Can You Feed Chickens Dog Food? What You Need to Know

Dog Food in a Bowl

Article Summary

  • Chickens should not be regularly fed dog food as it lacks essential nutrients for their health.
  • Dog food, especially dry kibble, contains higher levels of protein than chickens need, which can strain their kidneys and cause digestive issues.
  • Small amounts of wet or canned dog food can be added to a chicken’s diet in moderation for extra protein and moisture.

Chickens make great pets and a source of fresh eggs. As an omnivore, chickens enjoy a wide variety of foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, bugs, and even meat. This leads many chicken owners to wonder – can I feed my chickens dog food? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

Is Dog Food Bad for Chickens?

Dog food contains protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals to meet the nutritional needs of dogs. This sounds like it should be fine for chickens too, right? Not exactly.

Dog food, especially kibble, contains much higher levels of protein than chickens need. Typically over 22% whereas chickens only require 16-18%. Too much protein can put unnecessary strain on a chicken’s kidneys and cause digestive upset.

Dog food is also packed with minerals and vitamin supplements that cater to dogs, not chickens. Too much of certain vitamins can cause toxicity.

Finally, dog food lacks the necessary calcium for egg-laying hens. Calcium is essential to forming healthy eggshells. Feeding dog food instead of layer feed can lead to soft-shelled or shell-less eggs.

Is Dog Food Healthy for Hens?

While dog food should not fully replace chicken feed, adding small amounts of dog food to a hen’s diet can be healthy.


In moderation, the extra protein and fat can provide a healthy energy boost. This is especially helpful in cold months when chickens need more calories to keep warm.

Canned or wet dog food also provides moisture, important in hot weather to keep chickens hydrated. Just a spoonful mixed into feed gives hens an extra water source.

When fed occasionally and in small portions, the vitamin supplements in dog food pose little risk of toxicity. In fact, the boosted vitamin levels can improve feather and egg quality.

Can Chickens Eat Canned Dog Food?

Wet or canned dog food is the safest way to allow chickens access to dog food. The soft texture and high moisture content makes it ideal for chickens.

The smaller kibble pieces found in dry dog food pose a choking hazard. Chickens also struggle to digest dry kibble properly without adequate water intake.

A Dog and A Chicken on The Grass
A Dog and A Chicken on The Grass

When feeding canned food, be sure to only provide chickens a spoonful once or twice a week. This prevents overconsumption of fat and protein.

Make sure the brand has no added onion, garlic, or other seasonings toxic to chickens. Stick to poultry, beef, or fish based varieties for the best nutrition.

Can Chickens Eat Fresh Dog Food?

Fresh, homemade dog food is growing in popularity. Feeding chickens fresh dog food follows the same guidelines as canned.

Lean meats, hearty grains, and cooked veggies that comprise fresh dog foods make great supplemental treats for chickens.

Just like with canned varieties, only feed fresh dog food in moderation once or twice a week. Avoid recipes with toxic ingredients.

The extra nutrition and variety from fresh dog food is healthy for chickens when not overdone. It satisfies natural foraging instincts too.

Can Chickens Eat Leftover Dog Food?

Leftover dried-out kibble from your dog’s bowl isn’t ideal for chickens. However, leftovers of canned or fresh dog food are fine.

To avoid food waste, you can feed chickens these leftovers instead of throwing them out. Just be sure to remove any uneaten portions within an hour.

Don’t make leftovers the main meal. Too much can lead to obesity and other health issues in chickens. Stick to a spoonful or two max per bird.

Never feed chickens moldy, rotten, or otherwise contaminated leftovers. This can make them very sick. When in doubt, throw it out.

Can Chickens Eat Dry Dog Food?

Dry dog kibble does not provide an ideal nutritional source for backyard chickens. The hard texture and high carbohydrates make it difficult for chickens to digest properly.

Chickens also need extra water to soften dry food in their crop. Without enough moisture, kibble can cause crop impactions.

If feeding dry food, add warm water to create a mash-like texture. Limit to a few small handfuls per flock once a week. Avoid letting food sit out to prevent mold.

For chickens to benefit from dog kibble nutrients, soaking the food first is a must. Keep dry dog food as an occasional snack, not daily fare.

Can Chickens Eat Wet Dog Food?

Canned or freshly made wet dog food offers a safer way to share dog food with backyard chickens. The soft textures and high moisture content are easy for chickens to digest.

Wet food allows you to control portion sizes, preventing chickens from overindulging easily…

Wet food also allows you to easily control portion sizes. This prevents chickens overindulging on the rich proteins and fats.

When feeding wet varieties, remove any uneaten portion within an hour or two. Don’t let perishable wet food sit out and rot. This can grow harmful bacteria.

Overall, nutritious wet dog food makes a fine supplemental snack for chickens. Just don’t overdo it.

How Often to Feed Dog Food to Chickens?

Dog food should never completely replace balanced layer feed designed for chickens. However, adding small amounts 1-2 times per week can add variety and nutrition.

When giving dog food, only provide what chickens can consume within an hour or two. Leftovers invite mold growth.

Monitor your flock’s health and egg quality when first offering dog food. Reduce frequency if you notice adverse effects. Listen to your chicken’s needs.

Every flock is different, so adjust the amount and frequency to optimal levels. Most chickens do well with a spoonful of wet food or small handful of soaked kibble once or twice a week.

Feeding chickens the occasional dog food snack can be healthy when done right. As for all other animal feeds, use moderation and caution to avoid problems. At the first sign of issues, stop feeding dog food.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it okay for chickens to eat dog food?

Chickens should not be fed dog food regularly, as it lacks essential nutrients vital for their health. While an occasional small amount may not harm them, it’s crucial to provide chickens with a balanced diet specifically formulated for poultry. Chicken feed is designed to meet their nutritional requirements and ensures their overall well-being.

How do I stop my chickens from eating dog food?

To prevent chickens from consuming dog food, feed them separately from your pets. Establish designated feeding areas and times for both chickens and dogs. Store dog food securely to avoid accidental access by chickens. Additionally, consider using elevated feeders for dogs and ground-level containers for chickens to minimize the chance of cross-contamination.

Can chickens eat canned dog food?

While some sources may suggest that chickens can eat canned dog food in moderation, it’s essential to exercise caution. Canned dog food often contains additives and high protein levels that may not align with the specific nutritional needs of chickens. It’s advisable to prioritize a balanced poultry feed to ensure optimal health.

While occasional small amounts may not pose an immediate threat, a diet tailored to the unique requirements of chickens is recommended for their overall well-being. Always monitor your flock for any adverse reactions and consult with a veterinarian for specific dietary guidance.