Can Chickens Eat Chicken? (Nutrition Basics and Quick Facts)

Can Chickens Eat Chicken

If you own a chicken coop, one of the more intriguing questions that you may have is whether or not your flock can eat chicken. It’s not uncommon to find chicken feeding on a variety of scraps, but do they balk when it comes to meat, more specifically if it’s one of their own? Does it matter how you prepare it? Read on to find out.

Chickens can eat chicken. If you have some leftover cooked chicken meat that you don’t plan on eating, you can give it to your chickens; they won’t mind it. Just be sure to cut the chicken meat into manageable pieces, and only feed chickens fresh, well-cooked chicken. Chicken can be a good source of protein in the diet of egg-laying hens.

The Basics of Chickens and Their Diet

The Omnivorous Nature of Chickens

Chickens, as opportunistic omnivores, eat a wide variety of edible items they come across.

In the wild or free-ranging on pasture, chickens will consume a diverse diet including:

  • Seeds and grains
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Insects and small invertebrates
  • Worms and larvae
  • Small reptiles and mammals

Such a varied diet ensures chickens receive balanced nutrition, crucial for their health.

Commercial chicken feed attempts to replicate this diverse profile through a nutritionally complete pellet or crumble feed.

Key Differences in Feed for Layers vs. Broilers

Feed for laying hens and broiler chickens differs in nutrition and formulation to meet their specific needs.

Laying Hen Feed

Laying hen feed is higher in calcium for eggshell production and lower in protein to avoid reducing egg production. It also includes additional vitamins, and minerals, and has a lower energy density to prevent obesity.

Nutrient Purpose

  • Calcium: Eggshell formation
  • Vitamin D: Calcium absorption
  • Methionine: Feather and egg production

Broiler Chicken Feed

Broiler chicken feed contains higher protein levels for muscle growth, often includes medication for faster weight gain, and has a higher energy density to support their rapid growth.

Nutrient Purpose

  • Protein: Build muscle
  • Vitamin E & selenium: Immune function & antioxidant
  • Vitamin C: Collagen formation

Changing Dietary Needs Over a Chicken’s Lifetime

As chickens grow, their nutritional needs change significantly, from high protein for young chicks to varied nutrients for laying hens.

  • Baby Chicks need high-protein feed for rapid growth and a nutrient-dense diet to boost their immune system.”
  • Pullets (Young Hens) transition from starter feed to layer feed with less protein and more calcium before they begin laying eggs.”
  • Laying Hens require a high-calcium layer feed with a balanced mix of protein, energy, vitamins, and minerals for egg production.
  • Senior Hens benefit from easily digestible feed with lower protein levels to reduce waste.

Is it OK to Feed Chickens Meat?

Chicken can eat meat – just make sure that the meat you give to your chickens is not raw, undercooked, or rotting. You’ll also want to avoid feeding your flock processed and salty meats like bacon and ham too often and in too high a quantity at any one time. This is because these types of meat contain a high amount of added salt and preservatives which can cause digestion issues, dehydration, or even eggshell defects. Another unhealthy option is meats cooked in grease – chicken can’t properly digest greasy foods.

Chicken can eat cooked steak, pork meat, fish, rabbit, and duck. Chickens have also been known to eat a range of meat without human intervention – they can kill and eat mice, moles, and chipmunks. Besides rodents, chickens also eat insects, worms, other bugs, and even frogs.

Can Chickens Eat Raw Chicken?

Raw chicken may contain salmonella, which is a harmful bacterium that can cause fatal digestive issues in chickens. Raw chicken should be cooked fully to reduce the risk of spreading bacteria to your entire flock. You should also avoid feeding your flock chicken that has started to smell or discolor.

Can Chickens Eat Cooked Chicken?

Many backyard chicken owners are not opposed to feeding their chickens all sorts of leftover food scraps from their kitchens, but some people don’t think it’s ethical or healthy to feed chicken to their chickens. In reality, there’s nothing innately wrong or unhealthy about feeding chicken to chickens.

Chicken contains a variety of nutrients, including protein, vitamin B6, vitamin B3, and selenium. It’s also lean meat that is low in saturated fats. Taking all this into consideration, your chickens can benefit from all the nutrients present in chicken meat, as long as it’s fed in moderation.

Just like for humans, chicken can be healthy for chickens to eat if it’s given fresh and free of contaminants. Chicken are omnivores, which means that they can eat both plant and meat-based foods. Their bodies are made to digest meat as effectively as plants, so they can derive nutrients and sustenance from both sources of food.

If you choose to feed chicken to your flock, it should be a fresh, high-quality lean chicken that has been well-cooked and sufficiently cut up into small manageable chunks that can easily be swallowed. Here are some suggestions on how to serve cooked chicken:

  • Chicken trail mix

This is a great way to provide variety to your chickens. Create a trail mix that consists of small chunks of chicken, vegetables, fruits, and mealworms. Make sure to boil or cook chicken beforehand and cut all the vegetables and fruits into smaller chunks.

  • Chicken on a string

Another option is to give your flock cooked chicken on a string. Again, the chicken must be in small chunks. You can also add chicken feed as well as bits of fruit and vegetables.

Can Chickens Eat Chicken Bones?

Chickens cannot eat chicken bones, but they will happily eat the chicken meat off the bone. Before feeding a whole chicken to your flock, make sure it’s been properly de-feathered and cooked. Since chickens cannot break apart bone with their beaks, you don’t have to worry about accidentally choking on one.

If you crack the chicken bones, your chickens will feast on the marrow inside. Just make sure to remove the leftover bones from the coop afterward so that they don’t injure your chickens.

Will Chickens Eat Chicken Eggs?

Chickens can develop the bad habit of eating their eggs due to a variety of reasons:

  • Overcrowding

An overcrowded coop can cause your chickens to become stressed which can lead to issues such as egg eating. Make sure your chickens have plenty of space to prevent this.

  • Lack of water

Some chickens have been known to crack their eggs to quench their thirst. To prevent this, make water readily available for your flock.

  • Boredom

Chickens can get bored especially if they’re confined, which can lead to egg eating. Offer activities such as scratching and tetherball to keep them occupied.

  • Hunger

If you don’t provide enough feed to your chickens, they might start to eat their eggs.

  • Unbalanced diet

If your chickens lack an adequate and balanced diet, they may try to correct it by eating their eggs. Make sure that their diet contains plenty of calcium and protein to prevent this.

  • Too much light

Chickens prefer a darkened, private area in which to lay their eggs. Try to eliminate light by using curtains or dimmed light. If the chicken can’t see the egg, it’s highly unlikely it’ll peck at it.

If you want your chickens to enjoy the high protein value of eggs, you can cook them before feeding them back to the flock. To provide calcium, you can crush eggshells into a powder. Crushing shells and cooking eggs keep chickens from developing the bad habit of eating their eggs in the nest.

Can Chickens Eat BBQ Chicken?

Chickens can eat bbq chicken in moderation as long as it’s not too greasy or overly salted. To make it healthier, you can add flax seeds, chopped garlic, sunflower seeds, and fresh herbs.

Can Chickens Eat Chicken Liver?

Chicken liver is a great source of nutrients. You can offer it cooked to your chickens to provide nutrients such as folate, iron, and a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Can Chickens Eat Leftover Chicken?

It’s okay to feed your chickens leftover chicken as long as it’s still in good condition. However, if the chicken is a week old in the fridge and you wouldn’t eat it yourself, throw it in the garbage instead of feeding it to your flock. Bacteria that grow on old food are dangerous to humans, and they’re just as bad for chickens.

Can Chickens Eat Chicken Skin?

Give chicken skin to your flock in moderation –chicken skin contains unsaturated fat which is good for the heart. As long as the chicken skin is not deep-fried or battered, you can feed chicken skin to chickens occasionally and in small quantities.

Will Chickens Kill and Eat Other Chickens?

Chickens can kill and eat other chickens. Chickens in a hierarchy-established society in which they instinctively cultivate an authority, a process that can turn violent, often resulting in feather pecking.

What starts as mild pecking of plumage and skin can quickly turn into cannibalism. This is especially likely if a dominant chicken identifies another as a threat. You may notice some surface wounds that are common in feather pecking in some of your chickens, but if you find missing body parts and deep cavity wounds, it’s a cause for concern.

Feather pecking and cannibalism commonly occur in floor-raised chickens in commercial, large-scale barns as well as in larger groups of free-range chickens. It’s less likely to occur in chickens living in small groups as the pecking order is usually more organized. The higher the population of chickens, the higher the likelihood of cannibalism occurring.

Similarly, if new chickens are introduced to your flock, cannibalism may occur as the flock adjusts to the disturbance in the hierarchy. It’s worth noting that cannibalism can occur in all types of chicken housing, such as free-range areas, floor pens, cages, and aviaries, and can be a learned behavior that spreads throughout the flock.

To reduce the risk of chickens killing and eating each other in your coop, avoid putting too many of them together. Additionally, make sure you’re feeding your flock enough food with adequate nutrients.

Do Chickens Eat Their Babies?

Chickens don’t eat typically eat their chicks. However, some hens, particularly first-time mother hens can sometimes injure or kill their babies. This is especially likely if her first-hatched is the first chick she’s ever encountered. If you notice a mother hen pecking one of her chicks, isolate the baby as soon as possible as the mother could continue to hurt the chick or even end up killing it.

Will Chickens Eat a Dead Chicken?

Sometimes chickens that live together will eat a dead chicken. This is because chickens don’t always recognize a dead chicken as a former member of their flock, and if they’re hungry enough, they will eat them.

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