Feeding Chickens: What to Prioritize and Avoid at All Costs?

 Many chicken farmers care deeply about the diet of their laying hens. In pursuit of this goal, some wonder if there are any foods that are forbidden for chickens and could be dangerous for their health, as is often said for dogs or cats.

Feeding Chickens: What to Prioritize and Avoid at All Costs?
Feeding Chickens: What to Prioritize and Avoid at All Costs?

 Chickens are known to eat all kinds of leftovers and are not picky eaters. They will eat almost anything, it is true. However, some foods should be avoided in order to keep your chickens healthy!

 Here is a list of foods that you should not give to your chickens, as they can poison them or make them sick.

List of foods forbidden for chickens

 There is a lot of talk on the internet about foods that are dangerous for chickens. At the beginning of my small farming venture, I too made a list of what to avoid. Several years have passed since then, and this question that many people ask deserves some research, the results of which are presented here.

 This list of forbidden foods is based on veterinary data, so it is very reliable. I have searched through several American reference sites and compiled this data here.

1 – Avocado

 According to the veterinary site Merck Veterinary Manual, "Ingestion of avocado has been associated with myocardial necrosis in mammals and birds." The consumption of just 5% of avocado can kill a small bird within 48 hours. Persin, a fungicidal toxin, is responsible for this toxicity.

 At high doses, persin will cause chickens to experience heart problems followed by respiratory difficulties. In less than 48 hours, this can result in death. This toxin is mainly present in the skin and pit of the avocado, and to a lesser extent in the bark and leaves of the tree. For this reason, avocados are among the foods forbidden for chickens.

 Avocado flesh contains less persin, but it still contains some, which can also cause some toxicity for chickens. Because of this, it is best to avoid giving avocado flesh to our hens, especially since this food does not really have any nutritional value for them.

2 – Moldy fruit or vegetable

 Whether it is fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, or any other type of food that has mold on it, eating it could be dangerous. We shouldn't give mold to our chickens because we don't know which molds are good and which are bad.

 The majority of molds, like Aspergillus flavus, produce toxins that aid in the growth of liver cancer in both people and animals.

 For all these reasons, do not give any fruit or other food with traces of mold to chickens, as it is one of the foods forbidden for chickens.

Also, be careful with wet or moldy seeds.

 Regularly check the condition of the seeds, as they can develop traces of mold if they are stored improperly or for too long. If this is the case, do not hesitate to throw them away and keep them in a drier place, away from moisture next time.

3 - Green Tomatoes

 Contrary to what is sometimes written, tomatoes are not contraindicated for chickens. The problem lies with green tomatoes. It may be tempting at the end of the season, when there are still some green tomatoes on the tomato plants, to give them to your chickens. But know that this is a very bad idea and can be dangerous for them.

 Green tomatoes, whether consumed raw or cooked, contain two types of toxins: solanine and chaconine, present in the skin, flesh, and seeds. Solanine remains just as toxic after cooking, so even cooked green tomatoes should not be given to chickens.

 However, if your chickens eat ripe tomatoes, there is no problem. Solanine is no longer present or in such tiny amounts that it is no longer dangerous.

4 - Green Potatoes

 Potatoes present the same problem as tomatoes: when ripe they are acceptable for chickens, but when green they are dangerous. They contain the same toxins as green tomatoes: solanine and chaconine. The skin and flesh are affected, as are sprouted potatoes.

 Some people say that potatoes should not be given to chickens, even when ripe and cooked. However, in small doses, it is possible. Nevertheless, it is a food that has, once again, no nutritional value for our chickens, so you can completely avoid it in their diet. If you do give it to them, do so in moderation.

5 - Dried Beans

Beware of dried bean seeds! They can actually cause food poisoning, whether in chickens or humans.

 Here is what Greelane.com says: "The culprit is a lectin known as phytohemagglutinin or hemagglutinin, a chemical known to cause clumping of red blood cells and disrupt cell metabolism. The common kidney beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) precisely contain the highest levels of this lectin type according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in spite of phytohemagglutinin being found in many other types of beans. White kidney beans contain a third of the toxin, while large varieties of beans contain 10% more, such as red kidney beans. This is still a lot, as you only need to eat 4-5 undercooked red kidney beans to get sick."

 "Phytohemagglutinin is always deadly for poultry. The disease will occur after eating as little as three or four beans and will progress very quickly, killing in as little as an hour. To make them safe for humans and chickens, beans should be soaked in cold water for at least five hours, preferably longer. Then, discard the water, rinse the beans thoroughly, and boil them quickly in fresh water for at least thirty minutes. They can be fed to your chickens directly or they can be included in any recipe once they are cooked."

 So, beware of raw beans, they are among the foods prohibited for chickens. If you grow beans in your vegetable garden and your chickens have access to them, make sure they cannot reach them.

6 - Chocolate

 Dog and cat owners generally know that chocolate is not recommended for their animals. Ingested in large quantities, it is harmful and can even be fatal for some of them.

 As for our chickens, chocolate is deadly in varying amounts. However, if you give them a small piece of chocolate cake, it is likely that nothing will happen, but be aware that the toxin it contains called theobromine can be truly deadly at high doses.

 As a veterinarian, chocolate is recognized for causing heart problems in birds. This can range from an irregular heartbeat to complete cardiac arrest. Death will then occur very quickly, usually within 24 hours of consuming chocolate. Also, chocolate is also one of the forbidden foods for chickens.

7 - Sugar and salt

 It is obvious that sugar and salt have no place in the diet of chickens, and yet... Too many farmers give their leftover salty and sweet meals to their chickens. Leftover meals are harmful to their health, and they cause diseases in the short or long term.

 In addition to making them fat, these foods not only harm their health but also alter the quality and quantity of laying. The too-greedy chickens pounce on this type of food, leaving aside what they should normally ingest to be in shape and lay well. Over the weeks of such a diet, diseases and a decrease, or even cessation of laying occur.

What can you feed your chickens?

 With a varied and appropriate diet, your poultry will offer you better egg production. Their diet revolves around cereals, fruits and vegetables, kitchen waste, and insects.


 70% of the chickens' diet consists of them. Prefer wheat, corn, or oats as a base, mixed with seeds such as peas, soybeans, or flax. In addition, a little grit of gravel or sand is added to facilitate the digestion of the chickens. There are also ready-made organic mixtures of cereals, seeds, and grit so all you have to do is add kitchen waste.

Kitchen waste

As for kitchen waste, you can rely on:

  • Fruit and vegetable peelings (excluding forbidden foods).
  • Bread (moistened to facilitate ingestion by the animal).
  • Small amounts of cold cuts.
  • Crushed egg and oyster shells.
  • Cheese rinds.
  • Leftover homemade dishes, as long as they do not contain any forbidden foods.
  • Yogurt leftovers.


 Chickens come to peck at small worms and other insects directly on the ground. It is important to choose a spot in the garden that will not become muddy but will remain grassy all year round.


How to tell if a chicken is sick?

 Pay attention to its behavior. If it no longer leaves the enclosure or stops eating, it is advisable to contact a veterinarian. The same goes if your chickens suffer from diarrhea, which is a symptom of digestive problems.

How often should you feed chickens?

 Chickens ideally eat twice a day, between 100g and 150g per chicken per day. Check with the breeder from whom you purchase your chickens, as some breeds may have specific needs.


 You've got it. Your chickens can't eat just anything, and it's good to know that to keep them healthy longer. Poultry feeding is relatively simple, but avoid complicating it with foods that are not suitable for them. Therefore, it is important to prioritize a diet adapted to their needs, and everything will be fine! You will be able to do this thanks to this list of foods prohibited for chickens, and the other tips mentioned in the links below.

 Additionally, if you want to give them "treats," give them foods that will meet their nutritional requirements (proteins, calcium, and phosphorus), like dried insects.

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Islam Khennoucha

Islam Khennoucha is an Australian author and chicken farmer who has dedicated his life to the study and care of these fascinating creatures. He was born and raised in Algeria, where he developed a love for nature and animals, especially chickens. After moving to Australia, Islam purchased a farm where he could fulfill his passion for raising chickens.
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