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Can You Feed Table Scraps to Chickens? (What’s Safe and What’s Not)

can you feed table scraps to chickens

Can You Feed Table Scraps To Chickens?

As a child, nothing from our table ever went to waste. As my mom chopped and prepared dinner, every vegetable scrap was recycled. When dinner was finished, we scraped all our leftovers into the “chicken bucket”.

The chickens were the most excited when they saw heading to the coop with their daily scrap treats. They would dash to greet us when they saw the silver bucket with the little handle. The chickens would climb over one another to be the first to sample the tasty treats. 

Bugs and grain were great, but scraps from the house were always the chickens’ favorite treats. 

Related: Ultimate Guide To The Types of Chicken Feed For Your Flock

Supplementing Your Chickens Diet With Table Scraps

feeding table scraps to chickens

Backyard chicken owners have been benefiting from supplementing their flocks’ diet with the nutritious scraps and remnants from preparing meals for generations. Instead of throwing away leftovers, consider using a “chicken scrap bucket”. 

But don’t be quick to just throw everything out to your hens. There’s a few items you should just plan on throwing into the trash can. We’ll go over what those items are shortly. 

But first, a few tips to keep in mind when feeding your flock table scraps. 

What Are the Benefits of Table Scraps for Chickens?

benefits of feeding table scraps to chickens

Helps Eliminate Waste

The NYTimes reported that Americans are tossing away 30 million tons of food waste every year. Did you know that a two-person household will generate almost 500 pounds of food waste in a year? Feeding your chickens scraps will reduce landfills and can lower your feed bill by 15%.

Provides a Home For Excess Produce

Scraps don’t have to just come from your table. You can use plants and vegetables from your garden that have overgrown or even ask at your local grocery store produce department for overripe produce or throw away items like carrot tops. 

Source of Vitamins and Minerals

Since chickens are omnivores, they thrive on protein and plant-based food. Much of the food we consume is also good for our girls. Everything from our leafy greens to seed and rinds are great ways to add enzymes, vitamins, probiotics, and minerals that will boost the quality of eggs and increase the flock’s immunity.

When Is The Best Time To Supplement With Table Scraps

chickens eating table scraps

It’s always a good time to feed your chickens table scraps. But if you’re wondering when it’s the most beneficial to your chickens, it’s the middle of winter.

Middle of Winter

The best season to supplement with table scraps is in the middle of winter when there is not much to forage for and boredom takes over the flock. Winter stress can bring down the health of your chickens and fights may break out more frequently.

Providing table scraps in the cold dark winter will give the flock a daily activity to look forward to and provide supplements that can improve the flock’s resiliency, health, and mental attitude. 

Creative Ideas For Feeding Table Scraps To Chickens

Chicken Treat Recipes Using Table Scraps

If you like being creative, there is a whole range of healthy chicken recipes you can put together using spare ingredients or scraps, like soup for chickens by The Chicken Chick. It isn’t cooked or served hot but the ingredients are all healthy and your chickens will love the variety.

Make It Interesting

Try using scraps or old veggies in inventive ways. Chickens love a challenge so suspend corn cobs, old heads of cauliflower or broccoli from strings and let the chickens get some exercise while snacking. You can use a suet cage packed with scraps as a new feeding method. 

A tip for keeping the process sanitary is to fold a paper towel and put it in the bottom of your scrap container. This helps absorb moisture and makes it easier to pop out the contents without having them stick to the bottom. 

At What Age Can You Feed Chickens Table Scraps?

McMurray Hatchery provides suggestions on feeding table scraps to your chickens. They recommend feeding scraps in moderation and in conjunction with a balanced diet. 

When it comes to the age of your chickens, it’s best to wait until the chicks are 3 to 4 months old before feeding scraps to them. The reason is, the feed for chicks is supplemented for the right amount of protein to help them chicks grow. Most table scraps will be much lower in protein and you don’t want them filling up on the lower protein food. 

However, if you were to feed young chicks table scraps, stick to a protein rich food  like scrambled or hard-boiled eggs or even oatmeal. This type of food can be fed early on if given in small portions. 

Common Table Scraps That You Can Feed to Chickens

common table scraps you can feed chickens

Remember that table scraps should be fed in moderation. They should not account for more than 10% of your flock’s daily feed intake. Here is a list of the most common scraps that are safe for chickens to consume.

Please keep in mind that it is not okay to feed any of these items if they are moldy. The mold could be dangerous to your chickens.

  • Breads
  • Cooked meat (best to cut into small pieces)
  • Vegetables – cooked and raw vegetables are great and be sure to include the parts you don’t eat like corn cobs, seeds, peels, stems, leaves, etc.
  • Fruit – while grapes, watermelon rinds, and apples are fan favorites, don’t forget the cores and peelings of any vegetables 
  • Grains – any grains are great for chickens or flour if you have a bug or mealworm infestation
  • Dairy – old yogurt, milk, whey
  • Plate scrapings – unfinished spaghetti and pasta, casseroles, rice, salad, shrimp tails, etc.

Which Table Scraps You Shouldn’t Feed to Chickens

food not to feed chickens

Not all food is beneficial for your chickens to eat when it comes to table scraps. Just like humans, chickens do have their limitations and there are certain foods better suited for the compost pile. These foods will not harm your birds if they do get accidentally tossed into the coop once in a while, but in general, they should be avoided when possible.

  • Foods high in salt – a little is fine but heavily salted foods should be avoided
  • Processed foods – homecooked, fresh is best rather than a box cake or microwave frozen meal
  • Raw white potato peels – these may have turned green from exposure to sunlight and can contain toxins (sweet potato peels are just fine).
  • Avocado pits and skins (contain a fungicidal toxin called persin) that is toxic to chickens
  • Rotten foods – can cause intestinal problems
  • Soft drinks
  • Coffee and tea grounds
  • Extremely greasy food – will be difficult to digest for chickens
  • Raw meat – this may encourage cannibalism
  • Whole eggshells – may cause your chicken to start eating their eggs (it’s fine and very nutritious to grind or crush them into small pieces

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