What I Can I feed my Chickens and what I should not!



By John Musser


We love to feed our chickens something every day from our kitchen over and above a good basic feed.  Teresa makes wonderful popcorn and they will run when they see her coming. Our popcorn is low salt and low butter so it’s very good for them. Our eggs taste great! Not to mention soldier fly larva, spent crops from the garden. If your chickens are Free Range or in a chicken tractor, they will get bugs, worms, grass hoppers, grass, weeds and plenty of seeds. It’s very important to know what your chickens can eat and what they should not eat.


Chickens love to eat table scraps, and most of the leftovers from your meals are safe for them to eat. Most table scraps are lower in protein than commercial grower rations.



Laying hens will most times need a good lay ration even with all the above.



Baby chicks will need plenty of protein to grow and develop properly, some recommend that you wait until chickens are about 3-4 months old before introducing too many table scraps.

We keep a bucket right on our kitchen counter and continually toss scraps in it while I’m cooking. Things like leftover rice, tomato ends, carrot peelings, or leftover popcorn end up there, along with the occasion eggshell. You can save eggshells in a separate container to feed to your hens.


Foods that are Safe to Feed Your Chickens.

A general guideline for leftover is: Only feed your chickens that which is still considered edible by humans, don’t feed anything spoiled, moldy, oily, salty or questionable!


  • Bread: all kinds of Bread, in moderation, can be fed to your chickens, but avoid real moldy bread. Good use for stale bread, this is great. Feed starches in moderation .
  • Cheese including cottage cheese in moderation, fatty, but a good source of protein and calcium
  • Cooked meats: Meats should be cut into small pieces.
  • Lettuce / Kale any leafy greens, spinach collards, chickweed included. A big treat, depending on how much other greenery they have access to.
  • Oatmeal: raw or cooked is nutritionally better.
  • Pasta / Macaroni, cooked spaghetti, etc. A favorite treat, fun to watch them eat it, but not much nutrition.
  • Peas and pea tendrils and flowers
  • Pomegranates Raw Seeds are a big treat.
  • Pumpkins / Winter Squash: raw or cooked, both seeds and flesh are a nutritious treat.
  • Raisins
  • Rice: cooked only.  Pilaf mixes are okay too, plain white rice has little nutrition.
  • Sprouts: Wheat and oat sprouts are great!  Good for greens in mid-winter.
  • Yogurt: Plain or flavored. A big favorite and good for their digestive systems. Plain is better.
  • Corn On the cob.
  • Corn: Raw, cooked, or dried corn can be fed to your chickens.
  • Fruits: Aside from a few exceptions, most fruits are fine to feed your chickens.
  • Bananas Without the peel.  High in potassium, a good treat.
  • Beans: Well-cooked only, never dry.  Also, green beans.
  • Beets, Greens also.
  • Fish / Seafood: only cooked.
  • Meal worms: Available at pet supply stores or on the internet, although shipping is expensive! A huge (!) favorite treat, probably the most foolproof treat on the books.
  • Grits: Cooked
  • Flowers: make sure they haven’t been treated with pesticides, such as florist flowers might be. Marigolds, nasturtiums, pansies, etc.
  • Grapes: seedless are best
  • Berries: All kinds are a treat, especially strawberries.
  • Eggs: Hard cooked and scrambled are a good source of protein, and a favorite treat. Feed ONLY cooked eggs only because you don’t want your chickens to start eating their own raw eggs.
  • Sweet potatoes and sweet potato skins: They belong to a different plant family than white potatoes. They do not contain solanine and are safe to feed to your chickens.
  • Apples and melons: They love to peck in the rinds.
  • Grains: Rice, wheat, and other grains are fine for your chickens.
  • Vegetables: Most cooked or raw vegetables are fine to feed your chickens.
  • Also  broccoli, carrots (cooked or shredded), cabbage, chard, cucumbers, kale, lettuce, pumpkins, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.

Further Reading: Click here


NINE THINGS TO Avoid Feeding Your Chickens:

  • Salt: A little salt isn’t going to hurt them, but avoid feeding them too much salt.
  • Processed foods: It’s healthier for your chickens to eat leftovers from a home cooked meal than leftover pizza or scraps from a TV dinner.
  • Raw potato peels: Potatoes are members of the Nightshade family (Solanaceae), and their peels, especially when they turn green from exposure to the sunlight, contain the alkaloid solanine, which is toxic. Green potato peels are bad!
  • Garlic, onions, and other strong tasting foods: These aren’t necessarily harmful to your chickens, but they may import an undesirable taste to the eggs that your hens lay.
  • Avocado skins and pits: These contain persin, a fungicidal toxin that can be fatal to chickens.
  • Spoiled or rotten foods: Foods can produce toxins when they spoil.
  • Soft drinks, Coffee or coffee grinds, Chocolate: Chocolate contains theobromine, which may be toxic to birds.
  • Very greasy foods. These can be difficult for your chickens to digest.
  • Raw meat: Feeding chickens raw meat can lead to cannibalism
  • Dry Beans: Cooked beans are fine– but their dried counterparts contain hemaglutin– a big no-no.


We have a fantastic little book at our AESL bookstore for keeping chickens, it’s a must, it’s handy and easy to use  full of great information. Just click here.




yours for sustainability,

John Musser



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Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

October 07, 2013 at 08:10 PM

Great article!

October 07, 2013 at 09:10 PM

Thanks, had almost all of them right but didn’t know about dried beans. Wondered about salt. Knew never feed processed foods, if it ain’t good for me, it’s not good for my chickens.
Thank you.

February 05, 2014 at 07:02 AM

Great article. Will make me think more about what I put in the bucket as to the freshness aspect. Have been researching beneficial herbs to keep my hens healthy.
Thanks for sharing.

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