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 well-being.

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.

Chickens will eagerly eat kitchen scraps, garden produce, seeds, insects…

What is Toxic to Chickens?

Certain foods contain compounds that are poisonous or indigestible for chickens. Feed them sparingly or avoid them 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 and tomatoes – can be acidic and upset digestion
  • Processed foods and junk food – lack nutrition and can contain harmful preservatives
What can chickens not eat? Chips are a favorite on-the-go snack for humans.
Potato Chips Snack in a Bowl

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.

Toxic Plants and Weeds for Chickens

Chickens are known for their ability to forage and eat a wide variety of plants and weeds. However, there are certain plants and weeds that can be toxic to chickens and should be avoided. It is important for chicken owners to be aware of what their chickens can and cannot eat to ensure their health and well-being.

One of the most common questions asked by chicken owners is, “What can chickens not eat?” There are several plants and weeds that should be avoided as they can be harmful or even fatal to chickens.

What can chickens not eat? Chocolates - the well-known dessert that humans love.
A Close-Up of Chocolate Bars

One example of a toxic plant for chickens is the avocado plant. Avocado contains a substance called persin, which is toxic to many animals, including chickens. The leaves, fruit, and pit of the avocado should all be avoided.

Another plant to avoid is the nightshade family, which includes plants like tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants. These plants contain solanine, a toxic substance that can cause digestive upset and even paralysis in chickens.

Other plants and weeds that are toxic to chickens include rhubarb leaves, which contain oxalic acid; lilies, which can cause kidney failure; and daffodils, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and even heart problems.

It is also important to note that while some plants may not be toxic to chickens, they may still cause digestive upset or other health issues. For example, onions and garlic can cause anemia in chickens if consumed in large quantities.


Chickens have a broad appetite and can consume a variety of foods, but it’s paramount for chicken owners to be informed and vigilant about what they feed their feathered companions. Understanding the potential hazards of certain foods and plants ensures the health and safety of the chickens.

Always prioritize a balanced diet and consult with poultry experts or veterinarians when in doubt. By doing so, you can enjoy the joy of sharing treats with your chickens while ensuring their well-being and longevity.

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.