Last updated on May 6th, 2020 at 09:34 pm
We all love to give our hens tidbits, but just what can chickens eat?
I’m sure you’ve wondered what treats you can safely give to chickens, so we have put together this definitive list containing over 200 snacks.
If you want to search for a specific snack you can use our tool below. Or you can reference our chicken treat chart below.
In this guide, we will also teach you how to decide which treats your chickens should have and how much is good for them.
There are several reasons why you should limit food – obesity is one of them. We will explore this a bit more as we go along.
Our Pick For Best Chicken Treat
Chicken Treat Tool
Select Treat From List:
Can Chickens Eat:
Broccoli: Yes. Broccoli is safe to feed to your chickens. It is high in numerous vitamins and low in fat; mine prefer it cooked. You can give it to them in a suet cage to keep them pecking all day.
Bananas: Yes. Very nutritious and most hens love them! High in vitamins B6, C & A also contains niacin, iron and magnesium plus other trace elements. Now you know what to do with those brown, spotty bananas!
Grapes : Yes. High in B vitamins plus A & C; also contains many trace elements such as calcium and copper. Give in small amounts once/week as the sugar content is high. Rough chop first to aid digestion.
Pineapple: Yes. Although high in vitamins and minerals, pineapple is not a favorite with most chickens. Excessive consumption can cause bezoars (fiber balls) to occur in the crop. Feed sparingly as high in sugar.
Tomatoes: Yes. Chickens love tomatoes! Tomatoes are high in vitamin C, K & B9, fiber, potassium and antioxidants. Chickens cannot eat the plant, leaves or flowers they are poisonous as they contain solanine.
Celery: Yes. A great source of vitamins B2, B6, C & K. High in trace minerals such as molybdenum, also contains potassium, fiber and calcium. Not a favorite though, try chopping it up to make a more acceptable celery treat.
Strawberries: Yes. Strawberries are a favorite treat; they are high in trace elements and vitamins A, C & B9. Also contains an anti-inflammatory component called quercetin; rich in antioxidants.
Apples: Yes. Apple seeds contain small amounts of cyanide, so remove seeds if you can. Chop apples to aid digestion although they will peck at windfalls. Apple sauce is good too.
Grass: Yes. Long strands of grass can cause crop impaction so feed short grass clippings as long as the grass has not been treated with chemicals.
Rice: Yes. White rice has little nutritional value, brown or wild rice is better. Never feed uncooked rice as it will absorb water in their gut and expand causing possible blockages or perforation of the intestine.
Oranges: Yes. Oranges do have some amazing health benefits. Chickens do not in general enjoy oranges though; you could try adding it to a fruit salad…
Asparagus: Yes. Asparagus is a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Chickens generally will not eat it, but if they do, make sure they don’t eat too much as it can taint the taste of the eggs!
Crickets: Yes. 100 grams of crickets contains 12.9 grams protein, 5.5 grams fat and 5.1 grams carbohydrates, plus numerous minerals and trace elements. A very healthy snack, but feed in moderation because of the high protein content.
Onions: No. Although onions contain many vitamins and minerals chickens really should not eat them. Large amounts of onions can cause hemolytic anemia.
Potatoes: Yes. Potatoes cooked or raw can be given to chickens, except for the green areas which contain solanine (it is poisonous). Leaves, plant and flowers should not be eaten – the potato is a member of the nightshade family and as such is toxic.
Bread: Yes. Bread soaked in milk is something that used to be given when fattening hens for the pot. They do love bread, but it is nutritionally poor for them. Feed in moderation.
Chocolate: No. Chocolate contains theobromine which is toxic to chickens – and who in their right mind would share their chocolate with them!?
Cabbage: Yes. Very healthy and is packed full of trace minerals and vitamins. You can hang it as a tetherball or stuff the leaves into a suet container where they can pluck at them whenever they want.
Popcorn: Yes. Surprisingly, popcorn contains a high number of vitamins, including A, E & K. It has a lot of minerals too plus fiber. As long as you don’t add salt or sugar to your corn.
Raisins: Yes. Feed in extremely small amounts. Large amounts of raisins can make your birds very sick with renal failure. They will also put on weight quickly due to the sugar content.
Blueberries: Yes. Chickens can eat all sorts of berries and blueberries are one of their favorites. Packed full of vitamins and minerals, blueberries also contains antioxidants. Be aware that their poop will turn blue!
Cucumbers: Yes. Cucumbers are a great treat on hot days. They contain a lot of water so it’s a good way to stay hydrated. Healthy too – full of vitamins and minerals, also contains anti-inflammatory properties.
Cooked Rice: Yes. Rice is approximately 85-90% carbohydrate with very small amounts of minerals present. Although chickens can have it as a snack it is of little nutritional value to them.
Avocado: No. The leaves, skin and stone all contain persin which is highly toxic to chickens. Technically the flesh is ok to eat, but I wouldn’t just in case…
Cherries: Yes. Cherries are full of vitamins – A, C, E & K, minerals too. They also contain choline which is essential for a chicken’s health. Cherries fresh or cooked (no added sugar) – they will eat all.
Pumpkin: Yes. Pumpkin seeds are said to aid in prevention of worms. Pecking at a pumpkin will keep them busy for hours.
Meat: Yes. Trim off excess fat from the meat. You can give them whole carcasses of turkey or chicken they will pick them clean. Great source of protein.
Banana Peels: Yes. They can eat the peel but generally don’t. If you use a food processer to grind them small enough they will eat them.
Cheese : Yes. Good source of protein and calcium. Feed in moderation as it’s a dairy product and chickens cannot process dairy well.
Watermelon: Yes. Stacked full of vitamins and water, watermelon is a refreshing treat for hot summer days. If you puree then freeze it your girls will enjoy watermelon slushies.
Carrots: Yes. Raw or cooked, carrots are full of goodness, they can eat the greens too (I usually rough chop them). Don’t give canned carrots they are likely high in salt.
Cantaloupe: Yes. Scores highly for vitamins A & C, lots of B vitamins too. They will pick the rind clean, seeds are good too. Like most fruits feed in moderation otherwise they may get diarrhea.
Peaches: Yes. They love peaches; this is another fruit high in nutritious goodies. The pits contain cyanide so remove them before feeding to the hens.
Sweet Potatoes: Yes. Extremely healthy and packed with vitamins. The girls are unlikely to bother with them unless they are cooked, so minimal salt or butter addition please.
Kale: Yes. Another healthful item. Vitamins and minerals abound. It can be given cooked or raw. I usually stuff a suet holder full of leaves and leave it for them to peck at.
Melon: Yes. Very healthy. They can pick at the rind and eat the flesh and seeds which they adore. Remember to feed in moderation or they get diarrhea.
Flowers: Yes. This is a yes and no answer. Some flowers are healthy for them others not so. In general they seem to avoid toxic plants but you should check your garden first.
Mealworms: Yes. Mealworms are very high in protein, so moderation please. A great healthy tidbit especially for the time of the molt. Worms can be given fresh or dried.
Eggs: Yes. Of course they love eggs! Give eggs scrambled so they don’t recognize it as ‘eggs’; you don’t want them to start egg eating.
Cereal: Yes. They can, but should they? Many cereals contain added vitamins and minerals but are high in carbohydrates. Several brands are also very high in sugar.
Cat Food: Yes. Cat food dry or wet should be fed as a rare treat. It can be fed to poorly birds in very small amounts and not every day.
Dog Food: Yes. Dog food should only be given as a rare snack. It can also be used when your hen is sick.
Potato Peels: Yes. Contains vitamins but are high in carbohydrates. Chickens can eat them but not green skins which contain solanine as this is toxic to hens.
Eggplant: No. They cannot eat the plant, leaves or flowers as they contain solanine which is toxic to hens. Whilst several online places state they have fed them to chickens without ill effects; I would not.
Peanuts: No. We are erring on the side of caution here. Peanuts can be bad for some small birds and mammals, there’s no reliable information on chickens. When in doubt: don’t feed it to them!
Bell Peppers: Yes. It’s another member of the nightshade family therefore containing solanie. So no to leaves, plant and flowers. The fruit is ok to feed them, but not a favorite.
Green Beans: Yes. Well cooked beans only. Raw or undercooked beans contain phytohemagglutinin which can be deadly to your flock. As few as 3 beans can be deadly.
Kiwi: Yes. Kiwis are healthy but contain a lot of sugar, so feed only in moderation. Kiwis contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Pears: Yes. Pears are healthy and relatively low in sugar so they are a great snack for your flock. I have never found my hens to be particularly interested in pears however…
Nuts: Yes. Nuts do contain some saturated fats, so don’t feed too many. They are high in omega fats so that’s good. Rough chop nuts prior to feeding. Never feed moldy nuts to chickens as the mold causes respiratory problems.
Oats: Yes. They can eat raw or cooked oats. Some research indicates that oats fed to pullets helps to reduce feather picking. Oats contain vitamins and minerals also some protein.
Oatmeal: Yes. Warm oatmeal mixed with a little plain yoghurt and birdseed is a great treat for a cold winters day. Not every day though.
Zucchini: Yes. Zucchini is a good source of vitamins and minerals, the seeds are supposed to be helpful in worming chickens. I slice them length ways and let them peck away at the flesh and seeds.
Mango: Yes. Very nutritious but high in sugars and carbohydrates so feed sparingly. Great made into frozen slushies for hot summer days.
Potato Skins: Yes. Potatoes skins are ok as long as they aren’t green (see potatoes for more detail).
Beans: Yes. Cooked only. Raw or undercooked beans are highly toxic to chickens.
Cauliflower: Yes. The stems and leaves of the cauliflower are healthy and chickens will eat them. I have yet to get them to eat the white head.
Sunflower Seeds: Yes. Sunflower seeds are very healthy. In general birds (including hens) prefer the black oil sunflower seeds over the grey or striped seeds. Great treat for the oil and fat content.
Pumpkin Seeds: Yes. Pumpkin seeds are said to aid in prevention of worms. Pecking at a pumpkin will keep them busy for hours, they can also eat the flesh too as it contains vitamins and minerals.
Cantaloupe Seeds: Yes. Cantaloupe seeds are edible and healthy for chickens. You can feed them raw with all the stringy bits – the girls love them.
Lettuce: Yes. Most lettuce is good for hens but avoid iceberg lettuce (it has around the same nutritional content as cardboard and may give them diarrhea).
Spinach: Yes. Spinach is packed full of goodness in the way of vitamins and minerals but it also contains oxalic acid, which can cause some serious health problems for your chickens. Spinach can be fed sparingly – little and not too often.
Yogurt: Yes. Chickens don’t process dairy products very well. However, yoghurt contains live cultures which are valuable to intestinal health, so a little every now and then won’t hurt them.
Peppers: Yes. Pepper plants, leaves, stems and flowers are toxic – containing solanine. Chickens can eat the fruits which are healthy, but not generally a favorite.
Raw Potatoes: Yes. As long as the potatoes are not green, small amounts will be ok. You should feed it to them infrequently though.
Watermelon Rind: Yes. A real favorite! The chickens love to pick the rinds clean of any flesh. Full of goodness for them but high in sugar content.
Radishes: Yes. These little flavor bombs are packed with vitamins and minerals. Chickens can eat them – chop roughly first to enable digestion. They will also eat the leaves too.
Orange Peels: Yes. Although citrus is full of goodness, most hens remain aloof. They can eat it but generally choose not to.
Walnuts: Yes. As with all nuts, chop roughly before giving to the hens. Nuts are full of nutrition and as an occasional thing are usually welcome.
Corn: Yes. Chickens love to peck at an ear of corn once you are done with it! They can have corn canned, frozen, fresh or on the cob and they will eat it all. This is an end of the day food otherwise they would fill up on the corn and ignore their ration.
Almonds: Yes. Chop roughly before feeding to the hens. Ensure the nuts aren’t moldy. Almond flour can also be eaten.
Chicken: Yes. A great source of protein. Many folks will throw in the carcass to the chickens who will pick it clean. Remove the skin first as this is very high in fat.
Peas: Yes. Peas are a healthy snack and you can get the hens to chase after them too! Peas are not a huge favorite but they do enjoy them occasionally. Pea pods are ok too if roughly chopped.
Moldy Bread: No. Moldy food should never be given to chickens.
Peanut Butter: Yes. Yes, they can have peanut butter, but in moderation as it is very high in fats, carbs and protein. I would tend to give it around molting time because of the high protein content.
Brussels Sprouts: Yes. A good source of nutrition. They can have the sprouts and excess leafy foliage. I tend to rough chop for ease of eating.
Corn Husks: Yes. Corn husks have no nutritional value whatsoever. My girls will leave them.
Rhubarb: No. All parts of the rhubarb plant contain high amounts of oxalic acid which can kill your flock.
Coffee Grounds: No. Contains small amounts of caffeine which should be avoided. No nutritional value noted.
Quinoa: Yes. An old biblical grain that is a powerhouse of goodness. Quinoa is much more nutritious than the same amount of rice.
Fish: Yes. Chickens will eat fish raw or cooked. Fishermen will often toss the guts to the chickens. High in protein and minerals. The Swedish Orust chicken breed survived on fish in the wild.
Garlic: Yes. A superb additive for water and feed. Some folks say it taints the eggs – others say not (I have never had a problem). As with all things moderation.
Fruit: Yes. In general, chickens love fruit. Fruit is generally high in sugars so feed sparingly as excess sugar may cause gastric upsets.
Cooked Potatoes: Yes. As we have mentioned before, potatoes are fine as long as they aren’t green. However they have a limited nutritional value.
Pecans: Yes. As with all nuts, chop roughly first to aid digestion.
Plums: Yes. Plum seeds contain minute amounts of cyanide so remove them first. High in sugars, so feed sparingly.
Citrus: Yes. Chickens can eat citrus but will they? Citrus is very healthy but most hens avoid any citrus fruits.
Chia Seeds: Yes. Very nutritious, but small. To make them go further mix with other seeds and spread over the coop floor and watch those girls work it.
Pomegranate: Yes. Pomegranates are very healthy. Chickens will eat the seeds happily and peck at the remaining husk.
Squash: Yes. Squashes are a staple treat here for the hens. They love to peck at the flesh and eat the seeds. They are highly nutritious and will keep the girls busy for a good long time.
Grapefruit: Yes. They can eat it, but won’t. In general they avoid all citrus fruits.
Spaghetti Squash: Yes. As with squashes, a firm favorite of hens. It can be cooked or given to them raw.
Pickles: No. This is a processed food and as such will contain high amounts of either salt or sugar.
Pasta: Yes. High in carbohydrates so feed sparingly. It is fun to watch them slurping up spaghetti though!
Peanut Shells: Yes. They can eat them; however they have no nutritional value.
Uncooked Oatmeal: Yes. Chickens can eat uncooked oatmeal, however they prefer warm oatmeal. This should not be given to them every day.
Ham: Yes. Chickens will eat ham; however it is very high in salt. You should feed sparingly (once a week no more).
Chicken Nutrition 101: Basic Feed Requirements
Like every living creature, chickens need the building blocks of life: protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins – and don’t forget clean water.
Without the right combination of each group any creature can suffer from things like malnutrition and on the other end of the scale obesity.
We did an in depth guide on poultry feed here so for more information please read that. But here’s a brief recap on the essential nutrients for chickens:
- Protein: Plant based protein is necessary for energy and growth.
- Vitamins and minerals: Vitally important for a fully functioning creature.
- Enzymes: Aids with digestion and absorption of the necessary nutrients from food.
- Fats: Needed for absorption of certain vitamins and for other vital cell functions.
- Carbohydrates: Needed as an energy source.
All of these you will find in commercial chicken feed, ready mixed in the appropriate quantities. Chickens should get at least 90% of their nutritional needs from their feed. Different feeds are mixed for different stages of their life, so be sure to read the labels.
Birds that are allowed to free range will gather much of the nutrients they need from their environment and ‘top up’ from the feed supply as needed.
Hens that cannot, or are not allowed to, free range must rely on the feed to supply all of their bodily needs, so a good quality feed is essential.
Our Pick For Best Chicken Treat
How Much and How Often Should You Feed Your Chickens?
The best answer for the ‘how often’ piece of the question really depends on you and your daily schedule. My personal feeding routine can be found here.
In terms of how much to feed them, most animal nutritionists will tell you that the average hen will eat around 1.5lb of feed each week.
This is an average; they will eat more in winter, less in summer. If they are free range they will eat less. Bigger birds will eat more, bantams less. Hens more, roosters less… you get the idea!
Most folks feed their hens ‘free choice’. That means you hang the feeders all day and allow the birds to eat whenever they want.
Very few hens will actually park themselves at the feeder and stuff themselves all day. In general, hens are not known for overeating. Free choice is good for the keeper since you don’t have to fuss with filling up feed buckets at set times of the day. It also helps to limit bullying at the feeder. If the food is available at the feeder all day long, the hens that get bullied can get something to eat while the bigger girls are busy doing something else.
Always make sure you have more than one feeder if you have more than 6 hens and that the feeders are far apart so a bully hen can’t ‘guard’ both.
However, some folks like to set out rations for their hens and if you choose to do this that’s fine, just ensure they are all getting enough food. If you ration food and feeding time looks like a riot in progress, you need to feed more. Limiting their feed is not economical for you or them. It will affect the condition of the bird and her egg laying ability.
One problem with set time feedings is that the more timid flock members usually get bullied out of food. More assertive hens will keep them away from the feeders so keep an eye on this.
How Many Treats Should You Feed Them?
As a good rule of thumb, you should not give hens more than 10% of their daily nutritional requirements in treats. The best time to give a snack is in the evening when they are soon going to roost and they have consumed the bulk of their daily nutrition needs. They will go to bed happy and content.
Tossing down a handful of corn or scratch into the coop will keep them busy for a good while – I love to hear them murmuring to each other when they are hunting for the seeds, it’s quite relaxing.
Winter time is perhaps the only time you can really break this rule. Hens get bored and will pick on each other, so giving them a head of broccoli, cabbage or lettuce as a tetherball will give them something to do, exercise and healthy food!
On exceptionally cold mornings I will make oatmeal for them mixed with some bird seed, a little yoghurt and some dried oregano. I wouldn’t eat it, but they love it and it gives a kick start to their morning!
How to Check if a Treat is Good for Your Chicken
How do you assess whether or not treats are good for your hen? We have provided a chart for you with the usual things people ask about for snacks, but what if you can’t find it on the list?
Assessing food for your hens is not that difficult and can actually help you to look at food differently for your own diet. Here are some types of things to avoid:
- Anything that is high in refined sugars, so cookies, muffins etc. These items can cause obesity in humans and chickens, feed very little if at all.
- Chickens cannot digest large amounts of salt, so chips or crisps are not on their diet list. Too much salt can kill a chicken by causing things like electrolyte imbalance or heart failure.
- Highly processed foods, so salami, pizza, store bought bread etc. Just about all processed foods are high in salt and/or sugar and low in nutritional value.
- Moldy food. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t give it to your chickens. Some molds are highly toxic and can kill poultry easily.
- Alcohol: never, ever!
- Chocolate: save your chocolate for you, it is not for chickens.
- Caffeine: Many places say you should not feed coffee to hens, but don’t tell you why; caffeine is the answer. Although the amount of caffeine left in grounds would be small, caffeine is toxic to them.
- Tea bags: They are high in tannins and definitely not good for chickens.
- Pesticide laden produce: Fresh produce is great for them, it’s healthy and nutritious. But the stuff humans spray with is generally not good. If you don’t buy organic you would ideally wash the item before giving it to the chickens.
So, what do you look for in treats? They need to be healthy – mealworms, fresh fruit, veggies, scratch, cracked corn. The amount should be no more than the hens can finish in 20 minutes of ‘snacking’.
Depending on where you live you can also feed some leftovers to your hens.
Think about what you are feeding them. You should avoid things like starches, fats and sugars.
If you feel you must give them a nightly treat, invest in a bag of scratch grains (it will last a long time and the hens enjoy it).
FAQs about Chicken Treats
How many snacks should I give them?
Once a day is good, in the evenings – it will get them in the mood for bedtime. Remember, 100% of their intake is one third of a cup maximum and treats should not be more than 10%, so you are looking at 1-2 ‘beakfuls’ at most.
Will feeding snacks affect egg laying?
It can. Too many treats make a hen fat and fat hens can have problems laying eggs. Obese hens have a tendency to lay oversized eggs – that may sound good, but in fact it can lead to things like egg binding and egg yolk peritonitis, both can be life threatening to your hen.
Can they eat meat?
Yes as long as you trim the excess fat off. Many folks will throw the carcass of a cooked chicken or turkey in for them to pick over.
Should I give them a flock block?
Flock block are a great treat for winter time. Read the label first before you buy; several flock blocks have ‘hidden sugars’ in them and you should avoid these.
Chicken Treat Chart
|Treat||Can Chickens Eat|
|Cooked Pinto Beans||Yes|
|Corn On The Cob||Yes|
|Grapes With Seeds||No|
|Raw Green Beans||No|
|Sugar Snap Peas||Yes|
|Sweet Potato Skins||Yes|
Treats should be just that – treats.
Chickens, like dogs, will always plead for more. They may even make you feel guilty about rationing, but remind yourself that you are looking after their health and well-being.
They don’t need treats every night, they will still greet you at the gate whether or not you have goodies, hens are like that!
Let us know in the comments section below what your hen’s favorite treat is…
Our Pick For Best Chicken Treat