Can Chickens Eat Dog Food (Is It Safe For Them?)

dog watching flock of chickens

In this article we take a look at whether or not it’s okay for chickens to eat dog food? If you’ve got dogs as well as free ranging chickens, you’ve probably seen the chickens attack the bowl of dog food. But is it safe for chickens to eat dog food? 

Can Chickens Eat Dog Food?

Chicken owners across the country have been discussing a rather odd topic concerning their chickens. Their question is, “Can my chickens eat dog food?” While this may seem like a strange topic of discussion, according to blogs and forums, it is a question many people who raise chickens have been asking.

Chicken owners want to know if dog food is safe for their chickens to eat. The reason for this is that many people allow their chickens to roam their property. These birds are notorious for exploring and finding all the things laying around that you don’t want them to eat. Chickens will ravage your garden, attack that fresh bag of fruit you have sitting on your porch, and if you have pet food for other animals lying around, you can be sure they will cash in on that find.

Chickens normally crave protein. Bugs, grubs, worms, are all staples for a ranging bird. However, they’re also attracted to other types of animal food. It’s common to see them on a horse farm below the feed buckets eagerly pecking at the food horses drop while eating. Barn cats have been known to fight off chickens who delight in binging on that tasty treat as well.

Is Dog Food Safe for My Chickens?

According to the The Happy Chicken Coop, feeding chickens is pretty straight forward. If you are providing chickens with a healthy form of food that includes calcium and vitamins, chickens will be fine with anything else you feed them. Some owners found that chickens loved cat and dog food so much, they sprinkle it around their coop as a tasty snack.

Of course, the healthier the dog food is, the better it will be for your chickens. Some higher quality dog foods contain omegas and glucosamine. This is certainly good for your chickens as it is also packed with protein. Chickens do love meat and protein so there is no harm in having them supplement dog food with their regular diet.

Signs You Need to Look at Your Chickens’ Diet

can male chickens lay eggs

As long as your chickens are happy and healthy, you are probably giving them the diet they need. If you notice changes in their eating habits or other warning signs, you might want to take a closer look at what they are eating. Here are some of those warning signs that you might want to keep an eye out for.

  • Reduced egg production: if no one is molting, the weather is good, but you suddenly notice a drop in egg production, this is an indication that something is wrong in their diet.
  • Feather picking and general unrest: if you notice this in good weather, not winter, this could be a sign that your chickens’ diet needs to be adjusted.
  • Abnormal eggs: if the eggs are small, squishy, or routinely contain double yolks, this may be a sign you need to check their diet.

On the Houzz discussion forum chicken enthusiasts predominantly agree, that in their experience, dog food is a huge draw for chickens and there seems to be no issues with including it in their diet.

One person related that an old cure for chickens pecking each other is giving them a can of dog food. Pecking one another might be a sign of a lack of protein in their diet and a can of dog found would certainly be good a source of protein.

Don’t Substitute Dog Food for Chicken Feed

It is not recommended to use dog food as a substitute for your chicken feed. Chicken food is specially formulated to provide the ingredients needed to keep your chickens healthy. The calcium in laying formulas is especially important for egg production. However, chickens are pretty savvy when it comes to eating what they need in nature that is good for their systems. Chances are, if they love to eat something, it will not be harmful and it may even have certain benefits.

Feed your chickens a well-rounded diet of grit or scratch, and oyster shells or a calcium supplement. Above and beyond that, there are tasty treats that are good for chickens. Since 75% of the cost of keeping chickens is their feed, The Happy Chicken Coop recommends supplementing your flock’s diet with treats your chickens will love. They include:

• Oatmeal

• Cottage cheese

• Pasta

• Corn

• Ginger

• Watermelon

• Pumpkin

• Scrambled eggs

If you have a good source of dog food and want to throw some of that around, it will certainly not harm your chickens. If they love it and you want to feed it to them, it will provide a good source of protein and reduce the amount of chicken feed you need to buy.

What Not to Feed Your Chickens

There are some foods that are reported to be toxic to chickens. This list does not include dog food but in case you are wondering what NOT to feed your chickens, here is a list of 10 foods not to feed your chickens supplied by Fresh Eggs Daily.

1. Avocado – the flesh, pit, and skin contain a toxic for chickens called persin. The ingestion of persin can lead to myocardial necrosis in birds and other mammals. Leaves are especially toxic and one small part of the avocado plant has been known to kill a bird in 48 hours.

2. White potatoes – don’t feed cooked or raw white potatoes, flesh or skin, to chickens. They are part of the nightshade family and contain a toxin called solanine. This chicken toxin can destroy their red blood cells and result in diarrhea or heart failure. Stay away from all parts of the white potato, even the vines, and leaves. (Sweet potatoes are safe.)

3. Tomato and eggplant leaves – again, relatives of the nightshade family. If you do feed tomatoes or eggplant, make sure the flesh is ripe to avoid the presence of solanine.

4. Apple seeds – (and pits from other fruit) contain trace amounts of cyanide. The flesh of these fruits is fine for chickens.

5. Rhubarb – the leaves are toxic to chickens and humans. The stalk contains oxalic acid which can cause your chicken’s eggs shells to soften.

6. Avoid raw dried beans – the phytohemagglutinin in raw beans is a natural insecticide. If beans are cooked, they are good to feed. Sprouted beans are excellent for your girls.

7. Onions – there is some controversy over onions and the risk they pose to your chickens. They do contain thiosulphate which can cause anemia or death. Garlic is in this same family. While a small dose will probably not be harmful, the rule of thumb is it’s better to be safe than sorry. Some people claim that onions may taint the taste of the eggs.

8. Moldy food – mold is never good for chickens. Simply wilted, overripe, or stale is fine.

9. Food with caffeine – chickens are crazy enough, stay away from anything with caffeine in it such as tea or tea bags, coffee grounds, and chocolate.

10. No pesticides, herbicides, or chemicals – this seems obvious, however, check that you don’t throw anything into the coop that has been exposed to pesticides and chemicals like lawn clippings.

Final Thoughts

Going with the saying that variety is the spice of life, go ahead and indulge your girls in treats that are not on the forbidden list. If dog food is what they love, go ahead and sprinkle them with a little love. A well-fed chicken is a happy and healthy chicken and a productive laying hen.

More From The Hen’s Loft

How To Keep Dogs From Killing Chickens

Best Chicken Feed for Broilers and Meat Birds (Plus Feed Buyers Guide)

How To Grow Mealworms For Chickens! (Raising Mealworms At Home)

The Best Books For Raising Chickens

The Top Chicken Coops For Small Backyard Flock

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