What can Chickens Eat? Scraps and Leftovers That Chickens Love (And Some They Don’t)

Andy M

Backyard chicken keeping has tons of benefits, and one is an easy, guilt-free way to dispose of your kitchen scraps. Chickens are omnivores, meaning that given the opportunity and enough hunger, they’ll eat virtually anything – and turn it right into nutrient-rich compost for your lawn or garden! If you’ve ever wondered “what can chickens eat” or “what do chickens eat” the answer is pretty much everything!

Here at Little Onion Farm, we’re happy to give our birds pretty much anything in our kitchen that’s expired, soon to expire, leftover, overcooked, stale, etc. However, if you’re new to chicken keeping, you might be unfamiliar with what foods chickens like or what foods chickens shouldn’t eat.

Not all chickens will eat every food. Plus, they might not recognize certain items as edible at first, especially if they’re not used to receiving treats from you.

Once they recognize you as the treat giver, they’ll soon understand that your approach means snacks – and they’ll eventually connect that to any unknown items you give them. Once just one of your chickens figures out that a new treat is edible, the rest will quickly follow. 

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “What leftovers can chickens eat?” or “What human foods can chickens eat?” this post is for you. In the sections below, we’ll go over the things we feed to our chickens, their favorite foods, human foods you shouldn’t feed to chickens, and other things that we don’t feed for non-health reasons. 

What Foods Do Chickens Love to Eat?

In our experience, chickens go crazy for anything involving fruits, vegetables, or grains. Fruits and vegetables with lots of visible seeds seem to get their attention right away – they instinctively recognize them as the good stuff. Make sure to smash or cut anything with a thick or hard rind, like melons and squash, to give them easier access to the edible inside.

Our chickens instantly recognize most types of bread and go crazy for them. They also love rice and spaghetti noodles, but sometimes other pasta shapes leave them a little confused. Our chickens will eat leafy greens like lettuce and celery if there’s nothing else available, but they’re not the biggest fans.

Have you ever wondered what to feed chickens from your garden? Chickens will happily eat any fruits and vegetables that aren’t fit for human consumption, including rotten, infested, undersized, or blemished goods. Here’s some specific advice on some the most common fruits, grains, vegetables, and similar foods.

Vining Vegetables


Root Vegetables

Other Vegetables


Vining Fruits

Stone Fruits

Other Fruits


Keep in mind that not all of the categories in this post may be 100% correct in an academic sense… You’ve probably heard that a tomato is a fruit, for an example, or that a strawberry is an accessory fruit, not a berry. The sections above and hereforth are just to increase readability and make it easier to find what you’re looking for. We apologize for any confusion!

What Foods Are Bad for Chickens?

Chickens are pretty hardy creatures. Very few foods can kill a chicken outright, but there are some out there you should be aware of. Fortunately, chickens are very instinctive, so even if you accidentally feed them something bad, they’ll often avoid it anyway as long as they aren’t too hungry. 

The main thing to keep in mind here is that free range chickens often have access to harmful and unhealthy foods that caged chickens do not. However, as long as they have enough of their preferred foods to eat, they’ll usually avoid them anyways. That being said, if you free range your chickens, take note of any wild fruits, vegetables, berries, or other plants that might be harmful to them. It might be a good idea to fence these areas off or eradicate any wild harmful species.

Here’s some more specific advice about chicken-unfriendly foods that you might come across.


*An extended note about onions, garlic, and other alliums: Onions and garlic are unsafe for many household pets, as they contain sulfides (disulphides and thiosulfinates) that damage red blood cells. All plants in the allium family, including leeks, garlic, onions, and chives, contain these toxins in varying amounts.

Some flock owners choose to supplement their chickens’ feed with garlic as a parasite preventative and general health aid. At Little Onion Farm, we believe it isn’t worth it due to the potential health risks involved. Whether you use it or not is up to your own discretion. If you’re thinking of supplementing your flock with garlic, we recommend consulting with your veterinarian first.



Some fruit seeds are considered unsafe for chickens. As long as your chickens don’t eat them too often, these seeds should not cause an issue. That being said, you can never be too cautious! Avoid giving your chickens the following:

Avoid excessive amounts of sugary fruit. Chickens love fruit and will appreciate all of the vitamins and minerals they provide, but too much sugar is just as bad for chickens as it is for humans. 

When in doubt, consult this page for an exhaustive list of potential and confirmed chicken foods/plants to be aware of.


Food spoilage is an enormous problem both worldwide and nationally. I know that I, personally, tend to buy way more than I need when I grocery shop, and since I’m a huge fan of fresh fruit and veggies, a frustrating portion of that tends to go bad. While my chickens always appreciate anything that I don’t get around to eating in time, I think that Food Huggers provides an ingenious, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly alternative with their reusable silicone and fabric storage solutions.

I love using Food Huggers’ lids to keep opened cans viable for a few days in the fridge, but they work great to keep cut halves of fruits and vegetables fresh, too. Plus, their resealable silicone bags are some of the most user-friendly I’ve found so far. While I personally don’t enjoy avocados, I have family members that swear by the Avocado Hugger to keep fresh avocados from browning before they get to eat the other half! 

While Food Huggers’ products are unfortunately made overseas, they speak an important message: to decrease our own food waste and better manage what we have. Plus, they do have designs on making products in the USA someday, which would be great!

You can get 10% off of your first order with Food Huggers by signing up for their email list. Just scroll to the bottom of their home page, enter your email in the box under “Get Fresh News,” and click Sign Up.

Can Chickens Eat Meat?

The main food we avoid feeding our chickens by choice – not because of health reasons – is meat. Can chickens eat meat? Absolutely – even though we don’t tend to think of them as meat eaters, chickens are omnivores, and they will happily eat insects, reptiles, amphibians, and even small mammals like mice when given the opportunity. Essentially, anything they can safely swallow or break into small enough pieces, they will eat. 

We generally avoid giving the chickens large quantities of meat or very tough cuts, and we never feed them raw meat. Not because they can’t have it, but because raw meat can attract unwanted predators that might want it for themselves!

Raw meat can attract other unwanted pests, too, such as ants, wasps, rats, flies (which eventually lead to maggots, ew), and more. We do feed our chickens small amounts of leftover cooked meat if we’re confident that they will be able to finish it quickly – small cuts, like ground meat and lunchmeat, are generally best. Our chickens will also happily pick at shrimp tails, fish, and other seafoods.

This may seem a little like cannibalism, but we urge you to consider feeding your chickens eggs! Chickens love eggs, to the point that egg eating can become a behavioral problem in some flocks because they enjoy them so much. It’s important to do this the right way so that your chickens don’t learn to associate the eggs they lay with food. The best way to do this is with egg loafs or scrambled eggs.

If you have a lot of eggs that are about to go bad or that you don’t want to eat yourself, cook them into an egg loaf. To do this, just grease a loaf pan (the type you’d use to make bread or meatloaf), fill it with your eggs, then place it into a large pot with an inch or two of water – not enough to overflow the loaf pan, but enough to boil. Then, cover the entire pot with a lid and simmer until the eggs in the loaf pan fully cook. Once it’s completely cool, you can easily scoop out the loaf and feed it directly to your chickens. They’ll love it!

If you only have a few bad eggs to get rid of, a quick batch of scrambled eggs is even easier than making an egg loaf. We like to make our chickens scrambled eggs when we have a few cracked or poo-covered eggs that we’d rather not eat.

Egg shells make an amazing supplement for laying hens, too, as they help reclaim some of the calcium and minerals that hens lose when laying. Make sure to save them whenever you can!

The best way we’ve found to process egg shells is to dry them out (either in your oven or in a sunny spot), then buzz them in a blender or food processor. You can crush them by hand, too, if you prefer – just make sure there aren’t any sharp edges left that might make it hard for your chickens to eat them.

With that done, you can add the egg shell powder to your chickens’ food for an extra boost of minerals. You can use this powder as garden fertilizer for vitamin-hungry plants, too. 

Weird and Surprising Foods that Chickens Love

If you own chickens, you’ve probably experimented with feeding them fruits and vegetables already. We love discovering new things that the chickens like to eat and keeping track of what improves their health. Our birds are very easy keepers, but we haven’t gotten there without lots of trial and error! You might have to offer some of these foods multiple times before your chickens will eat them, but we highly encourage you to give it a shot anyways.

Snack Foods

Nuts and Seeds

Meats and Cheeses

Veggie Scraps

Creamy Foods

Pet Food

We have successfully fed all of the above items to our own chickens. Please note that, while we try to do thorough research, we have not exhaustively searched each and every food item in this guide for potential side effects or safety concerns. Please, always trust your gut, and if it’s telling you not to feed them something, don’t do it! We encourage you to do extensive online research, as we’ve done, before feeding your birds anything you’re unsure about.

Final Thoughts

We hope this article answered your questions about the foods chickens should and shouldn’t eat! Chickens are walking compost machines, and if you give them your kitchen scraps, they will reward you tenfold in appreciation, health, and best of all, fantastic garden fertilizer.

If you have any questions about a specific food that we didn’t cover and you’d like our opinion on whether it’s safe, feel free to send us an email and we’ll add it to this guide.

We heartily encourage anyone with chickens to feed them scraps whenever possible, both to better mimic a wild diet and to support their overall health. Plus, you’re keeping stinky food scraps out of your trash and out of landfills at the same time. It’s a win for everyone!

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