Can Chickens Eat Chicken?

Roasted Chicken with fork

Can chickens eat chicken? Technically, yes, chickens can consume chicken meat; however, it is not advisable due to the risk of disease transmission and the potential for encouraging cannibalistic behavior among the flock.

This practice also raises significant ethical concerns.

Exploring the Implications of Feeding Chickens Their Own Meat

Chickens are omnivores and naturally scavenge for a variety of foods, but feeding them chicken meat can lead to several issues.

While the physical act of eating chicken meat is not harmful in isolation, the broader implications of such a diet are important to consider.

Here we delve into the health, ethical, and behavioral issues associated with feeding chicken to chickens.

Health Risks Associated with Chicken Meat

The practice of feeding chickens chicken meat can lead to serious health concerns:

  • Disease Transmission: The risk of spreading diseases such as salmonella (bacillus) is heightened when chickens are fed meat from their own species or even closely related species.
  • Prion Diseases: Similar to mad cow disease (Bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in cattle, feeding chickens their own meat could theoretically pose a risk of prion diseases, although no cases have been identified in chickens to date.

Behavioral Concerns

Feeding chicken meat to chickens can also lead to behavioral issues within a flock:

  • Cannibalism: This practice can normalize the consumption of flesh for chickens, potentially leading to increased aggression and cannibalistic behaviors.
  • Stress and Aggression: Chickens consuming meat from their own species may exhibit higher levels of stress and aggression, which can affect their overall health and egg production.

Ethical and Legal Considerations

The ethical implications of feeding chickens their own meat are significant and can affect consumer perceptions and farm practices:

  • Animal Welfare: Ethical concerns arise regarding the treatment of animals and the nature of their feed.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Many countries have strict regulations against feeding livestock any meat that is of their own species, aimed at preventing disease outbreaks and maintaining animal welfare standards.

Alternatives to Chicken Meat

chicken hunting for insects

Given the risks, it is beneficial to consider healthier and safer dietary options for chickens:

  • Commercial Chicken Feed: Professionally formulated to meet the nutritional needs of chickens, ensuring they receive all necessary nutrients without the risks associated with meat.
  • Plant-Based Scraps: Vegetables, fruits, and grains can provide necessary nutrients and dietary variety in a safe manner.
  • Safe Protein Sources: Alternatives like fish meal, insects (such as mealworms), or small amounts of other types of meat can be integrated into the diet to provide protein without encouraging cannibalistic behavior.

Feeding Best Practices

To ensure the health and well-being of chickens, follow these best practices for feeding:

  • Ensure that chickens receive a balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs, primarily through high-quality commercial feed.
  • Treats and scraps should only make up a small portion of their diet.
  • Regularly observe the chickens’ health and behavior to detect any signs of illness or distress early.
  • Maintain clean and hygienic feeding areas to prevent disease.


Although chickens can physically consume chicken meat, it is generally recommended to avoid such a practice due to the associated health risks, potential behavioral problems, and ethical concerns.

Opting for a balanced and species-appropriate diet is crucial for maintaining the health and well-being of your chickens.