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Healthy Treats for Chickens: A Handy Guide


Chickens are true omnivores. They are not vegetarians.

When left to their own devices as they have been for generations on family farms, they will seek out a wide variety of weeds, grasses, seeds, grains, fruits, vegetables...


...and yes even "meat" or protein, usually in the form of bugs, slugs, and worms. Woe to the lizard, snake, mouse, toad or even small bird that ventures into a chicken run.

I've read that farm chickens have also been known to drink fresh cow or goat milk when the opportunity presents itself!



As with humans, a varied, healthy diet will lead to healthy chickens and more nutritious, delicious eggs.

While their layer feed should comprise the majority of their diet and always be fed first thing in the morning to ensure the chickens are filling up on that, later in the day, a few healthy treats won't hurt.

Offering a wide variety of foods, feeding everything in moderation, and choosing from this list, you can be sure your chickens are eating what they need in order to stay healthy and lay nice, beautiful eggs.

Here are some of the things that I offer to my own chickens in a fairly regular, rotating basis:


Healthy Treats for Chickens: A Handy Guide



Vegetables including 

Beans (fresh or cooked, dried beans contain a toxin and should never be fed uncooked)
Beets/beet greens
Broccoli, raw or cooked
Brussels sprouts, raw or cooked
Cabbage
Carrots/carrot tops
Corn/Corn on the cob (fresh, frozen or canned)
Cucumbers
Garlic
Kale/collards 
Lettuce (preferably romaine or any type other than iceberg which doesn't have much nutrition)
Parsnips
Peas, fresh raw or cooked 
Pumpkins, raw or cooked (seeds especially are good)
Radishes (vegetable and greens)
Spinach (in moderation, too much can interfere with calcium absorption)
Sprouts (mung bean, alfalfa, broccoli, wheat berry etc)
Squash, flesh, skin and seeds, raw or cooked
Sweet potato leaves, vines and peels (no white potato, it is part of the nightshade family and can be toxic)
Tomatoes, fully ripe, no green ones and not leaves or vines
Turnips
Zucchini


Fruits including 

Apples/Applesauce
Apricots
Bananas (peel them and discard the pesticide-laden skins unless the bananas are organic)
Berries
Cherries
Cranberries
Grape halves
Melon (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew - cut in half)
Peaches
Pears
Plums
Pomegranates (cut in half)
Raisins

Note: many stone fruit pits contain trace amounts of cyanide. Probably not a problem, but if in doubt, skip the pits/seeds from apricots, apples, cherries, peaches, pears, plums.


Grains, nuts and seeds including 

Grains - millet, oats, quinoa and others, cooked
Nuts (unsalted)
Oatmeal (raw or cooked)
Popcorn (air popped, unsalted, no butter) 
Rice, cooked (brown is more nutritious than white)
Seeds - safflower, sunflower, sesame etc.


Bread Products in Moderation

Bread (in moderation - whole wheat, whole grain or oatmeal is more nutritious than white)
Cheerios or other whole grain, non-sugar cereal
Pasta, cooked (in moderation, no butter or salt, and again, whole wheat is more nutritious)
Chips, cookies and other snack foods - very occasionally (they're junk food for chickens as well as us!)


Meat, seafood and proteins including 

Steak scraps/bones
Beef, ground  (cooked or raw)
Crickets
Earthworms
Eggs, raw, scrambled or hard boiled, eggshells
Fish and fish skin
Grubs 
Lobster, cooked (as if, I mean our chickens are spoiled but lobster!) and lobster shells
Mealworms
Meat scraps, including cooked pork, lamb, chicken or turkey, bones and carcasses okay
Shrimp and shrimp shells

Dairy including 

Cheese 
Cottage cheese 
Milk
Plain yogurt 

(Note: chickens can't digest the milk sugars, so dairy products should be fed in strict moderation)



Herbs and Weeds including 

Basil
Bay leaves
Borage
Catnip
Chervil
Chickweed
Cilantro
Clover
Dandelions
Dill
Fennel
Garlic
Ginger
Lemon Balm
Marjoram
Mint
Oregano
Parsley
Plantain
Rosemary
Sage
Tarragon
Thyme


Flowers including 

Bee balm
Calendula
Chamomile
Echinacea
Lavender
Marigolds
Pansies
Nasturtium
Roses
Squash blossoms
Sunflowers
Violets 

So next time you clean out your fridge, have garden trimmings or kitchen leftovers, put some aside for the chickens!

(Note: There are some things to avoid. You want to steer clear of anything too salty, sugary, fried. And never feed anything that's moldy or rotten, although stale or wilted is fine.  For a complete list of potentially toxic foods read HERE.)


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