Can Chickens Eat Chicken? The Surprising Truth

Raw Chicken Breasts on Chopping Board (image by manfredrichter, Pixabay)

Article Summary

  • Chickens can safely eat chicken meat and byproducts as part of their diet, as they are omnivores with a natural inclination for varied protein sources.
  • Risks associated with feeding chickens chicken products include Salmonella contamination, avian influenza (rare), fatty liver disease from excessive fatty meat, bone splinters from raw chicken bones, and potential rekindling of cannibalistic behaviors.
  • Feeding chicken to chickens should be done in moderation, with proper handling and cooking, to ensure food safety and to avoid nutritional imbalances or health issues.

Have you ever wondered if chickens can eat chicken? As a chicken owner, you likely want to ensure your flock is getting proper nutrition. Feeding chickens various protein sources like eggs, meat and bone broth is common. But can cannibalism actually be OK for chickens?

In this article, we’ll explore whether chickens can eat chicken meat and byproducts safely. We’ll also discuss:

  • The benefits and risks of feeding chickens chicken products
  • What types of chicken chickens can eat
  • Proper amount and frequency of feeding chicken to chickens
  • Whether baby chicks can eat chicken too

Let’s get pecking and scratching for answers!

Is it Safe for Chickens to Eat Chicken?

Many chicken owners are surprised to learn that chickens naturally eat other chickens. Chickens are omnivores, meaning they enjoy a varied diet of plants and animal proteins. Their wild relatives consume insects, small vertebrates, and even carrion. So, it’s perfectly natural for chickens to eat chicken meat and organs.

As long as the chicken products are fresh and properly handled, chickens can eat chicken safely. In fact, chicken can provide healthy nutrition for your flock. Lean meat is an excellent source of protein for muscle growth and egg production. Organ meats like liver contain important vitamins and minerals too.

However, there are some risks to consider when feeding chickens chicken products. Salmonella and other bacteria are concerns if the meat isn’t fresh. Only feed chickens fully cooked chicken to reduce the spread of disease. Also, avoid raw chicken bones, which can splinter and cause injuries or internal punctures.

Overall, chicken meat and byproducts can be fed to backyard chickens safely with proper handling. However, owners should take steps to minimize risks.

Are Chickens Cannibals? Why They May Eat Each Other

Chickens eating other chickens seems like cannibalism at first glance. But chickens only resort to cannibalism under stressful conditions, like overcrowding.

In natural flocks, one dead chicken may be picked apart and eaten by the others. But live chickens are rarely attacked and consumed. Pecking order disputes occasionally lead to severe feather loss and wounds. However, killing and eating flock mates is not normal chicken behavior.

A stressed, overcrowded flock is more likely to peck, chase, and attack each other. If blood is drawn, the frenzy can turn into cannibalism, with chickens going after the injured. Removing injured chickens, increasing space, and reducing stressors are key to stopping cannibalism.

If blood is drawn, the frenzy can turn into cannibalism…

So while chickens aren’t innately cannibalistic, they will eat meat from other chickens given the chance. Chicken owners should separate and cull injured birds promptly to prevent cannibalistic behavior from starting.

What Are the Benefits of Feeding Chicken to Chickens?

Feeding small amounts of cooked chicken meat and organs offers several benefits for backyard chicken flocks:

High-Quality Protein for Egg Production – Chicken meat contains essential amino acids for building muscle mass and eggs. The protein in chicken products stimulates egg production.

Important Vitamins and Minerals – Chicken livers and gizzards provide iron, B vitamins, zinc, and selenium – all key nutrients for chicken health.

Natural Foraging Opportunities – Scattering chicken scraps encourages natural foraging behaviors and prevents boredom.

Reduce Waste – Composting or discarding leftover chicken can attract pests and predators. Feeding it to your flock eliminates waste.

Economical Protein Source – Cooking excess eggs or chicken for your chickens is cheaper than commercial feed.

Overall, recycling chicken products back to your flock saves money while providing high-value nutrition. Just be sure to feed in moderation.

Are There Risks to Feeding Chickens Chicken?

While chicken can be a healthy, natural food source for chickens, there are some potential risks owners should be aware of:

Salmonella – Raw or undercooked chicken may contain Salmonella bacteria. Only feed fully cooked chicken to reduce disease risk.

Avian Influenza – Extremely rare chance that chicken meat could transmit bird flu. Avoid feeding chickens from flocks infected with avian influenza.

Fatty Liver Disease – Too much fatty meat can lead to liver damage. Feed chicken meat in moderation.

Bone Splinters – Raw chicken bones can splinter and puncture internal organs. Never feed chickens raw chicken bones.

Crowded Chicken Farm (image by davit85, Adobe Stock)
Overcrowded Flock

Cannibalism – Feeding chicken meat reintroduces cannibalistic behaviors rarely. Remove injured chickens promptly.

Nutritional Imbalances – Too much meat without enough grains/supplements can cause deficiencies. Follow a balanced diet.

With proper handling and feeding in moderation, the risks are low. Overall, the benefits of recycled chicken products outweigh the potential downsides.

What Type of Chicken Can Chickens Eat?

Chickens can eat most types of chicken meat and organs:

  • Cooked Chicken Meat – Fully cooked, boneless chicken breast or thigh meat. Avoid raw meat.
  • Chicken Liver – Rich source of vitamins and minerals. Can be cooked or dried.
  • Chicken Gizzards – Muscle tissue gizzards provide protein. Cook before feeding.
  • Chicken Hearts – More nutritious than plain breast meat. Cook fully before feeding.
  • Cartilage/Skin – Provides chondroitin for joint health. Scrape meat off bones first.
  • Fatty Trim – Excellent energy source, but feed sparingly to avoid obesity.
  • Broth – Add cooked chicken scraps to water to make healthy broth.
  • Eggs – Cooked egg scraps provide balanced nutrition.

Chicken nuggets, canned chicken, and deli meats can also be fed in moderation. Overall, any cooked chicken product is safe for your flock.

Can Chickens Eat Raw Chicken Meat?

It’s not recommended to feed raw chicken meat to backyard chickens. Raw chicken may contain Salmonella, E. coli, or other bacteria that can spread illness through the flock. Cooking the meat thoroughly kills any potential pathogens present.

If your chickens get hold of a small scrap of raw meat, it likely won’t harm them. But to be safe, always cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F before feeding.

Feeding raw chicken also risks reintroducing cannibalistic behaviors. The taste of blood or the sight of raw flesh can kickstart aggressive pecking. Cooked meat discourages this undesirable behavior.

For food safety and flock health, only provide your chickens with fully cooked chicken products. Scraps from your kitchen or roasted carcasses make nutritious treats.

Can Chickens Eat Canned Chicken?

Canned chicken, like tuna packed in water or chicken breast, can be fed to chickens in moderation. The cooking process kills any bacteria present, making it a safe protein source.

Rinsing canned chicken reduces excess salt content before feeding. Choose low-sodium varieties when possible. Too much sodium can lead to kidney problems in chickens long-term.

Canned chicken is already shredded into small pieces, so no chopping is required. This makes it a convenient option for supplementing feed. The protein provides balanced nutrition for egg layers.

Avoid canned chicken packed in oils, broths, or flavorings. Excess fats and seasonings aren’t ideal for chickens’ digestive systems. Plain canned chicken or tuna is the healthiest.

In summary, plain water-packed canned chicken is perfectly safe for chickens as an occasional protein boost. But feed in moderation, as excess sodium is a downside.

Can Chickens Eat Leftover Chicken Meat?

Cooked chicken leftovers like roasted chicken carcasses or picked-over meat scraps are fair game for chickens. As long as the meat is fully cooked to a safe internal temperature, leftovers pose no risks.

In fact, recycling household chicken scraps is an economical way to supplement your flock’s feed. The protein provides balanced nutrition for egg layers and benefits chicken health.

Be sure to remove any bones, skewers, or toothpicks first to prevent injuries. Pick off any stuffing or seasoned breading too. Seasonings and excess salt aren’t ideal. Plain baked or roasted chicken is the healthiest.

For safety, only feed chickens the leftover chicken within 1-3 days of cooking. Toss out any chicken that seems slimy or rotten rather than feeding it to your flock. With proper handling, leftover chicken makes an excellent supplement.

Can Chickens Eat Chicken Bones?

Chicken bones can be fed to chickens but with some precautions:

  • Only feed cooked chicken bones, never raw. Cooking softens bones so they don’t splinter.
  • Avoid long, sharp bones like drumsticks or wings. These are more likely to puncture internally.
  • Crush bones with a rolling pin or pound with a hammer before feeding for safety.
  • Feed larger bones like thighs in a metal feeder to prevent choking.
  • Limit bony scraps to once a week or less to prevent crop impactions.

NOTE

The calcium, collagen, marrow, and fat in cooked bones provide valuable nutrition. However, improper feeding risks internal lacerations or death.

Can Chickens Eat Chicken Nuggets?

Chicken Nuggets on White Plate (image by Lebensmittelfotos, Pixabay)
Chicken Nuggets on Plate

Fully cooked chicken nuggets are safe and nutritious occasional treats for backyard chickens. Like other chicken meat, nuggets provide protein for growth, eggs, and muscles.

However, heavily breaded nuggets aren’t ideal as an everyday feed. The starch and carbohydrates from the coating aren’t essential nutrients for chickens. Too much can also compact in chickens’ crops.

When feeding chicken nuggets, scrape off any seasoning or breading first. baked or air-fried plain nuggets are the healthiest. Break or crush them into bite-size pieces before feeding as well.

For food safety, only feed chickens fully cooked nuggets within 2 days of preparation. Toss out any older leftovers. Ultimately, plain chicken nuggets make tasty, protein-packed supplements in moderation.

Can Chickens Eat Chicken Eggs?

Surprisingly, chickens can eat chicken eggs with no issues. In fact, eggs contain the perfect balance of amino acids to support egg production. The proteins and fat in eggs make them a healthy treat.

Most owners cook surplus eggs before feeding. Raw eggs pose a minor risk of Salmonella transmission. Cooking neutralizes any bacteria present.

Adding cooked egg scraps directly to feed is convenient. This allows chickens to get the full nutritional benefits. Hard-boiled eggs also make fun foraging activities.

It’s a myth that eating eggs will cause chickens to develop a taste…

It’s a myth that eating eggs will cause chickens to develop a taste for their own. The protein actually supports laying. So don’t be afraid to recycle eggs for your flock. Just cook them first as a precaution.

Can Chickens Eat Chicken Liver?

Chicken liver is a nutritious, protein-packed treat for chickens. Gram for gram, liver contains more nutrients than chicken breast or thigh meat.

The liver provides beneficial amounts of:

  • Vitamin A for vision and immunity
  • B vitamins for energy
  • Iron for blood health
  • Copper for strong bones and eggshells

Owners can feed chicken livers raw or cooked. Raw livers may carry a slight risk of Salmonella transmission. For safety, freeze or cook livers before feeding.

To prepare, chop livers into quarter-sized pieces first. Chickens can choke on large chunks. Feed chopped liver in moderation once or twice weekly for a nourishing supplement.

Can Chickens Eat Chicken Skin?

Chicken skin is highly palatable to chickens but should only be fed in small amounts. The skin contains mostly fat, which can lead to weight gain and liver damage if overfed.

However, small, occasional scraps provide healthy fats and energy. And the collagen in the skin supports joint health. Just don’t make it a primary protein source.

For food safety, only feed cooked chicken skin versus raw. Cooking also softens skin for easier digestion.

To feed, scrape off meat and peel the skin away from the underlying fat first. Then dice skin into bite-size pieces before serving. Feed once a week or less, along with their main feed.

Can Chickens Eat Chicken Broth?

Broth made by simmering chicken scraps contains collagen, nutrients, and minerals that chickens can utilize. Natural broths offer more benefits than plain water:

  • The gelatin soothes digestive systems and provides amino acids.
  • Minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium are present.
  • Warm broth can increase feed consumption in winter.

Avoid broths containing onion, garlic, or excessive salt. Plain chicken broth is safest. Allow to cool before offering to prevent scalding.

Make your own healthy chicken broth by boiling carcasses, skins and scrap meat in water for 1-2 hours. Once cooled, chickens can freely drink the broth or you can use it to moisten feed. This puts waste to good use!

Can Chickens Eat Fried Chicken?

While chickens go wild for the taste of fried chicken, the high fat and sodium content makes it unhealthy. The crumbs and oil lead to obesity and digestive upset. So fried chicken should only be an occasional treat.

If feeding purchased fried chicken, remove any breaded coating first. The crumbs can cause crop impactions. Stick to just the cooked meat and skin.

RECOMMENDATION

Bake or air fry plain chicken pieces at home instead of frying. The lower fat content is healthier while still providing delicious protein. Feed baked chicken no more than once a week.

Fried chicken liver or gizzards are better options than fried bone-in chicken. Less breading clings to the organs. But scrape off any coating and limit to a monthly treat.

How Much Chicken Can Chickens Eat?

For proper nutrition, chicken meat and organs should comprise no more than 20% of a chicken’s total diet. The remaining 80% or more should come from commercial feed and treats like fruits and veggies.

A Kid Feeding The Chickens

As a supplement 2-3 times per week, chickens can eat up to:

  • 1 ounce of chicken meat per pound of body weight
  • 1 chicken liver or heart per week
  • 1 chicken foot or head per month

Weigh your chickens to determine appropriate serving sizes. Overfeeding protein leads to obesity, kidney damage, and nutritional deficiencies.

Free-choice feeding of chicken scraps risks overconsumption. Instead, offer set portion sizes at scheduled times twice a week or so for optimal health.

How to Feed Chicken to Backyard Chickens

Follow these tips for safely feeding chicken products:

  • Cook chicken to 165°F internal temperature to kill bacteria.
  • Chop livers and meat into quarter-sized pieces to prevent choking.
  • Crush cooked bones thoroughly before feeding.
  • Refrigerate leftovers for no more than 3 days before feeding.
  • Remove stuffing, breading, spices, or other seasonings first.
  • Place bony scraps in a metal feeder to prevent waste.
  • Limit high-fat skin, nuggets, and fried chicken to occasional treats.
  • Feed a balanced diet with appropriate supplements.

Chicken scraps should always be just one component of a varied diet. Provide commercial feed, grains, veggies, and treats daily as well. Following these steps keeps chickens healthy while reducing food waste.

How Often Can You Feed Chicken to Chickens?

For most backyard flocks, feeding chicken 2-3 times per week is sufficient. Chickens’ main diet should still come from complete feeds and treats like veggies.

More frequent feeding increases the risks of excess fat intake, crop impaction, and nutritional imbalance. Monitor your chickens’ body condition to avoid obesity.

Here are some examples of appropriate feeding frequencies:

  • Cooked chicken meat – 2-3 times per week
  • Chicken livers or hearts – Once per week
  • Chicken bones – Once per week
  • Fried chicken – Once per month
Fried Chicken in a Black Basket)
Fried Chicken in a Basket

Adjust quantities and frequency based on chickens’ age, health and metabolism. Growing younger chickens need more protein while older hens do fine with less.

Also, reduce feeding in hot weather when chickens eat less. Year-round moderation is key for health.

Can Baby Chickens Eat Chicken?

Chicken meat and eggs provide key amino acids for growth in baby chicks under 16 weeks old. However, some preparation is required to prevent choking or illness:

  • Cook chicken fully to kill pathogens before feeding to chicks.
  • Dice meat and hard boil eggs into tiny pieces. Chicks have small crops.
  • Mix small amounts of chopped chicken or egg into chick starter feed.
  • Limit chicken to 5-10% of total feed amount to prevent nutritional issues.
  • Avoid bones, skin and organ meats until chicks are grown.

The digestibility of chicken meat improves as chicks develop. Around 4 months old, they can eat scraps more safely. But always moderate protein intake to prevent obesity later on.

With proper handling and portioning, chicken can supplement commercial chick starter for added nutrition. Just take care to manage choking hazards for delicate chicks.

Conclusion

Can chickens eat chicken? Absolutely! In moderation, chicken products are a safe and healthy supplement for backyard flocks. Chicken meat, bones, organs and eggs provide top-quality protein, important vitamins and minerals, and valuable fatty acids when fed properly. While chickens aren’t innately cannibalistic, eating other chickens is natural behavior for omnivorous poultry.

However, owners should feed chicken to chickens responsibly by cooking thoroughly, limiting frequency and balancing diets. With some common sense precautions, chicken can be an economical protein addition without risking nutritional deficiencies, obesity or disease. So put your chicken scraps to good use for your flock! Just be sure to handle raw meat safely and cook completely before serving.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it OK to feed chickens to chickens?

Feeding chickens to other chickens is generally not recommended. Cannibalism can develop among chickens if they are fed the remains of their own kind. This behavior can lead to various health issues and negatively impact the flock’s overall well-being. It’s advisable to provide chickens with a balanced and appropriate diet that does not include the remains of other chickens.

Will a chicken eat another chicken?

Chickens may exhibit cannibalistic behavior, especially if they are stressed, overcrowded, or lack proper nutrition. In some cases, a chicken may peck at or consume the flesh of another injured or weak chicken. To prevent this, ensure that chickens have adequate space, a balanced diet, and a stress-free environment. Promptly isolate any injured or sick birds to avoid potential cannibalism within the flock.

Can chickens eat raw chicken?

Chickens should not be fed raw chicken. While chickens are omnivores and can consume various foods, including meat, feeding them raw chicken poses the risk of transmitting harmful bacteria such as Salmonella. It’s crucial to cook any meat given to chickens to eliminate potential pathogens and ensure the flock’s safety. Providing a balanced and properly prepared diet is essential for the chicken’s health.