When we have friends and family over to our house they love to spend time with the chickens, watching their antics, and most of all, feeding them. We frequently get asked the question, “What can chickens eat?”and the answers might surprise you!
There are lots of things that chickens enjoy eating, from the kitchen, from the garden, and from the earth. We’ve put together a list of our 100 favorite things chickens can eat so you can treat your backyard chickens the right way! Many of these are great free chicken feed ideas! Perfect for cutting costs and saving on your feed bill!
What Can Chickens Eat? 100 Things to Fill Those Beaks!
When feeding chickens there are some important things to always remember. Chickens need a balanced diet in order to be healthy, therefore it’s a good idea to only offer healthy chicken treats and in a limited amount.
Feeding large amounts of table scraps or foods with little nutritional value will hurt your flock over time. Try to stick to the ten percent rule if possible, meaning only ten percent of their diet should be treats.
Chicken Feed and Supplements
We’ll start with the obvious, what can chickens eat? Chicken feed of course!
This is a staple in most hens’ diets, and supplements and treats are just an added bonus.
Our favorites from this list are the Flock Block and sprouted bales of straw because they give the chickens days of entertainment while supplying them with a nutritious snack! We buy all our commercial chicken feed, supplements, and treats like scratch grains at the feed store.
Feed and Supplements:
- Chicken Feed
- Oyster shells
- Chicken Scratch
- Flock Block
- Treats for Chickens
- Poultry Grit
- Sprouted Bales of Straw
- Commercial Bird Feed (Tossed on the ground as a treat, not a meal)
- Sprouted grains / Fodder (Learn how to grow it here!)
Check out more of our favorite chicken treats!
Feed Chickens Bugs
There’s no denying it, one of the the best things you can feed to chickens is bugs!
When chickens free range they catch all sorts of insects. This wonderful aspect of chicken keeping can even cut down on nasty insects such as fleas and ticks that naturally roam your yard. Free ranging is also a great way to cut down on the chicken feed bill because your chickens will spend their days hunting and foraging for their own food.
If your flock doesn’t free range, you might want to consider catching or buying some of these bugs for your flock! We love to feed our flock dried grubs in the fall to give them a protein boost to help them molt and get healthy for winter.
Bugs That Chickens Love to Eat:
- Dried Crickets
- Dried Insect Trail Mix
- Dried Grubs
Note: Due to the fact that we strongly recommend using this fly trap in the chicken coop, we frequently get asked if chickens can eat flies. The short answer is that they shouldn’t. This article from Hobby Farms will give you the reasons why!
Feed Chickens Weeds and Flowers
One of the most satisfying things to feed your chickens is the weeds that pop up in your yard and garden!
This not only helps to get rid of weeds, but feeds your chickens at the same time. Feeding weeds to your chickens is a great way to feed chickens for free, but to find even more check our our post: 5 Ways to Feed Chickens for Free
We love to toss pulled weeds into the chicken run while gardening during the summer months, the piles of weeds often contain insects and seeds too for the chickens to enjoy. They’ll spend all day scratching through those weed piles looking for goodies!
We also keep a compost pile just for weeds and spent plants from the garden. The chickens love rooting around in there too, and as a bonus, they help us stir up the pile, which makes the compost break down quicker.
Chickens Adore Eating These Weeds:
- Bee Balm
- Grass Clippings – only in small amounts, too much can impact the crop
- Wild Violet
Check out some other perennials you may be able to grow for chickens to eat!
Feed Chickens Kitchen Scraps
Food waste from the kitchen is an unfortunate fact of life, but it doesn’t have to be a problem when you have chickens!
Place a small container on your kitchen counter titled ‘for the chickens’ and put all your kitchen scraps in there. Your birds will be thrilled to receive everything that you don’t want!
While chickens make good composters of unwanted food, make sure you never give them any food that is moldy or rotten, as it can make them sick.
Food that’s a little mushy or unappetizing to people is fine, but food that’s gone bad is not. Many of the foods on this list should be fed sparingly, such as bread and pasta.
To find out what other chicken treats should be fed minimally to your birds, check out our post: What Not to Feed Chickens
What Can Chickens Eat from the Kitchen:
- Bread (in moderation, whole grain is best)
- Bulgar Wheat and Wheat Berries
- Cereal (sugar free)
- Cheese of all sorts
- Cooked Rice
- Cooked Pasta
- Cooked Eggs
- Cottage Cheese
- Crushed Eggshells
- Milk (even sour milk!)
- Most Nuts (unsalted, crushed are easier to eat) No Acorns!
- Oats and Oatmeal
- Seeds (unsalted)
- Popped Popcorn (no salt or butter)
- Whole Grains
- Vegetables- cooked and raw
- Yogurt (steer clear of yogurt with added sugar)
This section might give you the willies, and that’s understandable, but we want to be as comprehensive as possible with this list.
The reality is, chickens are omnivores and naturally hunt small animals. When let out to free range, your chickens will find these critters all on their own, and they’re a tasty, nutritious snack.
One thing to keep in mind in regards to rodents… if the mice or rats that your chickens catch have been poisoned, your chickens will be poisoned as well by eating them.
We suggest refraining from using poison to get rid of rodents, and we even have a whole post all about alternative methods to keep your coop pest free!
Here are Some Animals Chickens Love to Chow Down:
- Feeder Fish
Feed Chickens from the Garden
If you have a vegetable or herb garden, or even an orchard, your chickens can reap the benefits!
Now, we’re not suggesting that you grow a garden just for your chickens (although you can!) but feeding garden scraps to your chickens will not only be much appreciated, it’s super healthy for your birds as well!
What Can Chickens Eat From the Garden:
- Apples (apple seeds removed)
- Beets and Beet Greens
- Brussels Sprouts
- Carrots and Carrot Tops
- Chili Peppers
- Collard Greens
- Corn and Corncobs
- Grapes (frozen or fresh)
- Lettuce and other greens
- Pumpkins and Pumpkin Seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Strawberries – including the hull
- Sweet Potatoes
- Turnips (cooked)
As you can see, the list of foods that chickens can eat is pretty epic! Most chickens are not picky eaters and will be thrilled if you offer them anything on this list.
Although these omnivorous birds can eat the vast majority of the foods that we eat, there are some definite foods that chickens shouldn’t eat.