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Which Holiday Leftovers are Safe for my Chickens?

Wondering which holiday leftovers are safe to feed to your chickens? Here's a handy guide.

Most of us end up with leftovers after our Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter feast - that's part of the fun of the holidays. I am asked all the time what is okay for chickens to have and what's not.

Of course, any of these foods should be treated as "treats" and fed only in limited amounts, but go ahead and share some of the healthier portions leftover from your holiday feast with your feathered friends.

And remember, chickens aren't vegetarians - they will eat almost anything!

Remember to also set aside any trimmings and odds and ends as you're cooking your holiday dinner as well. Your chickens will eat all kinds of vegetable greens, skins, etc. as well as meat trimmings.

Which Holiday Leftovers are Safe for my Chickens?

Here are some popular holiday food items and my recommendations on sharing. Let's start  with some leftovers that are okay to share with your chickens:

If you think chickens are vegetarians, you've never seen them go at a turkey leg! Leftover cooked turkey (or chicken) meat, skin and even the carcass is all fine to give to your chickens and a great source of protein for them.

Since turkey and chicken bones splinter and we can't give them to our dogs, the chickens always get all those leftovers. They will pick the bones clean in no time. They can also have lamb, steak or pork bones as well.


Ham, as you know, is pretty salty, so I would only give the chickens ham leftovers in extreme moderation, but a bit is fine.

Turkey or Chicken Carcass

Yup, believe it or not, as I mentioned above, your chickens will LOVE cleaning the carcass. And unlike with dogs, there's no worry about them choking on the bones or them splintering if they eat them because your chickens will be happy just plucking all the meat from the bones. 


Our chickens love cooked seafood of all kinds, including the shells. So if you are serving shrimp cocktail,  toss them the shells and any leftovers. our chickens love cleaning the lobster shells once we're done.

Sweet Potatoes 

If there's any of your sweet potato casserole left over when dinner is over, scrape off the sugar-laden marshmallow topping and let your chickens enjoy the rest. Same goes for yams.


Of course salad, dressing and all, is fine for your chickens. They will love the lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and other veggies.

Office Party Platters

Crudite platters are also a no-brainer to give to the chickens. You know those fruit and veggie platters that always turn up at office parties? Bring them home!

Bring home the platters of rolled meat and cheese too. As a special treat for your flock it's all fine and they always have lots of leafy green garnishes too.

Green Bean Casserole 

Green bean casserole always seems to make an appearance on holiday tables. Feel free to share any vegetable dish leftovers with your chickens.

Creamed Spinach 

Spinach is a nutrition powerhouse and our chickens love it. The oxalic acid in spinach can interfere with calcium absorption if fed in large amounts, but as a holiday treat it's one of the more nutritious choices.

Cranberry Relish 

Chickens love cranberries, so leftover cranberry sauce will be a big hit. Sure, its got sugar in it, but a little bit won't hurt them.

Deviled Eggs 

Made too many deviled eggs? Share with the chickens by all means. Eggs are one of the most nutritious treats you can feed your flock, and no, feeding them eggs won't lead to 'unauthorized' egg eating.


Leftover rolls or bread are fine as an occasional treat.  Not terribly nutritious, but certainly okay on a special occasion - like Christmas...or Thanksgiving...or Easter.

Pumpkin Pie 

While I wouldn't make it a habit of feeding my chickens pie of any kind, a bit of leftover pumpkin pie actually has some nutritional value, so go ahead and share.

Apple Pie 

Same with apple pie, I wouldn't recommend making it a regular part of my chickens' diet, but since pie isn't part of our own regular menu, when I do bake pie (any berry or fruit pie) and there are leftovers, I share with the chickens.

Now for a few leftovers I would pass on:


Mashed Potatoes

Skip the white potatoes. Cooked or raw, skins and flesh, they contain the toxin solanine which while not immediately fatal to chickens, can cause diarrhea, destroy red blood cells and eventually lead to heart failure.

Small amounts aren't anything to worry about necessarily, but best to stay away from feeding the chickens white potatoes.

Creamed Pearl Onions 

Skip the onions also. Onions contain the toxin thiosulphate which also destroys red blood cells and can cause jaundice, anemia or even death in your hens in large enough amounts.

(Note: garlic contains the same toxin but in far lesser amounts and I do feed garlic because I feel the health benefits far outweigh any potential health risk)


Asparagus can taint the taste of your chickens' eggs, so toss those leftover asparagus spears in the composts pile, not the chicken run.


Toss that leftover congealed gravy or other creamy sauce in the trash. It's mostly grease, butter, flour and salt, so not much nutritional value there.

If you make a pan scraping-based gravy or sauce that's mostly meat fats, liquid and not too salty, go ahead and share. The little bit of extra fat is good for them for some winter energy.


Our chickens don't generally eat citrus fruit. They don't seem to like it. Citrus is thought to interfere with calcium absorption and contribute to thin-shelled and fewer eggs, so I would toss any citrus fruits, but any other fruit salad is fine.


Unlike pies that contain fruits or pumpkin, cookies have little to no nutritional value so I would skip feeding left over cookies to your flock. And who ever has leftover cookies anyway!

Chocolate/Coffee Grounds/Tea Bags/Alcohol 

No chocolate, no coffee grounds, and no tea bags. And no alcohol. That's kind of common sense.

Also, nothing too salty, sweet or fried. If its not good for you, it's probably not good for your chickens either. But in the spirit of the holiday, go ahead and share some of the goodies - within reason - they'll enjoy them and it won't hurt them.

This time of year they aren't laying eggs anyway, so they aren't expending a ton of nutrients and energy and can afford to eat a few extra treats! 

For a more complete list of healthy treats, click HERE.
For a complete list of no-no's, click HERE.

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