Can Chickens Eat Bird Food?


To ensure that you adequately protect your vegetation from wild birds, you’ve probably built them a cage containing bird food. As you’ve bought a bag or two from the pet shop, the question “Can chickens eat bird food” probably crossed your mind.

Bird food mix is composed of its fair share of ingredients, and oddly enough, chickens can enjoy them also, but on rare occasions. 

Why can’t chickens eat bird food all the time? How much should you offer them? What happens if they eat more than they should? Contrary to all of that, what are the health benefits that bird food provides to chickens?

Many people mistakenly think that just because bird food has the word bird in them, it automatically means that they can offer some to chickens. Although chickens are technically birds, they have a body that can tolerate a moderate amount of a particular ingredient found in bird food. 

Interested in finding out which ingredient is that? Stick around to find out everything there is about chickens and bird food!

How Do Feral Chickens Find Bird Food?

The term wild chickens are regularly used, but contrary to some beliefs, it’s not correct. To be precise, chickens found in the wilderness are called feral. Feral chickens are just chickens that have returned to the wild. 

They are mainly found in parts of the United States, but some other regions have them also like Sydney in Australia and Hampshire in England. Feral chickens often form groups with a single most dominant cockerel, several hens that mate with him, and some subordinate cocks.

These chickens are attracted to ripe fruit or seed areas, including fruit plantations, domestic grain fields, and bamboo stands. They prefer disturbed habitats and edges, both natural and human-created, commonly found in logged and regenerating forests.

Those forests are often found near human settlements. Most of the food that feral chickens eat is located in those forests, but some plants that attract them are, unfortunately, located in human-populated areas. 

Many chickens trespass on human settlements in search of more delicious vegetables, fruits, and crops. Some humans are generous enough to let them have some plants they don’t need by leaving them outside their property walls.

Some even go to extended lengths and head to their local pet shops, searching for bird food to offer them with said plants. I highly recommend that you firstly stop by your local veterinarian and ask them if the bird food you purchased is adequate for feral chickens (more on that later).

How Do Domesticated Chickens Find Bird Food?

On the other hand, every chicken that stays in captivity remains domesticated. In most cases, chickens don’t even try to escape from the place that they live in. It’s easy to understand why – we provide them with all the necessary stuff they need to live a long and care-free life.

Most farms have large pieces of land that are optimized and used to grow various plant-type fruits and vegetables. Many have even sections specialized for keeping livestock like cattle, sheep, horses, goats, and other domestic animals, most importantly chickens.

Chickens aren’t needy creatures, but some stuff is necessary if you plan on keeping them healthy all the time. As I’ve mentioned before, they require a large piece of land that mainly consists of well-groomed grass.

Even regular people that have a house with access to a large yard can adequately keep chickens! Not much is required besides good rain a couple of times per month to have healthy grass in your backyard. As long as the grass is regularly mowed, chickens can live there without a care in the world. 

Although having an always accessible sun that shines brightly can benefit chickens’ health, I need to explain one thing to you. There should be a place where they can run in search of refuge to protect themselves from the scorching heat that summer usually gives us.

If you aren’t fond of building various things that can serve as a “parasol” for chickens, there is a good alternative. Whenever chickens feel like they need to rest from running around the yard, they should return to their primary living place.

People mainly use hen houses – a particular type of living space meant for all chickens, especially egg-laying hens. Did you know that feral hens lay significantly fewer eggs annually than the domesticated counterpart? I was shocked when I found out!

Domesticated chickens have a diet that is, luckily for farmers and us, easily manageable. It mainly consists of fresh vegetables and fruits. Listen, chickens know what’s best for them. There will be days when they will eat more vegetables than fruits and vice versa.

It’s essential to listen to their needs and proportionally respond with whatever they expect from us at every given time. Whatever hens might miss in their daily diet, they supersede by finding food in the yard; be it some insects or fresh grass, they can manage themselves properly.

When chickens traverse throughout the backyard of your house, it’s important to keep some stuff protected from them. I assume that it isn’t far-fetched to think that you have a place in your yard that’s specifically used to grow some fruits and vegetables for your family.

Fruits like apple trees, grapes, strawberries, oranges, cherries, cranberries, java plums, mandarines, and nectarines are the most commonly found fruits in people’s gardens.

Contrary to that, asparagus, green beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, bok choy, and peppers are some of the most favorite vegetables planted in ordinary gardens.

Chickens tend to trespass into those gardens and to prevent them from doing that, it’s necessary to build a tall fence around the garden. They have wings, but fortunately for the planted fruits and vegetables, they can’t use them effectively to fly over the fence if it’s tall enough.

So, how do domesticated chickens stumble upon some bird food? Oddly enough, it mainly happens as an accident! People tend to further protect their gardens, not from chickens but from regular birds that live in places near their house.

By attaching a specialized small cage to a long branch on some tall tree located mainly in the center of the yard, people try to prevent wild birds from ravaging their fruits. But what makes the wild birds more attracted to that cage instead of fresh veggies?

The bird food that people put in those cages, of course! In doing so, people are unintentionally inviting chickens to eat that same bird food. But how does that happen? Isn’t the cage ordinarily put high above, where chickens can’t reach it?

Oddly enough, when wild birds peck the bird food from the cage, they mistakenly make the subsequent seeds fall to the ground.

What Are The Risks For Chickens If They Eat Bird Food?

Let me briefly explain what bird food is composed of:

  1. Black sunflower seeds are most commonly found in every bird food mix because they attract various birds.
  2. Thistle seeds
  3. Suet – a raw, hard fat of beef, lamb, or mutton, mainly used to attract insect-eating birds like woodpeckers and nuthatches.
  4. Artificial nectar – water with special sugar that attracts hummingbirds. 
Let’s keep this plain and straightforward; bird food mixes are safe for chickens to eat but never as a primary food source.

Bird food is usually high in fat and has way too low vitamins necessary for egg-laying hens. Bird food should never replace a chicken’s regular diet and should be an occasional treat for them!

Whenever some part of the bird food falls to the ground, it has a high chance of being eaten by the chickens. They adore eating the seeds present in bird food, but as with all types of food, they shouldn’t be allowed to overeat them.

The seeds present in bird food mixes contain high levels of fats that can be detrimental to the overall health of hens if eaten in large amounts. Chickens are especially in dire need of healthy fats for energy and other functions.

Too much saturated fat can cause cholesterol to build up in their blood vessels, rendering their bodies not functioning correctly. Remember that as you leave behind an unsupervised cage, fully pact with bird food for wild birds.

Nonetheless, chickens can eat a moderate amount of bird food if offered some by hand. If you have a dozen hens, you can toss them a handful of bird food once per week to aid their cravings for high-fat foods. Be considerate to your chickens and offer them some on rare occasions only!

Can Chickens Eat Bird Food? – Recap

Some people think that hens are divine creatures that can eat everything that is served to them! Before offering them any new and untested stuff, you should consult with your local veterinarian firstly. Let me save you some time by answering can chickens eat bird food.

Contrary to some beliefs, chickens can eat bird food, but only if you carefully offer them some. Giving them more than they should eat can result in some serious health-related issues. Prevent that by providing them a handful of bird food once per week!

Bird food has high-fat levels present inside them that can aid the overall health of your beloved chickens. On the other hand, if they eat too many saturated fats, it can raise their cholesterol levels, proving detrimental for their long-term well-being.

If you use bird food to distract wild birds from eating veggies and fruits from your garden, make sure to control the amount they spill when they take some from the cage. Every fallen seed from the cage above will probably be found and eaten by your chickens.

Control the amount of bird food that chickens eat at all times to ensure that they have a long and healthy life!

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