What Do Backyard Chickens Eat? The Foods They Love and What Makes Them Sick

Chickens eating

If you’re thinking about keeping backyard chickens, congratulations! You’re about to embark on a rewarding journey of fresh eggs and feathered friends. But you might be asking, what the cluck do I feed my backyard hens?

What do chickens eat? What do you feed chickens?

Chickens are omnivores, so their diet should consist of both plant and animal matter, though they will try to eat just about anything, chickens love food!

A healthy diet for a chicken includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a good source of protein. Chickens will also need to eat grit, which helps their digestion. Grit can be picked up by your chickens in the garden in the form of tiny pebbles or you can buy oyster shell grit to mix with their feed.

One way to ensure that your chickens are getting all the nutrients they need to stay healthy and continue to produce eggs is to provide them with a balanced diet of good quality commercial chicken feed. If your chickens are young (pullets) and have not yet begun to lay eggs, they should be on starter feed for the first 18-20 weeks of their life. Starter feed comes as a crumble, to be easily consumed by pullets. This is the period when they are rapidly growing and developing, and starter feed is specifically formulated to provide them with the proper balance of protein, energy, and essential nutrients they need to support growth and development. After this period, they can be transitioned to a layer feed which is formulated to support the adult chicken in becoming a laying hen and this comes as pellets or crumble.

Commercial feed should make up the majority of your backyard chickens’ diet but you can also supplement with scratch grains and kitchen scraps. Just be sure not to feed your chickens any food that is spoiled or mouldy, as this can make them very sick.

If your flock are not solely confined to their coop and are free to roam your backyard during the day, they should be able to consume a variety of things they need to remain healthy, including bugs for protein, tiny pebbles for grit, and leafy greens for vitamins and minerals, but we would recommend always providing chicken layer feed regardless, to be sure that they don’t go hungry and that they’re getting everything they need nutritionally.

What can’t chickens eat? What can’t you feed your chickens?

You should never feed your chickens anything that contains high amounts of fat, salt or sugar, or anything that has gone bad or mouldy.

There are a number of kitchen scraps that are toxic for chickens, such as onion, raw potato, 

So if you’re unsure, always look online to see if what you’re feeding is safe.

What table scraps are safe to feed chickens?

Below is a list of frequently asked questions about what chickens can and can’t eat. Remember that anything other than commercial chicken layer feed should be given in moderation, too much of any other food will upset your chicken’s digestive system.

Can chickens eat bananas?

Bananas are a healthy and delicious treat for chickens. Only give ripe bananas to your chickens. Unripe bananas can cause stomach upset.

Can chickens eat banana peels?

Yes, chickens can eat banana peels! Ripe banana peels are a good source of vitamins and minerals, and they can also help improve your chicken’s digestion.

Can chickens eat grapes?

Yes, chickens can eat grapes, and they will enjoy them. Chickens don’t have teeth so make sure you cut them up before you feed them to your chickens to prevent choking and don’t give them too many, as they can cause an upset stomach.

Can chickens eat grapes with seeds?

Yes, it’s perfectly ok to feed your chickens grapes with seeds.

Can chickens eat apples?

Yes, chickens can eat the skin and flesh of an apple but the seeds, leaves and stems are toxic to chickens in large amounts. Make sure to only feed in moderation though.

Can chickens eat apple seeds?

No, apple seeds, leaves and stems are toxic to chickens if consumed in large amounts. The skin and flesh of an apple are fine though.

Can chickens eat pineapple?

Yes, it’s perfectly safe for your chickens to eat pineapples as an occasional treat. They won’t like the skin though, so consider cutting it off before giving pineapple to your chickens.

Can chickens eat strawberries?

Yes, chickens can eat strawberries (and will probably love them) but the green top should be cut off before serving, as it contains a toxin that can negatively affect their digestive system.

Can chickens eat blueberries?

Yes, chickens will love you if you feed them blueberries. Blueberries are not only tasty but they contain some key nutrients. Just be sure to feed in moderation as a treat only.

Can chickens eat mango?

Yes, chickens can eat mango though it’s recommended that you can the skin off first, not only because your chickens won’t find it tasty, but because it may contain remnants of pesticides.

Can chickens eat lettuce?

Yes, chickens can eat lettuce though avoid feeding them iceberg lettuce as this can cause diarrhoea.

Can chickens eat pears?

Yes, chickens can eat pears and in fact, will love them as a tasty treat!

Can chickens eat watermelon?

Yes, all parts of a watermelon are safe for your chickens to eat including the rind, flesh and seeds. Give in moderation though.

Can chickens eat raspberries?

Yes, raspberries are fine for your chickens to eat in moderation. They’re packed full of sugar so while they’re perfectly safe for chickens to eat, they should only be consumed occasionally.

Can chickens eat kiwifruit?

Yes, kiwifruits are safe for chickens to eat. This includes the skin, flesh and seeds.

Can chickens eat oranges?

Yes, chickens are allowed to eat oranges, but that’s not to say they will. Chickens tend to avoid eating citrus fruits.

Can chickens eat spinach?

Yes, spinach is a great addition to a chicken’s diet. As with all fruits and vegetables though, spinach should only be given in moderation.

Can chickens eat green beans?

Yes, chickens can eat green beans but only if they are cooked first. Raw beans contain something called lectin, which is toxic for chickens.

Can chickens eat avocado?

Yes, the flesh of an avocado is fine for chickens to eat, though the skin and the pit are toxic.

Can chickens eat raw potato?

Yes, chickens can eat raw or cooked potatoes. Just don’t feed them green potatoes as these are toxic.

Can chickens eat celery?

Yes, celery is very nutritious for chickens. Just make sure to cut it up into bite-sized chunks.

Can chickens eat carrots?

Yes, carrot, both cooked and raw, is perfectly safe for your backyard chickens to eat.

Can chickens eat tomatoes?

Yes, tomatoes are a healthy snack for chickens. If feeding them small tomatoes such as cherry or grape tomatoes, cut them up first as they are a choking hazard for chickens.

Can chickens eat green tomatoes?

No, green tomatoes contain something called solanine, which is toxic for chickens.

Can chickens eat cucumbers?

Yes, cucumbers are a perfectly safe snack for your backyard chickens.

Can chickens eat onions?

No, chickens should not eat onions. Kitchen scraps that contain small pieces of onion occasionally are fine for your chickens to eat, but we don’t recommend feeding them onion on purpose.

Can chickens eat chillies?

Yes, surprisingly, chillies are safe for chickens to eat and in fact, they can’t taste the heat of a chilli.

Can chickens eat bread?

No, chickens should not eat bread. In small quantities it’s fine, but bread holds no nutritional value for chickens and can form balls in the crop causing blockages or can lead to sour crop if it ferments in the crop.

Can chickens eat cheese?

Yes, it’s safe for chickens to eat cheese in moderation though dairy can sometimes give chickens diarrhoea, so monitor them and if they get diarrhoea after eating cheese, cut it from their diet.

Can chickens eat walnuts?

Yes, chickens can eat walnuts in moderation so long as they’re fresh and unsalted. Break them into small pieces to stop them from being a choking hazard.

Can chickens eat cashews?

Yes, unsalted cashews are safe for chickens to eat.

Can chickens eat peanuts?

Yes, so long as they are roasted and unsalted. Raw peanuts contain trypsin which is toxic for chickens.

Can chickens eat meat?

Yes, chickens are omnivores which means they also eat meat when given the chance.

Can chickens eat..chicken?

Yes, chickens can and will eat chicken meat, either in leftover meals or off the bone. They will be none the wiser about what their meal is made of. But would you feed your chickens chicken? Only you can answer that.


Feeding backyard chickens is easy, they’re not fussy eaters and like to eat anything you give them or anything they can get their cute little beaks on. Just try to be mindful of what they’re consuming and make sure the bulk of their diet is made up of chicken layer pellets or crumble. And remember, moderation is key when it comes to anything meant only to supplement their diet. If you want your feathered friends to stay happy, and healthy and continue to lay eggs, then be careful what you feed your hens.


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