What NOT to Feed Chickens: 7 Things to Avoid

what not to feed chickens

I have to try really hard not to stutter and stare…

…when I’m at someone’s house and I watch them throw celery tops, broccoli stems, or banana peels in the trash.

That’s valuable stuff!

Our goats are rather picky, and they only like choice items such as watermelon rind or cornstalks. However our chickens can be depended upon to eat pretty much everything–especially veggie trimmings or leftover dairy items (like whey or yogurt), which is fabulous considering it cuts down on the chicken feed bill.

garden veggies

I keep a bucket right on my 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. (I usually save back my eggshells in a separate container to feed to my hens, but sometimes I get lazy…)

My girls eat most of what I give them, but I have noticed that they will leave items like citrus rind or avocado peels in the bottom of their scrap pan.

It got me to thinking, so I asked the folks on The Prairie Homestead Facebook page if their girls usually eat citrus. I got a bunch of differing responses, but the consensus seems to be that most chickens don’t like citrus peelings, and some folks even report that feeding citrus can result in soft shells.

So, I decided to do some research on what not to feed chickens. I’ve found that there are some definite no-nos…  I’ve been guilty of tossing most of these items into the feed bucket at some point, and I didn’t have any birds drop dead–but I’m going to be a bit more careful in the future.

What Not to Feed Chickens: 7 Things to Avoid

1. Avocadoes (mainly the pit and peel)

As with most of the things on this list, I was able to find several people who report feeding avocado to their flock without problem. However, it seems that most sources advise against it. The pit and peel of an avocado contains a compound called persin, which can be very toxic to birds. I’ll definitely be leaving these out of my chicken bucket from now on!

2. Chocolate or Candy

I think most of us probably wouldn’t feed chocolate to our hens, since it’s famous for being toxic to dogs. Theobromine (the compound that cause illness in dogs) is also thought to be toxic to poultry, so it’s best to steer clear. I doubt my girls have much of a chocolate craving anyway. 😉

3. Citrus

Actually, I think that the jury is still out on this one… I’m not 100% convinced that citrus is bad for them, since I’ve heard such varying reports. I know that my girls won’t touch it anyway, so I don’t have to worry too much. If you are nervous, it might be best to use those peels to freshen your garbage disposal or make all-purpose cleaner instead.

what not to feed chickens

4. Green Potato Skins

Green potatoes contain solanine– another toxic substance. It’s ok to feed your flock regular or cooked potatoes, but avoid those green ones in large quantities.

5. Dry Beans

Cooked beans are fine– but their dried counterparts contain hemaglutin– a big no-no.

6. Junk Food

Hey- if you don’t eat junk food, then you won’t have any leftovers… So you won’t even have to worry about this one, right? 😉 Highly processed food isn’t good for you, and it’s not good for your hens either.

7. Moldy or Rotten Food

For obvious reasons… Stale or overripe foods are fine, but if it’s rotten, just toss it.

what not to feed chickens

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  1. jaci says

    I had been wondering about the citrus itself not just the peel….but perhaps to be safe I wont try it…Id hate to loose another chicken …lost our first one last night on a freak hail storm! Hail ripped through the side of the coop and we assume hit one of our seramas….so sad but one loss out of 11 so far so good I guess…

    • says

      As far as I can tell, it seems that the citrus itself isn’t as much of a concern– although I’ve heard *some* people say they think it results in softer egg shells. I dunno. 😉 So sorry to hear about your loss- that’s never fun.

    • jane says

      Hi Jill. I didn’t know that citrus was harmful. I have been giving my girls half an orange for some time now and they love it. I haven’t seen any problems yet. Maybe a little runny poo but back to normal quickly. They really enjoy them and I have to give my girls what ever they want. They are kind of spoiled afterall.

    • mws46 says

      Save your citrus peels for cleaning. Fill a jar loosely with the peels and pour in vinegar. Let it set for 10-14 days and put the liquid in a spray bottle. It is a good all purpose cleaner. We have been doing this for 2 years.

    • Mary says

      My chick girls also enjoy the ocassional small toad and mouse when free ranging. I would prefer not to eat their eggs for a while after that, especially after the mouse. They also thoroughly enjoy the horse manure pile. Sounds pretty nasty but think, 75 and more years ago that would be quite common down on the farm. The chickens would roam free and eat what ever they wanted. Ma and Pa Kettle probably didn’t give it a second thought. My ducks go wild over baby toads.

      • Mom12x says

        Chickens are drawn to the maggots in manure piles, and as they scratch through it retrieving maggots, they scatter the manure, thereby fertilizing – a win-win!

        • bj says

          Horse manure is full of weed seeds. I’ve noticed them going more for that. Never noticed maggots in our manure, but it was spread out pretty evenly by the chickens and never had a chance to hatch maggots.

          • Mom12x says

            Didn’t know that about the weed seeds, but it makes sense. Flies are naturally drawn to manure, thus laying eggs. I know a farmer who, after leading his cows out of one pasture, will take the chickens to that pasture a day or so later, when the maggots are hatching. I think it’s great to let the chickens to this job!

    • DAWN says


    • Shawna says

      Can the chickens eat lettuce? At what age can they eat the shells from eggs and veggie left over?

      • Amanda says

        They LOVE lettuce/ spinach/ chard/ anything green. I give them ends of lettuce and sometimes will buy greens when on sale at the store just to give them a greens boost in the winter and they always go for those first before any other veggie scraps I give them. We are in a city so can’t let ours free range in the summer so we feed them weeds and the kids pick clover from the grass and feed it to them too- all love from the hens.

  2. Rita Westbrook says

    Most people know that you cannot feed salt to the chickens, but
    I take it a little further. Any veggies cooked in salt water goes in the garbage!
    I like my girls too much to feed them anything with salt!

      • says

        Yes, chickens do have salt requirements. If you see them eating mud or they have taken to pecking other chickens’ butts to draw blood, it could be a salt deficiency. This is my experience. If the chickens aren’t on a varied enough diet, this can happen. I corrected the behaviour by adding salt to their homemade feed. Learned that one the hard way.

      • says

        I would say to feed little to none, as they will consume at least some in their feed &/or nearly anything you feed them. Chickens are susceptible to salt poisoning: ” Chickens can tolerate up to 0.25% salt in drinking water but are susceptible to salt poisoning when water intake is restricted. Wet mash containing 2% salt has caused salt poisoning in ducklings. High salt content in wet mash is more likely to cause poisoning than in dry feed, probably because birds eat more wet mash.” [http://www.merckmanuals.com/vet/toxicology/salt_toxicity/overview_of_salt_toxicity.html] Farms with salt-softened well water should make sure their system is running properly at all times as too much residual salt in the water could be detrimental!

    • Mom12x says

      We’ve kept chickens for years, and I know they’ve gotten salt, because ours get all our food scraps, including lots of leftover popcorn! We’ve never seen a problem with them consuming salt.

  3. Almarie de Villiers says

    Never feed your chickens (or any other animals) citrus. Don’t even put them in the compost – it is one of the things that shouldn’t be used in compost. There is so many other uses for it. Like you mentioned: cleaners, but also used in potpourri to freshen your home, or candy it to use in food.

    • Sue in NC says

      I keep hearing this about not putting citrus in the compost, but I can never seem to find out why. Do you know? Funny this should all come up today, I was walking out to talk to DH, and I was eating a tangerine, and the girls came crowding up , assuming anything I carried in my hand was a treat (DH calls me the soft touch!) . i gave them a few little pieces to see if they would like it, no go.

      • Diana says

        I would like to know this too. I put all my veg and fruit scraps in my compost pile.

      • Sarah Winson says

        The skin and seeds of citrus contain d-limonene which is toxic. It works well as a cleaning agent and bug repeller but should not be ingested. I sometimes forget, but try not to throw them in the compost when I remember.

        • Kelly says

          Since certain animals have different digestive systems, it doesn’t seem logical that something toxic to humans is automatically toxic to all other animals. My goats, cow and donkeys LOVE citrus. I’ve not seen any detrimental effects as a result. Do you know of research that confirms this, or is it an assumption based on it being possibly toxic to humans? I say possibly because so many recipes call for citrus zest and that’s where the flavor is, so finding it hard to comprehend that it’s toxic.

      • Liz says

        I think the reason people don’t put citrus in the compost is because A) it is acidic and can change the pH of your compost if you use a ton of it, and B) it has antibacterial properties, which is the opposite of what you want in your compost pile. You want those bacteria working overtime to break down your ingredients.

      • says

        The feed stores have ground up citrus for goats and other animals. So I don’t think the citrus is bad for animals. I can’t be sure about chickens, however, I do give orange peels to my goats. And have given them the ground citrus from the feed stores. The chickens don’t eat the peels but haven’t tried the ground up with the chickens. The goats love it. Also, give them banana peels and before I started freezing bananas that were a little to soft to eat, would feed them to the goats.

        • Lynne Miller says

          But just because you can give it to one animal, dose not make it okay for all animals. Look at all the berries the birds can eat that would kill us.

          • Dan says

            We like to buy our oranges a few bags at a time from a local grower so inevitably some will go soft, we toss these out at the bottom of the compost heap which the dogs promptly peel the rinds off and devour the orange. I’ll remember that about goats when I have fields seeded well enough to sustain them again, not to mention rotational grazing. Years ago I had no clue what I was doing, but this time I am prepared with awesome ideas from great people like you.

      • Birgithe from Norway says

        I have heard that citrus should at least be kept out of a worm compost. Earthworms don’t perform well in a high-acid environment, so you’ll need to be pickier about what you add to your worm bin than you would with a normal compost pile. Citrus fruits and melons often have tough peels and rinds. In order to speed up the composting process, break up large additions to the pile, especially hard or tough materials. Cut peels into small pieces before adding them, unless you plan to give them the time to break down — or don’t mind finding them in your finished compost. Thanks for a great blogg!

        • Cortney says

          I found this blog searching for I’d the dark spots in eggs meant the were fertilised…. I’m new to the chicken thing, I have 9 birds, all if which I think are hens, but one, the youngest I’m not totally sure about. I had decided he/she was a hen & then the other a day couple eggs had the spots, which I had until now assumes it meant they were fertilised… I guess HouseHouse’s gender is still up for question… Anyway so glad I stumbled upon this! Learned soo much already… I have been feeding my shells back to the chickens, but I have never heard of egg eating before, I’m going to start crushing them :)
          I too noticed the ladies never went for the citrus I was including, and I never heard not to include it in the compost, tho I have always hesitated on putting it in cause it doesn’t seem to breakdown very quickly… In the winter it usually ends up in the pot of water on the woodstove for a bit, then I toss it out back. I have often wondered about including it in my cleaning, but never got around to looking up a recipe… Vinegar & baking soda has always been my standby… Will have to check out what your usage is. One thing I can share is its use as a flea remedy… I once tried on my dogs & I don’t remeber offhand but I believe it was just orange peel & water blenderized… & maybe put in the freezer, tho I don’t know what that would accomplish, so I probably just remember doing it because I didn’t use it right away?… Will have to try & find that info again.
          Thanks for all the sharing, i’m learning so much!

  4. TJ says

    Garlic and onions.
    They can supposedly taint the taste of the eggs.
    I don’t feed leftovers containing those items while the girls are laying.
    But in the winter when they stop laying, I do.

    • Tammy Maynard says

      This one I have to disagree with because I always feed my chickens the leftover pulp from making my own tomato juice which contains lots of onions, garlic, celery, tomatoes, and jalapeno’s and I have never had an off flavored egg. Maybe feeding raw would but I use them too often to feed them to chickens. :)

    • Shelly says

      I don’t know about onions, however you’re wrong on garlic. Garlic is a natural antibiotic and healer. I had a very sick chicken that nearly died, but force feeding garlic and honey balls cured her in about a weeks time. Garlic, fresh garlic powder, dehydrated garlic, are all must haves in the chicken (and all critter) arsenal of good things. It repels worms, fleas, and is a natural defense against bacteria. Give it to them.

      • allo says

        Totally agree with Shelly , garlic and onions are very good to feed your chicken every while , mine eat raw onions no problem

    • Janet says

      lol, my chickens get lots of garlic! I pick up a scrap bucket from a local Italian restaurant every day, and I have never noticed any ‘off’ taste in my eggs. They don’t touch the peperoncini, though, but they love the garlic rolls! I figure it helps prevent worms….

  5. Lori D. says

    Really if we want true organic eggs, we shouldn’t feed them any peels of any kind from fruits/veggies that have been sprayed with pesticides.

    • Laura Reynolds says

      If you want organic eggs does that mean you eat organic? All my fruits and veggies are organic so i have no problem feeding scraps to my girls.

      • Dan says

        Agreed. The whole idea of raising organic is eating -everything- organic. Buy local, become friends with your grower. At least take the time to say hi and ask a few questions. If you buy at a local market, talk to the produce manager and figure out what he knows about the organic section. I’ve heard that many farmers are stretching the rules on what is “organic” Growing them organically then spraying them after they’ve been picked with chemicals to increase shelf life. Obviously for 99% of us this is NOT organic but this is something that is happening.

    • Andrea says

      When we start talking organic, I also wonder about the corn and soy (and other grains) that is in chicken feed. According to the Department of Agriculture, by 2012 88% of all corn and 94% of all soy grown in the United States was genetically modified. If we are feeding our chickens genetically modified feed, not only do we have the negative effect of GM foods on the chicken itself, but I have read that these “side effects” can be passed along in the chickens eggs and meet. If this is all true, I would say make sure you are feeding your chickens certified GMO free feed.

  6. says

    I didn’t know it was bad to feed the hens citrus, but ours won’t touch it anyway. I had tossed out some clementines that had gone soft and the girls completely ignored them. Another thing we were told when we got our birds was to never feed them the leaves or the stalks of nightshade plants. They can eat the tomatoes or eggplant, but not the rest of the plant. We tend to throw all of our weeds in the chicken coop and the hens seem to know instinctively what’s good eating and what’s not.

    • says

      Our compost is located in the chicken yard & get’s everything non-meat that comes out of my kitchen and yard. There is a bucket on the countertop – every scrap – egg shells (crushed), orange peels, grapes, lettuce, etc. We get a truck load or two of horse manure in the spring and it goes in the chicken yard w/ the rest of the compost.
      Another cycle of life is the meat rabbit’s hutch, the droppings hit the ground, the worms rise up into it. This is also in the chicken yard, and the chickens are always under there foraging for worms.
      The ladies eat everything in their grasp. The best tomato’s in my garden generally come from the compost! and the chickens get those too (I get the ones on the outside of the fence). Can’t say I have noticed them eating the leaves of the tom plants. I plant a special bed of beans just for the ladies. Protect it until grown and then let the ladies in.
      We have a wood stove to heat the house. The ashes (after fully cooled) have a place in the chicken yard also! The ladies love to use it for their dust baths.
      All this to say – the chickens avoid what they don’t want and get into what they do. I have noticed that they don’t eat the citrus, it breaks down. Or the hard squash rinds for that matter. Have not had a sick / or dead chicken in 5 years except for harvest time.
      oh – they will eat mice, grubs, bugs, it’s all fair game inside their fence.

      • Dan says

        Cheryl–love the idea of growing out a paddock full of broadcast seeds and letting the chicken have free range of it after it has grown to fruition.

        And yes, tomato, eggplant, and potato plants should go straight to the compost pile.

        I’ve outdone myself this year with squash, melons, cucumbers, and pumpkins.. I’ll have so much biomass the chicken coop, aka compost pile, will be overflowing.

  7. Sherry H. says

    I never feed my chickens the citrus or the banana peels…but my goats love both of them. They chomp ’em right down. You might try the citrus peels out on your goats…especially orange. I never thought of giving the banana peels to the chickens…but my goats always try to yank them out of my hands anyway…if I ever have a glut of them, I’ll give the chickens a chance at them.

    • Kelly says

      Same here-love it when the grocery store has a bag of brown bananas on sale for that reason! However, our chickens like the actual banaana and will peck thru the peel to get to it.

  8. delia trenholm says

    I was cleaning up some ruhbarb one time and had set aside the green leafy tops for my chickens and my mother in law said they are posion to chickens….i took her word and didnt feed it . Not sure of the validity to that statment.

  9. says

    LOL I had to read this a few times before I figured out your “girls” weren’t your children but your hens lol. I was wondering why you were trying to feed your kids avocado peels and citrus rinds

  10. says

    Thanks for posting this. Could you also post on what NOT to feed (or allow) goats to eat. For instance, I’ve heard that dried cherry leaves will kill them & was wondering if anything else is as toxic for them.

    • Kelly says

      We’ve noticed they won’t eat what’s not good for them (well at least in regard to poison or toxic items). There’s a weed that grows here that’s poisonous to them and they’ll eat all around it and leave that plant alone. Limited experience and exposure and all anecdotal, but it’s something. :-)

        • says

          That’s interesting about the avocados. Over on the Big Island of Hawaii I had about 40 chickens. Near their hen house there where several mature avocado trees that dropped avocados off and on during the year. The chickens use to love the ones that had been sitting there for a while. You know the ones that other wildlife had moved into already. They would pick those all apart and run around the place chasing each other. I had no idea they were not good for them. Of course that group of chickens use to like things like poisonous centipedes too. It looked like a football game when one of them would find one of those.

          • Shirley says

            Just wanted to clarify, they were talking about goats in that part of the post. Chickens like the inside , its the peel and the seed that’s harmful to chickens. :-)

    • says

      Well actually, I’ve heard people talk about feeding their chickens COOKED chicken quite a bit… The thought makes me squeamish, though! :)

      • Lexi Stamper says

        Feeding them chicken sounds weird, but it’s fine. As long as it’s cooked, of course. I’ve been told that feeding them pork products is bad for them, though.

  11. Melanie Tombre says

    The only christmas candy my mother fed our family, (dad and 6 kids) was candied orange peel. She boiled the strips of orange peel then rolled them in sugar. None of us ever got sick from them.

    • Sue in NC says

      My favorite is candied grapefruit peel. Its great eaten with almonds, I’m trying to figure out a way to combine them.. I keep a bag in the freezer and collect the peels until I have enough to make it worth the time to candy them. I wonder if the the pre boiling ( you cook them, drain, then candy in a sugar syrup0 gets rid of at least some of the d-limonene?

    • Cindy says

      So all of these recipes with grated orange/lemon peel are bad?? Did I miss something?

  12. Louise says

    I have one of the black plastic compost bins, that I don’t actually consider a good compost maker, I throw stuff with no other place to go into it, ie citrus peel, onion skins etc into it, every now and again I throw a shovel load of fire ash into it, to alkalise it a little, this bin is sitting close to my banana plants that like plenty of food, I figure the excess nutrient from the bottom of the bin can help them, slowly but surely the stuff breaks down. I have chickens and a worm farm, and other scraps go to them,

  13. Bethany says

    My chickens’ favorite wintertime treat (when I don’t have fresh garden scraps for them) is bananas, peel & all! I make a whole process of it: I cut off the stem (had a chicken choke on one once), cut the banana in half (to shorten the strips of peel), then peel the skin off in skinny strips & throw it to them. After that, I slice the banana & they snatch the slices out of my hand as fast as I can slice! They love it!! As far as citrus, my girls & boys will eat the pulp out of an orange that’s past its prime, but won’t eat the rind.

      • Christina M says

        A banana was the first treat that I gave to my chickens. It was like catnip to them. They ate it so quickly that I thought they were going to choke on it.

        • says

          My 3 girls love bananas. Friends call them my pampered hens. I’d like to bathe the girls, cut their nails at least once this winter. I live in Seattle, WN Would they loose to much natural oil from their feathers and therefore get too cold? I gave them showers several times this summer and they loved it.

  14. says

    My chickens eat cooked chicken. I know it seems horrible, but chickens can eat meat. Chicken & tuna are the only meats my girls eat(well what I allow anyway). A lot of baked chicken treats call for tuna, so why not feed them the rest of my tuna or chicken salad sandwich? Although I’m pretty sure the mayo isn’t good for them, but it’s not very often they get it.

    • Lexi Stamper says

      Chickens do enjoy meat, even of their own kind! But I’ve been told that pork products are bad for them, so just steer clear of those. :)

    • Kara Lynn says

      Yes! Gross, but true. I watched my girls fight over who got to eat a baby bird that fell out of a nest. Took me awhile to get over that sight and snuggle on them again, but sort of fascinating too! Who knows what those crazy fluffy bottoms are eating when they are out and about…

      • missy steiger says

        I had a guinea almost choke on a mouse once! I had to take it away from her as it was stuck! They’re definitely NOT vegetarians!

  15. theresa says

    Hi, you have posted great information! Could you please post more pictures of your farm layout. I love your chicken yard. It looks like boards on the top and bottom of tin, and chicken wire on top. I also see a peek of wire attached to your bottom fence post under their bedding. Am I seeing this correctly? It looks so beautiful and safe and cozy.

  16. Lexi Stamper says

    I’ve said this in replies, but I wanted to add my own comment on what not to feed your chickens: Pork products. My source is a friend that has a husband, 8 kids, and a nice big farm with lots of chickens (including 6 that we gave them because we did not have the room for them while living in town). Other meat products are fine, but apparently pork is no good for them.


  17. says

    Hi, Jill–
    I keep several hundred laying hens that are truly free-ranging; they have access to 250 acres at a time. My girls will eat near anything that I happen to throw out, except citrus! They love what’s left of the fruit on the inside of a banana peel, but will leave the peel. I don’t generally have any scraps that make it to our mountainous compost pile, so our chickens even get meat scraps, mostly raw, which, if chickens are allowed to forage like they were made to do, folks should realize that chickens are not vegetarian. They eat bugs and small critters (raw!). I don’t know why they should avoid pork products; ours get any scraps, including pork and are happy and healthy. We keep around 150 hogs, all on several acres of pasture, and they’ll eat anything but citrus and onions!


      Yes – our pigs used to get the “slop” my dishwashers saved from the steakhouse I managed. The only things they didn’t clean up was lemon wedges and cocktail straws! The crunched LOBSTER SHELLS like they were potato chips too.

  18. says

    Thanks for this list! Maybe we should stop throwing avocado scraps in our compost bucket, which should perhaps be renamed the “chicken feed bucket” seeing as how that’s where its contents always end up. :-)

  19. says

    We are about to get our first hens, and I’m excited. My husband talked to some chicken-keeping friends of ours and learned they lost hens due to giving them potatoes (I assume green) and oranges. They also said no dry beans. I’m glad to learn of the other items on this list. Thanks.

  20. miki says

    Citrus is great for keeping cats out of your garden. Just toss the around and till them in.

  21. says

    We grow a wide variety of citrus and avocados. My chickens free range, I’ve never seen them eat either, though they could if they wanted to. I figure they know what’s best and when they have an unlimited supply of ground they will make the right choice. With that said, my dogs and pigs eat the citrus and avos and don’t have problems.

  22. En Daniels says

    We have been farming and ranching for over 40-years and our chickens have and still eat everything on your list. Healthy, fat chickens and never any problems. In fact, chickens will eat even things that our pigs won’t eat. We have a large variety of citrus, avocados and all kinds of tropical fruit. They even get into the compost pile sometimes and the rotting stuff has not proven fatal. They free range and are fat and sassy. Maybe it’s not healthy where you live but it’s just fine here.

  23. shelley Rubinstein says

    A great way to use citrus peels: Put peels in a quart jar and fill with white vinegar. Store in a cool, dry place (I just keep it in my pantry) for 60 to 90 days and you have a great counter cleaner/disinfectant. My husband objects to the smell of straight vinegar. The citrus peels help tone down the smell of the vinegar. I use it to clean my kitchen countertops and I find I need to refill my spray bottle about every 60 to 90 days so I just keep one batch brewing and it works out well.

  24. Autumn Gray says

    We don’t give our chickens grapes because they are poisonous to animals of all kinds. Our chickens are partial to tomatos, watermelon is their fav. and corn. They also love eggs raw or cooked.

  25. Dirk says

    I feed my hens everything. The only thing that has killed them so far is the foxes or me. Diet has not taken them before they were through laying.

  26. Molli says

    Onions, pineapple (along the same lines as citrus-too acidic & bad for formation of shells). Do you feed them banana peels? Do they eat them? My mom wanted to feed them to my girls & I said “would YOU eat them?” I didn;t see any food value in them.

  27. Lynette says

    Our flock will chase down baby mice and eat them. They have also eaten a toads… they literally eat them alive..

    • says

      Yep- It always cracks me up when folks think chickens are supposed to be strict vegetarians– if you ever watch free-ranging chickens, you know that’s not true! :)

  28. Laura says

    I was surprised a couple of week ago to find that my chickens won’t eat pea pods. I thought they would gobble them right up but they wouldn’t touch them. A friend says her chickens will eat the peas out of pea pods, but not the pods.

  29. Victoria says

    Our girls and boy(s) -we know one is a cockerel so far. The others are babies and all but two I’m sure are pullets!- get everything the guinea pigs can’t or won’t eat. They also get some stuff the piggies can eat and we split it up between them all. We don’t have avacado much but the chickens wouldn’t eat the one we did have recently. They’re more picky than our kids though lol!
    Citrus possibly making shells soft makes a lot of sense if you think about it though. Vit C blocks calcium absorption and they shoyldnt be taken anywhere near the same time if you need either of these nutrients. So…blocking absorption in hens/pullets would definitely make the shells soft since that’s where most of the calcium the girls eat goes to in their bodies!

  30. eugene says

    FYI, we purchased a flat of Avocados last week and they turned real fast. with nothing else to do with them we gave them to our flock last night at about 10pm. came out this morning (7am) and there are 8 dead ducks along with two dble breasted turkeys and 4 chickens… about the entire flock, and it looks like the rest might be going down hill fast. i know i sound like a horrible person, and maybe it is true, but i had to share to warn you DO NOT feed Avocados!!! wish i would have researched it prior :(

  31. Carrie Bayer says

    I am a ‘chicken’ newbie having learned to appreciate them thanks to a friend that has them. In that I work part-time for my friend, I get daily visits from the ‘girls’ and have brought in many snacks for them to enjoy. Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, several of the hens lost their lives to an unknown animal and it broke my heart. We are sure to keep them safe so that the ones that are left are not at risk of sharing the same demise. I have become quite close to these girls and love it when then come right up to me looking for today’s treats. Thank you for your site as it helped me learn about this cute pets!

  32. leah says

    interesting. my birds mostly do not prefer to the taste of the above things. so my thinking is, let nature be nature. chickens know when something is bad for them, just like we do (for the most part. we know when things are spoiled, or if something makes us feel bad – i.e. junk food). but either i have a picky flock, or i lucked out with evolution. they wont touch any of these foods.

  33. Bethany says

    Great info! I just got chickens of my own earlier this summer. It’s been a long time since I was around them, but I always remember my grandpa giving them almost all the kitchen scraps. I have two buckets next to my sink. One for chicken scraps, and the other for my compost pile. I never thought of the citrus or avocado being harmful. I will keep that in mind!!!

  34. denise says

    Most of the list I agree with but the citrus and moldy food, not so much. If you ever watched chickens when they are ranging and see what they will eat you won’t worry about a little mold. Now if something is so bad it looks like it just crawled (or oozed) out of an alien craft that get tossed, otherwise into the chicken bucket! We don’t have a lot of citrus that goes bad but what does goes to the chickens. They munch it down, but they don’t eat the peals.

  35. carrie says

    Don’t give your girls tomato it will make them stop laying eggs. They say anything with lycopene in it will.

  36. carrie says

    I had read it before than two of my area feed stores confirmed it. So unfortunatly I stopped giving them watermelon too. I love there eggs so I definently don’t want them to stop laying for any reason! They are VERY spoiled girls so they don’t really mind.

  37. says

    Ever since I had chickens I have never thrown anything organic away – what they don’t get the compost bin does! However, as I have stopped gardening (because I don’t really enjoy it, have 8 dogs, and let the chickens out frequently and it gets trashed, so…) I’ve given up on composting too. I have always done a boil up of potato and other root vegetable peelings (if I peel) for the chickens, and have long known that you shouldn’t feed raw potato to them. It’s easy enough to chuck the peelings in the bottom of the steaming water while you’re cooking your vegetables for your main meal. Other things I have discovered or heard are not good for chickens (aside from those things they tend not to touch anyway) are potato leaves and rhubarb leaves. Berries from the cotoneaster family seem to be poisonous for them – but that is anectdotal: I had planted some little shrubs with bright red berries and let my chickens out, who promptly ate them. I had a few die mysteriously following that. Of course oleander and rhododendron is poisonous to pretty much all livestock, so eliminate those plants from your garden if you intend to keep goats, sheep, cattle, horses, alpacas or llamas. Chickens LOVE cheese! If you are in to home cheesemaking and don’t have pigs (who also love the by-product from cheesemaking), then chuck the rest out to your chickens. If you can’t bring yourself to eat the ricotta – give it to the chickens. It is a good source of protein for them, I believe. I also don’t feed left over meat to either chickens or pigs… but I have the dogs for that.

  38. Michael says

    Looks like the science says you can feed it to them without issues, and even provide a benefit:

    “In a 5-week feeding trial with broiler chicks it was observed that up to 5% level of inclusion, citrus peel gave similar results with control groups. The citrus peel feeding did not influence organ weights. There was a significant (P > 0.05) reduction in the blood cholesterol level with citrus peel feeding. Reduction in triglycerides and glucose concentration was statistically
    non-significant. In a second experiment on broilers, three levels (5, 7.5 and 10%) of citrus peel inclusion were tested. The final weight per chick, and weight gain were significantly (P > 0.05) improved up to 7.5% inclusion.”

    Blood cholesterol level was significantly reduced
    with citrus peel inclusion in the diet.”

  39. says

    My 3 girls love bananas. Question: Can I give my 3 girls a shower during the winter months? — would like to give my pampered hens one shower and trim their nails this winter, but am afraid that it would rob their feathers of natural oils that help to keep them warm. I gave them frequent showers last summer and they loved it! I live in Seattle, Wn, so lots of rain.Also, can chickens catch colds? Its my first winter with them and today they literally were soaked to the bone by the rain. I keep them in an eglu (chicken cop from England) which has a light on during freezing weather at night and I close the door for added warmth. Will their feathers dry or should I take them indoors at night when they get that soaked?

    • says

      I’d probably avoid giving them a shower– although chickens do love a nice dust bath, so you can always provide them with a dry spot to roll in the dirt. Chickens are usually hardier than we think when it comes to cold. I do have heat lamps, but I usually only turn them on when the temperatures are extreme–otherwise, mine do just fine in their coop with one small door open for ventilation–even during cold snaps.

      • Jen says

        My disabled hen requires a weekly bath as she can not preen. It is her spa time and she loves it. We work with a big bowl in the bathtub and a special shampoo that is antifungal for her skin, as so much food sticks on it. She then gets a towel buff and then the hair dryer. She is so funny about it and starts to try to preen (which is totally ineffective but she is a proud hen and does her best :). I do make sure she is really dry and keep her in that night so she does not catch a cold. They can catch colds. There are some great youtube videos on how to bath your hen.

  40. says

    we feed citrus when we get it – we get scraps from a local school. the hens eat out the yummy frui tand leave the peel. i don’t like it because the citrus peel isn’t great for the soil. and takes forever to break down.

  41. Shelly says

    I just have to know why should you not feed rotten veggies/fruit to chickens. And why does the chicken scraps and skin have to be cooked? My chickens are in a hayday when I throw a piece of raw chicken skin down? Don’t beat me up too bad; I’m just asking for the facts and not an ethical debate.

    • Mandy says

      I’ve heard that they develop a “taste” for chicken when they eat raw chicken and will start eating each other. I’ve got to say I’ve never seen this happen with my girls when I’ve accidently put some in their scraps.

  42. Avon shields says

    My Grandmother always said to never feed chickens egg shells until you have cooked them, because although the shells are good for them, if they have uncooked egg residue in them the chickens will begin eating their own eggs.

  43. Teri says

    i have had the same hens for 5 years now and they have had oranges. Not the skins and have not lost a one. They also eat strawberries rrrrrrrrr out of my garden. They have eaten my green beans out of my garden also. All before i put a fence up. I have not lost one chicken. I do have a open compost where they can go in and eat and rummage through it. I do put potato peels in there also, but i do boil them first. I also put avocado in my compost. I guess my girls know what not to eat because they do not touch it. They do not eat the onion or the onion peels i put in also.

  44. Mandy P says

    Worms really like avocado pits (mango pits too) so they are great to throw into your compost or worm bin!

  45. Rebecca McCombs says

    I didn’t read all the comments above. I understand that bananas are also toxic to chickens. Is this true? Perhaps like avocados, it is just the peel.

  46. says

    Once I give my chickens lots and lots of shrimp that were starting to get too old to eat. The chickens ate the shrimp very fast , they just loved it . The yokes were red- orange color and tasted and smelled just like shrimp. Not good.

  47. Joyce says

    My chickens will not eat cabbage or asparagus ends. Not because its toxic or bad, they just wont eat these things

  48. Phil says

    Well, your post started with looking on in horror as people throw away perfectly good chicken food, and I can totally relate. I must confess that when I’m at a friend’s house, and we are cooking, I always make a chicken bag of things that would normally get thrown away or put down the disposal (but only with really close friends who like my crazychickenmanness, or at least tolerate it.) Then after dinner, any table scraps go in the bag as well. These are my chicken’s treats for a couple of days since they have eaten all of the grass in the run, or if it’s winter, and there’s no grass to free range in the yard. I’m sure layer rations and the occasional bug get pretty boring.

  49. Jen says

    Hi – does anyone know about quinoa? I have a bird with a beak problem and she can not peck like a regular hen (her bottom beak grows at a 90 degree angle to the top and we have to trim it). So when she was little I had to find little grains for her and she LOVES and thrives on quinoa. I can have her chase me around the kitchen if I am holding the quinoa bag! Does anyone know if there are issues with this. She seems fine but curious if grains such as quinoa, chia, amaranth etc are ok? thanks :)

  50. says

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  51. Cecelia says

    Was wondering what people thought about coffee grounds? I have had chickens for about two years now and we have one “compost” container in the kitchen. Sometime the jar gets emptied in the compost other times it goes into the pen. I throw the grounds in there but my husband does not approve. Our ladies eat some things and leave others so I figure if they don’t want it they wont eat it and it will just compost into the ground with no harm being done. Any thoughts?

  52. says

    This was most interesting. I must say I am guilty of feeding my chickens avocado skins and seeds and they LOVE them. I had no idea they might not be good for them. They will come to blows over who gets them they love them so much. Another thing my girls love are onions! They will eat garlic as well. I give garlic cloves if I feel there could be a parasite issue, worms etc. Celery is something they will eat but do not love. Sometimes they won’t eat it at all. Isn’t it funny how different everyone’s chickens are in what they will and won’t eat. I don’t give them citrus as my girls won’t touch it at all. Once I saw they would not touch the peelings I looked it up online and read it wasn’t really good for them.

  53. Susan Fischer says

    I had no idea chickens would eat banana peels. I just threw one away today! Will they also eat the fruit itself?

  54. Serena says

    I don’t know if anyone else added this to the list, but my husband swears that rhubarb leaves will kill chickens.


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