Can Chickens Eat Cheese? What You Need to Know

Sliced Solid Cheese

Article Summary

  • Cheese is not toxic to chickens, but it is high in fat and salt, so it should be fed sparingly.
  • Excessive cheese consumption may lead to digestive upset, diarrhea, obesity, fatty liver disease, and reduced egg production in chickens.
  • The recommended amount is about 1-2 cubes (1-2 oz) of cheese per chicken once or twice a week.

Do you love feeding treats to your backyard chickens? Cheese can be an enticing option with its savory flavor and soft texture. But is it safe for chickens to eat? Here’s what you need to know about feeding cheese to chickens.

Can Chickens Have Cheese?

Chickens can eat small amounts of cheese in moderation as an occasional treat. Most chickens love the taste of cheese and will eagerly gobble it up.

Cheese is not toxic to chickens and does not contain anything inherently harmful. The main concern is that cheese is high in fat and salt, so it should only be fed sparingly.

Too much cheese could lead to digestive upset, diarrhea, or obesity in chickens if fed regularly. But as the occasional snack, cheese is fine for chickens to consume.

Health Benefits and Risks of Feeding Cheese to Chickens

Cheese contains valuable nutrients that can benefit chicken health. It is a good source of protein, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin A.

The protein helps support muscle growth and egg production. The calcium and phosphorus help build strong bones and eggshells. And the vitamin A supports immune function and eye health.

…cheese is high in saturated fat and sodium, so overdoing it could negatively impact chicken health

However, cheese is high in saturated fat and sodium, so overdoing it could negatively impact chicken health. Too much fat may lead to weight gain and fatty liver disease. Excess salt causes dehydration and kidney strain.

As long as cheese is fed in strict moderation, chickens can gain nutritional benefits without the risks of too much fat and salt. About 1-2 cubes of cheese (1-2 oz) per chicken once or twice a week is a reasonable amount.

Best Types of Cheese for Chickens

Most common cheeses are safe for chickens in small portions. Here are some of the best types to offer chickens:

  • Cheddar – This popular cheese is mild in flavor and texture. The orange color provides chickens with beta-carotene.
  • Mozzarella – A soft, bland cheese that chickens find easy to eat. Fresh mozzarella is lower in salt than aged mozzarella.
  • Swiss – An excellent source of vitamin A and calcium. The distinctive flavor provides a tasty treat.
  • Feta – This crumbly, tangy cheese offers a change of pace from other milder cheeses.
  • Cottage Cheese – The curds are moist and easy for chickens to digest. Cottage cheese is high in protein.
  • Ricotta Cheese – Similar benefits as cottage cheese but with more calcium and a creamier texture.

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Avoid giving them excessively salty cheeses like parmesan or blue cheese when feeding chickens. Additionally, it’s best to steer clear of soft, unpasteurized cheeses that could potentially harbor harmful bacteria.

Can Chickens Eat Cheese Every Day?

It’s best not to feed cheese to chickens daily. Cheese should be limited to a couple times a week at most.

When chickens eat cheese every day, they are more likely to become overweight and encounter digestive issues. The high amounts of fat and salt become problematic over time.

Occasional cheese as a treat is fine. But chickens should not have cheese as a part of their daily diet. Their main diet should consist of a quality complete feed and fresh treats like fruits, veggies, and greens.

Think of cheese sort of like candy for chickens. It’s a flavorful indulgence but not something they need or should have too much of. Keep it to a moderate, infrequent treat.

Chickens Eating Commercial Feeds

What Happens If Chickens Eat Too Much Cheese?

Consuming too much cheese can cause adverse health effects in chickens:

  • Diarrhea – Excess fat and salt may lead to loose droppings.
  • Dehydration – The high sodium in cheese can interfere with hydration.
  • Obesity – Too much fat will pile on extra weight, stress joints, and impair immunity.
  • Fatty liver disease – Overeating fat causes dangerous fat deposits in chickens’ livers.
  • Nutritional imbalances – Cheese lacks the full nutrition chickens need. Too much displaces healthier foods.
  • Reduced egg production – Excess fat and lack of nutrients causes declines in egg-laying.

To avoid these issues, limit cheese treats to no more than 1-2 cubes (1-2 oz) per chicken once or twice per week. Monitor chickens’ droppings and weight. And always ensure plenty of fresh water.

Healthy Cheese Options for Chickens

To provide chickens cheese in the healthiest way, follow these tips:

  • Choose reduced-fat versions – This limits fat while still offering cheese flavor.
  • Select low-sodium cheese – Reduced sodium minimizes risks of dehydration.
  • Give plain fresh cheeses – Like cottage or ricotta cheese rather than heavily processed types.
  • Cut cheese into small pieces – Makes it easier for chickens to eat and digest.
  • Always feed in moderation – No more than 1-2 oz per chicken a couple times a week.
  • Provide lots of water – Helps flush out excess salt from their systems.
  • Mix with other healthy treats – Combine cheese with fresh fruits, greens, seeds, cooked rice, etc.
A Bowl of Cottage Cheese
A Bowl of Cottage Cheese

Like other dairy products, focus on cheese as an occasional treat, not a dietary staple. Pay attention to each chicken’s reaction and adjust amounts accordingly. This helps keep cheese a healthy, well-tolerated snack.

Can Chickens Eat Cheese Crackers, Cheese Balls, and Cheese Puffs?

It’s best to avoid feeding chickens highly processed cheese foods like crackers, puffs, and cheese balls. These snack foods often contain additional seasonings and preservatives that can be problematic for chickens.

The cheese itself may be ok, but the other ingredients make processed cheese foods less suitable:

  • Excess salt – Cheese crackers, balls, and puffs tend to be very high in sodium. This can lead to dehydration.
  • Refined carbs – Crackers made from white flour offer minimal nutrition. High carbs may cause weight gain.
  • Artificial flavors – Onion, garlic, and other seasonings added to cheese snacks can cause upset digestion in chickens.
  • Preservatives – Cheese products contain preservatives like citric acid that are unhealthy if consumed regularly.

Rather than processed cheese foods, opt for feeding chickens small amounts of plain cheese occasionally. Or make your own healthy cheese treats combining cottage cheese with chicken-safe herbs and a bit of whole grain.

Can Chickens Eat Hard Cheese Rinds?

It’s fine for chickens to eat the hard outer rind from cheeses like parmesan, cheddar, or swiss. The rind is completely edible for chickens.

Cheese rinds are:

  • High in calcium – Helpful for bone and egg health.
  • Rich in flavor – Providing a tasty treat chickens love.
  • Easy to digest – Softer and easier to break down than the cheese itself.
  • Safe if pasteurized – Unpasteurized rinds could potentially harbor bacteria, so stick to pasteurized cheese.

Just watch portion sizes, as the rinds are very salty. No more than a 1-2 inch piece of rind per chicken at a time is ideal. And provide plenty of fresh water.

Offering chickens recycled cheese rinds is a great way to reduce food waste while giving chickens a nutritious, tasty snack they’ll appreciate.

Feeding Cheese to Chickens: Final Thoughts

In moderation, most types of cheese are perfectly safe and healthy for chickens to eat. A small amount of cheese 1-2 times per week makes a fine treat.

For the healthiest approach, feed chickens reduced-fat, low-sodium plain cheese in 1-2 ounce portions. Avoid highly processed cheese products, cheesy snack foods, or unpasteurized cheeses.

Monitor the chickens’ droppings and weight as you offer cheese occasionally. Reduce amounts or frequency if any chicken seems overly fat or has loose stools after eating cheese.

While chickens shouldn’t eat cheese every day, the occasional slice or two provides a safe, nutritious and delicious snack chickens love. Following basic precautions allows chickens to gain benefits from cheese without adverse health effects.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it OK to feed chickens cheese?

Yes, it is generally safe to feed chickens small amounts of cheese as an occasional treat. Cheese can provide additional protein and fat, but it should not be a primary component of their diet. Moderation is key to ensure a balanced and healthy nutrition for chickens.

Can chickens eat cheese scraps?

Chickens can consume cheese scraps in moderation. It’s important to offer small, bite-sized pieces to prevent choking and to avoid giving them large quantities. Cheese scraps can be a source of protein and energy, but they should be part of a varied diet that includes other essential nutrients.

Are chickens allergic to cheese?

Chickens are not typically allergic to cheese. However, like any food, individual reactions can vary. It’s advisable to introduce new foods gradually and observe the chickens for any adverse reactions. If there are no signs of distress, cheese can be included as an occasional treat.

Can chickens eat cheese every day?

Chickens should not eat cheese every day. While it can be a tasty and nutritious addition to their diet, a well-balanced poultry diet should primarily consist of grains, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Overfeeding cheese may lead to an imbalance in their nutritional intake, so it’s best to offer it as an occasional treat.

Can chickens eat cheese crackers?

While chickens can technically eat cheese crackers in moderation, it’s not the healthiest choice for them. These crackers may contain additives like salt and sugar that aren’t ideal for chickens, and their primary diet should consist of balanced chicken feed for essential nutrients. Opt for healthier treats like fruits, vegetables, or mealworms, introducing new foods gradually and in moderation to avoid digestive issues.