Feeding table scraps to your chickens feels good, is full circle, and eco-friendly!
My husband and I used to live in the city (a city in Japan to be exact). Everyday we had to separate our burnable trash from the recyclables. The amount of burnable food trash that 2 people could create was eyeopening. We felt ashamed of all the food scraps we ended up tossing in the trash bin. The good news is, if you have chickens, many of your table scraps can go to the birds!
Chickens LOVE table scraps!
Chickens are naturally omnivores, enjoying a varied diet of both vegetable matter and protein. Giving your flock table scraps is an awesome way to enrich their diet while responsibly getting rid of food waste at the same time!
At my house, we keep a little bag on the counter. I fill it up with our scraps and leftovers throughout the day. In the evenings, our chickens look forward to getting their treats and meet me at the coop. This makes putting them up for the night super easy!
It is important to note that the time of day you give your flock scraps should be considered. If you give your flock scraps in the evening, just be sure that most of it gets eaten before bed. Chickens retire early for the night, and any food scraps left outside will attract unwanted predators. You do not want to inadvertently draw in a raccoon with the smell of food. He will quickly discover the chicken dinner roosting nearby!
Consider where you give the scraps as well. Chances are, your flock will learn where the goodies are handed out, and begin loitering in that area! So, you may want to avoid tossing scraps off your back porch. They may soon be content to chill out ON the back porch, leaving lots of “chicken presents” for you to clean up. (This was a lesson I learned the hard way!)
Some of my favorite foods to share (that the hens LOVE) are:
Handfuls of leftover cooked rice, cooked beans and corn, cooked meat, and yogurt.
Chickens can and will try to consume almost anything you give them, therefore it is important to know which foods should be avoided. Although most scraps are fine, there are definitely some you should never feed your flock.
Poisonous Table Scraps
Avocado seeds and skin.
Avocados are an increasingly popular food these days, and it can be tempting to toss the leftovers to your flock, but please do not! The skins and seeds contain persin, which can prove deadly. The avocado flesh, however, is fine for them to eat.
The same chemical in chocolate that can cause harm to dogs, can also be poisonous to chickens. The chemical is called theobromine, and the darker the chocolate, the higher the levels.
High levels of phytohaemagglutinin exist in dried beans. They are among the most toxic things for a chicken to eat. It can kill in a very short time. Dried kidney beans are especially high in the toxin. Cooked beans and fresh green beans are fine to feed chickens.
Green Potato Skins
Just as we as humans should not consume green potato peels, neither should chickens. The bad chemical to blame is called solanine.
Rotten Food/ Moldy Bread
If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t feed it to your flock!
Onions, cooked or raw, can be poisonous to your birds. I have accidentally thrown onions out to my chickens, but USUALLY they seem to know not to eat them. In large amounts, onions can be fatal to chickens.
Apple seeds contain dangerous levels of cyanide.
Although usually chickens will not eat citrus fruits, there is some research indicating it is unhealthy for chickens and decreases egg production.
Meat is a natural part of chicken’s diet. Usually meat comes in the form of insects. I have on several occasions even witnessed one of my chickens even eat a mouse! Raw meat from our kitchen should be avoided because it could contain salmonella. Chickens will happily eat cooked meat, even cooked chicken! Eww! That decision is up to you!
Chickens can safely consume raw eggs. However, it can overtime give them a taste for raw eggs, and can lead to an egg-eating hen. Once a hen becomes an egg eater, there is generally no way to make her stop and she may need to be culled. They love boiled eggs, and we give these with the shell on for added calcium.
Feeding eggs can be a gamble, you may have no issues at all, or you could end up with an egg eater. One thing is for certain, they love eating eggs!
Giving chickens table scraps is a wonderful way to recycle your leftovers. You will feel good for not having to throw food in the trash, and your chickens will love you for it! Keep a little container on your kitchen counter, and give sharing your table scraps a try!