several chickens outside eating from trough

What Can Chickens NOT Eat? Foods to Avoid Feeding Chickens!

One thing I know about chickens is that they love kitchen scraps. Chickens are like tiny trash compactors, munching on almost anything you throw their way and love snacking on leftovers and various treats. They’ll eat nearly anything and everything, but that doesn’t mean they should!

Knowing that not everything is good for your free range or backyard chickens is crucial. Giving chickens the wrong food can cause severe or deadly health issues. If you care for chickens, knowing what foods they shouldn’t eat is a big part of keeping them healthy!

Ensuring your chickens have a balanced diet is vital to their happiness and health. Even though we all like giving our feathered friends treats and table scraps now and then, these should only be a small treat compared to their main meals. Most of what they eat should be high-quality chicken feed made just for them.

In this article, we’ll dive into which foods your chickens need to steer clear of and why those foods are bad news for them. Plus, we’ll tackle some common questions about dangerous eats for these birds, so you’ll have all the info needed to keep your flock safe and satisfied by the end!

In a Nut-Shell

  • Chickens shouldn’t munch on harmful foods like chocolate, avocado pits and peels, onions, garlic, and raw potatoes.
  • Keep citrus fruits, salty foods, and junk snacks to a minimum.
  • Avoid feeding your chickens moldy or spoiled food.
  • Steer clear of feeding your chickens chocolate or anything with caffeine in it.
  • Ensure your chickens get a balanced diet to avoid giving them anything that could hurt their health.

What Can Chickens NOT Eat? 10 Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Chickens

When feeding your chickens, you need to steer clear of certain items. Among these are citrus fruits, foods high in salt, avocado peels and pits, uncooked potatoes, and their skins, leaves and stems from tomato plants, anything with caffeine or chocolate in it, onions and garlic, and any food that’s gone bad or is moldy.

Although we might think some of these things are okay for us to eat, they can harm chickens. They could get sick or worse because their bodies react differently than ours do. So, ensuring they get a balanced diet that gives them all the nutrients they need without mixing any risky foods is crucial!

Here are the foods to avoid feeding your chickens:

  1. Avocado (Pit & Skin)
  2. Chocolate & Caffeinated Products
  3. Citrus Fruits
  4. Raw Beans & Potatoes
  5. Onions & Garlic
  6. Salty Foods & Junk Food
  7. Tomato Leaves & Stems
  8. Moldy or Rotten Food

1. Avocado (Pit & Skin)

three avocados, one standing up sliced in half

Avocado is a favorite health food of mine, but when it comes to chickens, it’s a different story.

While avocado flesh is fine for chickens to eat, avocado skin, the pit, and leaves of an avocado lie persin, a toxin that can be bad news for them! If chickens eat persin, they might have trouble breathing or feel weak; their hearts could get damaged, and they might even die suddenly.

Even though the part we usually eat (the flesh) is good for them, there’s still a chance it could have some persin. When feeding your chickens avocado flesh, ensure you remove the pit and skin entirely to avoid any potential harm to their health.

2. Chocolate & Caffeinated Products

Chopped chocolate on a white surface with a spoon resting on it.

Even though we love chocolate and caffeine, they’re not good for chickens!

Something called theobromine in chocolate can make chickens sick, causing them to have seizures or throw up, and it might even kill them. Caffeine isn’t any better because it messes with their hearts and could also be deadly.

Avoid feeding your chickens these things to keep your flock healthy and safe. Giving chickens anything caffeinated will also affect egg production and weaken their immune system. It’s much better to stick with a balanced diet that includes the regular food they eat and treats that won’t harm them.

3. Citrus Fruits

Two clementines next to two slices and a peel.

While it’s okay for chickens to have some citrus fruits, giving them too much isn’t a good idea.

Citrus fruits are full of citric acid, which can upset the stomachs of your chickens and cause digestive problems. On top of that, if you feed your chickens lots of citrus fruits, they might not lay as many eggs.

It’s essential to ensure your chickens eat various foods so they get all the nutrients they need. I tend to avoid feeding my chickens citrus fruit altogether, but a little bit of citrus fruit now and then is acceptable as a treat. Just try not to give your chickens too much to keep them healthy and happy!

4. Raw Beans & Potatoes

raw beans in a pile

Raw beans and potatoes are other foods that shouldn’t make their way into your chicken diet.

The reason behind this is pretty severe: raw beans have something called phytohaemagglutinin. This toxin, mainly found in kidney beans, can be deadly if the birds eat them without cooking. So, giving your chickens any uncooked or dried beans could lead to significant health problems or even worse.

On top of that, when we talk about potato peels and raw potatoes themselves, they’re unsafe because they contain solanine, another harmful compound for birds.

To keep your feathered friends healthy and out of harm’s way, cook beans and potatoes thoroughly before letting chickens have them!

5. Onions & Garlic

Two onions and bulbs or garlic on a wooden plank.

While onions and garlic are good for people, we shouldn’t give them to chickens. These foods have thiosulphates that can bother a chicken’s mouth, throat, or crop, leading to sores. When chickens eat onions and garlic, it might even make their own eggs taste bad.

Although garlic isn’t poisonous to chickens and could help with breathing problems, it’s wise not to feed them too much. I occasionally add four cloves of crushed garlic per gallon of water to my baby chicks to help their immune systems develop. Adding the right amount of crushed garlic to water ensures their digestion works well and their immune system stays strong.

6. Salty Foods & Junk Food

An open bag of chips.

You should avoid giving them salty foods and junk snacks when feeding chickens. Chickens need some salt (between 0.12% and 0.2%), but too much can cause severe problems like dehydration, kidney failure, or even death.

In the same way, if they eat too many junk snacks, they might put on extra weight and face heart issues, among other health concerns. Chickens need a balanced diet, mainly sticking to their regular feed while occasionally treating them with good things.

An easy way to remember many things not to feed chickens is to consider: If it’s not good for me, it can’t be good for my chickens. Limiting how much salty food and junk treats you offer your chickens helps keep them healthy and happy!

7. Tomato Leaves & Stems

Small tomatoes on a vine.

When feeding chickens, steer clear of tomato leaves and stems. These parts are from the nightshade family, which has a harmful substance named solanine in them. Eating solanine can make chickens feel very sleepy, cause paralysis, or worse, lead to death.

Keep your chickens in the chicken yard to ensure they don’t get near tomato leaves and stems to keep your flock safe. Although tomato flesh is good for chickens to eat, remove the leaves and stems before giving them to your birds.

8. Moldy or Rotten Food

Rotting apples on the ground that have fallen from a tree.

Never give chickens food that’s gone bad or has mold on it. Mold can produce nasty toxins that are bad for chickens, causing problems like diarrhea.

Before feeding your chickens, check their food isn’t moldy and keep it stored right so they stay healthy. Don’t let them eat anything that is starting to show spoilage signs.

If you’ve got a compost pile around, keep an eye on it, ensuring there’s nothing moldy or rotten in there that could hurt your flock.

9. Rhubarb Leaves

Rhubarb plant growing in a garden.

Rhubarb leaves are considered highly hazardous due to their oxalic acid content, which interferes with calcium absorption in birds, resulting in kidney failure and death.

Avoid feeding chickens any rhubarb leaves to prevent serious health issues. If you grow rhubarb in your garden, ensure your chickens can’t access the plant to keep them safe. Proper disposal of any trimmed leaves is essential to protect your flock from accidental ingestion. You may even want a guardian animal to protect your chickens!

10. Apple Seeds

Above view of some whole and cut up red apples on a wooden surface.

Certain scraps that appear safe for chickens could be harmful.

Take apples, for example, which may seem like a delicious treat for your chickens, but their seeds contain cyanide. Cyanide inhibits the body cells from utilizing oxygen, leading to their death. Its effect is rapid, resulting in fatality within seconds to minutes.

While chickens can safely enjoy an apple’s flesh, removing the seeds before feeding them is crucial. I always core apples and discard the seeds to avoid harming my flock.

Remember, even seemingly harmless foods can pose dangers if not handled carefully regarding your chickens’ diet!

Foods You CAN Feed Your Chickens!

I’ve listed many foods you should avoid feeding your chickens in this article. But what are some things chickens can eat that are good for them?

Some great food options you can start adding to your chicken diet include basil and oregano, which are excellent for boosting your chicken’s immune system.

In addition, feeding your feathery friends dark, leafy vegetables will lead to darker and richer yolks. Some leafy greens and other safe vegetables include lettuce, kale, broccoli, carrots, cucumber, and pumpkin. Just make sure you cut all these into small bite-size pieces for better distribution and digestion among your flock.

For a comprehensive list of what your chickens can eat, check out my Ultimate Chicken Food Guide!

What Can’t Chickens Eat? Final Thoughts

Understanding what not to feed chickens is essential to keep them healthy and happy. Some foods, like avocado pits and peels, chocolate, citrus fruits, and onions, are a no-go for them because these can be bad news for their health.

Maintaining a balanced diet is vital in helping them grow well and stay in tip-top shape. By avoiding the stuff that’s not good for them and ensuring they eat right, you’re doing a great job at looking after your feathered buddies’ health and helping them live longer lives.

Thanks for reading my article on “What can chickens NOT eat?” I hope you found it helpful! If you’re ever unsure what’s okay or not for your chickens to munch on, check out my detailed list or chat with an expert who knows all about poultry nutrition; they’ll give you the scoop on the best food choices for your flock!

Frequently Asked Questions

What foods are toxic for chickens?

Some foods, like avocado pits and peels, chocolate, caffeine, and citrus fruits, aren’t good for chickens. Giving these to your chickens could hurt them or even be deadly. So, it’s crucial to watch out and ensure they can’t get into these harmful items.

What vegetables can chickens not eat?

Chickens should avoid eating potato peels and leaves from tomatoes, which are part of the nightshade family. They should also avoid raw beans because they’re not good for them and can be harmful. It’s essential to ensure chickens get a balanced diet with the right kind of veggies that are safe for them to eat.

What table scraps can chickens eat?

Chickens can munch on some leftovers from our meals, but keeping this in check is critical. Giving them cooked veggies, fruits, and grains is okay. However, ensuring they get most of their nutrition from their usual feed is crucial for a balanced diet. This way, we ensure they’re not just filling up on scraps but are eating healthily and in moderation.

Can my chickens eat anything?

Chickens love to eat and can munch on many different things. But, even though they seem happy eating just about anything, there are some foods we shouldn’t give them if we want to keep them healthy. Making sure they get a balanced diet is vital, and steering clear of stuff that’s bad for them is essential, no matter how much they like it.

What is the best feed for chickens?

For chickens to grow well, lay lots of eggs, and stay healthy, they need a balanced diet packed with all the essential nutrients. Give your chickens a mix of grains, veggies, fruits, and stuff like bugs or mealworms for protein. On top of this food combo, adding oyster shells to their meals can boost how much calcium they take in from their food, which is excellent because it strengthens their eggshells!


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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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