Chickens are opportunistic eaters and more importantly, they are also omnivores which means they’ll eat almost anything that you give to them (or that they find).
This might seem like an ideal scenario as you can now feed them anything and they’ll happily eat it, however, the reverse is actually true and you now need to consider the safety, nutritional value and even the ethics when it comes to feeding backyard chickens.
With this in mind, people often wonder whether or not chickens eat meat and if it is a safe food source for them.
As omnivores, chickens can and do eat meat, and the high protein content in animal meat means that it’s actually a nutritious food source for them and completely safe to eat. We’d recommend that you always cook the meat and feed it to chickens in small, chopped up chunks though in order to avoid any potential food poisoning.
Is It Safe to Feed Chickens Meat?
Many will wonder whether it’s safe to feed chickens meat because when we picture a backyard chicken, it’s fair to say that we often imagine them pecking at a form of chicken feed or maybe finding an unsuspecting worm; it’s not often we see images of chickens eating meat.
Fortunately, chickens are omnivores and this means that it’s perfectly safe for them to eat both meat and vegetable-based diets. A balanced diet will result in the healthiest chickens and eggs; not only is meat safe for chickens to eat but it’s actually encouraged to provide them with sufficient protein intake.
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Is It Healthy to Feed Chickens Meat?
When it comes to the topic of healthy chicken feed, this is often open to debate as some people feel that chickens should eat in line with their natural diet (which would entail scavenging for bugs/insects, berries, fruits, and even dead carcasses), whereas others would lean towards manipulating their diet with specialty feed and a few ‘treats’ in order to get the optimal egg produce.
Ignoring personal opinion, when it comes to the optimal diet for a chicken, meat is definitely a healthy option and we’d recommend including some form of meat product into your chicken’s diet.
Is Meat Good for Chickens?
Meat is actually good for chickens due to the high protein content that comes with most meat sources. Chickens will tend to eat a lot of bugs and insects because they are an amazing source of protein, a lot of insects have some of the best protein to weight ratios of any food source!
Meat also provides a healthy source of fats and when combined with a high protein value, a diet rich in meat can lead to very healthy eggs with darker, more vibrant yolks.
We’re not saying that you need to go to the extreme and feed them as much meat as possible; a balanced diet is of course essential and the fact that chickens are omnivores means that they benefit from a balanced diet of meat, vegetables and grains.
What Kind of Meat Can Chickens Eat?
Chickens are not fussy when it comes to meat choices and this means that you need to be quite intentional about what meat sources you feed them. To get the benefit of animal protein, many will feed their chickens a combination of chicken feed mixed with some cat food (meat-based).
This is simply because it’s easy to mix in with the feed and monitor quantities rather than having any specific nutritional advantage.
Chickens can eat a range of meat and without human intervention, you’ll find that they frequently consume mice, frogs, bugs, small fish and even dead birds that end up on the farm (or backyard).
With this in mind, it’s less important to look at the meat that chickens can eat (as it’s basically all meat) and instead, focus on the types of meat that they shouldn’t eat.
Unhealthy Meat Options
Much like a human’s diet, you need to be careful about which meat sources you give to your chickens as certain meats will actually be an unhealthy option and could end up making your chickens ill.
Unhealthy meat options include salty meat (ham and bacon), meats cooked in grease (chickens can’t properly digest foods that are greasy) and the biggest one that you should avoid feeding your chickens is processed meat.
Processed meats are high in salt and preservatives, both of which can cause your chickens to potentially suffer from dehydration, digestion issues, or eggshell defects.
On a side note, we’d also consider meats that could cause cannibalism type behavior to be on the restricted list (though we wouldn’t call these foods unhealthy).
This would mainly be raw egg or raw eggshells as this would then encourage them to eat their own eggs which would result in a serious habit in your flock that would be very difficult, if not impossible to break.
Cooked scrambled egg for example is fine and is often a great option because of the complete protein that egg provides and it would in no way resemble an egg. This, therefore, means it wouldn’t cause the issue of the chickens eating their own eggs as a result.
Can Chickens Eat Raw Meat
Chickens can eat raw meat; however, caution has to be taken to ensure that the raw meat is not moldy, foul-smelling or rotten.
We’d hope that the above statement would seem obvious but when it comes to feeding chickens, the general rules that humans follow when preparing food can be applied to chickens as well to ensure the food is safe to eat.
This is because raw meat could have the potential to cause food poisoning so we’d always advise the cautious approach which would be to cook the meat. Just because chickens can eat raw meat doesn’t mean that they should.
So, do chickens eat meat? Yes, chickens will feast on bugs given the opportunity and if you provide them with a form of meat (on a bone) then they will fight over it and eventually peck the bone clean (some will even peck into the bone for additional calcium).
There is no issue with feeding your chickens meat and due to the high protein content, it can actually be a healthy food staple for them. If you choose to feed them chicken or poultry, however, then this opens up an ethical question that we’ll leave you to decide on!
Hutch and Cage.com does not provide veterinary advice. Our aim is to provide the reader with information to enable them to make a good decision when making a purchase or caring for their pet. All content is therefore for informational purposes only. If you’re concerned about the health of your pet you should seek medical advice from a vet.