When chickens encounter new things, their first instinct is to see if they’re edible.
So when you present them with food, it’s only a matter of seconds before they gobble it down. This eagerness to eat can make it fun to give your chickens new foods and see how they like them.
But just because chickens have an appetite for just about anything, doesn’t mean that it’s safe for them to eat just about anything!
Before offering your chickens new food, check this list to see if it’s dangerous for them to eat.
The Ultimate List of Foods that Chickens Can’t Eat
Fruits and Vegetables that Are Bad for Chickens
Beans (Dried or Raw)
Black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans… any type of dry or raw bean is poisonous to chickens.
Beans contain a compound called phytohaemagglutinin, which is highly toxic to chickens. A chicken only needs to eat three or four beans to ingest a lethal amount of phytohaemagglutinin, which kills in as little as an hour and to which there is no antidote.
Cooked beans can be safe for chickens, but only if they’re prepared very carefully. Beans need to be soaked in cold water for at least five hours, but ideally overnight.
The beans must then be thoroughly rinsed, then boiled in freshwater for at least fifteen minutes. Only then will they be safe for your chickens to eat.
Note that this doesn’t apply to green beans, which are not actually beans and can be safely fed to your chickens in moderation.
Eggplant (Raw, Leaves)
Ironic, isn’t it? Eggplant in its raw form, along with the leaves, is unsafe for chickens to eat.
That’s because eggplant is part of the nightshade family and thus contains solanine, a poisonous compound. The leaves of the plant are particularly laden with solanine and should never be given to chickens.
Cooked eggplant is safe for chickens when fed occasionally in moderation.
We love to use onions in our food, but they have no place in anything your chickens eat.
In small quantities, onions won’t harm your chickens, but they will impart an unpleasant flavor to your hens’ eggs. Nope, you can’t use this as a shortcut to pre-seasoned eggs — the new flavor does not taste like fresh onion and is quite repulsive.
And in larger quantities, onions can make your chickens anemic. It’s best to avoid giving them any amount of onion, whether it’s raw or cooked.
Potato (Raw, Peels, Sprouted)
As with eggplant, potatoes are members of the nightshade family and contain the poison solanine. Raw or sprouted potatoes and potato peels are highly toxic to chickens.
However, cooked potatoes, especially mashed, are fine to feed to your chickens on occasion.
Rhubarb fruit and leaves contain high amounts of oxalic acid, which inhibits calcium absorption and can be devastating to laying hens. Hens need plenty of calcium to form and lay eggs and can die from complications caused by calcium deficiency.
To prevent this, avoid feeding your chickens any part of the rhubarb plant, cooked or raw.
Tomatoes (Green, Leaves)
More nightshades, more solanine! Unripe tomatoes and tomato leaves are loaded with solanine and should not be fed to your chickens.
However, ripe, red tomatoes are suitable for chickens to eat.
Meat and Dairy Chicken Diet No-Nos
Chickens will happily eat the flesh of other chickens, and it’s not necessarily bad for them. Cooked chicken is fine, if a little creepy, to feed to your chickens.
However, raw chicken is a breeding ground for salmonella and other nasty organisms, so do not let your chickens eat it.
Butter is great for adding fat to dishes, but that’s exactly why chickens shouldn’t eat it. Excess fat can cause fatty liver disease, a painful and deadly condition.
Eggshells and cooked eggs are great sources of nutrition for your chickens. But you shouldn’t allow them to eat raw eggs.
Raw eggs won’t harm your chicken, but once she gets a taste, she’s likely to start eating her own eggs. If you’d like to keep collecting eggs from her, don’t give her any ideas!
Miscellaneous Foods that Chickens Shouldn’t Eat
Dogs and cats can’t eat chocolate, and neither can your chickens. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, two compounds that can kill your chickens within 24 hours of ingestion.
These compounds cause your chicken’s heart to malfunction, and the effect is more severe the more chocolate is eaten. A tiny amount won’t hurt, but to be safe, don’t feed any chocolate to your chickens.
As with chocolate, coffee grounds contain caffeine, which interferes with your chickens’ hearts. Toss those coffee grounds in the compost pile, not your chicken pen!
The sight of a chicken running around with a french fry in her mouth would certainly be funny, but it’s not worth the risk! French fries are ultra-fatty, and too much fat can cause fatty liver disease and heart problems.
"People talk about fools counting chickens before they hatch. That's nothing. We name them."
-- Orson Scott Card, Alvin Journeyman