Maybe you’ve heard that backyard chickens are the pigs of the poultry world – because for all seriousness - they eat just about anything! Am I right?
But… just because they will, doesn’t mean they should.
If you also grow a garden along with raising chickens, there are many items in your garden that your chickens will love.
Others that they can eat, but usually won’t.
And others that are just down right toxic for your flock.
As you decide what to plant each year, why not include some good plants for chickens (which we’ll cover below). And maybe you don't garden but you want to shop at the market for fresh veggies and greens....
Here are our lists of foods that are good for chickens. Click here for the post on foods that are bad for your them.
The lists are alphabetical to make it easy to look up a specific food item when you’re in a rush. You might want to book-mark this post for quick easy reference.
Almonds: Nuts do contain some saturated fats, so don’t feed too many. Chop roughly before feeding to the hens. Ensure the nuts aren’t moldy. Almond flour can also be eaten.
Apples: Yes, BUT - apple seeds contain small amounts of cyanide, so remove seeds. Chop apples to aid digestion although they will peck at windfalls. Apple sauce is good too.
Asparagus: Asparagus is a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Chickens generally will not eat it, but if they do, make sure they don’t eat too much as it can taint the taste of the eggs.
Bananas & Banana Peels: Yes. Very nutritious and most hens love them! High in vitamins B6, C & A also contains niacin, iron and magnesium plus other trace elements. Now you know what to do with those brown, spotty bananas! They can eat the peel but generally don’t. If you use a food processer to grind them small enough, they might eat them.
Beans: Cooked only. Raw or undercooked beans are highly toxic to chickens.
Blueberries: Chickens can eat all sorts of berries and blueberries are one of their favorites. Packed full of vitamins and minerals, blueberries also contain antioxidants. Be aware that their poop can turn blue! And like most fruits, feed in moderation otherwise they may get diarrhea.
Broccoli: Broccoli is safe to feed to your chickens. It is high in numerous vitamins and low in fat; many chickens prefer it cooked. You can give it to them in a veggie cage to keep them pecking all day.
Brussels Sprouts: A good source of nutrition. They can have the sprouts and excess leafy foliage. I tend to rough chop for ease of eating. They love leftover cooked ones too.
Cabbage: Very healthy and is packed full of trace minerals and vitamins. You can hang it as a tetherball or stuff it into a veggie cage so they can pluck at them whenever they want.
Cantaloupe and Cantaloupe Seeds: High in vitamins A & C, lots of B vitamins too. They will pick the rind clean. Cantaloupe seeds are edible and healthy for chickens.
You can feed them raw with all the stringy bits – the girls love them. Like most fruits, feed in moderation otherwise they may get diarrhea.
Carrots: Raw or cooked, carrots are full of goodness, they can eat the greens too (I usually rough chop them). But don’t give canned carrots they are likely high in salt.
Cat & Dog Food: Cat and dog food wet should be fed as a rare treat. It can be fed to birds feeling poorly in very small amounts and not every day. I do my best to avoid feeding dog or cat food to my flock at the recommendation of my vet.
Cauliflower: The stems and leaves of the cauliflower are healthy and chickens will eat them.
Celery: A great source of vitamins B2, B6, C & K. High in trace minerals such as molybdenum, also contains potassium, fiber and calcium. I don't give my flock celery because of the long strings in the stalk and I err on the side of caution with choking.
Cherries: Fresh cherries are full of vitamins – A, C, E & K, minerals too. They also contain choline which is essential for a chicken’s health.
Cherries fresh or cooked (no added sugar) – they will eat all.
Just remove the pit as all stone fruit pits contain cyanide.
Also don’t feed the red maraschino cherries that come in a jar – they are full of sugar and red dye.
Chia Seeds: Very nutritious, but small. To make them go further mix with other seeds and spread over the coop floor and watch those girls work it.
Chick’n Greens™: Chick'n Greens™ turns your brooder into a healthy playpen for your chicks! Simply plant the seeds in a small growing container. When the seeds have sprouted, add your container to the brooder and let your chicks peck away at the healthy greens. Remember to be patient, as the shy chicks may wait to get acclimated, while the curious chicks dive right in.
Citrus: Chickens can eat citrus but will they? Citrus is very healthy but most hens avoid any citrus fruits.
Corn: Chickens love to peck at an ear of corn once you are done with it!
They can have corn canned, frozen, fresh or on the cob and they will eat it all.
This is an end of the day food otherwise they would fill up on the corn and ignore their regular food ration.
If you give them canned corn, read the label and make sure it doesn’t contain added salt/sodium.
Also avoid giving cracked corn in the summer as the effort needed to digest will raise their body temperature – and they already run hot.
Crickets: 100 grams of crickets contains 12.9 grams protein, 5.5 grams fat and 5.1 grams carbohydrates, plus numerous minerals and trace elements. A very healthy snack, but feed in moderation because of the high protein content.
Cucumbers: Cucumbers are a great treat on hot days. They contain a lot of water so it’s a good way to stay hydrated. In the Summer we have so.many lemon cucumbers. I slice them, freeze them and toss them in the yard so they defrost and provide a cold treat throughout the hot day.
Healthy too – full of vitamins and minerals, also contains anti-inflammatory properties.
Don't have time to freeze and serve? just slice it lengthwise and let them go to town pecking away at the seeds & flesh.
Dog & Cat Food: Dog and cat wet food should only be given as a rare snack. It can also be used when your hen is sick for a quick nutritional pick-me-up – but not every day. Again, I don't feed it to them but let me tell you this: my girls do their best to sneak in the house and head for the dog bowl every chance they get.
Eggs: Give eggs scrambled so they don’t recognize it as ‘eggs’; you don’t want them to start egg eating.
Flowers: Roses, Marigolds and Nasturtium favorites. Rose petals are aromatic, calming and high in vitamin C. Also Calendula, Echinacea, Geraniums, Hibiscus, Hollyhock, Impatiens, Lilac, Pansy, Peony, Snap Dragon, Squash Blossoms, Sunflowers, Violets.
Fruit: Yes. In general, chickens love fruit, with the exception of citrus. Remember, fruit is generally high in sugars so feed sparingly as excess sugar may cause gastric upsets. But NOT pineapple – see the Bad Food list.
Garlic: A superb additive for water and feed. Some folks say it taints the eggs – others say not, as with all things - moderation.
Grapefruit: They can eat it, but won’t. In general, they avoid all citrus fruits.
Grapes : High in B vitamins plus A & C; also contains many trace elements such as calcium and copper. Give in small amounts once/week as the sugar content is high. Rough chop first to aid digestion.
Grass: Long strands of grass can cause crop impaction so feed short grass clippings as long as the grass has not been treated with chemicals.
Green Beans: Well-cooked beans only. Raw or undercooked beans contain phytohemagglutinin which can be deadly to your flock. As few as 3 beans can be deadly.
Herbs: Herbs can be great healthy addition to your arsenal of treats. Here are some of the more common herbs that are safe for chickens: Basil, Bay Leaves, Catnip, Chamomile, Cilantro, Comfrey, Dill, Fennel, Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sage, Spearmint, Thyme.
Kale: Another healthful item. Vitamins and minerals abound. It can be given cooked or raw. I usually stuff a suet holder full of leaves and leave it for them to peck at.
Kiwi: Kiwis are healthy but contain a lot of sugar, so feed only in moderation. Kiwis contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Lettuce: Most lettuce is good for hens but avoid iceberg lettuce - it has around the same nutritional content as cardboard and may give them diarrhea.
Mango: Very nutritious but high in sugars and carbohydrates so feed sparingly. Great made into frozen slushies for hot summer days.
Mealworms: Mealworms are very high in protein, so moderation please. A great healthy tidbit especially for the time of the molt. Worms can be given fresh or dried.
Meat: Trim off excess fat from the meat. Great source of protein, but not every day. Especially handy to help them during molting.
Melon: Very healthy. They can pick at the rind and eat the flesh and seeds which they adore. Remember to feed in moderation or they get diarrhea.
Nuts: Nuts do contain some saturated fats, so don’t feed too many. They are high in omega fats so that’s good. Rough chop nuts prior to feeding. Never feed moldy nuts to chickens as the mold causes respiratory problems.
Oats: Yes. They can eat raw or cooked oats. Some research indicates that oats fed to pullets helps to reduce feather picking. Oats contain vitamins and minerals also some protein. We include certified organic rolled oats in Cluck Yea.
Oranges and Orange Peels. Oranges do have some amazing health benefits. In general, chickens do not enjoy orange.
Pasta: High in carbohydrates so feed sparingly. It is fun to watch them slurping up spaghetti though!
Peaches: They love peaches; this is another fruit high in nutritious goodies. The pits contain cyanide so remove them before feeding to the hens.
Pears: Pears are healthy and relatively low in sugar so they are a great snack for your flock.
Peas: Peas are a healthy snack and you can get the hens to chase after them too! Peas are not a huge favorite but they do enjoy them occasionally.
Pecans: Nuts do contain some saturated fats, so don’t feed too many. As with all nuts, chop roughly first to aid digestion.
Plums: High in sugars, so feed sparingly. Plum pits contain cyanide so remove them first.
Pomegranate: Pomegranates are very healthy. Chickens will eat the seeds happily and peck at the remaining husk.
Popcorn: Surprisingly, popcorn contains a high number of vitamins, including A, E & K. It has a lot of minerals too plus fiber. As long as you don’t add butter, salt or sugar to your corn.
Pumpkin and Pumpkin Seeds: Pumpkin seeds are said to aid in prevention of worms. Pecking at a pumpkin will keep them busy for hours, they can also eat the flesh too as it contains vitamins and minerals.
Quinoa: An old biblical grain that is a powerhouse of goodness. Quinoa is much more nutritious than the same amount of rice.
Radishes: These little flavor bombs are packed with vitamins and minerals. Chickens can eat them – chop roughly first to enable digestion. They can also eat the leaves too.
Run Replacer™: Our Run Replacer™ seed packet offers a mix of greens for your chickens to nibble on. You can plant in the yard where they free-range, or if your girls aren’t able to free-range, you can plant in containers to put into their run. They’ll love the natural foraging, and you’ll love the extra boost of vitamins, fiber, calcium, potassium, iron and more.
Spaghetti Squash: As with all squashes, a firm favorite of hens. It can be cooked or given to them raw.
Squash: Squashes are a staple treat for hens. They love to peck at the flesh and eat the seeds. Squash are highly nutritious and will keep the girls busy for a good long time.
Strawberries: Strawberries are a favorite treat; they are high in trace elements and vitamins A, C & B9. Also contains an anti-inflammatory component called quercetin; rich in antioxidants. And, they love the greens of strawberry tops. I set my strawberry tops aside, sprinkle Cluck'n Sea Kelp over them, then serve to my flock. The kelp adds nutrients to enrich eggs among other things.
Sunflower Seeds: Sunflower seeds are very healthy. In general birds (including hens) prefer the black oil sunflower seeds over the grey or striped seeds. Great treat for the oil and fat content.
Sweet Potatoes: Extremely healthy and packed with vitamins. The girls are unlikely to bother with them unless they are cooked, but don’t add butter or salt!
Tomatoes: Chickens love tomatoes! Tomatoes are high in vitamin C, K & B9, fiber, potassium and antioxidants. However, chickens cannot eat the plant, leaves or flowers they are poisonous as they contain solanine. We are including tomatoes on the good list because chickens love them so.
Walnuts: Nuts do contain some saturated fats, so don’t feed too many. As with all nuts, chop roughly before giving to the hens. Nuts are full of nutrition and as an occasional treat are usually welcome.
Watermelon and Watermelon Rind: Packed full of vitamins and water, watermelon is a refreshing treat for hot summer days. A real favorite! The chickens love to pick the rinds clean of any flesh. If you puree then freeze it your girls will enjoy watermelon slushies. Just remember not to give it to them every day as it is high in sugar.
Yogurt: Chickens don’t process dairy products very well, however, yogurt contains live cultures which are valuable to intestinal health, so a little every now and then won’t hurt them and they do enjoy it.
Zucchini: Zucchini is a good source of vitamins and minerals, and the seeds are supposed to be helpful in worming chickens. Slice them length ways and let your girls peck away at the flesh and seeds.
And there you have it! If there are any foods that we left off of either list and you have a question, please just let us know in the comments below!