What Can Chickens Eat? A Comprehensive Guide to Chicken Nutrition

Chickens are known for their voracious appetites and ability to forage for food, but understanding what to feed your feathered friends is essential for their health and productivity. Whether you’re a backyard poultry keeper or a commercial farmer, providing the right nutrition is crucial. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore: What Can Chickens Eat? Their dietary needs, and some do’s and don’ts to ensure your flock thrives.

You may also want to read about the best chicken feed.

Chickens’ Dietary Needs

Chickens, like all living creatures, require a balanced diet to maintain health and productivity. Their nutritional needs vary depending on their age, purpose (e.g., egg-laying or meat production), and environmental conditions. Make sure to provide a good layer feed. Here are the essential nutrients chickens need:

What Can Chickens Eat?
What Can Chickens Eat?

1. Protein:

Protein is crucial for muscle development, feather production, and egg formation. Chickens require different protein levels at various life stages:

  • Chick starter: 20-24% protein (for chicks up to 6 weeks)
  • Grower feed: 14-18% protein (for young chickens from 6 to 20 weeks)
  • Layer feed: 16-18% protein (for laying hens)
  • Broiler feed: 20-24% protein (for meat chickens)

2. Carbohydrates:

Carbohydrates provide energy for chickens. Common sources of carbohydrates in their diet include grains like corn, wheat, and barley.

3. Fats:

Fats are a concentrated source of energy and play a role in maintaining body temperature and promoting healthy skin and feathers.

4. Vitamins and Minerals:

Chickens require a variety of vitamins (e.g., A, D, E, and B-complex) and minerals (e.g., calcium, phosphorus) for overall health, eggshell formation, and immunity.

What Can Chickens Eat?

Chickens are omnivores with a wide-ranging palate, but it’s essential to provide a balanced and nutritious diet. Here’s a list of what chickens can eat:

1. Commercial Poultry Feed:

High-quality commercial poultry feed is specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of chickens at different life stages. It’s an essential part of their diet.

2. Grains:

Chickens love grains like corn, wheat, oats, and barley. These grains are excellent sources of carbohydrates.

3. Vegetables:

Chickens enjoy a variety of vegetables, including leafy greens, carrots, cucumbers, and pumpkins. These provide essential vitamins and minerals.

4. Fruits:

Fruits like apples, berries, and watermelon are healthy treats that chickens love. They offer vitamins and natural sugars.

5. Insects and Bugs:

Chickens are natural foragers and relish insects, worms, and grubs. These protein-rich snacks are excellent for their diet.

6. Kitchen Scraps:

Leftover kitchen scraps like bread, rice, pasta, and cooked vegetables can be given to chickens in moderation.

what can chickens eat
What Can Chickens Eat?

7. Grit:

Chickens need small stones or grit to help them digest grains and other food. Make sure they have access to grit in their diet.

What Not to Feed Chickens

While chickens have diverse dietary preferences, there are some foods to avoid:

  • Junk Food: Avoid giving chickens sugary, salty, or highly processed foods like chips, candy, or fast food leftovers.
  • Spoiled or Moldy Food: Rotten or moldy food can make chickens sick. Always provide fresh, clean food.
  • Toxic Plants: Some plants, like rhubarb, nightshade, and foxglove, are toxic to chickens. Be cautious with free-ranging in unfamiliar areas.
  • Medications: Don’t give chickens medications meant for other animals or humans without consulting a veterinarian.


Understanding what chickens can eat and meeting their dietary needs is essential for their health and productivity. Providing a balanced diet with high-quality commercial feed, grains, vegetables, fruits, and protein-rich treats like insects ensures your flock thrives. By offering proper nutrition and maintaining a clean and healthy living environment, you’ll enjoy the benefits of healthy, happy chickens that lay delicious eggs and contribute to your farm or backyard homestead.

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