Feeding Kitchen Scraps to Chickens

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Chickens love when you bring them a special treat from the house! Feeding kitchen scraps to chickens is a great way to reduce food waste and can be a healthy addition to their diet. Here’s what you can and what you should not feed your chickens.

Two chickens eating from a bowl of scraps

Having a flock of laying hens is a wonderful introduction to animal husbandry, especially for children. They’re so simple to care for and the reward of fresh eggs can’t be beat!

Part of caring for chickens is ensuring they receive proper nutrition. Chickens are omnivores so enjoy vegetables and sources of protein. When foraging around outside, you’ll find them enjoying bits of grass and other plants as well as bugs and even small critters.

Chickens must be provided with a good-quality layer feed that gives them the nutrients that they need to produce eggs. But they also enjoy a variety of other foods as well as a treat now and then!

Feed stores are full of chickens treats you can purchase that your flock will love. When fed in moderation, these are a great addition to their diet and it’s fun to watch them get excited about something new.

Two chickens outside eating scraps

But your kitchen is also full of treats! Feeding kitchen scraps to chickens is another great way to vary their diet and provide them with some delicious foods outside of their own feed.

Passing scraps along to your chickens is also a great way to reduce food waste in your home, in addition to composting. Here are lists of what scraps are healthy for your chickens and what foods you shouldn’t be feeding them.

What Scraps Can Chickens Eat?

Remember that you are eating the product of your chickens, which is their eggs, and occasionally, their meat as well if you butcher any. You are what you eat eats, as they say.

Feed your chickens foods that are healthy for you. For example, whole grains are much more nutritious than refined grains. If it’s junk for you, it’s junk for them and not good for them. Also, chickens should never be fed moldy foods!

A glass jar in a sink to collect chicken scraps

If you’re enjoying a balanced diet full of real foods, your chickens will as well! Here are some foods that are good treats for chickens:

  • Vegetables-including cooked beans, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, corn, cucumbers, garlic, kale, peas, radishes, romaine lettuce, and zucchini.
  • Fruit-including apples, bananas, berries, cherries, grapes, melons, peaches, pears, plums, and raisins.
  • Grains-including bread, cereal, cooked grains, nuts, oatmeal, pasta, popcorn, cooked rice, and seeds.
  • Proteins-including cooked meat scraps, eggs, fish, and they love mealworms and grubs. And don’t forget egg shells!

They also enjoy herbs so plant some extras in your garden this year!

A bowl of healthy scraps for chickens

Foods Chickens Shouldn’t Eat

As I said above, avoid feeding your chickens junk food and stick to healthy, whole foods that you should be eating too! Here are foods that can be toxic or very bad for the health of your flock and should be avoided all together:

  • White potatoes
  • Avocados
  • Apple seeds or fruit pits-just remove the seeds from the apple core and they can have the rest.
  • Nightshade family-this includes tomatoes, eggplants, and pepper leaves/stems.
  • Rhubarb
  • Onions-if there are small pieces in leftovers, that’s fine.
  • Mushrooms
  • Caffeine-no coffee grounds, tea leaves, or chocolate.
  • Dairy products-ok in moderation but don’t give them very much. We do soak our chickens feed in the raw milk from our dairy cows after we’ve skimmed the cream off and they love it.

Remind your family of the foods that they shouldn’t add to the chicken scrap container or tape a list nearby to refer to until everyone can remember.

Two chickens eating from a bowl of scraps

Tips for Feeding Kitchen Scraps to Chickens

  • Keep a small container in your kitchen sink for collecting scraps throughout the day. A jar or empty yogurt container work well.
  • As you prepare meals during the day, place scraps into the container as you’re chopping.
  • Remind family members to scrape their plates into the container after meals, after removing any foods that the chickens shouldn’t eat from the list above.
  • Save scraps until the evening so that the chickens spend the majority of the day eating their layer feed and foraging outside.
  • Use a separate container for feeding your chickens the scraps. This will keep your sink container nice and clean and you won’t be bringing a dirty container that’s been around the chickens into your kitchen.
A chicken eating from a bowl full of scraps

We love taking a bucket of healthy, delicious kitchen scraps down to the barn each evening as a way to say thank you and goodnight to our flock! My parents even bring over scraps that they’ve collected when they stop by for a visit!

Keep your chickens healthy and happy with a varied diet that includes kitchen scraps and you’ll be even more thankful for all of those delicious, nutritious eggs!

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  1. My chickens love scraps from the kitchen! Such a good way to cut down on the feed bill.

  2. This is one of the main reasons I really hope I can have a few backyard chickens someday. They really contribute to that zero-waste lifestyle I dream of. Literally, nothing really goes to waste when you’re smart with animals.

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