Chickens are omnivores and will eat just about anything, but there are a few a few things that are not safe to feed your chickens…
Chickens can be a fun and useful addition to the homestead, providing eggs, meat, and even some free entertainment! They are fairly social and friendly creatures, and they get very excited over treats, so it’s a lot of fun to feed them. Kids often enjoy this chore, along with collecting eggs. However, although chickens are omnivores and will happily eat just about anything, there are a few things that you should be careful not to feed your chickens.
While most of these foods are only “potentially toxic,” meaning that they aren’t necessarily fatal in small amounts, it is impossible to know exactly how much is safe for a chicken to consume, so it is best to avoid these foods altogether. Keep in mind that although your chickens will usually avoid eating foods that aren’t good for them, if food is scarce, or if it is included in with other things they normally eat, they may not steer clear as they should.
Here is a quick list of things you should never feed your chickens, according to Fresh Eggs Daily – and if your kids or someone else in the household feeds the chickens, be sure they are aware of this list as well!
No avocado flesh, pits or skins which contain the toxin persin, and according to the Merck Veterinary Manual: “Ingestion of avocado has been associated with myocardial necrosis in mammals and birds.
Cattle, goats, horses, mice, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, sheep, budgerigars, canaries, cockatiels, ostriches, chickens, turkeys, and fish are susceptible.
Ingestion of fruit, leaves, stems, and seeds of avocado has been associated with toxicosis in animals; however leaves are the most toxic part.” Avocados, all parts of the plant, are bad news. Just 5% of one avocado can kill a small bird in 48 hours.
No white potatoes – cooked or raw, skins or flesh which are part of the nightshade family and contain the toxin solanine.
Solanine destroys red blood cells and can cause diarrhea and heart failure. It is sometimes killed by cooking at high heats, however boiling won’t reduce the solanine levels.
Best stay away from all parts of the white potato including the vines and leaves.
(Note: Sweet potatoes are part of the morning glory family, not the nightshade family, and perfectly safe to feed to your chickens.)
No tomato leaves and no eggplant leaves both of which are also part of the nightshade family and potentially toxic.
Green tomatoes and immature eggplant flesh should also be avoided until ripe, when the solanine isn’t present any longer in amounts that are of as much concern.
No apple seeds (also avoid pits/seeds from apricots, cherries, peaches, pears and plums which contain trace amounts of cyanide) but the fruits are all fine cored.
No rhubarb. Rhubarb leaves are toxic to humans and animals. And the entire plant contains oxalic acid, which can lead to soft-shelled eggs. So best to avoid rhubarb.
No raw dried beans, which contain phytohemagglutinin (PHA/hemaglutin), a natural insecticide that can be harmful unless the dried beans are soaked and then properly cooked.
Once cooked, they are fine to feed. Interesting note, sprouted beans are fine for your chickens. The act of sprouting also kills the hemaglutin.
No onions, which contain a toxin called thiosulphate hat destroys red blood cells. Excessive amounts can cause jaundice or anemia in your hens or even death. Some claim that onions will taint the taste of your eggs as well.
No chocolate, no caffeine, and no tea bags. Caffeine which is a methylxanthine should never be fed to chickens and chocolate contains the toxin theobromine which should also be avoided.
Nothing moldy, although overripe fruits, wilted veggies and stale cereal or bread products are fine.
No alcohol. Hey, you never know what some people might try!
Nothing too salty/sweet/fried. Self-explanatory, if its not good for you, it’s probably not good for them either! They can get overweight which affects their overall health and laying ability.
Nothing that has been sprayed with pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals, such as lawn treatment products. Self-explanatory.