Toxic food for chickens: 15 foods to avoid

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Toxic food for chickens: 15 foods to avoid

Feeding chickens toxic food can harm their health and lead to various health problems, including illness, reduced egg production, and even death. While healthy snacks and treats in moderation as part of a balanced diet are fine for your flock, you should always avoid the toxic foods on this list.


Here are 15 examples of toxic foods that chickens should avoid:

Toxic Foods for chickens


1. Avocado


Avocados contain a toxin called persin, which is harmless to humans but can be toxic to many animals, including chickens. Persin is found in the avocado's leaves, fruit, and seeds and can cause difficulty breathing, abdominal enlargement, and sudden death in chickens.


While small amounts of avocado may not harm chickens, it's best to avoid feeding them this fruit to prevent potential health issues.


2. Chocolate - a toxic food for chickens


Chocolate contains theobromine, a toxic substance to many animals, including chickens. Theobromine can cause various symptoms in chickens, such as vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and even death.


Keeping all chocolate and chocolate-containing products away from chickens, including cocoa powder, chocolate bars, and chocolate-based treats, is essential. Even small amounts of chocolate can harm chickens, so it's best to avoid feeding them.


3. Onions and Garlic


Onions and garlic are not toxic to chickens, but they can cause digestive issues and affect the taste of the eggs. They contain compounds that can cause the flavor of the eggs to change, which may make them less palatable for human consumption.


Regarding health, both onions and garlic can cause digestive issues, especially if given in large quantities. Feeding chickens a small amount of onion or garlic occasionally is unlikely to cause any problems, but if given in excess, it could cause digestive upset and diarrhea.


In general, limiting the amount of onion and garlic given to chickens is best. If you notice any changes in their behavior or health after eating them, it's best to stop giving them these foods altogether.


4. Alcohol


Alcohol is toxic to chickens and can cause serious health problems, including dehydration, disorientation, and even death.


Chickens are small animals, and their bodies are not equipped to handle the effects of alcohol. Even a tiny amount of alcohol can cause severe health issues in chickens, so it's essential to keep all alcoholic beverages away from them.


If you suspect that your chicken has ingested alcohol or any other toxic substance, you should contact a veterinarian immediately.


5. Raw Beans - a toxic food for chickens


Raw beans contain a toxin called lectin that can cause digestive upset, diarrhea, and other health problems in chickens. The toxin is destroyed by cooking, so if you want to feed your chickens beans, it's essential to cook them first.


Cooked beans can be a nutritious addition to a chicken's diet, as they are a good source of protein, fiber, and other essential nutrients. However, it's important to feed them in moderation as part of a balanced diet, as excessive amounts of beans can cause digestive upset and other health issues.


6. Moldy or Spoiled Food


Moldy or spoiled food can contain harmful bacteria or toxins that can cause illness or even death in chickens. Mold produces mycotoxins that can cause various health problems, including liver damage, reproductive issues, and immune suppression.


7. Green Potatoes and Green Tomatoes - toxic food for chickens


Green potatoes, peels, and green tomatoes contain a toxic substance called solanine, which can cause a range of health problems in chickens, including digestive upset, breathing difficulties, and even death.


Solanine is found in high concentrations in the green parts of potatoes and tomatoes and in the sprouts and eyes of the potatoes. Removing any green parts of potatoes or tomatoes before feeding them to your chickens or other animals is essential.


In addition to solanine, green potatoes, potato skins, and green tomatoes can also contain other toxic substances, such as glycoalkaloids and alpha-tomatine. These can cause various health problems in chickens and other animals.


8. Rhubarb Leaves - a toxic food for chickens


Rhubarb leaves are a toxic food for your backyard flock because they contain a high concentration of oxalic acid. Oxalic acid is toxic to chickens and can cause various health problems, including digestive upset, kidney failure, and even death.


While the stalks of the rhubarb plant are safe for chickens to eat in moderation, the leaves should always be avoided. If you have rhubarb growing in your garden, it's essential to keep your chickens away from the plants and dispose of any leaves that fall or are trimmed off.


9. Citrus Fruits


Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits can be a nutritious addition to a chicken's diet. They are a good source of vitamin C and other essential nutrients.


However, it's important to only feed citrus fruits in moderation. Excessive amounts can cause digestive upset and other health issues in chickens. Additionally, citrus fruits can be high in acid, which can cause irritation or even sores in a chicken's mouth.


When feeding citrus fruits to chickens, it's best to cut them into small pieces and provide them as a treat rather than a diet staple.


10. Raw or Undercooked Meat


While chickens are omnivorous and can eat meat, they should not be fed raw or undercooked meat. Raw or undercooked meat can contain harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella and E. coli. This can cause illness or even death in chickens. Additionally, feeding raw or undercooked meat to chickens can increase the risk of these bacteria spreading to humans through contact with the chickens' droppings. Or by handling the chickens themselves.


If you want to feed your chickens meat, it's essential to cook it thoroughly before giving it to them.


11. Wild mushrooms or mushrooms that grow in the backyard


It is not recommended to feed chickens wild mushrooms. Many species of mushrooms are toxic food and even deadly to chickens. It can often be difficult to distinguish between safe and poisonous species. Even small amounts of poisonous mushrooms can cause illness or death in chickens.


Some toxic mushrooms commonly found in the wild include the death cap mushroom and the false morel. These mushrooms contain toxins that can cause liver and kidney damage, neurological symptoms, and even death in chickens.


12. Fruit Pits and Seeds


It's generally best to avoid feeding chickens fruit seeds and pits. Some fruit seeds and pits contain small amounts of toxins that can harm chickens if ingested in large quantities. Apple seeds contain cyanide, and peach pits contain amygdalin, which can break down into cyanide in the digestive system.


Small amounts of fruit seeds and pits are unlikely to cause harm. It's still best to err on the side of caution and remove them before feeding fruit to chickens. Additionally, larger seeds and pits can pose a choking hazard to chickens, so removing them is essential to prevent accidents.


It's best to offer the fleshy parts of fruit and avoid feeding them any seeds or pits. Fruits such as berries, melons, grapes, and bananas are safe and healthy chicken options. They make a great summer treat when frozen.


13. Foods Containing Caffeine - a toxic food for chickens


Caffeine is found in various products, including coffee, tea, chocolate, and soft drinks. Keep these items out of the reach of chickens and avoid feeding them any foods or treats that contain caffeine.


Caffeine is a stimulant that can have various adverse effects on chickens, including increased heart rate, hyperactivity, and digestive upset. In severe cases, caffeine consumption can even be fatal to chickens.


Foods containing caffeine, such as coffee or tea, can harm chickens. If consumed in large quantities, and can cause restlessness, tremors, and heart problems.


14. High Content Salty Foods


It's best to avoid feeding chickens food with too much salt content. While chickens need sodium, excess salt can be harmful and even toxic.


Excessive salt intake can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and kidney damage in chickens. Symptoms of salt toxicity in chickens can include lethargy, loss of appetite, increased thirst, and diarrhea.


Foods high in salt content, such as processed foods, salty snacks, and fast food, should be avoided. Similarly, adding excessive salt to a chicken's feed or treats is not recommended.


15. Junk Food and Highly Processed Foods


Junk and highly processed foods are typically high in salt, sugar, and fat, which can harm chickens in large quantities. Additionally, these foods often lack essential nutrients that chickens need to maintain their health and lay eggs.


It is essential to provide chickens with a balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs and avoids these toxic foods to keep them healthy and productive. Shop healthy treats for your backyard flock.


My friend makes feed for her chickens that includes expired processed food, bread that had mold on it but she cut off, fish gone bad, leftover ham, jelly, jam, even Stove Top stuffing, She offered me eggs from these chickens. I don’t feel comfortable eating them. And after reading this list, I’m concerned about the chickens.
My Pet Chicken:
Thank you for sharing your concerns. It’s understandable why you would feel uneasy about eating eggs from chickens fed such a diet. Chickens’ health and the quality of their eggs can be directly affected by what they eat. Feeding them expired, moldy, or spoiled food can lead to health issues and potentially unsafe eggs.

It’s best to feed chickens a balanced diet of fresh, nutritious foods designed for their needs. If you have concerns about the welfare of the chickens or the safety of the eggs, it might be wise to discuss this with your friend. You could suggest looking into more appropriate feeding practices to ensure the well-being of her chickens and the quality of their eggs.

Your caution is warranted, and it’s always good to prioritize safety when it comes to food. If you ever have more questions or need advice on proper chicken care, feel free to reach out!

Right now I am concerned, my chickens have cut down on laying eggs. Any insight to this?
My Pet Chicken:
Decreased egg laying can be due to several factors such as changes in daylight, molting, stress, or diet. Ensure they have a balanced diet, reduce stress, and provide adequate lighting. If the issue persists, a vet check-up might be needed.
Linda Blackberg

Thanks for the info. Some of it I knew but I wasn’t aware of green tomatoes or garlic.


Thanks for all the great information regarding what chickens should and especially should NOT eat. A large pan of brownies recently “flopped” and I was about to throw them to my little flock! Your info. prob. saved me and my chickens much pain and suffering and perhaps death! Thanks be!

Peggy Crate

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