What kitchen scraps for your laying hens? 5 tips to avoid making mistakes

 We hear and read it everywhere: laying hens are the solution to help us reduce our waste. In addition to providing us with fresh eggs, they would be the ultimate weapon to make us more environmentally friendly.

What kitchen scraps for your laying hens? 5 tips to avoid making mistakes
What kitchen scraps for your laying hens? 5 tips to avoid making mistakes

 How? By getting rid of our kitchen scraps and table leftovers: instead of throwing away your fruit and vegetable peelings and plate scraps (what, your rice was too sticky?!), you give it all to your chickens and they take care of making it all disappear.

That's the theory. In actuality, the following safety precautions need to be taken:

  • First of all, kitchen scraps cannot represent the entirety of your laying hens' daily food ration. Their diet would not be balanced, with potentially serious health problems as a consequence.
  • Secondly, there are some fruits, and vegetables that are toxic to chickens. By wanting to please them, you can inadvertently poison them... It is therefore essential to know which kitchen (and table) scraps not to give to your poultry.

Kitchen scraps: vegetable peels and leftovers that can kill your laying hens

 I am always surprised by the volume of vegetable peels that I throw away before even starting to cook... Especially on cool days of winter, when I make soups too frequently during one week. With chickens in the garden, the trash can fills up much more slowly.

 We can indeed give them almost all our vegetable peels, stalks, leaves, and greens: broccoli, carrots, corn, cucumber, squash, pumpkin, radish, parsnip, and zucchini...

But almost only:

 First, we must ensure that the products have not been treated with pesticides or any other chemicals. Rotten vegetables should also be avoided. Next, we need to ensure that our kitchen scraps do not contain anything toxic for the chickens. Here is a list of vegetables that you should give to your chickens:

Avocado. It's a fruit that we tend to eat it with salt and therefore take it as a vegetable. And since it is one of the most toxic foods for chickens (it is even less well tolerated by birds/poultry than by dogs and cats), I have put it at the top of the list, to make sure you don't miss it :).Avocado contains persin. This toxin is found in the leaves and bark of the avocado tree particularly, and it is also found in the skin and in the pit of the fruit. When ingested in high quantities, avocados can cause acute respiratory syndrome or even death of the animal (source: Wikipedia: Persin). Having found no additional indication on what constitutes a "high quantity," it is best to avoid your poultry ingesting avocado at all costs.

Raw potatoes and their peels. Cooked potatoes and their skin are less toxic, but still to be avoided. Sweet potato, however, is safe, as it does not belong to the same family;

Green tomatoes (unripe) and tomato leaves. Ripe tomatoes, on the other hand, are not toxic to your chickens;

Unripe eggplants and peppers, their leaves and skin;

Raw onion and its peels. the sulfur derivatives contained in onions also cause the destruction of red blood cells in the blood. This can lead to anemia, among other things;

Garlic peels and leek greens. less toxic than onions, they still contain a toxic substance (thiosulfate) that can be deadly if ingested in large quantities. The probability of a problem is therefore very low, since you are unlikely to feed your chickens with garlic peels or leek greens. But now you've been warned! Garlic, on the other hand, is excellent for your chickens. It is a natural wormer that helps develop a better immune system. You can give each of your chickens 1 clove per day without any problem (source: Poules Club);

Raw dried beans. they contain a natural insecticide (do you really want the name? Phytohemagglutinin!) that protects the plant but is toxic if ingested. The risk of fatal poisoning is very high, so never give them to your chickens (and keep your bean plants away from your chicken coop). Once soaked, rinsed, and cooked, they are no longer dangerous.

 These "foods" are toxic to chickens but do not worry if they ingested them in tiny quantities. It is best to avoid any risks and exclude them from your chickens' diet altogether.

Table scraps: precautions to take before giving them to your chickens

 Didn't finish your plate? Don't open the lid of your trash can just yet! Your chickens might be eager to finish your table scraps... Once cooked, most vegetables that were toxic when raw are no longer so. The risks of poisoning with table scraps are therefore lower than with kitchen scraps.

 But this does not mean that we can dump all the leftovers from our plates into the chicken feeder. Once again, our organic waste should not be given as the main food source. The basic diet of chickens is seeds and what they find themselves in the ground.

You can safely give your chickens homemade dishes made with:

  • Rice;
  • Pasta;
  • Fish;
  • Shellfish;
  • Cooked meat;
  • And even cheese rinds! (only the rinds, as the cheese itself, is too salty).

Here's what you should avoid giving to your chickens

- Rice, pasta and white bread have little nutritional value for your poultry. Opt for whole grain products instead.

- Frozen meals or food from the industrial sector are often too salty for us. They are even more so for chickens, who do not need as much salt in their diet. Since this type of food has no nutritional benefit for poultry, it is best to discard leftovers.

- In general, avoid table scraps that are too salty or too spicy. It's quite logical, I think: even if we want to please our animals, it's essential to stick as closely as possible to their natural diet.

- Most of the websites I've browsed also specify that chocolate and coffee are toxic to chickens. I admit I have a hard time imagining under what circumstances I would give chocolate or coffee to my animals. But still, know that they are toxic to chickens!

 Also, avoid dairy products. They are not dangerous, but chickens' digestive system is not made for them. They can be poorly digested.

Can chickens help us get rid of rotten fruits or vegetables?

 While chickens can help us reduce our organic waste by eating some of the fruits and vegetables we can't consume, they should not eat spoiled or moldy food. Mold causes the appearance of toxins that can be dangerous for your animals.

Can we give fruits to chickens?

I've observed no negative effects from giving fruits to chickens:

  • Apples,
  • Apricots,
  • Cherries,
  • Pears,
  • Melons,
  • Grapes,
  • Plums... 

 These are treats for your poultry and they will probably love these sweet little desserts. But here too, some precautions should be taken:

Fruit seeds and pits

 The seeds and pits of some fruits contain cyanide, which is toxic (even deadly) to chickens. This is the case for almost all the fruits I have just mentioned... To avoid any incidents, it is, therefore, preferable to remove all the seeds and pits from the fruits before giving them to your chickens.

Exotic fruits and citrus fruits

 Chickens generally enjoy bananas (but not the peel) and watermelon. They tend to enjoy citrus fruits less. Once assimilated, citrus fruits interfere with calcium assimilation, resulting in soft-shelled eggs. As these fruits do not provide any obvious nutritional benefits, it is best to avoid leaving them in your chicken's feed trough.


 Rhubarb is often appreciated by chickens. But the leaves of this plant are toxic, both for humans and chickens: they contain a high content of oxalic acid. In poultry, this can cause intestinal disorders that can be serious. Like bean plants, keep your rhubarb plants away from your chicken enclosure.

How many table scraps can I give my chickens?

 Table scraps (and kitchen scraps) should be considered as a supplement to their daily seed ration. And not the other way around. It's more to please them than to feed them properly.

 You can try leaving them about 30-40 grams of kitchen scraps per chicken and see how they eat. Chickens are not greedy. By observing them every day, you will realize the amount of table scraps you can keep for them, and above all, what they prefer.

 Don't forget to diversify the type of kitchen and table scraps you leave for your chickens, in the interest of nutritional balance. A chicken with a balanced diet is a healthy chicken that produces quality eggs regularly.

How to serve kitchen scraps to my chickens?

 The question may seem funny, but it is actually quite valid! We are talking here about serving dishes cooked by and for humans to chickens. So, we need to help them a bit to eat all that.

 The idea is to make our leftovers edible for the chickens, who as you know, don't have teeth (maybe someday!). You can then crush, cut, grind, and mix the scraps so that your chickens can peck at them. Cooked rice and wet bread (in small quantities) help make a thick porridge.

 Your chickens will have a hard time eating long vegetable or fruit peels. So, it's better to cut the long vegetable or fruit peels into small pieces.

 Depending on the number of chickens you have, it may be wise to provide several bowls to avoid fights.

 You will also need to quickly remove the bowls once your chickens are finished. If they are not empty, they will attract other animals!


  • While chickens can help us reduce the amount of organic waste we produce, they are not trash cans: kitchen and table scraps should be given in moderation and only after their daily seed ration.
  • Chickens need a balanced diet: vary the types of organic waste you give them.
  • The risks of intoxicating your chickens with cooked food are lower than with raw food.
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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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