What can chickens eat? A list of the healthiest foods.

Knowing which foods are good for chickens and which aren't can be daunting, specially when you're first starting out.

"Can chickens eat...?" is one of the questions I'm most often asked.

First and foremost, of course, chickens need a properly balanced, high quality chicken feed which is appropriate to each life stage.

It can help, though, to supplement that feed sometimes in order to add nutrients, and even to help reverse the need for antibiotics in the chicken diet.

What can chickens eat? Pin for later.

As long as these foods are less than 20% of the total diet, they will enhance the health and wellbeing of your flock.

So on this page I've gathered together all my articles which are based on many years' experience, a lot of evidenced information from the world of poultry research, and a constant (and often very picky!) input from my own flocks.

Each headline or button link will take you to the list of most commonly available, healthiest options which you can start feeding your chickens today.

Not found what you're looking for? There's a 'catch-all' list at the end of the page.

Or, if you're subscribed to my Chicken Digest newsletter, just reply to one of my emails and ask!

Here's some quick links if you know where you want to go.

Each section lists its food in alphabetical order.

What fruit and veggies can chickens eat?

Can chickens eat apples?

Can chickens eat apples? Find out by clicking the button.

You may have seen articles online saying that apples will poison chickens because they contain cyanide.

Which is only part of the story.

In this article I examine the evidenced research about poultry and apples, come to a conclusion about whether it's safe, and test a quick recipe out on my own flock which you're welcome to try on yours!

Can chickens eat garlic?

How to grow and use garlic for chicken health - link.

A member of the onion family, garlic is classed as a vegetable rather than a herb. But whereas onions aren't terribly good for chickens, garlic is a superfood.

As well as the health benefits for both baby chicks and adults, this article covers how much to feed and the best form, covers the issue of whether garlic can deal with a worm infestation, and asks whether feeding garlic to chickens alters the taste of their eggs.

Are lentils good for chickens?

Thumbnail link lentils.

Neither a vegetable nor a plant, lentils are classed as a "legume" – a sub-group of vegetables.

Used as a sprouted green at times when other healthy options are few and far between, lentils can also be used as a cooked treat for chickens during cold weather.

Discover all you need to know about how chickens can benefit from lentils in this article.

Can chickens eat peppers?

Thumbnail can chickens eat peppers

Bell or chilli – are peppers a good addition to the chicken diet?

The quick answer to this is "absolutely!". But they're not all created equal. Some are better for dealing with heat stress, others help create strong bone growth, and one will turn your chickens' egg yolks a deep orange.

Which is which? This research-based article shares all the details – and a delicious (to chickens!) pepper recipe to use at any time of year.

Let's talk chickens and pumpkins!

Pumpkins for chickens - link.

Yes, pumpkins are classed as fruit – but all chickens care about is how much they love them!

Low in saturated fat, and one of nature's best sources of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, pumpkins are the ideal treat for chickens when other fruit and veg are out of season.

But are pumpkin seeds really a natural wormer? Find out what research has to say about that too.

What veggies can chickens eat?

What veg can chickens eat? Thumbnail link to article.

Here I look at ten healthy vegetables that chickens can eat:broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, cucumber, green beans, mushrooms, potatoes, sweetcorn and tomatoes.

Covering their nutrients, their impact on specific parts of chicken health, and how they're best fed to your chickens.

As ever, all evidenced with research, experience, and the taste buds of chickens.

How about chickens eating watermelon?

Can chickens eat watermelon? Link to article.

Put it this way: if my chickens could eat nothing but watermelon for the rest of their lives, they would.

But is it good for chickens? What does research tell us about its nutritional value? Are there any side effects? And can baby chicks eat watermelon?

All this, plus a soothing summer watermelon recipe, is contained in this article.

The flowers, plants and herbs that chickens can eat.

What flowers can chickens eat?

Which plants are good for chickens? Link.

This link takes you to a list of articles each of which covers different flowers chickens can eat, or which can be used in the coop. It covers echinacea, lavender, marigolds, nasturtiums, roses and sunflowers.

Each one is thoroughly researched, each flower (and sometimes even different varieties within the same plant) has a different use in chicken health.

Nettles as chicken feed

Thumbnail link to article about growing nettles for chickens.

They may sting, and they are described by most people as a weed, but nettles have been used for centuries for their medicinal qualities.

This article examines why numerous studies have defined stinging nettles as being ultra-beneficial for chickens. It's not only to do with the vitamins and minerals – they also have a huge benefit in the case of a predator attack.

Find out why, and how to apply nettles to your chickens' lives.

The best herb that chickens can eat: parsely

Is parsley good for chickens? Link.

An inexpensive herb that's so easy to grow – even on a windowledge, parsely has well proven benefits for chickens. Did you know, for example, that they're one of the best for helping with poultry stress?

But it's important to use the right type of parsley. Flat leafed vs curly leafed – which is best? Make sure you get it right!

Can chickens eat weeds?

Choosing weeds as chicken treats - link.

A weed is simply a plant that is growing somewhere we don't want it to be.

And although some are invasive and even poisonous, many plants which are viewed as weeds are beneficial for chickens, and highly nutritious.

This article covers six common weeds you're likely to find in your garden, and describes why you should be cultivating, not killing them.

What high protein foods can chickens eat?

High protein foods can help chickens at times of stress. But it's even more important with these that they're fed carefully, and only when required.

The articles cover when each is appropriate to feed to your flock.

Can chickens eat fermented food?

Fermented food - why it's good for chickens - link.

Another food my chickens would choose to live on, if they could.

Fermented food is increasingly used to supplement or even replace antibiotics. Working with the gut's 'good' bacteria, it increases both the chicken's resistance to infection and her ability to use food more efficiently.

So not only can it impact on your chickens' health, it can decrease the amount of food you need to provide.

Is chickens eating fish a thing?

Can chickens eat fish? Link.

It's healthy, it's it's full of Omega-3 oils, and it's been proven to increase heart health in chickens.

But what's best? Fresh or canned? White or oily? Bones and guts or flesh only?

The type of fish, as well as the amount, you feed your flock is critical to the benefits they'll feel. And if you're concerned it will make their eggs taste fishy, that's covered, too. 

Can chickens eat meat?

Can chickens eat meat? Picture of chick eating worm and link to article.

If you thought chickens were vegetarians, you're about to get a shock.

Left to themselves chickens are omnivores. They'll eat both meat and vegetables, as well as grain. Anyone who has ever seen a chicken chasing a grasshopper or a mouse will have no doubts about that!

But are meats good for chickens? Which are the best, and how often should they be given meat to eat? And are there any alternatives?

Can chickens eat nuts?

Thumbnail link to can chickens eat nuts and party food?

Not just nuts, but can chickens eat any leftover festive food we may have over?

This article assesses 20 festive-type foods and asks whether chickens can, or should, feast on them to.

Broken into snacks, starters, mains, sides and desserts, this article is critical for any time of year when celebration food is going spare.

Other questions about what chickens can eat.

Have a question about what chickens can eat? If you're part of my Chicken Digest community, you can ask me direct by replying to one of my weekly emails.

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You keep mentioning that chickens should eat their own feed first before any treats. What feed do you mean?

Chickens should have a feed appropriate to their age, which is properly balanced for the nutrients they need at different life stages.

You can find my detailed information about this, here.

Can chickens eat shrimp and shrimp shells?


Chickens love any kind of fish – see more details here.

If you go out for a meal and have shrimp, save the tails and feed them to your flock. They'll love you for it!

Can chickens eat oranges and tangerines?

There's not much research about this. What there is suggests that citrus fruits are only bad for chickens in large amounts. For more details see this article

However, I've never had a chicken who wanted to eat oranges, lemons or their peel. They simply avoid them. So I'd stick with a more palatable and always acceptable alternative like berries.

But remember: always in moderation.

What should chickens not eat?

I have an article about the top five foods chickens should never eat. You can find it here

Link to Raising Happy Chickens home page.