10 Foods You Should Not Feed Your Chickens

I often describe chickens as miniature trash compactors – they will eat almost anything you put in front of them. An emphasis should be placed on “almost anything”.

For the most part, we feed our chickens food items they would normally find around the ranch – veggies, fruits, seeds and grains. As a treat or to supplement their diet, we give them meal worms. They are all-natural and give the girls extra nutrients. We may also put a little diatomaceous earth (DE) in their food, as well. This aids in digestion and is a natural de-wormer. Chickens also need some calcium and a little grit in their diets as well. The calcium helps them form a strong outer eggshell and the grit aids in digestion. I usually purchase this supplement kit with oyster shells, DE and grit, and add a little each day to their feed.

That said, as open as these birds are to eating a varied diet, there are a few food types to steer clear of.

 10 Foods Your Chickens Should Avoid

  1. Plants from the nightshade family – Nightshade plants such as potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants have a toxic substance in their unripened fruit and leaves called solanine that could be harmful to your flock. Even the peels of potatoes are potentially harmful and should be avoided. If you have a large amount of leftover nightshade vegetables (potatoes or peels), cook them first and your chickens will enjoy the treat even more.
  2. Salty foods –  Foods containing large amounts of salt can lead to a condition known as salt poisoning, salt toxicity, hypernatremia, or water deprivation-sodium ion intoxication. The small bodies of chickens are not meant to ingest large amounts of salt. Chickens can tolerate up to 0.25% salt in drinking water but are susceptible to salt poisoning when water intake is restricted.
  3. Citrus  Some varieties of chickens can be very sensitive to citrus. Many believe it is a build up of citric acid and vitamin C that can cause excessive feather plucking. That said, I have fed citrus to my chickens and they don’t care for it.
  4. Onions – Onions contain a toxin substance called thiosulphate that destroys red blood cells. When excessive amounts are fed to chickens, it can cause jaundice or anemia in your hens or even death.
  5. Dried or undercooked beans  – Raw, or dry beans, contain a poison called hemaglutin which is toxic to birds. Cooking or sprouting the beans before serving them to chickens will kill this toxin.
  6. Dry rice – If we feed them rice, we cook it beforehand. Chickens that are fed dry rice are put in danger of the rice blowing up when it is introduced to moisture and will cause a gut problem in chickens.
  7. Avocado skin and pit – Chickens do not care much for avocados. They probably sense or smell the low levels of toxicity in the skin and pit.
  8. Raw eggs – Introducing raw eggs to your chickens could result in your flock turning cannibal. If they are doing this, it could be a result of a deficiency in their diet or because they are stressed. Adding crushed oyster shells to their diet usually helps as well as adjusting their environment (more nesting boxes, lessen the light in the coop, etc.)
  9. Candy, chocolate, sugar – Chickens do not have much of  sweet tooth. In fact, they only have around 25-30 taste buds, so more than likely, they wouldn’t realize they are eating anything sweet. Further, it’s bad on their digestive tract and chocolate especially contains a toxin called methylxanthines theobromine and is poisonous to chickens. Therefore, adding sugar to their diet wouldn’t be advisable.
  10. Apple seeds – Apple seeds contain trace amounts of cyanide that could kill your chicken. As much as chickens love apples, do them a favor and remove the seeds.

One of the most important aspects of caring for your flock is ensuring their diets are the healthiest possible. Your flock of chickens will be much happier and healthier if you can find a way to avoid these foods from becoming the chicken’s food source.

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published February 9th, 2014
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21 Responses to 10 Foods You Should Not Feed Your Chickens

  1. John Cook says:

    You are right Chad. I fully agree. I don’t have chooks (Australian term) at the moment and one of the things I miss the most is the ability to turn food waste into eggs.

  2. Amy Jo Greer says:

    I agree completely. I’ve seen list after list of things that will supposedly kill your chickens and I’ve seen chickens eat every one of them. Mine love potatoes and I defy you to even TRY to keep them from eating a tomato! They eat rice all the time and they’ve never blown up (lol smh). I am sure they’ve found an apple seed or two as well, although I am not certain of it. The chickens know what they should eat and if they are free ranging AT ALL, you have to trust them to know what that is.

  3. Tess says:


    If you are talking about giving chickens the goat pellets, I don’t think it would hurt them, but it wouldn’t give them a “balanced diet” either.. If there are any issues it would be related more to the additives or medications in the feed rather than the grain itself. That said, never give them medicated feed – this could cause a lot of health issues.

    *If you are giving your livestock medicated feed, make sure you separate them from the rest of the animals.

  4. HaveYourCake says:

    The myth about rice keeps popping up and it’s amazing it’s lived this long.

    Rice, uncooked, will not harm your birds. It does not expand in the gut, and does not cause blockages. Rice, like any other raw grain, is eaten in the wild naturally by all birds and causes no problems whatsoever. Chickens, while domesticated, are still birds and have the same anatomy as their wild cousins.

    Brown rice, raw, is actually a good supplement for a Chicken’s diet. White rice doesn’t give as much nutrition but it is still fine for them to eat.

  5. StoneMaven says:

    My problem with the chickens is, How do I keep them from stealing the dog’s kibble.

  6. Ahmed Ahmed says:


  7. Conservative_Kentuckian says:

    I don’t know about the rice and I avoid onions because it taints the eggs, but the rest are correctly listed as potentially harmful one problem is that chickens can often have a lot wrong with them and still carry-on as though nothing were wrong. There is good science to back the author’s claims and all you have is antidotal evidence of your isolated and unscientific observations. I would rather be safe than sorry especially since there is no benefit to be gained.

  8. susan beaty says:

    As far as dried beans does that apply to split peas? Mine love them. And how do you keep them out of tomatoes in the garden????

    • lili says:

      They can eat the tomatoes in the garden, no problem. They will stop by themselves. They only need other food to be able to stop when it’s time.

  9. susan beaty says:

    Smarter than some ppl ive known!

  10. jake says:

    is this list real. before we fenced our chickens in the paddock, they crapped on everything and acted like a plague of locust. we have apple trees over them with hundreds of fallen apples they won’t touch. in season they eat hundreds of tomatoes. eat leftovers from our restaurant. soon as winter snow is gone and temps are warm enough they barely touch the wheat and grain berries and completely ignore store sold feed. they eat what ever they like and devour any kind of melon. everyone says how big and healthy they look. outside our dumb dog no animal has eaten the nightshade plants leaves or stems. the dog got sick and learned his lesson

  11. Jimney123 says:

    I find that most wild animals avoid eating things that are toxic

  12. Larry G Brindle says:

    I agree chickens that are free range eat what they like. Pretty much not going to die from what they eat, but what eats them.

  13. Kay Ginn Cunningham says:

    My roosters crop is bulging badly and his pretty Grey looking i doubt he’ all make it through the night. I’ve been giving him water with a syringe. His a young strong rooster I raised from a.hatching. You guys got any ideas to help him or should I just put him out of his suffering?

    • Lisa N Lee Schmitt says:

      Withhold all food. Massage the crop. Slippery elm will help flush it, as will dandelion root tea. Does your flock have access to grit?

  14. Lisa N Lee Schmitt says:

    This list is so wrong. First, they would have to eat a truckload of apple seeds to do any damage. Second, raw yolk is the best thing you can feed a struggling chick, Third raw rice is no different than any other grain. Mine get raw brown rice as scratch several times a week. Also, my chickens LOVE to eat tomato leaves.

  15. Kathi Aurich Bevans says:

    Science has shown that a little1 pound bird would have to eat 50 apple cores (containing 250 seeds total) in one setting, and chew them completely (not swallow them whole) to get a toxic reaction. No wonder chickens have been roaming apple orchards for centuries without problems.

  16. Junior Sampals says:

    I am let us say suspicious of the advise offered about avoiding feeding chickens dry rice. This old wives tail was started back in the 1980s by an old wife and scientist by the name of Ann Landers. This advise is pure rot. Or maybe that is why so much poultry is consumed in Asian countries because drumsticks and chicken breast keep falling from the sky after chickens and other birds explode from eating dry rice. Take your pick.

  17. lili says:

    I give a little raw and cooked tomatoes, cooked potatoes (never raw) with their skin, and cooked onion, I don’t think it’s harmful in small quantities. The dosis is the poison. I always remember they have small bodies.

    As Chad said, I think they self-regulate. Give tomatoes, if they don’t want anymore, and if they have something else to eat, they’ll stop. The danger for any kind of food comes when they have nothing else to eat, and are forced to eat if they don’t want to starve. You forgot bread in your list. Many things can be harmful, including it.

  18. lili says:

    Maybe your chickens are dumb, not mine. Some of mine are smarter than others.

  19. lili says:

    You can give raw eggs, if they don’t see the whole egg with the shell, it’s okay. Do you think they can guess the raw egg is the whole egg? They can’t. They only know what is inside if they break it by accident. And even if it occurs, there are mean to dissuade them to eat their eggs.

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