Chickens: What to Feed? What Do Chickens Eat?

By Chicken Pets on
what do chickens eat

If you’re a backyard chicken owner, you know that chickens require much care. In addition to providing them with a warm, comfortable place to live and plenty of fresh water, you must ensure they’re eating right. What do chickens eat? This complete guide will tell you everything you need to know about feeding your chickens the right food.

Chickens, what to feed?

Chickens need a well-balanced and nutritious diet, and they should have access to high-quality, commercial, or homemade chicken feed. Commercial feeds are usually formulated for chickens’ particular needs and provide them with the essential vitamins, minerals, proteins, and carbohydrates required for healthy growth. 

Homemade diets can also be very beneficial for chickens, as they can be tailored to meet the individual needs of different breeds and ages.

When choosing a commercial feed, it is vital to look for one formulated specifically for chicken breeds, contains no artificial flavors or colors, and is free of growth hormones or antibiotics. It should also provide adequate calcium, protein, and other essential nutrients to meet the nutritional needs of chickens.

In addition to a balanced diet, fresh and clean water should always be available for chickens. They also need plenty of grit, which helps them digest their food. Finally, they enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables as occasional treats.

Chickens should always have access to a dust bath area to remove parasites and dirt while preening. To make a successful dust bath, mix soil, sand, and wood ash to provide the right texture for your chickens. The addition of diatomaceous earth can also be beneficial in reducing bug infestations.

What do chickens like to eat?

Chickens are omnivores, meaning they’re willing to eat various foods. Their diet should consist of grains like wheat or corn, leafy greens such as spinach and kale, and other protein-rich foods, including worms, slugs, insects, and even some small pieces of fish or meat. 

To ensure they’re getting all the essential vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy, we recommended that chickens also have access to fresh fruits and veggies, like apples or cucumbers. 

In addition to providing them with the nutrients needed for optimal health and wellness, offering them a variety of treats can help enrich their lives and make feeding time even more enjoyable.

What do chickens drink?

Chickens need to drink a lot of water to stay healthy and safe. Your chickens should provide them with a new source of drinking water daily. This water can come from natural sources like rain, ponds, or streams. It is also essential for chickens to drink clean and sanitized water, as it helps protect their immune system and reduce their risk of becoming ill. 

Many owners also provide their chickens with treats such as greens or cooked grains, which can boost hydration in their diets. Storing the drinking water in a container helps keep it clean and prevents foreign objects from entering it and contaminating the water. 

The amount of water required for chickens can vary based on size, age, and diet, and young birds will generally need more than adult chickens. Water sources should be away from feeders to prevent contamination. 

Chickens also benefit from supplemental drinking devices such as nipple valves or crocks, which reduce spillage and help keep the water cleaner. In some cases, poultry also can receive part of their daily fluids from fruits and vegetables, so it’s crucial to provide a variety of treats in addition to providing a constant source of clean drinking water for your feathered friends.

How do chickens find and eat food?

Chickens are naturally omnivores and thrive on a diet full of proteins and carbohydrates. To find food, chickens often roam around the yard looking for small insects and other edible morsels like worms, slugs, grasshoppers, seeds, and berries. 

They also enjoy garden produce such as spinach, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, and more. Chickens have a keen sense of smell that helps them locate their food quickly. Once they have acquired their meal, they will often regurgitate partially digested food to soften it before consuming it. 

As long as their nutritional needs are met through the variety of food they can find and consume, chickens can be healthy and happy members of the family farm.

What do chickens eat in the wild?

Chickens in the wild can lead a diet similar to chickens in captivity. They often eat seeds, insects, worms, and other small invertebrates they can find while scavenging. 

When available, chickens may also enjoy fruits and vegetables like berries or leafy greens. To balance their diet and give them plenty of energy throughout the day, chickens should have constant access to grains like oats or corn for carbohydrates. 

Supplementing their diet with fresh grasses or laying out clover leaves will give them added nutritional benefits. With an all-encompassing diet that takes advantage of what’s available in nature, these birds will stay healthy and content!

What do domesticated chickens eat?

Domesticated chickens are omnivores, meaning their diet includes a variety of proteins, vegetables, grains, and fruits. Feeding them the right combinations of these food groups ensures they get all the nutrients they need for a whole life. 

Some suggested proteins for domesticated chickens include mealworms, cooked eggs, fishmeal, and high-quality poultry feed like crumbles or pellets. You should also have vegetables such as kale and spinach to ensure proper mineral balance. 

A range of grains, including wheat, oats, and barley, adds essential fiber to their meals. Some fruits, like berries, can also be a dietary supplement. 

Remember, whatever you put in your chicken’s feed dish fuels its growth and health, so it’s crucial to find the right combination of food types to ensure they stay happy and healthy.

What do baby chickens eat?

When learning to care for baby chickens, it is crucial to understand what they can eat. For the first week, baby chicks subsist on a nutrient-rich diet provided by a parent bird if available.

Afterward, their diet should include a mixture of grains such as oats and wheat combined with high-quality chicken feed. Supplementing their feed with finely ground greens like cabbage, spinach, and chopped hard-boiled eggs gives them extra protein.

To prevent pecking as they age, offer treats like mealworms allow them to indulge while preventing fights over food amongst the flock. Caring for baby chickens also involves cleaning their environment by regularly exchanging bedding to maintain healthy living conditions and providing them with the proper nutrition.

What not to feed chickens?

Do not feed chickens chocolate, caffeine, avocado peels or seed, rhubarb, potato peels, green tomatoes, processed foods, salty foods, sugary foods like candy, onions, garlic, alcohol, raw meat, fish, or eggs, raw beans, and moldy or spoiled food. Eating these foods can lead to serious health issues in chickens and some cases, death. 

  1. Avocado and its leaves — Avocado contains persin, which is toxic to chickens and can cause heart and respiratory problems.
  2. Chocolate and caffeine — These contain theobromine and caffeine, which can be toxic to chickens and cause hyperactivity, seizures, and heart problems.
  3. Citrus fruits and their peels — These can cause digestive problems and interfere with the absorption of calcium.
  4. Green potatoes and their peels — Potatoes contain solanine, which is toxic to chickens and can cause digestive problems, weakness, and respiratory problems.
  5. Moldy or spoiled food — These can contain harmful bacteria that can cause digestive problems, illness, and death.
  6. Onions and raw garlic — These contain thiosulphate, which can damage red blood cells and cause anemia.
  7. Raw beans — Raw beans contain lectins and enzyme inhibitors that can harm chickens and cause digestive problems.
  8. Rhubarb and its leaves — Rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid, which is toxic to chickens and can cause digestive problems and kidney failure.
  9. Salt and salty foods — These can cause dehydration and kidney problems in chickens.
  10. Sugary foods like candy and cookies — Can cause obesity, dental problems, and digestive problems in chickens.
  11. Tomato leaves and stems — These contain solanine, which is toxic to chickens and can cause digestive problems, weakness, and respiratory problems.
  12. Uncooked rice and other grains — These can expand in the crop and cause digestive problems in chickens.
  13. Wild mushrooms and other poisonous plants — These can be toxic and even deadly to chickens.
  14. High quantities of bread — Bread is low in nutrients and can cause nutritional imbalances if fed in large amounts.
  15. Processed food — These are often high in salt, sugar, and other unhealthy ingredients that can cause health problems in chickens.
  16. Apple seeds and other fruit pits — They contain small amounts of cyanide, which can be harmful to chickens in large quantities and cause respiratory problems.
  17. Dairy products — Chickens are lactose intolerant and cannot digest dairy products well, leading to digestive problems and diarrhea.
  18. Dried or undercooked beans — These contain toxins such as lectins and enzyme inhibitors, which can be harmful to chickens and cause digestive problems.
  19. Fried or greasy foods — These are high in fat and can lead to health problems such as obesity, heart disease, and liver problems in chickens.
  20. Junk food — These are often high in salt, sugar, and other unhealthy ingredients that can cause health problems in chickens, such as obesity and digestive issues.
  21. Meat and animal byproducts — Chickens are natural herbivores whose digestive systems are not designed to handle meat, which can cause digestive problems and obesity.
  22. Avocado oil — It can be harmful if ingested in large quantities and cause digestive problems and inflammation in chickens.
  23. Rhubarb stems — They are high in oxalic acid, which can be toxic in large amounts and cause digestive problems and kidney failure in chickens.
  24. Garden clippings treated with pesticides or herbicides — These chemicals can harm chickens and cause health problems such as respiratory problems, diarrhea, and death.
  25. Any food that has been treated with chemicals — Can be toxic to chickens and cause health problems such as digestive problems, respiratory problems, and death.
  26. Amaranth — This plant contains nitrates and oxalates, which can harm chickens and cause digestive problems and kidney damage.
  27. Butter — Butter is high in fat and can cause digestive problems and obesity in chickens.
  28. Coffee or tea — These contain caffeine, which can be toxic to chickens and cause hyperactivity, seizures, and heart problems.
  29. Eggplant/pepper leaves — These contain solanine, which is toxic to chickens and can cause digestive problems, weakness, and respiratory problems.
  30. Maggots — Maggots can carry harmful bacteria and parasites that can cause illness and disease in chickens.
  31. Raw chicken — Raw chicken can contain harmful bacteria such as salmonella, which can cause illness and even death in chickens.
  32. Raw Eggs — Raw eggs can contain harmful bacteria such as salmonella, which can cause illness and even death in chickens.
  33. Xylitol — Xylitol is a sugar substitute that is toxic to chickens and can cause digestive problems, seizures, and even death.
  34. Tomato leaves/green fruit — These contain solanine, which is toxic to chickens and can cause digestive problems, weakness, and respiratory problems.
  35. Uncooked rice — Uncooked rice can expand in the crop and cause digestive problems in chickens.

Can chickens eat fruits?

chickens eat fruit

Yes, chickens can eat fruits. Fruits are a great way to add variety and nutrition to your chicken’s diet. Many chickens enjoy eating fruits such as apples, bananas, mango, strawberriesblueberries, and grapes.

Make sure to chop the fruit into small pieces so they can quickly swallow it. Because of their high acidity, you should feed fruits like oranges and lemons in moderation. Also, please ensure not to provide your chicken with any fruits containing caffeine or alcohol, as these can lead to serious health issues. 

  • Chickens can eat various fruits, including apples, bananas, pineapplesoranges, and watermelons.
  • Fruits are a good source of vitamins and minerals for chickens.
  • Chickens should only eat a small amount of fruit daily as part of a balanced diet.
  • Some fruits, such as grapes and raisins, can be toxic to chickens in large quantities.
  • It is essential to wash all fruits before feeding them to chickens to remove pesticides or other contaminants. 
  • Apples and bananas are trendy treats for chickens that can be fed whole or cut into pieces.

With the right combination of fruits, grains, proteins, and vegetables, chickens can lead a healthy and happy life. 

Can chickens eat vegetables?

chickens eat vegetables

Yes, chickens can eat vegetables. Vegetables are a great way to add variety and nutrition to your chicken’s diet. Vegetables such as kale, spinach, cabbage, carrots, and sweet potatoes are all excellent sources of vitamins and minerals.

Make sure to chop the vegetables into small pieces so they can easily digest them. It is essential to wash all vegetables before feeding them to chickens to remove any pesticides or other contaminants. 

  • Chickens enjoy eating leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and lettuce.
  • Vegetables like carrots, celery, tomatoes, broccoli, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, squash, cucumbers, and pumpkins should be cut into smaller pieces for easier consumption.
  • Fruits like melons provide hydration in addition to essential nutrients for chickens.
  • Most cooked vegetables can be fed to chickens, but raw vegetables are better for their health.
  • Onions, garlic, and other Allium family members should not be provided to chickens. 

By providing your chickens with a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins, you can ensure they will have the nutrition they need to stay healthy and happy. Feeding them treats like fruits and vegetables is a great way to show appreciation while ensuring they get all the nutrients they need. 

Can chickens eat bread?

No, bread is not recommended as part of a chicken’s diet. Bread contains little nutritional value for chickens and can cause health problems if eaten in large amounts. Bread also contains yeast, which can lead to an overgrowth of bacteria in the chicken’s digestive system.

Additionally, bread can contain mold or other contaminants that can make chickens sick. It is best to avoid feeding bread to your chickens altogether and instead focus on providing them with a balanced diet of grains, fruits, vegetables, and proteins. 

Can chickens eat grass?

Yes, chickens can eat grass as part of their regular diet. Grass is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals for chickens and provides much-needed roughage to help keep their digestive systems healthy.

Make sure to provide plenty of access to fresh grass for your chickens every day so they can get all the nutrients they need from it. Also, remove poisonous plants from their range, such as poison ivy or nightshade. The grass is a great way to give your chickens fresh greens and help keep them healthy and happy.

Essential nutrition for chickens.

Good nutrition is essential for chickens, and providing them with the right foods will help them stay strong and productive. Here, we outline some of the critical nutrients chickens need in their diet and tips on providing them with a balanced meal.


Chickens need carbohydrates for energy, and grains such as corn, oats, and wheat are excellent sources of carbohydrates.


Protein is essential for growth in chickens and should make up about 20% of their diet. Chicken feed typically contains protein, but you can also supplement it with other options, such as mealworms or cooked eggs. 


Fats provide chickens with energy but should be limited to 10-15% of their diet. Fats can come from chicken feed or other sources such as seeds or nuts. 


Vitamins are essential for overall health in chickens and can be provided through feed or other sources. Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins and leafy greens like kale, spinach, and lettuce.


Minerals help with bone development in chickens and should make up about 5-10% of their diet. Grains such as oats and wheat contain minerals, but you can also supplement with oyster shells or other mineral sources. 


Water is essential for chickens and should be available at all times. Make sure to keep the water clean and fresh, as dirty or stagnant water can lead to health problems. You can ensure that your chickens stay healthy and happy by providing them with a balanced diet that includes these essential nutrients.

Additionally, giving them treats like fruits and vegetables is a great way to show them some extra love while ensuring they get all the nutrients they need. You can help your chickens live long and productive lives with the right nutrition plan!


Grit is integral to a chicken’s diet and helps them digest its food. Grit can come from sand or other sources, such as oyster shells or ground eggshells. Providing grit to your chickens will help ensure they can get the most out of their meals. 

Do baby chickens or chicks need grit?

Chicks need grit in their diets from a very young age, as they have difficulty digesting many parts of their feed, such as seeds and husks. You can buy grit at many stores that carry supplies for poultry; it should make up about 5% of their diet by the time they are eight weeks old. While it may seem like a small amount, giving the right amount of grit helps to keep your chicks healthy and thriving!

Do adult chickens need grit?

For adult chickens, grit is an essential part of their diet. Grit helps their digestive systems break down food and absorb the necessary nutrition. Providing a few tablespoons of fine gravel or quartz sand in addition to standard feed gives chickens everything they need for a healthy and balanced diet.

Specialized poultry feeds contain added amounts of grit, so it’s up to individual pet owners to decide what they want to provide for their birds. While chicks may not require additional grit, adult chickens benefit from it. Even wild birds consume it regularly, so why not give your chickens the same benefits?

How to feed chickens grit.

Feeding chickens grit is an integral part of keeping a healthy flock! They must receive a diet high in calcium; supplying them with chicken grit will help achieve that. Chicken grit is usually composed of small pieces of stone or ground oyster shells and can be found online, at animal feed stores, or even in your backyard.

It would be best if you offered the grit to your feathered friends in a shallow container near their food; poultry will eat the stones as needed and then expel them later as part of their droppings. When supplementing your chickens’ diets with chicken grit, it’s essential to make sure you provide them with a variety, so they meet their nutritional needs. And remember to frequently clean out the container to ensure that your backyard buddies receive only the freshest ingredients!

Oyster shells.

In addition to offering chickens grit, it’s also essential to give them access to oyster shells. Oyster shells provide an important source of calcium that helps keep chickens healthy and robust. The shell can be given either as a supplement or in its natural form—place some crushed-up oyster shells near their feeders, and they will eat it when needed.

It’s best to offer the oyster shell multiple locations so all your birds can access it. Please ensure you regularly clean out any uneaten oyster shells so your chickens aren’t eating anything spoiled or contaminated. With these simple steps, you can provide a calcium-rich diet for your flock! 

Different types of chicken feed.

If you’re like most backyard chicken owners, you probably give your chickens a variety of food to eat. But did you know that there are different types of chicken feed? This blog post will look at the different kinds of chicken feed and what each is best for. We’ll also discuss choosing the right feed type for your flock. So if you’re curious about chicken feed, keep reading!

Chick starter.

Chick starter is a type of feed specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of baby chicks. It usually contains higher levels of protein and calcium than adult feed, which helps support rapid growth and development in young chickens. Because chick starter is designed for chicks, they should only be fed to them for the first 16 weeks before transitioning to an adult feed.

Grower/finisher feed. 

Grower/finisher feed is a chicken feed designed for older chickens, typically between 16-20 weeks old. It has slightly lower levels of protein and calcium than chick starters, as this age group doesn’t need as much boost from these nutrients anymore. Grower/finisher feed also typically contains additional minerals like Vitamin A and phosphorus to help promote healthy bone and muscle development in older birds. 

Layer feed. 

Layer feed is designed explicitly for hens that will be laying eggs. It contains higher calcium levels than other chicken feed to support solid eggshells and additional protein to support egg production. It would be best if you only gave layer feed to hens once they reach 16-20 weeks old, as it can be too rich in calcium for younger chickens. 

Medicated feed.

Medicated feed is a type of chicken feed that contains antibiotics and other medications to help prevent or treat common illnesses in chickens. While these medications can be helpful in some cases, they should only be used when necessary, as too much antibiotic use can lead to drug-resistant bacteria.

Organic Feed. 

Organic feed is made from all organic ingredients and is free from pesticides, herbicides, hormones, and antibiotics. This feed is ideal for anyone looking to provide their flock with the healthiest possible diet. However, it’s important to note that organic feed is usually more expensive than non-organic varieties. 

Mash/pellet feed.

Mash/pellet feeds are one of the most popular types of chicken feed and come in either a mash or pellet form. Mash feed comprises grains that have been ground together, while pellet feed is made from the same ingredients but pressed into pellets for easier consumption. Both types of feed provide chickens with all the necessary nutrients to stay healthy and are easy to find in most stores.

Broiler feed.

Broiler feed is specifically formulated for chickens used for meat production. It usually contains higher protein levels than other chicken feed to help support rapid growth and additional vitamins and minerals to promote overall health. 

Feather fixer feed.

Feather fixer feed is designed to help replace lost feathers or improve existing plumage. It typically contains additional minerals like zinc and biotin, which can help promote healthy feather growth and development. 

All flock feed.

All flock feed is a type of feed that can be fed to all kinds of chickens, regardless of age or breed. This feed typically contains lower levels of protein and calcium than specialty feeds but still provides chickens with all the necessary nutrients for good health. 

Scratch grain.

Scratch grain is a feed made up of grains, like corn and wheat, that have been cracked into smaller pieces. It should only be fed as an occasional treat to chickens as it can cause digestive issues if given too often. 


Pellets are a feed of grains, proteins, and other nutrients pressed into small pellets. Pellets can be fed to chickens or mixed with mash or scratch grain for a more balanced meal. 


Crumbles are a feed of grains and other ingredients ground together into small crumbly pieces. Crumbles can be fed to chickens or mixed with mash or scratch grain for a more balanced meal. 


Mash is a feed of grains and other ingredients ground together into a coarse meal, and it can be fed to chickens or mixed with crumbles or scratch grain for a more balanced meal. 

Specialty feeds.

Specialty feeds are a type of feed designed for specific breeds or ages of chickens. For instance, specialty feeds are available for laying hens with higher calcium levels to support egg production. Similarly, there are specialty feeds for chicks with the necessary nutrients to grow and develop properly. 

Fermented chicken feed.

Fermented chicken feed is feed left to ferment for some time, and this process breaks down the feed’s proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, making it easier for chickens to digest and absorb the nutrients. The fermented feed can help improve digestion, reduce digestive issues, and increase nutrient absorption in chickens. 

Treats for chickens.

Treats for chickens are a great way to give your flock something special that can help supplement their regular diet. Treats like mealworms, fruits, and veggies offer additional vitamins and minerals not found in traditional chicken feed, plus they can make mealtime more fun! 

Kitchen scraps.

Kitchen scraps are a great way to give your chickens something different to eat and provide them with additional vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Please ensure that any kitchen scrap you feed your chickens is fresh and free from mold or spoilage. 

How much to feed chickens?

Knowing how much to feed your chickens can be tricky and depends on various factors, such as size, activity level, and age. Generally speaking, it is recommended that an adult chicken receive about 1/4 pound of feed daily. 

Young birds can eat up to one-third of a pound daily, depending on their growth rate. It’s essential only to feed them high-quality feed appropriate for their breed and age so that they receive all of the vital vitamins and minerals they need. 

Keep in mind that allowing your chickens access to ample amounts of natural food sources such as bugs and grass can help reduce the amount of store-bought feed you must purchase.

How to feed chickens.

Feeding chickens is essential to successful chicken-keeping, and it’s not just about mixing some feed. When feeding your birds, it’s best to provide a balanced diet that meets all their nutritional needs.

To make sure they get a complete meal, grain mixes should be supplemented with plenty of green fodder (like garden clippings and weeds) as well as regular ‘treats’ such as table scraps—fruit or vegetables—to ensure that they’re getting enough of the vitamins, minerals, protein, and fats they need.

Remember to also provide them with fresh water every day for optimal health. With this simple approach, you’ll have healthy and happy chickens in no time!

Storing chicken feed.

Storing chicken feed correctly is essential in maintaining the quality of your bird’s diet. Chicken feed should be kept in a fully rodent-proof container, ideally metal, and situated away from direct sunlight to prevent the oils, fats, and essential vitamins contained within the food from going rancid. 

Moisture, if present, can also cause mold growth on the feed, which is terrible for both avian health and feed storage cost. To further maintain quality and retain the texture of feed stored for extended periods, it should be stored in cool temperatures or frozen for extended shelf life. 

If storing multiple bags of feed at once, make sure to enjoy regularly, as any tears/cuts to the load can render food exposed and at risk for spoilage. When purchasing large commercially made bulk bags (such as typical 50lb bags), it’s essential to try and use up these quantities as quickly as possible but not faster than your bird’s consumption rate to prevent wasted feed.

Can chickens eat mice, rodents, snakes, and snails?

Chickens are natural omnivores. In the wild, they eat mice, snakes, snails, and slugs. However, it is not recommended to feed these to domestic chickens for a few reasons:

  1. Health concerns — Wild mice, snakes, and certain snails and slugs can carry diseases that can harm chickens and even humans. Feeding these animals to your chickens can put their health at risk.

  2. Safety concerns — Feeding live animals to chickens can be dangerous. Mice and snakes can bite and injure chickens, and snails and slugs can carry parasites that can harm chickens.

  3. Ethical concerns — Some people may not feel comfortable feeding live animals to their chickens, even if it is part of their natural diet.

Generally, it’s best to stick to a diet of commercially prepared feed, fresh fruits and vegetables, and occasional treats for your chickens. If you have a rodent or snail problem in your coop or yard, it’s important to address the issue without feeding the animals to your chickens. This can include setting traps, sealing off access points, and using natural deterrents such as garlic or essential oils.

What can chickens eat? They can eat healthily!

Feeding chickens is integral to successful chicken-keeping, but it can be simple with the right approach and a good understanding of their dietary needs.

You can ensure that your chickens are happy and healthy by providing your birds with a balanced diet that includes plenty of nutritious treats and kitchen scraps, plus regular access to natural food sources.

And by taking the time to store their feed correctly, you can help ensure that your birds get the most out of every meal. With this approach, feeding your chickens will be a breeze!

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