Can Chickens Eat Animal Feed? The Ultimate Guide

Article Summary

  • Chickens are omnivores and can eat a variety of foods, but not all animal feeds are suitable for their nutrition.
  • Flock feed, specifically formulated for poultry, is safe for chickens of different ages, including layer feed for egg-laying hens, chick starter feed for chicks, and broiler feed for meat birds.
  • Oyster shells, timothy hay, and poultry grit can be given to chickens in addition to complete feed, providing specific benefits like calcium for eggshell strength and aiding digestion.

Chickens are omnivores and will eat a wide variety of foods. However, not all animal feeds are created equal when it comes to chicken nutrition. While chickens can eat some types of animal feed, others should be avoided. Here’s a breakdown of the most common animal feeds and whether chickens can eat them safely.

Can Chickens Eat All Stock Feed?

No, chickens cannot eat all types of stock feed. While some stock feeds like calf manna, cow, goat, or rabbit feed can be fed to chickens, other stock feeds contain ingredients that can be harmful or fatal to chickens.

Specifically, chickens should not eat medicated feeds intended for other livestock, as the medications can often be toxic to chickens at the doses given to cattle or sheep. Chickens also cannot properly digest the high protein content in hog feed. Additionally, alfalfa hay and pellets contain too much calcium for long-term chicken health.

In general, it’s best to feed chickens a feed specifically formulated for them. However, small amounts of certain stock feeds like the calf manna mentioned can be fed as treats. When in doubt, check if a stock feed is safe before feeding it.

Can Chickens Eat All Flock Feed?

Flock feed is a general term for feed formulated for poultry. This includes layer feed for hens laying eggs, chick starter feed for baby chicks, and broiler feed for meat birds. As long as the feed is specifically made for chickens, it is safe for them to eat. Be sure to provide the right feed for the type and age of chickens you have.

Can Chickens Eat Cat Food?

It’s not recommended to feed cat food to chickens routinely. While chickens may eat and digest cat food, it does not provide balanced nutrition for chickens. Cat food is too high in protein and fat for chicken nutritional requirements. Too much protein can tax chickens’ kidneys. Excess fat can lead to obesity and other health issues.

Can Chickens Eat Dog Food?

Like cat food, dog food is not a good staple diet for chickens. Dog food contains too much protein and minerals like calcium for chicken health. Chickens cannot properly digest all-meat dog food. While chickens may eat some dog food if they get into it accidentally, avoid feeding it to them intentionally.

Can Chickens Eat Goat Feed?

Goat feed is not formulated to meet the nutritional needs of chickens. Goat feed is higher in copper, energy, and protein compared to chicken feed requirements. Excess copper can be toxic to chickens over time. The higher calorie content can also lead to obesity. It’s best not to feed goat feed to chickens regularly.

Can Chickens Eat Rabbit Food?

Commercial rabbit food contains levels of protein, calories, and nutrients geared for rabbits, not chickens. While chickens may eat small amounts of rabbit food, it should not make up the bulk of their diet. Chickens can become overweight on the higher fat content in rabbit feeds.

Can Chickens Eat Bird Food?

A Close-Up Shot of Sunflower Seeds

Wild bird seed and mixes contain grains, seeds, nuts, and dried fruit. Bird food is safe for chickens to eat in moderation as a supplemental treat. Offer small amounts, as wild bird food is lower in protein and calcium than chicken nutritional requirements. It does not provide complete nutrition for chickens.

Can Chickens Eat Horse Feed?

Horse feed is too high in protein, carbohydrates, and minerals for chickens. The protein and mineral levels can strain chickens’ liver and kidneys if eaten regularly. Some horse feeds also contain medications that can be toxic to chickens. It’s best to avoid feeding horse feed to chickens.

Can Chickens Eat Chicken?

Cannibalism is a vice chickens can pick up if bored or stressed. While chickens may eat each other if one dies, avoid intentionally feeding chicken meat or eggs to live chickens. This can encourage cannibalism habits. From a safety standpoint, feeding chicken to chickens also risks disease transmission.

Chicken Scratch vs. Feed

Chicken scratch is a treat, not a complete feed. It usually contains grains, seeds, and sometimes oyster shell or grit. While chickens enjoy scratch, it is mostly filler and does not provide balanced nutrition.


Feed a quality complete chicken feed as their dietary staple instead of just scratch.

Can Chickens Eat Oyster Shells?

Providing free-choice oyster shell along with feed is perfectly safe and healthy for chickens. The calcium in oyster shell helps chickens form strong eggshells. The gritty texture also aids digestion. Offer crushed oyster shell in a separate dish free-choice, in addition to complete feed.

Can Chickens Eat Timothy Hay?

Chickens can eat timothy hay, but it is not a replacement for chicken feed. Hay provides fiber and small amounts of protein but lacks proper nutrition balance for chickens. Allow chickens to free-range on timothy hay for supplemental grazing and activity. But be sure they still have daily access to complete chicken feed.

Can Chickens Eat Poultry Grit?

Yes, chickens can and should eat poultry grit. Grit helps chickens grind and digest their food in the gizzard. Feed coarse, insoluble grit free-choice. Choose grit specifically formulated for poultry, as it contains the right size and hardness. Offer oyster shell separately from grit.

In summary, chickens have specific nutritional needs. While chickens may nibble at or try many types of animal feed, they do best on a complete feed formulated specifically for poultry. Be careful about letting chickens access feed meant for other species, as nutritional imbalances can cause health problems. When in doubt, provide a quality complete chicken feed according to the type and age of chickens you are raising.

Frequently Asked Questions

What other animal feed can chickens eat?

Chickens can consume a variety of animal feeds, including poultry feed, grains like corn and barley, and protein sources such as soybean meal, beans, or peas. It’s essential to provide feeds formulated for their nutritional needs to maintain their health.

What should you not feed your chickens?

Chickens should not be fed certain foods, including those high in salt, sugar, or processed ingredients. Foods like avocado, onion, garlic, and rhubarb are toxic to chickens and should be avoided. Additionally, feeding them spoiled or moldy food is not recommended.

Can Chickens eat commercial animal feed?

Absolutely! Chickens can and should eat commercial animal feed. Specially formulated to meet their nutritional needs, commercial feeds ensure that chickens receive a balanced diet essential for their growth, health, and egg production. It’s a key component in keeping your feathered friends happy and thriving.

Will chickens eat pig feed?

While chickens might eat pig feed, it’s not an ideal or balanced diet for them. Pig feed is formulated for the nutritional needs of pigs, and chickens have different dietary requirements. It’s recommended to provide chickens with feeds specifically formulated for poultry to ensure they receive proper nutrition.

Can laying hens eat grower feed?

Laying hens have specific nutritional needs for optimal egg production. Grower feed is formulated for the growth phase and may not provide adequate calcium for laying hens. It’s advisable to switch to a layer feed designed to meet the requirements of laying hens, including sufficient calcium for eggshell formation.