11 Things NOT to Feed Chickens &
The Best Ways to Dispose of Them on the Homestead

Feeding & raising backyard chickens is easy, but you need to know which foods NOT to feed chickens. After you learn what they can’t eat, we’ll learn the best way you can resourcefully dispose of them.

As I was starting to write another post about how to get the most out of your food scraps, I realized I needed to address what a chicken can and especially cannot eat.

Before we get to what chickens shouldn’t eat, let's talk about what a chicken can eat. Knowing what a chicken can eat will help you better understand what they cannot and how to use those “wasted” foods resourcefully.

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What A Chicken CAN Eat

Chickens can eat pretty much anything…and everything!

Now every now and then, you’ll run into the exception. We’ve had some chickens that wouldn’t eat greens, or wouldn’t eat sunflower seeds, and things like that. They’re the rare case.

Besides those picky eaters, there isn’t much a chicken won’t eat. They love seeds, grains, greens, grass, vegetables, fruits, nuts, kitchen scraps, manure from other animals, worms, herbs, and bugs (either as pest control for your homestead, or you can grow different kinds of bugs for your chickens).

All of those foods listed above are CHICKEN FOOD. You can save so much money and harvest much less expensive eggs (with more nutrition) if you give your chickens access to and grow multiple sources of food. There’s no reason stay glued 100% to the commercial chicken feed! Check out this page to learn more: 10 Ways to Save Money on Your Chicken Feed Bill

I later learned it’s best to give your chicks greens from day one. Then when they get older your chickens will like and eat them. (And yes, it works!)

What A Chicken Should NOT Eat

There are several articles online that tell you what foods not to feed your chickens. Not everyone agrees. In fact, most people disagree. Some say citrus is okay, others say no. One website I found said the seeds should be removed from apple cores before feeding them to your hens. *Ahem…really?!*

Let’s view the following foods and what to do with them through our holistically minded glasses. How can we make the best sense of what people are telling us online and not spend 50 extra minutes a day worrying about the food scraps in our chicken bin?

Moderation...The #1 Holistic Key

Often times the biggest problem with the list of foods below is not that they have a little, but if they eat too much of them, too often. The best thing you can do is make sure your chickens have a good diet and big enough variety of other healthy foods.

God Designed Chickens With more Brains Than People Realize

Chickens do have some brains. If you think about chickens in the wild they would have to know what’s good for them and what’s not. Otherwise, they would all be dead due to eating a poisonous plant or berry. Chickens (and animals in general) don’t often like the foods/plants that are poisonous or bad for them and they keep away.

That being said, you are their steward. You need to know what your chickens need and what’s bad for them. Your chickens aren't in the wild. You can make mistakes and end up killing them if you don’t know what you’re doing.

The biggest mistake you could make would be to not have enough other good food for your chickens.  When you have only the foods/plants that are bad for them and the chickens are hungry, you are forcing them to eat what they wouldn’t naturally choose to eat—or go hungry.

If you are caring for your chickens and feed them enough they shouldn’t feel the need to eat much of the foods that aren’t good for them. You don’t have to worry about monitoring every tiny little thing they eat.

Nonetheless, here’s a list. This list contains the foods you don’t want to feed them. (For the most part. I do have a few questionable ones one here that I choose to feed our chickens. Keep in mind though, our hens have access to a large variety of other foods like grass, pasture, manure, seeds, bugs, and currently still some commercial feed. The foods below are far from their staple food source.)

11 Things to Avoid or Use With Caution When Feeding Chickens

***Everything said below is assuming MODERATION. These should NEVER EVER be the majority of foods your chickens have access to!***

1. Chocolate

Theobromine is found in chocolate and is known to be harmful when fed to dogs. It doesn’t look certain that it would cause problems in chickens, but it looks wise to stay away from—just in case.

How to Dispose of Them Holistically:

This one shouldn’t be a problem, you should be eating it all! :) If you do have a rare case of bad chocolate, toss it in the trash or burn it.

2. Citrus 

Some folks feed citrus to their chickens, others say it’s bad for them. From what I have found you mainly want to steer clear of feeding citrus in large quantities (but I’m not even sure that’s necessary). We’ve not had problems letting our flock eat citrus.

How to Dispose of Them Holistically:

We compost citrus peels with the chickens and we’ve never had any issues. We go though a LOT of citrus in the winter (living in AZ) and have tons of citrus peels out in the compost by the chickens in January. The chickens don’t seem to really eat them though.

3. Avocados 

Again, some say you can feed them to chickens, some say you can’t. The pit and peel contain a toxin called Persin that is bad for birds.

How to Dispose of Them Holistically:

We compost the pits and peels. Yes, the chickens have access and scratch through the compost, but we’ve never had problems. I think I’d stay away from feeding the hens avocados in excess, but when a few of them make it into the compost bin, even a few every day, I don’t worry about it.

4. Coffee

Coffee contains caffeine which is said to be bad for chickens.

How to Dispose of Coffee Holistically:

We usually compost our grounds. We don’t have a lot of them, especially in comparison to all of our other kitchen scraps. Since the chickens don’t get much and we’ve not had any issues I’m not going to worry about it. You can dump a moderate amount of liquid coffee in compost too.

5. Spinach, Rhubarb, Tomato & Eggplant Leaves

Spinach should only be fed on occasion. Both it and Rhubarb contain oxalic acid. Rhubarb is toxic to people and chickens—unless prepared properly. It’s best to avoid. Tomatoes and eggplants are in the nightshade family and their leaves and unripe or green fruit have the potential of being toxic to chickens. One website made it sound like the fruit was bad, but the ripe fruit from these plants are fine for chickens.

How to Dispose of Them Holistically:

Again, moderation is important. Spinach is fine in moderation. We never have rhubarb in the house and I don’t plan to grow it. I guess you can toss it or compost it if you’d like. Some of our chickens have had access to our tomato plants and didn’t eat the leaves, so we haven’t had to deal with that. It’s good to be aware of.

6. Raw Potatoes & Green Potato Skins

Solanine is the toxin you want to stay away from. This is found in potatoes, and especially green potatoes. It’s not good for chickens. Cooking sometimes will reduce it, but not always.

How to Dispose of Them Holistically:

I’ll throw potatoes in the compost or to the chickens if they are cooked. Otherwise compost in very small amounts or be safe and throw them in the trash.

7. Uncooked Beans & Rice

Uncooked beans contain Phytohaemagglutinin which is bad for chickens. Cooked and also sprouted beans are great for your chickens. Both the cooking and sprouting process kills the toxin. Rice is also not recommended to feed to your chickens unless it’s cooked.

How to Dispose of Them Holistically:

We really haven’t ever had a need to dispose of them. They store for years when kept correctly. I guess if you need to, just toss or burn them, or you can cook them for your hens. Cooked beans and rice are fine to feed to your chickens.

8. Apple Seeds & Pits in Stone Fruits

This one was new to me. Apple seeds and pits from stone fruits (like apricot, peach, plum, etc.) contain a toxin called cyanide. We haven’t had any problems with our chickens eating apple seeds and I know many people feed their chickens apple seeds and have no problems. I don’t even think most people know of this one. Also I’ve never seen a chicken eating a stone fruit pit. They seem too large. Nevertheless, some folks think it’s best to avoid feeding them to chickens.

Think about a few things for a minute though. When apples (and stone fruit) fall off of trees to the ground, who gets them? On a well-managed holistic homestead the chickens do. This is wonderful and helps control diseases and pests in the orchard. Does this then mean you need to go in and take the seeds out of all your fallen apples before turning in your chickens? I think not. In my opinion, it’s not that big of a deal. When they are eating other things and not only the apple seeds, I think you needn’t worry about it.

How to Dispose of Them Holistically:

I throw the apple cores with seeds and pits in the compost or to the chickens. As long as like everything else on the list, they are fed in moderation. (If you have a bunch of just apple seeds, this would be a good time to take advantage of what you know and throw them in the trash instead of to the chickens.)

9. Raw Eggs

Never feed raw eggs to chickens! Once they taste an egg they can develop a liking for them. Then they’ll break and eat their other eggs—the ones you wanted to eat. As much as it lays within your power—never let your hens taste a raw egg! (Take it from an expert. :p)

How to Dispose of Them Holistically:

You can scramble the eggs if you have too many. This way they aren’t associating it with the eggs they lay in the coop. Eggs can also be scrambled and fed to your dogs, cats or pigs. (And if developing a taste for raw eggs isn’t an issue, you can feed eggs raw to the dogs, cats and pigs. Just make sure they won’t be able to get to your good eggs ever again.)

10. Moldy & Junk Food

Moldy and junk food is bad for chickens. Don’t feed either to your flock.

How to Dispose of Them Holistically:

If it’s not too moldy and is a fruit or vegetable I compost it. Yes, the chickens may get at it a little, but I haven’t had issues when doing in moderation. Meats, eggs, milk and other dairy products are another story. You shouldn’t compost those. Toss them in the trash or send them off to the burn pile. As for junk food, well...don’t buy any to dispose of! :) If you do, throw it in the trash.

11. Chicken, Meat & Butchering Scraps

There is a debate about whether or not to feed meat and/or chicken to your flock. Some say it’s bad to feed your chickens meat, but God created them to eat meat. Bugs are a great example of “meat” that chickens were designed to eat. *Chickens were never meant to be vegetarians!* Here’s my opinion on feeding chickens other meats and butchering scraps.

As a general rule, I try to stay away from feeding large amounts of chicken to our flock, because of diseases. They may get a little chicken from our food scraps, but when we butcher chickens we don’t feed all those butchering remains to our hens.

Most other meats I’d be fine with feeding to our birds. Raw or cooked is fine. Even butchering scraps from other animals. We once butchered a rabbit and fed the guts to the chickens and they loved it. I’ll also feed them broth (it’s good for chickens as well as people).

*If you’re feeding meat, make sure that it all gets eaten right away. Otherwise go and pick it up. Your animals can get sick or even die from eating spoiled meat.

How to Dispose of Them Holistically:

If you don’t feed the meat or butchering scraps to your chickens you can feed them to the dogs, cats or even pigs (although, there again is another debate).

Learn which foods NOT to feed to your chickens with this free downloadable chart! Feeding and raising backyard chickens is easy, but you need to know which foods NOT to feed chickens.

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Learn which foods NOT to feed to your chickens with this free downloadable chart! Feeding and raising backyard chickens is easy, but you need to know which foods NOT to feed chickens.
Feeding & raising backyard chickens is easy, but you need to know which foods NOT to feed chickens. After you learn what they can’t eat, we’ll learn the best way you can resourcefully dispose of them.

Soli Deo Gloria!  (Glory Be to God Alone!)

~ Julia

Hi! I’m Julia. First and foremost, I am a Christian. I desire to love and serve Jesus Christ the King in every area of my life. By His sovereignty, I live with my parents and five younger siblings in the hot dry desert of Phoenix, Arizona. We live on 2.5 acres, with summer highs often over 120 and zero percent humidity. Read more -->


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