If you own chickens, you know that they only have one thing on their mind…eating. Whether it’s picking and grazing or going nuts for a tossed handful of super worms, chickens love it all. There is a wide variety of foods that chickens love, though there are some things we shouldn’t feed them. You may be wondering, is dog food safe for chickens to eat?
Dog food is safe for chickens to eat, though it should be used moderately as a treat and not as the sole foundation of their diet. As long as chickens are fed a healthy diet with a complete balance of vitamins and calcium, dog food can be a rewarding supplement to their diet.
Chickens are not picky creatures and will likely gobble up anything tossed into their pen, so it is always a good idea to make sure whatever snacks they get are healthy and safe. In this article, we will take a closer look at how you can utilize dog food in your chicken’s diet as well as some other safe snacks.
Dog Food: A Safe Snack For Healthy Chickens
Dog food is a healthy and nutritionally dense snack for chickens, though it should be limited like any high-value treat. Let’s break this down for those wondering – Is dog food harmful to chickens?
Primarily, the foundation of your chickens’ diet should comprise layer feed in the form of pellets or crumbles. This will ensure that your chickens will regularly lay, and it will help keep their eggs at a desirable quality. While layer feed makes up most of their diet, it is still essential to get some variety in their feed.
Giving your chicken treats is an excellent and simple way to supplement their diet and give them a broader spectrum of healthy nutrients that they may miss with their standard feed. This can be especially important when the weather grows cold, and they are no longer able to graze. This can help them to keep on weight and stay warmer and happier in the colder months.
To properly utilize dog food as a treat for your feathered friends, you only need to make sure you use it sparingly. Since it is made for a large animal, the individuals can be higher in macronutrients than what a chicken would get in their standard layer feed.
Dog food contains roughly 16-38% protein, 6-18% fat, and 40-60% carbohydrates. This is a relatively good ratio of macros for supplementing a chicken’s diet. However, the high carbohydrate content and higher fat content can plump up a hen too quickly if fed this too frequently.
So, don’t be shy if you’re thinking about adding dog food into your chicken’s snack mix. It can be especially handy if you also own dogs since you’ll always have a quick treat for the birds on hand.
If Chickens Can Eat Dog Food, Can They Eat Cat Food Too?
Cat food and dog food aren’t too different, though cat food tends to be higher in protein and fat than dog food. So, it is entirely within reason to feed chickens cat food as a treat. Since cat food is higher in protein and fat, it can be used as a handy treat when a chicken’s protein requirements go up, such as molting, needing to gain a bit of weight, or trying to improve their egg-laying production.
The same rule applies to cat food; it should be a supplemental snack and not make up much of their overall diet. It should only be used in moderation as a snack in addition to your chickens’ regular feed.
Chicken’s bodies are simply not able to live on a high protein diet. If they are fed only cat food, they can starve from malnutrition as the cat food does not have the carbohydrates and complex vitamins and minerals that they need to survive.
When Can You Give Your Chickens A Snack?
Your chickens will do well with a small snack every day. In addition to their regular grazing, pecking, and supply of layer feed, you can toss a handful of tasty treats into their pen or wherever they graze.
During the molting season, you can take the snacking up a notch as well. By adding a higher amount of protein into their diet, your birds will more easily reproduce the feathers lost during the molt and get them back on the right track to laying eggs after a stressful time.
Toss a few extra handfuls of dog food, cat food, or some other high protein snack, or simply mix a bit of the good stuff into their pellet feed to jumpstart their recovery from the molt, the swing into the cold weather, or use it to boost egg production in some withholding hens. Well-fed chickens are happy chickens, and we all know that happy chickens lay the best eggs.
Other Snacks That Chickens Will Love
We now know that dog food is a great snack to have on hand. The same goes for cat food. But, what are some other simple and healthy treats to feed your feathered flock? Since chickens are omnivorous creatures, there is a surprising amount of food that they will happily gobble. Here are some popular options that you probably already have on hand.
- Oatmeal: Chickens go wild for a helping of warm oatmeal. Since it is calorically dense and mostly carbs with a bit of protein, it is a perfect snack for the swing into the winter months if you need to pack a little more plump on your hens. Just watch out for oatmeal that has added sugar.
- Cottage Cheese: Cottage Cheese is full of protein and calcium, which is essential for your layers when making some eggs. Just plop a container on the ground and let your flock go crazy, with some moderation, of course.
- Pasta: Cooked or uncooked chickens will love some pasta in their pen. This is also an easy bonus way to get rid of those leftover noodles. Because who doesn’t accidentally cook too many noodles? We’re certainly guilty of misjudging.
- Worms: Big worms, little worms, long slimy-grimy worms, it doesn’t matter, chickens love them. Mealworms, wax worms, and super worms are a great way to give your chickens a fatty and protein-loaded snack. Go night crawling at night and catch your hens a bunch of earthworms. If it’s slimy and it squirms, your chickens will love it.
- Cracked Corn: Cracked corn is a beloved snack of chickens everywhere. Not only does it help to fatten chickens up and give them a good dose of carbohydrates, but it allows them to regulate body heat better and stay warm when the temperature drops. You can also feed them any other type of corn, so long as it is in moderation. The sugars and carbs can add up fast for greedy chickens.
- Eggs: It might seem a little strange, but chickens love eggs. If you’ve ever accidentally dropped and broken an egg in the chicken coop, you know what we mean. To add a big boost of protein to snacktime, scramble up a bunch of eggs, without salt, of course, and toss them in. Your birds will thank you.
- Meat: Again, it might seem a bit weird to give your girls meat, but they are omnivores after all. They will love it. Go for leaner, non-processed meats. This can be a great way to get rid of trimmings, scraps, and leftovers. They will even love to get some turkey or even…chicken. If that weirds you out, you don’t have to use it, but your chickens will not bat an eye.
- Leafy Greens: Kale, spinach lettuce, broccoli, asparagus. If it is green and leafy, they will wolf it down.
So, we learned that dog food is a perfectly acceptable snack for your flock. Your chickens will be happier and healthier with a varied and complex diet. Toss them some dog food or a myriad of other chicken-safe snacks, and they would thank you if they could.