multiple reasons.

    There are enzymes in raw foods that make them easier to digest. Cooking destroys enzymes in raw food. Your body can make enzymes, but as we age, it's harder to do that.

    We eat a wide range of foods, as humans. I also feed a wide range of foods to my chickens, parrots and dogs. We are all omnivores. I think it makes us all healthier. In addition to the different amino acid profiles of their proteins, different kinds of fats, different vitamins and minerals, foods also contain other components. There are all kinds of bioflavinoids and natural chemical compounds that can fight cancer and diseases in foods. That's why fruits and vegetables are so good for us, especially raw. That's why some herbs are especially good for us. We've really only begun to understand all the things that are in our foods and how our bodies use them.
  8. Carrie Lynn

    Carrie Lynn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 30, 2010
    S.E. Michigan
    Ys, I probably was thinking of enzymes.
    I too give my dogs a varied diet which includes fruits and veggies.
  9. gryeyes

    gryeyes Covered in Pet Hair & Feathers

    The whole answer is very simply: chickens are omnivores. That explains it all.


    Raptors are carnivores. Most songbirds are herbivores.

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