Can Chickens Eat Crab? What You Need to Know

Crabs on White Plate

Article Summary

  • In moderation, cooked crab meat is safe and nutritious for chickens, providing essential vitamins, minerals, and protein.
  • Avoid feeding crab shells, legs with shells, crab sticks, and imitation crab, as these can be difficult for chickens to digest or with excess preservatives.
  • Limit the crab intake to 1-2 oz per adult chicken, 2-3 times per week, and avoid feeding chicks under 16 weeks old.

Have you ever wondered if you can share some of that delicious crab feast with your backyard chickens? While chickens will eat just about anything, crab offers some unique nutritional benefits as well as some potential downsides. Read on to learn everything you need to know about feeding crab to chickens.

Is It Safe for Chickens to Eat Crab?

Eating crab is generally safe for chickens. In moderation, crab can be a healthy treat that provides lots of important vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.

Crab is naturally low in fat and calories. It is packed with protein, supplying amino acids that promote growth and boost egg production. Crab also contains vitamins and minerals like selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and B vitamins.

Backyard Chickens

However, there are a few precautions to keep in mind when feeding crab to chickens:

  • Avoid raw crab, which may contain bacteria. Cook crab thoroughly before feeding it.
  • Don’t overdo it on crab. Too much can cause diarrhea or upset digestion.
  • Remove crab shells, as they are difficult for chickens to digest.
  • Never feed chickens the yellow mustard (hepatopancreas), as it may contain toxins.
  • Make sure the crab you feed is fresh, not spoiled.

As long as you take these precautions, crab can be a nutritious supplement to a chicken’s diet. With any other table food, start with small amounts to see how your flock tolerates it.

Is Crab Good for Chickens?

Yes, eating crab can have several health benefits for chickens:

Provides High-Quality Protein

Crab is an excellent source of protein, providing amino acids that are vital for growth, muscle maintenance, feather production, and egg-laying. The protein in crab is easily digestible for chickens.

Supports Strong Bones

Crab contains lots of phosphorus, as well as calcium, magnesium, and manganese – all minerals that promote bone health in chickens.

Boosts Immune Function

The zinc and selenium found in crab support a healthy immune system in chickens. Crabs are also high in vitamin B12, which aids metabolism.

Promotes Feather Growth

The complete protein and B vitamins in crab are great for growing strong, healthy feathers. This is especially helpful during the molting season.

Provides Energy

Crab meat is low in fat but high in nutrients, making it an energizing snack for chickens. The natural carbohydrates supply sustained energy.

When fed in moderation along with a balanced diet, crab can provide great nutritional support for backyard chickens. The rich array of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids offers health benefits from beak to claw.

What Type of Crab Can Chickens Eat?

Chickens can eat most types of cooked crab, including:

  • Dungeness crab
  • King crab
  • Snow crab
  • Blue crab
  • Stone crab
  • Soft-shell crab
Cooked Crabs in a Bowl
Cooked Crabs in a Bowl

The most common crabs used in chicken feed are blue crab and Dungeness crab. Their meat tends to be lower in fat while still supplying crucial nutrients.

Avoid feeding chickens raw crab or crab that is spoiled, moldy, or insect-infested. Also steer clear of exotic crabs like spider crabs or horseshoe crabs – these may contain toxins.

Stick to well-known edible crab varieties and always cook the meat thoroughly before feeding it to chickens. This eliminates the risk of bacteria or parasites.

Can Chicken Eat Crab Cakes?

Yes, chickens can eat leftover crab cakes, in moderation. Crab cakes offer chickens a tasty blend of protein, essential fatty acids, and vital minerals.

However, crab cakes also contain seasonings, fillers, and binders. Avoid crab cakes with excessive salt, butter, mayonnaise, or spicy seasonings, as these ingredients can upset a chicken’s digestive system.

Also, only feed small, infrequent portions of crab cakes. The extra fat and carbs mean they should not make up a major part of your chickens’ diet. But as an occasional treat, leftover crab cakes are fine for chickens to eat. Just remove any inedible decorations or garnishes first.

Can Chicken Eat Crab Meat?

Cooked crab meat is perfectly safe and healthy for chickens to eat. You can toss chunks of cooked meat straight into the coop as a protein-packed snack or supplement.

Crab meat provides an impressive nutritional profile. It is low in fat and calories but high in vitamins B12, selenium, and amino acids.

Avoid feeding raw crab meat, as bacteria could make the flock sick. Cook crab thoroughly until the meat is opaque and firm. Make sure to remove any remaining shell fragments, which are difficult for chickens to digest.

For best results, introduce crab meat gradually and watch for signs of digestive upset. Offer bites of meat or mix small pieces into feed for a nutritious protein boost.

Can Chicken Eat Crab Shells?

It’s best not to feed crab shells to chickens. While crab shells are a good source of calcium, chickens have difficulty digesting the thick chitin shells.

Eating whole crab shells could irritate the digestive tract or even cause impaction. For safety, always remove the top shell, body shell, and leg shell sections before feeding cooked crab to chickens.

If feeding the shell as a calcium supplement, the shell should be crushed into a powder…

However, you can crush up smaller pieces of shell as a calcium supplement. The shell should be well crushed into a powder or meal for easier digestion. Mix just a pinch or two into feed – not whole chunks.

This “crab shell meal” provides an excellent calcium boost. But the shells themselves are too tough and fibrous for most chickens to eat comfortably.

Can Chicken Eat Crab Shell Legs?

Chickens should not eat whole crab legs with the shell on. Crab leg shells are far too difficult for a chicken to digest. Eating them could irritate the crop or gut.

However, cooked crab leg meat makes a great treat! The meat can be removed from crab legs and fed to chickens in bite-sized pieces.

Crack the crab legs open and remove the delicious meat inside. Make sure all shell fragments have been picked out. Then chop the lean, protein-packed meat into portions for your grateful chickens to gobble up!

Just like with the body meat, it is important to cook crab legs thoroughly before feeding to eliminate bacteria concerns. But the meat itself is perfectly safe and healthy for chickens once cooked.

Can Chicken Eat Crab Sticks?

It’s best to avoid feeding chickens imitation crab sticks or other faux crab products. While these may seem like an easy crab meat substitute, the ingredients are less healthy for chickens.

Crab sticks contain lots of added fillers, preservatives, and artificial flavors – items that chickens cannot properly digest. They often have added sugars and salt as well.

The small amount of crab meat extract in crab sticks provides minimal nutritional value…

The small amount of actual crab meat extract provides minimal nutritional value. Plus, non-food additives like carrageenan found in crab sticks could upset a chicken’s sensitive digestive system.

Real cooked crab is preferable. Or if you need a quick protein supplement, plain cooked fish or even mealworms are healthier options than highly processed crab stick products.

Can Chickens Eat Imitation Crab?

No, chickens should avoid imitation crab products. Imitation crab, or crab sticks, contain artificial flavors, fish extracts, starches, egg white powder, and chemical additives like MSG, disodium inosinate, and carrageenan.

While tiny amounts of imitation crab won’t immediately harm chickens, these processed ingredients offer minimal nutritional value. The high sodium content can also be problematic.

Over time, eating too much fake crab could lead to health issues. Real food like cooked chicken, beef, fish, or shrimp is better for your flock.

If you want to share crab, use freshly cooked Dungeness, king, or snow crab instead. The whole meat offers far superior protein, nutrients, and healthy fats to benefit your chickens.

How to Feed Crab to Your Chickens

Here are some tips for safely feeding crab to chickens:

  • Cook crab thoroughly until opaque and flaky to kill bacteria.
  • Remove all shells and inedible parts.
  • Chop cooked meat into bite-sized pieces for easier eating.
  • Start with small portions – 1-2 oz per chicken max.
  • Mix crab in with regular feed for balanced nutrition.
  • Avoid excessive salt, butter, mayo, or seasoning.
  • Never feed raw or spoiled crab meat.
  • Always supervise free-range chickens when offering treats.
Chickens Eating Feeds

Consider crab a supplemental protein source, not a daily feed item. Offer small, infrequent portions to avoid digestive upset. With proper preparation and moderation, crab can give your flock’s health a leg up.

What to Look Out For When Feeding Chickens Crabs

It’s important to be cautious when introducing new foods like crab to chickens. Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Diarrhea – Loose droppings or changes in manure could indicate digestive upset. Reduce or stop crab feeding.
  • Lack of appetite – Chickens disinterested in feed after eating crab may indicate overfeeding.
  • Feather plucking – Excessive preening after eating crab can signal a mild allergic reaction. Discontinue feeding.
  • Changes in egg production – Too much crab could affect laying frequency or egg quality.
  • Food aggression – Chickens that become possessive or aggressive around crab need less competition for feed.
  • Choking – Greedily swallowing large pieces of crab meat could cause choking. Cut meat into small pieces.
  • Crop impaction – Whole shells or chunks could get lodged in the crop. Always remove shells before feeding.

Monitor for any of these crab feeding red flags. Discontinue use if any negative symptoms arise.

How Much Crab Can You Feed Chickens?

It’s best to limit crab intake to 1-2 oz per chicken, 2-3 times per week at most. This equals roughly one small handful per chicken per feeding. Any more can risk digestive upset and diarrhea.


Free-range birds that also get treats like grass, bugs, and kitchen scraps should eat even less crab. Feed crab as no more than 5% of their overall diet.

Never let crab fully replace high-quality layer feed, which contains balanced nutrition not found in crab alone. Crab should always be limited as a supplemental protein source.

Pay attention to each chicken’s reaction and adjust portions as needed. Some may tolerate a bit more crab, while others need much less. Let their appetite guide you. Moderation is key to keeping crab a healthy chicken treat.

Can Baby Chickens Eat Crab?

No, crab is not recommended for baby chicks under 16 weeks old. Young chicks have a sensitive, underdeveloped digestive system. Their gut flora and immune system is still maturing as well.

Whole crab meat and shells are far too rich for a chick’s system. Wait until chicks are fully feathered and near adulthood before introducing small bits of cooked crab meat.

Chicks Inside the Coop

Never feed raw crab to chicks – their young immune systems cannot handle the bacteria risk. Even cooked, limit crab intake to tiny, occasional treats for adolescent chickens over 4 months old.

For the first 16 weeks, feed chicks an age-appropriate starter feed and treats like rolled oats, lettuce, or mealworms. Once mature, they can start sampling some cooked crab in strict moderation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can chickens eat whole crabs?

Chickens can consume whole crabs, but it’s important to ensure the crabs are cooked and the shells are finely crushed. Cooking eliminates potential pathogens, and crushing the shells aids digestion. However, feeding in moderation is crucial, as a balanced diet is essential for the overall health of chickens.

Is crab meal good for chickens?

Yes, crab meal can be beneficial for chickens as it provides a good source of protein and essential minerals. Incorporating crab meal into their diet can contribute to feather development, egg production, and overall growth. As with any supplemental feed, it’s recommended to introduce crab meal gradually and monitor the chickens for any adverse reactions.

Can chickens eat crab shells?

Chickens can eat crab shells, but it’s essential to crush them into smaller pieces. Crushed crab shells offer calcium, which is crucial for eggshell formation and bone health in chickens. Introducing crushed crab shells as a supplement to their regular feed can contribute to a well-balanced and nutritious diet.

Can chickens eat crab meat?

Chickens can eat crab meat in moderation. Cooked and deboned crab meat can be a protein-rich treat for chickens. However, it should not replace their regular feed, and excessive consumption may lead to an imbalance in their diet. As with any treats, it’s important to provide a diverse and balanced diet to meet all of their nutritional needs.