What Can Chickens Not Eat? A Guide to Toxic Foods for Chickens

Chickens Eating Grains on the Ground
Chickens Eating Grains on the Ground

Article Summary

  • Toxic foods for chickens include avocados, dried or undercooked beans, chocolate, green potato skins, and rhubarb leaves.
  • Moldy or rotten foods should also be avoided due to potential mycotoxins.
  • Other foods that are poisonous to chickens include onions, garlic, chives, citrus fruits, and tomatoes.

Keeping backyard chickens comes with the responsibility of understanding their nutritional needs. While chickens will eat almost anything, some common foods can be dangerous or even toxic to them. Knowing what not to feed your flock is key to their health and wellbeing.

Can Chickens Eat Everything?

Chickens are natural scavengers with an incredibly diverse palette. They’ll eagerly eat kitchen scraps, garden produce, seeds, insects and more. However, not all human foods are safe for chickens to consume. There are some notable exceptions you’ll want to avoid.

What is Toxic to Chickens?

Certain foods contain compounds that are poisonous or indigestible for chickens. Feed them sparingly or avoid altogether:

  • Avocados – contain persin, which is toxic to birds
  • Dried or undercooked beans – contain hemagglutinin, which can be lethal
  • Chocolate – contains theobromine, which is poisonous to chickens
  • Green potato skins – contain solanine, which is poisonous
  • Rhubarb leaves – contain oxalic acid, which can be toxic

Also refrain from feeding chickens moldy or rotten foods, which can contain mycotoxins.

What Foods are Poisonous to Chickens?

In addition to the foods above, chickens should not be fed:

  • Onions, garlic or chives – can cause anemia
  • Citrus fruits, tomatoes – can be acidic and upset digestion
  • Processed foods, junk food – lack nutrition and can contain harmful preservatives

Avoid anything salty or sugary, as chickens have a low tolerance for excess sodium and sugar.

What Scraps Not to Feed Chickens?

Leftover scraps seem like a natural choice for free-range birds. But steer clear of:

  • Meat, fish, eggs – risk of salmonella contamination
  • Dairy products – chickens don’t digest lactose well
  • Greasy, oily items – can cause digestive upset and illness
  • Spicy foods – can irritate chickens’ sensitive digestive systems


When in doubt, stick to healthy veggie scraps, garden trimmings, cooked rice/pasta, and scratch grains for filling, safe treats.

Providing a balanced diet is crucial for backyard chickens. With some common sense, care and research into their nutritional needs, you can safely share kitchen and garden abundance with your feathered friends.

Frequently Asked Questions

What vegetables can chickens not eat?

Chickens should avoid certain vegetables like green potato skins and rhubarb leaves due to their toxicity. However, most other vegetables are safe for chickens to eat in moderation. They can enjoy a variety of vegetables like leafy greens, carrots, peas, and corn.

What do chickens avoid?

Chickens tend to avoid foods that are harmful or unpleasant for them. They typically steer clear of toxic plants, spoiled or moldy foods, and items that are overly salty or sugary. They may also avoid greasy or spicy foods, as these can irritate their sensitive digestive systems.

Are tomatoes toxic to chickens?

Yes, tomatoes can be harmful to chickens when fed in excess. While small amounts of ripe tomatoes are generally safe, the leaves and stems of tomato plants contain solanine, which can be toxic. It’s best to offer tomatoes to chickens in moderation and remove any green parts.

What plants are bad for chickens?

Some plants can be bad for chickens due to their toxicity. These include plants like rhubarb, which has oxalic acid, and tomato plants with solanine. Chickens should also avoid plants like nightshade, foxglove, and hemlock, which are poisonous to them. It’s important to research and identify toxic plants in your area to protect your flock.

You May Also Like