chickens eating scrapsWhen living on a farm or raising farm animals, one of the big perks is that a lot of your uneaten food can be recycled into food for your animals. Pigs and goats are notorious for being able to eat table scraps, but did you know that chickens can also nibble on some of your leftovers? It’s true! There are some limitations, but here’s what you can and can’t feed your chicken.

As a rule, don’t make a habit of feeding your flock exclusively off of table scraps. Just because they can eat a lot of your waste doesn’t mean that it’s anywhere near the best thing for them. Consider it more as junk food than anything else, so be sure that they’re getting their primary nutritional requirements from their usual feed, grass, and bugs. That said, throwing in some scraps here and there isn’t a problem.

Some of the foods that chickens tend to really love are chopped vegetables and fruits, especially carrots and peas, rice, oatmeal, and even small pieces of cooked beef or pork. Were you surprised to hear that chickens can eat meat? They can actually eat a lot more than you’d assume as they’re not herbivores but rather omnivores (their bug-eating gives this fact away). They need protein from meat, be it bug meat, beef, or pork. Don’t feed them cooked chicken meat though as that just encourages negative behavior and is extremely weird.

However, there are a handful of scraps to avoid completely as they can be toxic or even fatal. Potato and avocado skins are strong poisons for your flock, as are avocado pits. Chocolate, as with most animals, will definitely make them sick, and rotten food will do the same. Feeding them these things will likely result in some very sick chickens, so be safe about what goes into the leftover pile, and be sure that any food that does make it into the feed is removed before it has a chance to become rotten.

Other foods that you should avoid include processed foods like pizza and fast food, coffee grounds, salt, raw meat, and oddly enough onions and garlic. All of these won’t necessarily make your hens sick, but they’re nowhere near healthy and can even change the taste of their eggs in a negative way.

It should be noted though that you should wait until your chickens are at least 12-weeks-old before offering them scraps. Mixing in some select leftovers can add a lot of variety to your chickens’ diets, but be careful what you include. Just make sure they’re actually getting their required nutrition.

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