Never Feed Your Chickens...........


7 Years
Apr 28, 2012
I'm amazed at all the things chickens will eat but can't find any article telling what not to give them. I know most animals know what to eat and what to leave alone but is there anything you should NEVER give your chickens.

That's a link to the Treats Chart in the Learning Center on this Forum. If you look at the bottom of the chart, you will see some things that you are not supposed to feed your chickens.

You will find that several people disagree with this chart, some pretty strongly. There are a few things you probably should be aware of.

It helps to be able to read. You will notice that it does not say that potato skins are bad for your chickens. It says that green potato skins are bad for your chickens. There is a difference. It does not say that all beans are bad for them. It says raw or undercooked beans are bad for them.

Usually, one bite won't kill you. Your chickens are not likely to drop dead the instant they take one bite of something they should not. I'll use apple seeds as an example. Apple seeds contain cyanide. Have you ever swallowed and apple seed? I did several times when I was a kid on the farm. Yet I'm not dead. Why? you might ask. Many toxins require certain levels to cause damage or death. There is not enough cyanide in one apple seed to harm me or my chickens. I don't worry a bit if my chickens eat apples, including seeds, in my orchard. They are simply not going to eat enough to cause harm. When I make a lot of apple jelly or apple sauce, I have a lot of seeds left over. I'm talking about several quarts of sauce at a time. I don't dump that pile of concentrated seeds where the chickens can get to them. Would they eat enough seeds to harm themselves if they found a large pile of concentrated seeds? Maybe, maybe not. I'd even say probably not. But since I am aware that a lot of apple seeds might be harmful, I take what I consider reasonable precautions.

At the same time, realize that not all damage to them is immediately apparent. Just because they don't fall over dead the instant they take a bite of something doesn't mean it is not causing damage to their internal organs. Usually it takes really high concentrations of something to harm them or they need to eat it for a period of time for the cumulative effects to build up and cause harm. An easy example of this is feeding chicks Layer with the extra calcium in it. There are plenty of studies that show that the extra calcium in Layer can cause damage to growing chicks. Can, not necessarily will. One bite of Layer will not kill them. There is not enough in it to cause them harm from one bite. If they eat enough Layer over time for the cumulative effects to build up, the excess calcium can damage their internal organs to the point it weakens them enough that they die or are not as hardy as they should be. They may die a year later from stress that they should have been able to handle. Plus, if they are eating a lot of other things besides the Layer, maybe they are not really getting enough extra calcium to harm themselves by eating a bite or two of the Layer. What is important is the total amount of calcium they eat in a day, not just in one bite.

Many of the things on the “good” list contain things that can harm them. Cabbage for example. If they eat a tremendous amount of cabbage, they might eat enough to cause themselves a problem. But it requires a tremendous dosage for any harm to occur. There is a real good chance they will fill up and stop eating the cabbage before they eat enough to cause any problems, but don’t feed them huge amounts of cabbage or anything else consistently day after day. They need a balanced diet, not one concentrated in one or two things. If they are able to forage for themselves, they will take care of a lot of this themselves. But if you provide all they eat, just give them a variety of treats, not always the same thing, and rely on their regular chicken feed to be a major part of their diet. Moderation is the key.
You people are great. Thanks for all of the information. Was really surprised to learn about apple seeds. I give mine apple cores all the time with the seeds in them so that was really a surprise. Also realize not to worry about it but probably will stop giving them the seeds with the apple cores. And the cake too. I just read a article about somebody baking their birds a birthday cake. I suppose like you say moderation is the key. I do dump a lot of grass clippings and leaves inside their run. Is there any problem with that? They seem to love it. The run is covered with a metal roof so it stays dry in there. Thanks again
The thing with grass clippings is that when they eat grass while foraging, they bite off a small chunk. Witrh cut grass, they cannot bite off a small chunk but will eat a long strand. It is possible (not necessarily does each and every time) that the grass can get wadded up in their crop or even gizzard and cause an impacted crop or gizzard. That can kill them. +If you grass trimmings are not that long, it's not a big deal. I hate hard and fast numbers because you can always find an exception, but I've read that if they are less that 2" long, it is not a problem. Or maybe run over them twice with a mulching mower to chop them up.

Many people feed longer strands of grass and don't have a problem. But this is one of those things that can and occasionally does happen.

I personally have no problems at all giving them a few apple cores with seeds. It is big piles of concentrated seeds I'd worry about. Moderation, not indulgence or abstinance.
Nothing moldy, rotten, sprayed or contaminated with anything toxic, and basically anything else that you yourself would hesitate to eat. Most everything else is fair game.

I would not give them a lot of anything really sugary, full of fat, or heavily salted, but in small amounts (per bird) they are harmless. A wedding cake between six birds is too much. A wedding cake amount sixty birds will disappear in the blink of an eye.
I'm reading tomatoe plants are not good to give chickens. Seems the leaves are toxic to chickens. But the tomatoes are fine to give them
I'm reading tomatoe plants are not good to give chickens. Seems the leaves are toxic to chickens. But the tomatoes are fine to give them
my chickens have eaten my tomato plants so often it isn't funny. They love the leaves and actually climb over the railing to get Tokyo tomatoes drives me nuts! I put them in buckets so they could not get to them, they still do. Nothing has ever happened to my girls yet.
Same as karlamaria, my chickens (turkeys, too) appear to love venturing into the garden to feast on the tomato's leaves. While it may indeed have some cumulative toxicity to them, they do this every year and I've not observed any visible decline in health as a result of their Solanum binges.
Figures. But I read it here on BYC. Wonder who told these birds what they could and could not eat when they were living in the wild or in the case today when they free range. I guess it like Ridgerunner pointed out about apple seeds. Thanks for the info

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