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My Chicken Ate Styrofoam: Now What?

chickens ate styrofoam

You didn’t know what happened, but for some reason, your chickens got some of the styrofoam you had safely kept in storage.

And in this not-so-lucky scenario, your chickens ate styrofoam.

What will happen to them? What should you do next?

Chickens seem to gravitate towards styrofoam, which is unfortunate when you learn that ingesting styrofoam poses potential health risks, even possible death.

This brief guide addresses the why behind such behavior.

In this article, you will also learn about the immediate actions to take, the potential health risks, and essential steps to prevent further styrofoam ingestion.

Why Do Chickens Eat Styrofoam?

We speculate that several reasons contribute to chickens eating styrofoam.

Here are some of the most likely causes for it.


Chickens are naturally curious creatures, often pecking at objects in their surroundings to explore and investigate.

Styrofoam’s lightweight and easily peckable nature can attract a chicken’s attention.

The texture and sound produced when pecking at styrofoam may stimulate their inquisitive nature, leading them to ingest small pieces.

This behavior, while natural, can pose health risks, as styrofoam is indigestible and may cause blockages in the digestive system.

Small quantities (a few pecks) are fine; eating much more than that is dangerous.

Satisfying Texture

Styrofoam’s texture can be appealing to chickens, especially the foamy and crunchy consistency that mimics certain food items, like grains or popped popcorn.

Chickens may be drawn to the sensation of pecking and biting into styrofoam, even though it lacks nutritional value.

The satisfying texture might prompt them to continue pecking and potentially ingest the material.

Chicken keepers must provide alternative items with similar textures that are safe for consumption to deter chickens from engaging with styrofoam.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Chickens may eat styrofoam as a result of nutritional deficiencies in their diet.

In some cases, chickens may lack specific nutrients, and their instinctive behavior drives them to explore non-food items to fulfill their nutritional needs.

Chicken keepers should ensure that their flock receives a well-balanced and nutritious diet to prevent them from seeking unconventional sources.

If you’re still looking for the right resource about chicken diet, be sure to read our guide to chicken feed.

Regular access to appropriate feeds and supplements is essential for maintaining the health of the chickens and should deter them from ingesting styrofoam.

Chickens Don’t Have Many Taste Buds

Styrofoam has a familiar crumming texture—it breaks apart easily, it’s fun to peck at, and it makes them feel full.

All of these conditions, plus the fact that chickens really don’t taste what they’re eating, make it easier for us humans to understand why a chicken would want to eat something like styrofoam.

Remember that chickens only have about 500 taste buds or fewer, while humans have more than 9,000.

Environmental Stress

Environmental stressors, such as overcrowding, changes in routine, or the introduction of new birds or elements to their surroundings, can contribute to abnormal behaviors in chickens.

Chickens may resort to eating non-edible items (also called pica) as a coping mechanism or due to anxiety.

Chicken keepers should be attentive to environmental changes and strive to maintain a stress-free and enriching environment for their flock.

Providing a stable and comfortable setting can help prevent chickens from resorting to harmful behaviors like consuming styrofoam.

What To Do About a Chicken Eating Styrofoam

Here are the basic steps to take if you suspect or catch your flock eating styrofoam.

Notice the Signs or See It Happening

You may not catch your birds in the act, but pay attention to any styrofoam lying around (or in the foundation of your home!) and check on it occasionally.

If you see that it is deteriorating or looks pecked at, then you know you have a problem brewing.

Remove the Styrofoam or Cage the Chickens

If your chickens are free-range, remove the items from their reach before allowing the flock to roam free again.

If this isn’t an option, you should keep your chickens confined to a safe and enclosed run where they won’t have access to it anymore.

Monitor the Chickens

Your chickens will probably be fine if they only ingested a small amount.

Keep an eye on your chickens and be on the lookout specifically for physical blockages (choking or a compacted stomach), sickness from toxic chemicals ingested, and malnourishment.

necrotic enteritis in chickens

Potential Health Risks of a Chicken Eating Styrofoam

Physical Blockages

Chickens lack the ability to digest styrofoam, which means ingesting this material poses a significant risk of physical blockages within their digestive system.

It can get lodged in the airway, too, though this is less common.

These digestive blockages can impede the normal passage of food, water, and waste, causing severe discomfort and potentially leading to life-threatening complications.

Offer prompt veterinary care or dispatch the chicken if the situation seems dire.

Toxic Chemicals

Styrofoam contains various chemical compounds, including styrene, which can be harmful or toxic when ingested by chickens (people, too).

It’s a clear and organic hydrocarbon that is made from petroleum products.

The breakdown of styrofoam in the digestive system may release these chemicals, posing a risk of poisoning.

Toxicity can lead to a range of adverse effects, including digestive issues, neurological symptoms, and permanent organ damage.

Styrene is linked to an increased risk of cancer in the pancreas or esophagus of styrene workers.

Malnutrition or Starvation

Consuming styrofoam does not contribute any nutritional value to a chicken’s diet.

In fact, it can lead to malnutrition and starvation as chickens fill their stomachs with non-nutritive material rather than essential nutrients.

Know that a chicken needs about 300 calories a day to maintain weight.

Over time, if the chicken continues to consume styrofoam instead of proper feed, it may suffer from deficiencies in essential vitamins, minerals, and energy.

This can result in weakened immune function, poor growth, and overall compromised health.

Preventing styrofoam ingestion and ensuring a well-balanced diet are crucial aspects of maintaining a chicken’s nutritional health.

chicken ate styrofoam

Your Chicken Ate Styrofoam: Home Remedies

Here are our best at-home remedies for a chicken hankering for some styrofoam.

Keep the Chickens Away from Styrofoam

This is the simplest and most straightforward solution.

Your chickens are most likely to find styrofoam in:

  • Discarded single-use cups (sometimes tossed along roadsides or near your trash cans)
  • Styrofoam coolers
  • The insulation on the foundation of your home
  • Packing materials
  • Egg cartons
  • Meat trays
  • Take out containers

Offer Quality Food Options

Provide a well-balanced and nutritious diet to ensure chickens receive essential nutrients.

Make it as diverse as possible to satisfy their texture cravings as well as their flavor-based cravings too.

Consider adding supplements like calcium and vitamins to support overall health.

Offer safe and nutritious treats, such as fruits, vegetables, and mealworms, to satisfy their natural foraging instincts.

Most chicken breeds want to free-range and forage, so let them if this is a safe and reasonable option for your flock.

Natural Remedies to Prevent or Alleviate Blockages

Fiber-Rich Foods

Introduce fiber sources like leafy greens and vegetables to promote healthy digestion and prevent blockages.

Pumpkin Seeds

Consider offering pumpkin seeds, which contain natural oils and fiber that may aid in the passage of blockages.


Add probiotics to their diet to support gut health and maintain a balanced microbial environment.


Ensure access to clean and fresh water to help soften materials in the digestive tract, facilitating their passage.

You may want to offer electrolytes to encourage more water consumption in the flock.

More water in the body makes a blockage less likely to occur or more likely to break apart if one has already begun.

Immediate First Aid Measures to Take

Correct an Impacted Crop

  1. Gently feel the crop to determine the extent of the impaction. There may be an issue if it feels doughy, squishy, or overly firm.
  2. Temporarily withhold food to allow the crop to empty. Provide fresh water to prevent dehydration.
  3. Gently massage the impacted crop in a downward motion to encourage the material to move toward the digestive tract. Be cautious not to cause injury.
  4. Offer electrolyte solution or water with a pinch of salt to encourage hydration.
  5. Administer a small amount of olive oil or vegetable oil orally to help soften the impacted material– less than two or three tablespoons. Be careful not to asphyxiate the bird.
  6. Watch the chicken closely for any signs of improvement. If there’s no progress, repeat the massage and lubrication process.
  7. Gradually reintroduce easily digestible foods, such as soft fruits, sourdough discard, or yogurt, once the crop begins to empty.

Cull Chickens That Are Not Recovering

Assess the severity of the chicken’s health issue.

If the condition is severe, untreatable, or painful, consider culling the animal because this may be the most humane option.

Read our guide on how to kill a chicken humanely.

Don’t be afraid to contact a more experienced chicken keeper, especially someone who raises and processes their meat birds, for help here.

Can Chickens Eat Rice

My Chicken Ate Styrofoam: FAQ

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about chickens and styrofoam.

What Happens If My Chickens Eat Styrofoam?

Chickens cannot digest styrofoam, leading to potential blockages in their digestive system or airway.

There are toxins in styrofoam that could harm chickens (and people).

Ingesting styrofoam may cause discomfort, distress, serious health issues, and even death.

What Happens If a Chicken Eats Plastic?

Plastic is indigestible to chickens and can lead to digestive tract blockages, which may cause adverse health effects, especially gastrointestinal problems.

Is Styrofoam Toxic to Chickens?

Styrofoam contains harmful chemicals, including styrene, which can be toxic to chickens.

Styrene poses a risk of poisoning, potentially causing digestive, neurological, or organ-related issues.

Will Chickens Peck at Insulation?

Chickens may peck at insulation due to its texture or because of curiosity, especially if it is styrofoam-based insulation.

Some insulation materials can be harmful if ingested, potentially leading to health issues.

Preventive measures can mitigate risks, such as using chicken-safe insulation or covering exposed insulation.

Do You Need to Cover Styrofoam Insulation in the Chicken Coop?

You will absolutely need to cover styrofoam insulation in the chicken coop.

Free-range chickens are drawn to styrofoam out in the open; a chicken that is cooped up with the material will eat it even more readily and with greater enthusiasm.

Cover it thoroughly so your chickens cannot get to it or even reach beaks through knotholes in the wood.

Regularly inspect and maintain the coop so they can’t reach the insulation.

It’s bad for your birds and the structure and not ideal for your wallet.

My Chicken Ate Styrofoam: Before You Go…

In conclusion, preventing chickens from eating styrofoam is vital for their well-being—immediate intervention, such as isolating the chicken from the styrofoam, is best.

Implementing preventive measures, including offering quality food, keeping harmful materials out of reach, and using natural remedies, contributes to a safe and healthy environment.

Regular monitoring and responsible care are essential for ensuring your feathered companions’ overall health and longevity.


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