What Do Chickens Eat?

chicken eating pellets

What do chickens eat? Chickens are omnivores, meaning they can eat a variety of foods including grains, vegetables, fruits, and even small amounts of meat.

Understanding Chicken Nutrition

Chickens require a balanced diet to stay healthy and productive, especially if they are being raised for egg laying or meat production.

Their diet can include commercially prepared feed, which ensures they get a balanced intake of nutrients, as well as a variety of other foods for enrichment.

Key Components of a Chicken’s Diet

  • Layer Pellets: These are formulated specifically for egg-laying hens, rich in calcium to support shell formation.
  • Grower Feed: Used for chickens that are being raised for meat, it has higher protein content to support rapid growth.
  • Starter Feed: For chicks, this feed has the highest protein content to aid in their early development.

Other Foods For Chicken

fruits and veggies on top of Chopping Board

Chickens can eat most vegetables, which provide essential vitamins and minerals:

  • Corn: Provides carbohydrates for energy.
  • Wheat and Barley: Good sources of vitamins and fiber.
  • Leafy Greens: Such as kale and spinach, are favorites and are rich in nutrients.
  • Broccoli and Cauliflower: Provide fiber and vitamins.
  • Apples: A good source of vitamins, but seeds should be removed as they contain cyanide.
  • Berries: Loved by chickens and are a healthy treat.
  • Mealworms: High in protein and a great treat.
  • Small amounts of cooked meats: Can be given, but should be free from seasonings and cooking oils.

What Chickens Should Not Eat

Certain foods are harmful to chickens and should be avoided:

  • Avocado: The pit and skin contain persin, which is toxic to chickens.
  • Chocolate: Contains theobromine, which is poisonous to many animals, including chickens.
  • Onions and Garlic: In large quantities can cause digestive and health issues.

Providing a Balanced Diet for Chickens

To ensure your chickens are healthy and productive, it’s essential to provide a varied and balanced diet:

Proper Nutrition Management: Ensure that the majority of their diet consists of commercial feed, which is specially formulated to meet their nutritional needs.

Supplement with Variety: Offering vegetables, fruits, and occasional proteins not only helps in meeting their nutritional needs but also keeps the chickens engaged and prevents boredom.

Fresh Water: Always provide plenty of fresh, clean water, as chickens need to stay hydrated, especially if they are laying eggs.

Avoid Overfeeding Treats: While treats like fruits and vegetables are beneficial, they should not make up more than 10% of a chicken’s diet to prevent nutritional imbalances.


Chickens have diverse dietary needs that can be met with a combination of commercial feeds, grains, vegetables, fruits, and occasional proteins.

Understanding what to feed chickens and what foods to avoid is crucial for maintaining their health and enhancing their productivity, whether for eggs, meat, or simply as pets.