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What Not to Feed Chickens: 33 Foods to Avoid

One of the most confusing and hotly debated issues in chicken keeping is what NOT to feed chickens. There are many sides to this issue, some people feed their chickens absolutely everything and leave it up to the chickens to decide what’s best for them. Others are uber careful about every morsel that enters the chicken coop.

When deciding what chickens should not eat, we tend to fall somewhere in the middle.

There are hundreds of foods that you can feed to your chickens and some that you absolutely want to avoid. In fact, there are at least 33 foods chickens shouldn’t eat. Some of the foods on this list may not outright kill your chickens, but have been known to cause internal issues and are best avoided all together. Some of the foods on this list are just appealing to chickens and would be better off getting tossed in the compost pile.

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A chicken eating grass outside.

What Not to Feed Chickens: 33 Foods to Avoid

Feeding chickens the wrong foods can lead to many health issues like kidney failure, heart problems, obesity, and death. This list contains some toxic foods for chickens as well as foods that chickens just prefer not to eat.

While we all love to lower the chicken feed bill by giving kitchen scraps to our birds, it’s a good idea to be mindful and stay on the safe side by avoiding the following foods.

From the Garden:

It may be tempting to give your chickens every bit of scrap to come out of your garden, but slow your roll for just a moment.

There are several things from the garden that are just terrible for chickens. Leaves from members of the nightshade family are poisonous to chickens.

Potatoes with green skin can make your chickens sick and even kill them, and they’re not good for you either!

Many types of uncooked beans will kill your birds. Be sure to do your best to keep chickens out of the garden and avoid giving them the items on this list.

Read this post to find out why uncooked beans are bad for your birds!

What Not to Feed Chickens From the Garden:

  • Green Potatoes and green potato skins
  • Tomato Leaves and tomato plants
  • Onions
  • Potato Leaves
  • Rhubarb and Rhubarb Leaves
A tomato plant with flowers.

From the Kitchen:

Most of the things in your kitchen are fine to feed to chickens in moderation. We’ve even written a post on 100 things you can feed your chickens including lots of table scraps from the kitchen.

We do have to warn you though, the following items are ones to keep out of the coop. Some of these foods are straight up poisonous, and some your chickens will just scoff at. A lot of the foods on this list have little nutritional value and while they’re not full of toxic substance, they just aren’t doing your chickens any favors in regards to their health.

A good rule of thumb for feeding chickens from the kitchen is to ask yourself, “Is this junk food?” If the food in questions is highly processed, full of sugar, salt, or grease, it’s likely not good for your chickens.

Another great way to easily decide is to ask yourself, “Is this something I would eat?” Things like coffee grounds, leftover food that has mold or has gone rotten are all things you’d never eat, and should definitely never feed to your flock.

A box of glazed donuts.

What Not to Feed Chickens From the Kitchen

  • Anything Containing Caffeine or Alcohol
  • Any Salty foods
  • Anything Sugary
  • Apple seeds and apple cores
  • Avocado (controversial, certainly avoid the skin and pit)
  • Butter
  • Candy and Chocolate
  • Citrus fruits and citrus peels
  • Fried Foods
  • Junk food such as chips and pretzels
  • Ice Cream, Sherbet, Frozen Yogurt
  • Pastries and Sweet Baked Goods
  • Rotten or Moldy Food
  • Seeds and Pits from fruit
  • Soda & Juice
  • Uncooked raw beans
  • Uncooked Pasta and uncooked rice
Bowls full of salty snack foods.

From the Yard:

Here’s where things get a little tricky. You likely have plenty of wild and cultivated plants growing on your property. If you free range your flock, they have the opportunity to eat those plants.

There are many wild and ornamental plants that are not safe for chickens to eat, but that doesn’t mean you have to either choose having these plants in your yard or keeping chickens.

Now, let me preface this by saying I’m not a veterinarian or expert, just someone who loves to share my love of chickens with the world. 

Two barred rock chickens standing outside.

In our experience raising chickens over the years in several different locations, we’ve found that chickens tend to not eat toxic plants that are not good for them.

We let our chickens out to free range every week. Our property has lots of wild mushrooms, rhubarb, beans, ferns, weeds, flowers, shrubbery and trees galore.

Our chickens eat a ton of the vegetation on our property but they naturally don’t touch the things on this list, or if they do it’s a tasting nibble then never again.

If you don’t want to take the risk, or if you don’t believe your chickens will not be able to discern what’s good from bad in the yard, you may have to either keep the chickens contained or consider removing or fencing off the following plants on your property.

A chicken standing in the yard.

What Not to Feed Chickens From the Yard:

  • Azalea
  • Ferns
  • Foxglove
  • Holly
  • Lawn clippings (can eat in moderation, too much can lead to crop issues)
  • Lobelia
  • Lupine
  • Mushrooms
  • Nightshades
  • Rhododendron
  • Oak Leaves and Acorns
  • Toads (a weird one, I know, but chickens can die from eating those cute little tiny toads)
Mushrooms growing outside.

I know it can be nerve wracking to figure out what not to feed to chickens when you first start raising them. This list aims to at least give you a starting point and some general guidance.

A good rule of thumb when feeding your chickens is to think to yourself, “is this a good, healthy food for people to eat?” If it is, then it’s probably okay to feed to your chickens, of course with some exceptions.

Chickens will thrive when fed a whole food diet. They are omnivores, meaning they eat both vegetation and meat. They love eating most vegetables, most fruits, meat of all types, eggs, and some dairy in moderation. It’s perfectly fine to give your chickens a healthy snack from the kitchen or garden as long as it’s not on this list.

If you follow these basic guidelines and use your best judgement when feeding your chickens and you’ll be sure to raise a happy, healthy flock.

If you’re curious to know what you CAN feed to your chickens, don’t miss our post with 100+ things you can feed to chickens. Along with a commercial feed, giving your chickens small quantities of these favorite treats will give them a balanced diet and help to avoid health issues down the road.

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Top 25 Can Chickens Eat Biscuits Update

Sunday 6th of November 2022

[…] Read More […]

samantha mallaburn

Monday 29th of August 2022

I know it states no junk food however are Crusts from pizzas ok or not? And also how many years do they lay eggs for ours are coming up 19weeks now and only had them a week and a half..and had about 15-20 eggs

Meredith

Tuesday 30th of August 2022

Yes pizza crusts and other breads are fine in moderation. Egg laying totally depends on the chicken! Most chickens you can count on 4 years of good egg laying, but we've had some that kept laying daily until they were 8-9 years old. And have had others that stopped daily laying at 2 years old.

Suzi Long

Thursday 7th of July 2022

I write poems about certain birds wearing shoes.,, how can I send you a photo?

Victoria

Friday 25th of March 2022

There's no way I could eliminate wild mushrooms from my chooks diet! Such a variety on my land, and I forage many for our own consumption. But my chickens eat a variety of them and others they leave alone entirely. They were created with instinct of knowing what is good and bad, otherwise they never would've survived in the wild. Be careful with store bought due to pesticides and chemicals, and always, always check there's no mold!

Meredith

Friday 1st of April 2022

Totally agree, our chickens instinctively know as well to avoid certain mushrooms growing in the woods. Wild mushrooms have never been an issue with our flock!

Judy Brown

Monday 21st of March 2022

Hi there - this is my first time visiting this site - I am fairly new to chickens (6 years) and for several years I thought I was doing the most awesome feeding program... I was collecting peelings and scraps (no meat products) from a local guy who is self employed preparing pagan meals. I would spread all these peelings and scraps out on the ground for my range-free chickens. They would go nuts on all the stuff. 3-4 years ago I noticed my egg production going WAY down and I had 3 hens go through spontaneous sexual reversal (yes this really happens! My hens starting crowing!)... Completely dumbfounded I reached out to the State Department of Agriculture for some answers! A female vet responded within 24 hours to me with a theory of many of the scraps and peelings I was feeding to them (i.e. cabbage, broccoli, spinach...in really large amounts) were not only unhealthy, but triggering an estrogen inhibitor causing their estrogen production to slow or completely stop and the sleeping testosterone to kick in and take over. I have ceased the feeding of all these wonderful peelings and scraps and have noticed the egg production increasing and poops returning to normal on a regular basis. However, the hens that experienced the sexual reversal are doomed for the rest of their lives - they no longer crow... but will not return to laying eggs. Alas. I apologize for this LONG dissertation... but thought some chicken enthusiasts might find it interesting.

Meredith

Thursday 24th of March 2022

This is SUPER interesting! Thank you so much for sharing! I never would have guessed that the food scraps could cause reversal like that. I'm so glad you figured it out, those Ag departments are just wonderful!

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