Vet Blog

Diets for Backyard Chickens

August 02, 2021

At Bayshore Animal Hospital & Avian Practice, we're no strangers to providing quality pet wellness care for exotic pets and feathered companions, including chickens!

Backyard chicken coops continue to enjoy an uptick in popularity, offering families a source of fresh eggs, and providing educational experiences for kids. Before joining the fun, however, review your county regulations carefully to make sure you live where backyard chickens are permitted.

When it comes to diets for chickens, chickens enjoy variety, and believe it or not, they are considered omnivores because of their appetite for insects and worms in addition to fruits and veggies. That doesn't mean that everything edible is safe or desirable for your chickens, however.

Follow these feeding tips to avoid running "afowl" of backyard chicken nutrition!

Chicken Diet Do's

  • Any diet for chickens should include a manufactured feed formulated for the age and type of chickens you're feeding to ensure that your chickens are getting the calcium, protein, vitamins, and minerals they need. Layer feeds, for example, offer proper nutrition for chickens that are laying eggs used for food, and starter feeds are just for newly hatched chicks.
  • Insects, mealworms, and pumpkin seeds make great snacks!
  • Your chickens will appreciate fruits and veggies like berries, apples, leafy greens, cooked beans, corn, and many others, plus grains like non-sugary cereals.
  • Table scraps can be offered occasionally to reduce food waste while treating your chickens to variety.
  • Provide plenty of clean, freshwater, and clean your chickens' water and food bowls daily.
  • Spread out the food to keep chickens from becoming aggressive with each other.

Chicken Diet Don'ts

  • While fruits and veggies, in general, are healthy, there are some you should never offer as part of your chicken diet, including citrus fruits, rhubarb, avocados, green potatoes, and onions.
  • Anything too starchy or high in sugar, fat, or salt (If it's something you consider to be junk food, it's probably not good for your chickens, either!)
  • Grass and clippings
  • Garlic should be avoided because it can affect the flavor of eggs.
  • Spoiled or moldy food
  • Uncooked beans or pasta

Raising chickens can be fun and fulfilling, and they will thrive when fed a variety of appropriate foods. These lists are just a starting point. Please call us any time if you have questions about backyard chicken diets or any other pet wellness concerns.