Feeding Food Scraps To Chickens: When, What and How to Give?

Feeding food scraps to chickens is a traditional farming practice among poultry raisers. Do you want to give leftover food to your chickens?

However, there are essential considerations to remember when it comes to feeding scraps to chickens.

Food scraps help reduce waste, save money on feed, and allow chickens to satisfy a mixed diet that simulates their natural foraging instincts.

Chickens love eating and peaking on various scraps and leftovers, from fruit and vegetable peels to bread crusts and pasta leftovers.

But can chickens eat all types of scraps?
Are there any restrictions or precautions to take?

We will provide detailed information on what table and kitchen scraps are safe and beneficial for your backyard chickens and those that should be avoided at all costs.

Is it safe to give scraps to chicks, or should you wait until they reach a certain age? Can you feed chickens scraps daily, or is there a limit to how much they can consume?

We will address these questions and more, offering practical advice on when and how to introduce scraps into your chickens’ diet.

Whether you are a seasoned chicken owner or just a newbie, this definitive guide will provide you with all the information on feeding food scraps to chickens.

We will also talk about the benefits and potential risks associated with this food scrap feeding to chickens.

So, let’s explore delicious and sustainable chicken feeding!

Also, read our detailed article on: What can chicken eat?

What is Food Scrap for Chickens? 

Food scrap is the meager portions of the meals that are usually left after having the food. 

Since chickens can eat whatever a human can eat, one has to be very careful while feeding table scraps because not all types of food need to be considered suitable for the chicken.

Instead of throwing away these scraps, they can be repurposed as a source of nutrition for your flock.

Chickens are natural omnivores, and they can consume various foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, and even meat scraps.

Feeding scrap food to chickens not only helps reduce waste but also provides them with a variety of nutritional diets and foraging behaviors.

You must know the difference between a feed and a scrap, as it is necessary for a broader aspect. 

Feed is commercial or homemade ready-to-eat food that contains Protein meals, Cereal grains, Cereal byproducts, Feed additives, Fats and Oils, Minerals, and Vitamins.

However, scraps mean anything humans leave on their plates after eating food.

Can Chicken Eat Table Scrap? 

chicken eating scrap food
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The answer is yes; chickens can eat leftovers or table scraps. They will gladly eat your table scraps if you give them a chance.

Chickens can be fed a variety of leftovers from the dining table, including vegetable peels, bread crusts, grains, pasta, and fruit.

Before giving them to flocks, checking the scraps for dangerous components or seasonings like salt or spices is essential. 

Chickens can benefit from eating scraps from the table, but only if given in small amounts regularly. This will help keep your flock healthy and prevent intestinal problems.

Following table scraps are just okay or perfect for your chickens as a supplement –

  • Kinds of seafood like fish, lobster, and shellfish
  • Beans and Peas 
  • Cauliflowers 
  • Fruits like Plums, Peaches, and Cherries
  • Unbuttered and Unsalted Popcorns 
  • Seeds like Sunflower, Chia, Flax, and Hemp
  • Spinach 
  • Turnips
  • Cabbage
  • Whole-grain slices of bread
  • Fewer sugar crackles or cereals 
  • Oats 
  • Cooked Rice
  • Pasta Cooked
  • Cooked eggs 
  • Bell Peppers
  • Cayenne Peppers 
  • Hamberger 
  • Brussel Sprouts 

The Benefits of Feeding Food Scraps to Chickens

Feeding food scraps to chickens can be highly beneficial in many ways. Here are a few advantages of incorporating food scraps into their diet: 

1. Nutritional Supplement: Food scraps can provide additional nutrients that may be lacking in your chicken’s regular feed. This helps to promote overall health and well-being in flocks. 

2. Waste Reduction: Feeding chickens with food scraps is an effective way to reduce kitchen waste. Rather than throwing away leftovers, you can reuse them as a valuable food source for your flock. 

3. Cost Savings: By feeding food scraps to your chickens, you can reduce the costs of buying additional feed. This can be especially helpful for small-scale chicken farmers or backyard flock owners. 

4. Environmental Sustainability: Feeding chickens with food scraps aligns with sustainable techniques by reducing the amount of organic waste that goes to the dump. It contributes to a more eco-friendly approach to managing household waste. 

5. Enhanced Egg Quality: Chickens fed with food scraps may lay eggs with richer yolks and improved flavor. This is due to the various diets they receive, which can improve the nutritional profile of their eggs. 

6. Enhance Foraging Behavior: Chickens are natural foragers; feeding them food scraps allows them to show their instinctual behavior. It keeps them stress-free and engaged, nurturing their overall well-being. 

7. Reduced Feed Dependency: Incorporating food scraps into a poultry diet can help reduce chicken’s dependence on commercial feed. This can be helpful in times when you have storage of feed or when you want to reduce the dependency on store-bought feed. 

Considering the benefits mentioned above, you can make a knowledgeable decision about adding food scraps to your chickens’ diet. Ensure you follow guidelines on food scraps that are safe and appropriate for your chickens.

Also read: All about chicken scratch

When Can Chicks Eat Scraps?

When chickens are old enough and can handle solid food, they can start eating scraps. Most of the time, chicks can start eating leftovers when they are 8 to 12 weeks old.

Before they reach this age, they need a well-balanced meal of chick starter feed to grow and develop properly.

Once the chicks are old enough, you can slowly start giving them scraps. Start by giving them small food scraps like bread, fruit peels, and veggie peels.

It’s important not to give them old or moldy scraps, which can harm their health.

As chickens get bigger, they can eat various types of leftovers. Slowly give them table scraps like cooked veggies, rice, pasta, and meat.

But it’s important not to give them anything with a lot of salt, sugar, or spice, as these things can harm their health.

When you feed chickens scraps, it’s essential to remember that they still need their daily feed intake.

Most of their food should come from their daily feed, and scraps should only make up a small part of their diet.

Also read: Mealworms for chickens

What Kitchen Scraps Can Chickens Eat?

feeding chicken kitchen scraps
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When giving your chickens scraps from the kitchen, it’s essential to know which ones are safe and suitable for them and which ones you should stay away from.

Here’s a list of what you can feed your chickens from your kitchen scraps:

1. Excellent kitchen scraps for chickens:

Fruits and vegetable scraps: Chickens love fruits and veggies, so feel free to give them leftovers like apple cores, carrot peels, and lettuce leaves. Just make sure to remove any parts that are bad or have mold.

Grains and bread: Chickens like grains and bread, but giving them a small amount is best. You can give stale bread, cooked rice, or pasta as treats.

Dairy products: Plain yogurt or cheese can be given in small amounts as a source of calcium and protein.

Other Excellent kitchen scraps are:

  • Berries like Blueberries, Blackberries, Cranberries, Cherries, Elderberries, Strawberries, and Raspberries. 
  • Root vegetables like sweet potato, radishes, and beets, carrots. 
  • Microgreens and Sprouts.
  • Fruits like Grapes, Honeydew Melon, Pomegranate, Apples, Papaya, Peaches, Cantaloupe, Mangoes and Pears.
  • Leafy Greens like Spinach, Collard Greens, Bok-Choy, and Lettuce.
  • Squashes like Cucumber, Zucchini Squash, Summer Squash and Pumpkins.

2. Good kitchen scraps for chickens:

Meat and fish scraps: You can give your chickens some cooked meat or fish, but it shouldn’t be their primary food source. Don’t give them meat that has gone bad or has been cooked.

Eggshells: Chickens can get a lot of calcium from crushed eggshells. Make sure to wash them well, bake them to kill germs, and then crush them before giving them to someone.

Other good kitchen scraps are:

  • Kinds of seafood like fish, lobster, and shellfish
  • Beans and Peas 
  • Cauliflowers 
  • Fruits like Plums, Peaches, and Cherries
  • Unbuttered and Unsalted Popcorns 
  • Seeds like Sunflower, Chia, Flax, and Hemp
  • Spinach 
  • Turnips
  • Cabbage
  • Whole-grain slices of bread
  • Fewer sugar crackles or cereals 
  • Oats 
  • Cooked Rice
  • Pasta Cooked
  • Cooked eggs 
  • Bell Peppers
  • Cayenne Peppers 
  • Hamberger 
  • Brussel Sprouts 

3. Unhealthy kitchen scraps for chickens:

Anything that has become bad or is moldy: Chickens can get sick from moldy food, so always give them fresh, clean scraps.

Salty and sweet foods: Chickens have different dietary needs than people, so don’t give them chips, cookies, or other prepared snacks that are salty or sweet.

Citrus fruits: Most citrus fruits can cause digestive issues for chickens, and onions can affect the taste of their eggs. It also reduces the calcium absorption in chicken, which results in the thin layering of eggs or droppings. 

Other kitchen scraps to avoid are: 

  • Eggplants should only be fed if they are correctly and completely cooked. Raw Eggplants can become difficult for them to digest. 
  • Onions contain toxic thiosulphates present in them which destroys the red blood cells, hence resulting in anemia.
  • Tomatoes contain solanine, which should only be fed in moderate portions. 
  • Apple seeds because they contain toxic cyanide. However, your chicken can eat a whole apple without worry, but avoid the seeds as they should not be consumed in large quantities. 
  • Avocados contain toxins that persist, which is indeed associated with necrosis.
  • Because it is high in fats, Peanut Butter should be avoided in large quantities but can be consumed in small portions as a treat. 
  • Coconut oil is best for chickens but should only be provided occasionally. 

How to Give Food Scraps to Chickens? – Step by Step Guide 

Feeding Table Scraps To Chickens ading with feed
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When it comes to feeding adult chickens, incorporating food scraps into their diet can be a great way to provide them with additional nutrients and variety.

However, it’s important to introduce food scraps to chickens in a proper and balanced manner.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it effectively:

Start with baby chicks:

Before introducing food scraps, it’s crucial to ensure that baby chicks have a solid foundation of store-packed commercial feed.

This starter feed contains the necessary nutrients for their growth and development.

Once they reach 8-12 week age, you can gradually start introducing scraps alongside their regular feed.

Gradual introduction:

Begin by offering small quantities of food scraps alongside their regular feed.

This allows the chickens to adjust to new flavors and textures without upsetting their digestive system.

Monitor their response and gradually increase the amount of food scraps over time.

Know what scraps to feed:

Chickens can eat a wide variety of food scraps, including fruits, vegetables, grains, and even small amounts of meat. We have given the complete list of excellent, good and bad food scrap in this guide.

However, there are certain scraps that should be avoided, such as avocado, chocolate, citrus fruits, onions, and raw potato peels. These can be toxic to chickens and should not be included in their diet.

Balance with commercial chicken feed:

While food scraps can be a valuable addition to their diet, it’s crucial to remember that they should not replace their regular feed entirely.

Commercial feed provides a balanced mix of nutrients that chickens need for optimal health. Ensure that the scraps are given as supplementary treats and not the main source of nutrition.

By following these steps, you can successfully introduce food scraps to adult chickens and baby chicks, providing them with a varied and nutritious diet.

Can Chicken Eat Meat Scraps?

Some people usually think that they should not feed meat to the chickens as they are birds. But they are wrong. Chickens are omnivorous i.e., they are not at all vegetarians. 

Chickens love to eat meat, and why not? Meat is considered a great protein source and requires essential nutrients. Protein is important for chickens to grow eggs and during the molting process

Also, feeding meat in winter adds to the beauty of their feathers and is safe as there are no insects around. 

Leftover cooked meat, such as chicken or fish, can be offered as a treat occasionally. However, it’s important to remove any bones or excessive fat before feeding it to your flock

How Much Food Scraps Can Chickens Eat?

The amount of food scraps that chickens can consume depends on various factors such as their size, age, and activity level.

As a general guideline, food scraps should make up no more than 10% of their overall diet.

It’s important not to overfeed your chickens with scraps, which can lead to nutritional imbalances or obesity. Monitor their body condition and adjust the amount of scraps accordingly.

Potential Risks of Feeding Food Scraps to Chickens

Feeding food scraps to chickens can be a convenient way to reduce waste and provide additional nutrients to your flock. However, it’s essential to be aware of the potential risks involved.

Here are five potential risks of feeding food scraps to chickens: 

1. Contamination:

Food scraps can become contaminated with harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella or E. coli.

If chickens consume contaminated scraps, they can become carriers of these bacteria, potentially spreading them to other chickens or even humans. 

2. Imbalanced Diet:

While food scraps can provide some nutritional value, they may not offer a well-balanced diet for chickens.

Chickens require a specific balance of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals to thrive. Feeding too many scraps can lead to nutritional deficiencies or imbalances. 

3. Obesity:

Food scraps are often high in fat and calories, which can contribute to obesity in chickens.

Overweight chickens are more prone to health issues such as heart disease, joint problems, and decreased egg production. 

4. Toxic Foods:

Some foods are toxic to chickens and should never be fed to them. Examples include chocolate, avocado, onions, garlic, and caffeine.

Feeding these scraps to chickens can result in poisoning and potentially be fatal. 

5. Crop Impaction:

Chickens have a crop, a pouch where food is temporarily stored before digesting. Feeding large or sharp food scraps can cause crop impaction, blocking the crop.

This can lead to discomfort, reduced appetite, and potentially require surgical intervention. 

To minimize these risks, it’s good to feed chickens appropriate scraps in moderation. Avoid feeding them spoiled or moldy food, and ensure their main diet consists of balanced chicken feed.

Conclusion: Feeding Food Scraps to Chickens

Feeding chicken scraps is fantastic, providing your flock with various foods. By following the guidelines outlined in this guide, you can safely introduce table and kitchen scraps into your chickens’ feeding routine.

Remember to offer safe and beneficial food scraps while avoiding those that can be harmful.

Gradually introduce scraps into your chicks’ diet, and monitor their consumption carefully once they are old enough.

Always provide a balanced diet that includes commercial feed alongside the scraps.Feeding food scraps to chickens reduces waste, saves money on feed costs, and provides your flock with a natural and diverse diet. It’s a win-win situation for both you and your feathered friends!

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