A man feeding a chicken some chicken feed from his hand.

What Can Chickens Eat? The Ultimate Food Guide for Chickens

Chickens are omnivores, meaning they can eat various foods to meet their nutritional needs. As a flock owner, providing your chickens with a balanced diet is essential to ensure their health and egg production.

While chicken feed is the primary nutrition source for chickens, offering them healthy treats and snacks is also beneficial! Not only does this provide enrichment and entertainment for your flock, but it also allows them to indulge in their natural foraging instincts. Plus, it’ll help them live longer and produce more eggs – a win-win for both of you!

However, beware: not all foods are safe for chickens to eat! Some foods may be toxic or harmful to their health. Flock owners must clearly understand what chickens can and cannot eat to ensure their safety. That’s why I put this article together to provide a comprehensive guide on what your chickens can eat!

Today, we will answer the question, “What can chickens eat?” from all main food groups, including fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein sources. I’ll let you know whether or not you can include the peel, seeds, roots, stems, greens, etc., and if chickens can eat the food raw or cooked for your chicken’s health and safety. I’ve divided these foods into their categories and listed them alphabetically so it’s easier to find the specific foods you want.

I’ve also included sections on the following information:

  • Leftovers your chickens can and cannot eat.
  • How to prepare your chicken’s food safely.
  • Toxic foods to avoid feeding your chickens.
  • Garden produce you can incorporate into your chicken’s diet.
  • Supplemental foods for chickens
  • The best summer and winter foods for chickens.
  • How to keep your chickens hydrated.
  • Healthy treats to feed your chickens and which to avoid.

Consider this your ultimate guide to feeding and caring for your chickens! By the end, you will know exactly how to nourish your feathered friends properly.

In a Nut-Shell

Chickens are omnivores and should eat a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein to meet their nutritional needs and contribute to egg production. However, beware of some toxic foods and keep treats at a maximum of 10% of their overall diet to prevent nutritional imbalances.

Here’s a quick summary of what chickens can and cannot eat:

  • Fruits: Apples (flesh only; avoid seeds), Avocado (avoid pit and skin), Bananas (in moderation), Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries), Grapes (cut in half), Papaya, Peaches (flesh only; avoid pit), Pears (flesh only; avoid seeds), Pineapple (in moderation, remove skin), Watermelon (no need to remove seeds).
  • Vegetables: Asparagus (raw or cooked), Beets (raw or cooked), Bell peppers (remove the stems), Broccoli (raw or cooked), Cabbage (raw or cooked), Carrots (raw or cooked), Celery (leaves, stalks, and roots), Cucumbers, Green beans (cooked), Leafy greens (spinach, kale, lettuce), Okra (raw or cooked).
  • Grains and seeds: Barley, Birdseed (in moderation), Corn (cooked or raw; in moderation), Flaxseeds, Oats (rolled or whole), Pumpkin seeds, Rice, Sunflower seeds, Wheat.
  • Protein: Crickets, Earthworms, Eggs (cooked), Grubs, Insects, Legumes (cooked beans and lentils. Peas can be raw, cooked, or frozen), Mealworms (in moderation).
  • Toxic foods: Uncooked beans, Raw potatoes, Potato skins, Chocolate, Coffee grounds, Citrus fruits, Onions, Garlic, Avocado pits.

Understanding Your Chicken’s Diet

Before we dive into what your chickens can and cannot eat, it’s essential to understand your chicken’s diet.

Like humans, chickens require a balanced diet with essential nutrients to support their overall health and egg production. You should include a variety of foods in a chicken’s diet to ensure they receive the necessary vitamins, minerals, and proteins!

While chicken feed is formulated to meet the nutritional requirements of chickens, offering a variety of treats can provide dietary enrichment and prevent boredom. It’s essential to strike a balance between providing nutritious treats and maintaining the nutritional value of the chicken feed.

The Basics of a Balanced Chicken Diet

A balanced chicken diet should include a variety of foods that provide essential nutrients. Chickens require a protein-rich diet, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates:

  • Protein is crucial for muscle development, egg production, and overall health. Good sources of protein for chickens include eggs, insects, and legumes. Ensure you cook the legumes, as raw legumes are toxic for chickens!
  • Vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables are also crucial for chickens’ health.
  • Carbohydrates provide energy for chickens, which you can find in grains like oats and corn.

Provide various foods to ensure chickens receive a wide range of nutrients. A balanced chicken diet promotes good health and contributes to better egg production and quality, a win-win for you and your chickens!

Nutritional Needs and Healthy Treats

When choosing chicken treats, it’s essential to consider their nutritional value:

  • Fruits and vegetables are excellent options as they provide vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.
  • Mealworms, sunflower seeds, and cooked eggs can be offered for protein.

It’s important to remember that treats should not make up more than 10% of a chicken’s diet to prevent nutritional imbalances. You can give treats in moderation to avoid overfeeding and potential health issues. By providing a variety of healthy treats, you can keep your chickens happy, healthy, and satisfied.

What Can Chickens Eat?

Now for the meat of the article (pun intended). What can chickens eat?

Offering a variety of foods is a great way to keep your chickens healthy and happy. It’s also a good idea to introduce new foods gradually to prevent digestive upset.

In the following sections, I’ve listed what chickens can eat alphabetically into different food groups so it’s easy to find the specific foods you want.

Fruits Chickens Can Eat

A variety of different fruits lying on a white table.

Chickens can enjoy a variety of fruits as part of their diet. Fruits provide essential vitamins, minerals, and natural sugars that contribute to their health.

Here are some common fruits that chickens can eat in alphabetical order:

  • Apples (flesh only; avoid seeds)
  • Avocado (avoid pit and skin)
  • Bananas (in moderation)
  • Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
  • Grapes (cut in half)
  • Papaya
  • Peaches (flesh only; avoid pit)
  • Pears (flesh only; avoid seeds)
  • Pineapple (in moderation, remove skin)
  • Watermelon (no need to remove seeds)

You can give chickens fruits as whole pieces, but I’d recommend cutting them into smaller sizes for easier consumption. Removing any seeds, pits, or peels that may be toxic to chickens is essential. Last but not least, offer a variety of fruits so your chickens receive a range of nutrients and flavors in their diet!

Vegetables Chickens Love

A variety of different vegetables lying on a white table.

Vegetables are another key ingredient to a well-rounded chicken’s diet! They provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that improve their health.

Here are some popular vegetables that chickens can eat in alphabetical order:

  • Asparagus (raw or cooked)
  • Beets (raw or cooked)
  • Bell peppers (remove the stems)
  • Broccoli (raw or cooked)
  • Cabbage (raw or cooked)
  • Carrots (raw or cooked)
  • Celery (leaves, stalks, and roots)
  • Cucumbers
  • Green beans (cooked)
  • Leafy greens (spinach, kale, lettuce)
  • Okra (raw or cooked)

Vegetables can be offered raw or cooked, depending on your chickens’ preferences. It’s essential to provide a variety of vegetables to ensure a well-rounded diet for your flock.

Grains and Seeds for Chickens

Three loaves of bread on a black wooden table.

Grains and seeds are important sources of carbohydrates and protein for chickens. They provide energy and contribute to overall health and egg production.

Here are some popular grains and seeds that chickens can eat in alphabetical order:

  • Barley
  • Birdseed (in moderation)
  • Corn (cooked or raw; in moderation)
  • Flaxseeds
  • Oats (rolled or whole)
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Rice
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Wheat

Grains can be offered as whole grains or included in chicken feed. Seeds can be given as treats or sprinkled on top of feed. A balanced ratio of grains and seeds ensures a healthy diet for your flock.

Protein Sources for Healthy Chickens

Small white bowls next to each other containing various nuts on concrete.

Protein is essential for chickens to support muscle development, egg production, and overall health.

Here are some common protein sources that chickens can eat in alphabetical order:

  • Crickets
  • Earthworms
  • Eggs (cooked)
  • Grubs
  • Insects
  • Legumes (cooked beans and lentils. Peas can be raw, cooked, or frozen)
  • Mealworms (in moderation)

Protein sources can be given as treats or included in chicken feed. It’s important to balance protein sources to ensure a varied diet for your flock. Consider offering live insects for chickens to engage in their natural foraging behavior!

Common Kitchen Scraps and Their Safety

Many flock owners wonder if they can feed their chickens table scraps and leftovers, which is a valid question and something I’ve wondered myself! You can give chickens some kitchen scraps as treats, but knowing what is safe and what to avoid is crucial, as some scraps can be harmful or toxic.

In the following sections, we will discuss what leftovers chickens can eat and which kitchen scraps to avoid to ensure the safety and health of your flock.

What Leftovers Can Chickens Eat?

Cooked vegetables in a pan.

Chickens can safely consume certain leftovers from your kitchen. While it’s important to remember that leftovers should only make up a small portion of a chicken’s diet, you can still offer them as occasional treats.

Here are some leftovers that chickens can eat:

  • Cooked meat (unseasoned)
  • Cooked vegetables (without seasoning or butter)
  • Rice
  • Pasta (cooked)
  • Bread (fresh, not moldy; in moderation)
  • Cheese (in moderation)
  • Fruits

Leftovers should be given in small amounts, not replacing a chicken’s main feed. It’s important to avoid feeding chickens leftovers high in salt, sugar, or seasoning, as these can harm their health!

Kitchen Scraps to Avoid Feeding Your Chickens

Bulbs of garlic in a basket.

While some kitchen scraps are safe for chickens to eat, you should avoid feeding them certain foods. Some foods can be toxic or harmful to chickens, while others may cause digestive issues or nutritional imbalances.

Here are some kitchen scraps to avoid when feeding chickens:

  • Uncooked beans
  • Potato skins
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee grounds
  • Citrus fruits
  • Onions
  • Garlic

It’s essential to be cautious when feeding chickens kitchen scraps and to always research any questionable foods before offering them to your flock. By being aware of potential hazards, you can ensure the safety and health of your chickens.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Feeding Chickens

Feeding chickens involves more than just providing them with food! Following specific guidelines ensures their safety, health, and well-being.

In this section, I will discuss the do’s and don’ts of feeding chickens to help you make informed decisions and create a balanced diet for your flock.

Safe Food Preparation for Chickens

Someone washing their hands with soap at a kitchen sink.

When preparing food for chickens, following safe practices to prevent contamination and ensure their health is essential. Here are some guidelines for safe food preparation for chickens:

  • Wash your hands before and after handling chicken feed or treats.
  • Store chicken feed in a cool, dry place to prevent spoilage.
  • Clean and disinfect feeding and watering containers regularly.
  • Avoid offering spoiled or moldy food to chickens.
  • Offer fresh, clean water at all times.
  • Avoid using pesticides or chemicals in areas where chickens have access to food.
  • Remove uneaten food to prevent attracting pests or rodents.

Following these safe food preparation practices will ensure the health and well-being of your flock!

Foods That Are Toxic to Chickens

Lemons on a wooden cutting board.

Chickens can eat a wide variety of foods, but some foods are toxic that you should avoid:

  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges and lemons, contain high levels of citric acid, which can cause digestive issues for chickens. It is best to avoid feeding them these fruits.
  • Raw potatoes contain solanine, a toxic compound that can cause illness in chickens. It is crucial to cook potatoes thoroughly before feeding them to your flock.
  • Avocado pits contain a toxin called persin, which is harmful to chickens. Removing the pit and avoiding feeding them avocado skins and leaves is essential.

Avoid feeding your chickens these toxic foods and use safe and nutritious options.

Incorporating Garden Produce into Your Chicken’s Diet

I love incorporating my garden produce into my chicken’s diet. It’s a great way to provide fresh and nutritious food for them!

Garden vegetables like lettuce, cucumbers, and peppers are safe for chickens and are a healthy addition to their diet. Herbs like basil, parsley, and mint can also benefit chicken health. They contain vitamins and antioxidants that can boost their immune system and provide other health benefits.

Just wash all garden produce thoroughly and remove any seeds or pits that could harm your chickens. Providing fresh produce from your garden can improve their health and provide enrichment and variety in their diet!

Herbs That Benefit Chicken Health

Basil leaves outside in the sun.

Certain herbs can provide significant health benefits for chickens:

  • Basil is rich in vitamins A, C, and K and minerals like calcium and magnesium. It can boost their immune system and support respiratory health.
  • Parsley is another herb that’s beneficial to chicken health. It contains vitamin C and can help prevent vitamin deficiencies in your flock. It also contains iron and can support heart health.
  • Mint is a great herb to add to your chicken’s diet. It has antibacterial properties and can boost their immune system. It also contains vitamins A and B complex, calcium, and magnesium.

Incorporating these herbs into your chicken’s diet can give them essential nutrients and support their overall health!

Garden Vegetables Chickens Can Safely Eat

A wooden basket full of garden vegetables outside on the ground.

There are a variety of garden vegetables that chickens can safely eat:

  • Beet greens are packed with antioxidants. They are a great source of fiber, manganese, and potassium and are a great addition to your chicken’s diet.
  • Brussels sprouts are another vegetable that chickens can enjoy. They are high in fiber, folate, and vitamins A and K. They can support digestive health and provide essential nutrients for your flock.
  • Celery root (celeriac) is also safe for chickens to eat. It contains vitamins C and K and minerals like calcium and iron. It can provide hydration and act as a healthy snack for your chickens!

These garden vegetables are safe and nutritious options for your chickens. Just be sure to offer them in moderation and provide a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods.

Supplemental Foods for Chickens

A pile of sunflower seeds on a white table.

While a balanced diet of chicken feed and fresh produce is essential for chickens, supplemental foods can provide additional nutrients and benefits.

Supplemental foods can help meet the nutritional requirements of your chickens and support their overall health. They can include things like mealworms, fish, and sunflower seeds, which are high in protein.

Feeding your chickens supplemental foods can also benefit egg production. For example, feeding them foods high in omega-3 fatty acids can improve the nutritional value of their eggs.

Providing supplemental foods in moderation and as part of a balanced diet is essential. However, I always suggest consulting with a poultry nutritionist or veterinarian to ensure you meet your chicken’s nutritional needs.

When to Supplement Your Chicken’s Diet

Knowing when to supplement your chicken’s diet is vital for their overall health and egg production.

If you notice a decline in egg quality or production, it may be a sign that your chickens need additional nutrients. Supplementing their diet with foods like mealworms or fish can give them the protein and omega-3 fatty acids they need for healthy eggs.

Supplementing their diet is especially important during periods of growth, such as when they are young chicks or molting.

It is also essential to consider the type of feed you are providing. Grower feed is designed for chickens that are still growing and developing, while layer feed supports egg production.

Consult a poultry nutritionist or veterinarian to determine the best time and type of supplements for your chickens.

Choosing the Right Supplements

several oysters on a plate

When choosing supplements for your chickens, it is crucial to consider their specific nutritional needs.

Certain supplements can provide essential nutrients that may be lacking in their diet. For example, oyster shell is a common supplement that provides calcium essential for eggshell quality and overall bone health.

Digestive supplements can also benefit chickens, as they can help support their digestive system and improve nutrient absorption. These supplements can include probiotics or digestive enzymes.

Choosing supplements formulated explicitly for chickens and following the recommended dosage instructions is essential. Once again, I’d highly recommend consulting with a poultry nutritionist or veterinarian to help you choose the right supplements for your flock.

Seasonal Feeding Guide

Seasonal feeding is vital for backyard chickens to support their overall health and egg production.

Providing your chickens with ample hydration and cooling treats is essential in the summer. Hydrating summer foods I love to feed my chickens include watermelon, cucumbers, and frozen fruits!

In the winter, providing your chickens with warming and nutrient-rich foods is essential. Warm, nutrient-rich foods I love feeding my chickens include warm oatmeal, cooked sweet potatoes, and winter squash!

Adjusting their diet to the seasons ensures your chickens receive the necessary nutrients and support for their needs.

Summer Treats for Chickens

A pile of sliced watermelon.

Summer treats for chickens are a great way to keep them cool and hydrated during hot weather.

  • Watermelon is a favorite summer treat for chickens! It is hydrating and provides a sweet and refreshing snack.
  • Cucumbers are another great option. They are hydrating and have a high water content, which can help keep your chickens cool.
  • Frozen fruits (e.g.,berries or grapes) can also be a fun and cooling treat for your flock.

It is essential to offer these summer treats in moderation and as part of a balanced diet. Providing a variety of treats will keep your chickens happy and healthy during the summer months!

Winter Foods for Chickens

A butternut squash cut in half split open on a wooden cutting board with a knife resting on it.

Winter foods for chickens help keep them healthy and provide the necessary nutrients during the colder months.

  • Warm oatmeal is an excellent option for winter feeding. It is hearty and warm and provides carbohydrates and fiber.
  • Cooked sweet potatoes are another winter favorite. They are nutrient-dense and provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Winter squash (e.g., butternut or acorn squash) is also a great choice. It is high in vitamins A and C, fiber, and potassium.

These winter foods will keep your chickens healthy and provide nutritional value during the colder months.

Hydration: What Chickens Drink

Three chickens drinking from a metal bucket outside on the ground.

Hydration is essential for chickens, so understanding what they drink will help them stay healthy and hydrated!

Chickens primarily drink water. As such, providing clean and fresh water is always essential.

In addition to water, certain foods can help chickens stay hydrated. Foods like watermelon, cucumbers, and lettuce have high water content and can provide additional hydration.

It’s also essential to practice safe water practices, like providing clean and accessible water sources, especially during hot weather.

Safe Water Practices

Safe water practices are essential for chickens to access clean and fresh water.

Chickens should always have access to water, and it’s vital to provide clean and accessible water sources.

It’s best to clean your chicken’s water containers regularly to prevent bacteria and algae growth. I thoroughly clean my chicken’s water containers, buckets, and bowls at least once a week, and you should, too!

If your chickens are free range, I’d highly suggest providing water sources in their chicken coop and chicken run to ensure they have access to water at all times. Trust me, your chickens will thank you!

You’ll also want to monitor your chicken’s water levels by refilling water containers regularly to ensure your chickens stay hydrated and healthy. I refresh my chicken’s water daily, and you should do the same to keep them happy and healthy!

Foods That Help With Hydration

Green grass with water droplets.

In addition to water, some foods can help chickens stay hydrated.

  • Grass clippings are a great source of hydration for chickens. They are high in water content and can provide a healthy snack for your flock.
  • Fruits and vegetables with high water content, such as watermelon, cucumbers, and lettuce, will also help hydrate chickens.

Offering these foods as treats or including them in their diet will provide additional hydration and support their overall health!

Treats and Training

Treats are a great way to train and reward your chickens, but it is essential to consider their overall food intake. Treats in moderation will help prevent overfeeding and ensure your chickens have a balanced diet.

When using treats for training, I’d recommend using small pieces of healthy treats, such as mealworms or fruits. You’ll want to monitor your chicken’s food intake and adjust their diet to maintain a healthy weight.

Chicken breeds vary in size and shape, some having more prominent plumage or more substantial muscles. However, their typical weight is roughly between four to eight pounds.

Using treats as part of training is a fun and effective way to interact with your chickens and reinforce positive behavior!

Healthy Treats for Training Your Chickens

When training your chickens, you should use healthy treats appropriate for their diet.

  • Small pieces of healthy treats (e.g., mealworms) are a great option. They are high in protein, and they’re easy to break into small pieces for training.
  • Fruits like blueberries or small pieces of vegetables like peas or corn are also healthy treats for training.

When training baby chicks, you’ll want to make sure you use tiny pieces of treats to prevent choking. Using healthy treats for training can help reinforce positive behavior and create a bond between you and your chickens.

Foods to Use Sparingly as Treats

A load of white bread sliced into three pieces on a wooden cutting board.

While chickens enjoy a wide variety of foods, some items should be used sparingly as treats, as they can be considered “junk food” for chickens and provide little nutritional value. It would be best to offer these treats in small amounts and not make up a significant portion of their diet.


One example of a treat you should give in moderation is bread. While chickens can eat fresh bread, you should only feed them bread occasionally.

Bread generally has little to no nutritional value for chickens and can cause crop impaction if consumed in large amounts. It’s also essential to break the bread into small pieces to assist the crop and gizzard break it down.


Another treat you should feed your chickens sparingly is bird seed. While it can be a fun snack for chickens, I wouldn’t recommend it as a complete diet for your flock.

Chicken feed is specifically designed to support their egg production, so it’s important to provide them with a balanced feed that meets their nutritional needs.

Snacks & Leftovers

Lastly, treats high in sugar and salt, such as processed snacks or leftover human food, should be given sparingly. Avoid feeding your chickens processed snacks altogether. These treats can lead to health issues for chickens, including obesity and heart problems.

Stick to natural treats that provide at least some nutritional value!

What Will You Feed Your Chickens?

Understanding and providing a balanced diet for your chickens is crucial for their health and well-being. By incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein sources, and supplements, you can ensure that your chickens get the necessary nutrients for optimal growth and egg production.

Additionally, being mindful of what foods are safe and toxic for chickens and following proper food preparation and hydration practices will help maintain their overall health. Remember to treat your feathered friends with care and provide them with a diet that supports their natural dietary needs.

I wish you and your chickens a happy and healthy life together! Remember, a well-balanced diet is crucial to their overall well-being. Keep your flock nourished with the right foods; they will reward you with delicious eggs and vibrant health.

Frequently Asked Questions

What foods are safe for chickens to eat?

A balanced diet for chickens consists of various foods that provide the necessary nutrients for their health and well-being. Safe food items for chickens include a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and protein sources:

  • Whole grains like oats and corn provide carbohydrates and fiber.
  • Fruits like apples and berries are rich in vitamins and antioxidants.
  • Vegetables like carrots and leafy greens offer essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Protein sources like mealworms and fish provide the necessary amino acids for muscle development.

By providing a variety of foods, chicken owners can ensure that their flock’s nutritional needs are met.

What should you not feed chickens?

The food you should not feed your chickens includes:

  • Citrus fruits can cause digestive issues for chickens.
  • Raw potatoes contain toxic solanine, which can cause illness in chickens.
  • Avocado pits contain a toxin called persin.

It’s essential to be mindful of these foods and avoid feeding them to chickens.

What food scraps can chickens eat?

Chickens can enjoy some food scraps from the kitchen as long as they are given in moderation and do not contain any harmful substances. Some food scraps chickens can eat include unseasoned cooked meats and vegetables. These can be given as treats or added to their feed.

However, it’s essential to avoid giving them scraps containing harmful substances, such as onion and garlic, which can be toxic to chickens.

What is poisonous to feed chickens?

Certain foods are poisonous, and you should never feed them to your chickens. Some examples of toxic foods for chickens include:

  • Chocolate.
  • Raw potatoes.
  • Foods high in oxalic acid (such as spinach and rhubarb).
  • Avocado pits and skin.

These foods can be toxic to chickens and can cause various health issues. Keep them away from chickens at all costs!


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Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is for informational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to replace or be construed as professional health advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or veterinarian before implementing or altering the diet of your backyard animals. The author assumes no responsibility for any adverse effects or consequences resulting from the use of any suggestions, preparations, or procedures discussed on this blog. If you are reading this for the purpose of making major financial or life decisions, please consult a professional before doing so. By reading and using my website, you are agreeing to my terms and conditions. Thanks y’all!

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