Can Chickens Eat Horse Feed? The Ins and Outs of Feeding Chickens Horse Feed

Horses Feeding on Horse Feed

Article Summary

  • Chickens can eat horse feed, as it contains ingredients like grains, pelleted feeds, supplements, and hays that are generally suitable for chickens.
  • However, there are considerations for safe consumption, including monitoring protein levels (12-20%), avoiding excessive vitamin A intake, and addressing the difference in calcium to phosphorus ratios between horses and chickens.
  • While horse feed can be fed to baby chicks, it’s important to avoid medicated variants and to provide precise calcium and phosphorus ratios for proper development.

Have you ever wondered if your chickens can eat the same feed as your horses? It’s a fair question, since chickens and horses have different nutritional needs. However, the components of horse feed may actually provide some benefits for your flock. Read on to learn more about whether chickens can eat horse feed, the nutritional breakdown, and how to safely introduce equine fare to your birds.

What’s in Horse Feed That Chickens Can Consume?

Horse feeds typically contain grains, pelleted feeds, supplements and hays. The main ingredients are oats, barley, wheat and corn. These cereal grains provide carbohydrates for energy. Pelleted feeds may also contain alfalfa, soybean or cottonseed meal for extra protein. Vitamins and minerals like calcium and phosphorus are added to balance the diet.

Chickens can eat all of these ingredients. In fact, corn, wheat and oats are typical components of commercial chicken feed. The alfalfa, soybean and cottonseed meals provide a healthy protein boost for chickens. The vitamins and minerals in horse feed also benefit chickens.


The main ingredients in horse feed are suitable for chickens. The concern lies in the proportions of nutrients, which are tailored specifically for horses.

Can Horses and Chickens Share Feed Safely?

Chickens can eat horse feed, but there are some caveats.

  • Protein levels – Horse feed is higher in protein, ranging from 12-20%. Chickens only need 16-18% protein. Too much can tax their kidneys.
  • Vitamin A – Excessive vitamin A can cause toxicity. Fortunately, chickens self-regulate intake.
  • Calcium to phosphorus ratios – Horses need a 2:1 ratio. Chickens need 1:1, so horse feed may be too high in calcium.
  • Medicated horse feed – Medications like antibiotics can be toxic to chickens at horse dosages.

With those warnings, chickens can still enjoy horse feed safely. Here are some tips:

  • Limit horse feed to 20% of the total diet. Mix it with chicken layer feed to balance nutrition.
  • Choose an unmedicated formula suitable for younger horses or ponies.
  • Provide a separate calcium supplement since horse feed skews the ratio.
  • Feed horse treats like carrots sparingly to avoid too much vitamin A.

With some tweaks, horse feed can be reformulated to create a nutritious chicken feast!

Does Horse Feed Offer Any Benefits for Chickens?

Beyond basic nutrition, horse feed does provide some bonuses:

Protein – The higher protein content can benefit chickens during molting, growth periods, or for better egg production.

Omega-3 fatty acids – Horse feeds contain more omega-3s than chicken feed for skin and coat health. Chickens benefit from these too.

Probiotics – Some horse feeds have probiotics to support equine digestive health. This gives chickens’ guts a boost too.

Chickens Inside a Cage
Chickens Inside a Cage

Higher fat – The extra fat provides more concentrated calories for energy and growth.

Vitamins E and B – Horse feeds have higher levels of these nutrients to help horses deal with exercise stress. They give chickens an antioxidant boost.

Digestive enzymes – Enzymes help horses digest nutrients. Chickens reap the same benefits.

So while too much horse feed can throw off nutrition, small amounts can provide great supplemental nutrition.

Should Baby Chicks Chow Down on Equine Fare?

Baby chicks have different nutritional needs than adult chickens. They require higher protein for proper growth and development. Luckily, the higher protein content of horse feed can benefit chicks.

However, young chicks should not eat medicated horse feed. Medications like coccidiostats that are fine for horses can be toxic for baby birds. Chicks also need precise calcium and phosphorus ratios for bone development, which horse feed doesn’t provide.

In a pinch, unmedicated adult horse feed can be fed in small amounts…

The best course of action is to feed chicks a starter feed specifically formulated for them. But in a pinch, unmedicated adult horse feed can be fed in small amounts if thoroughly mixed into a complete chick starter feed.

Provide extra oversight for chicks on horse feed. Watch for signs of nutrient deficiencies like slowed growth or leg abnormalities. Discontinue horse feed if chicks show adverse effects.

While not ideal, healthy chicks can tolerate horse feed for short durations if their overall diet is balanced. But commercial chick starter is safer and more nutritionally appropriate.

Alternative Livestock Feeds Chickens Can Enjoy

Horse feed isn’t the only livestock fare chickens can eat. Here are some other options:

  • Goat feed – Similar to horse feed without quite so much protein and calcium skewing.
  • Pig feed – Higher in protein like horse feed and contains many grains chickens eat.
  • Cattle feed – The grains like corn, barley and oats are chicken-friendly.
  • Llama/alpaca feed – Contains more vitamins and minerals than chicken feed.
  • Sheep feed – Higher in calcium so best to limit intake to 20%.

The key is to use livestock feeds judiciously. Small amounts can supplement nutrition, but too much can unbalance the diet. Mixing with chicken feed is ideal for balance. Avoid medicated varieties to prevent toxicity.

Let Your Chickens Feast Like Horses…In Moderation

Chickens can certainly consume horse feed, but it’s crucial to exercise moderation due to its elevated levels of protein, vitamin A, and calcium. Restrict the horse feed to 20% of their overall diet, opt for an unmedicated variant, and include calcium supplements separately. This approach ensures a balanced intake while reaping the advantages of supplementary protein, probiotics, enzymes, and any other animal feed benefits!

Just don’t let your chickens get too high on their horse feed high horse diet. With some tweaks, chickens can safely feast like horses. Giddyup to the feed store!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Chickens Eat Moldy Horse Feed?

Chickens should not be fed moldy horse feed. Moldy feed can contain harmful toxins that are detrimental to the health of chickens. Consumption of moldy feed can lead to various health issues, including digestive problems and respiratory issues. It is crucial to provide chickens with fresh and uncontaminated feed to ensure their well-being.

Can Chickens Eat Horse Oats?

Yes, chickens can eat horse oats in moderation. Oats are a good source of nutrition for chickens, offering essential carbohydrates and fiber. However, it’s important to ensure that the oats are free from any additives or supplements that may be specific to horses. Feeding chickens plain, whole oats in reasonable quantities can be a healthy addition to their diet.

Can Chickens Eat Horse Food?

Chickens can consume some components of horse food, but it’s essential to be cautious. Horse food may contain ingredients that are not suitable for chickens, such as specific supplements or medications meant for horses. It’s recommended to check the ingredients list and consult with a veterinarian to ensure that the horse food is safe for chickens. Providing a balanced and species-appropriate diet tailored to chickens is crucial for their optimal health.