Chickens are lovely backyard creatures to raise due to them being an omnivore. It makes finding food sources easy since they aren’t picky eaters. But when it comes to meats, can chickens eat them, and what kind of meat can they eat?
So do chickens eat meat? According to experts, chickens do eat meat as they’re omnivores (1). But you must cook it to make it easier for them to eat/digest.
However, this answer doesn’t get into suitable meat types and benefits.
But if you keep reading, I’ll ensure you know everything!
Table of Contents
- Meat represents a safe way to provide chickens will protein. Their digestive systems are designed to handle digesting it without issue.
- Several health benefits come with feeding meat to chickens. Some include higher egg quality, strengthening muscles, and helping them deal with cold weather.
- Backyard chicken keepers must avoid feeding processed meat to chickens. The added salt can cause serious health issues.
- Meat should only be used as an extra treat. Serving it to chickens a few times per week is more than enough.
Is It Safe to Feed Chickens Meat?
As mentioned earlier, meat is a safe source of protein for chickens. It stems from chickens being omnivores, making them capable of digesting it.
In fact, a chicken’s stomach isn’t only built for digesting meat. It can also handle various vegetables without any issues.
But meat does still need to be appropriately handled when served to chickens. Sadly, I can’t just throw meat scraps or beef scraps to chickens constantly without consequences (2).
Instead, the meat must be kept cool in a fridge until it’s ready to serve. If not, it’ll spoil quickly, even when left at room temperature.
This spoiling process accelerates faster at extremely hot temperatures. I remember leaving some meat outside on accident during one hot summer day.
I had a lapse of judgment and left a grocery bag inside my car by mistake. The meat was soiled entirely when I came out to get the bag only 30 minutes later.
So you’ll want to avoid all these issues by storing and handling them properly. If you do, meat can be an excellent addition to your backyard chickens’ diet.
Health Benefits of Meat for Chickens
Meat contains all the crucial vitamins and minerals that the chickens require. But, most importantly, meat has a high protein content.
So it shouldn’t be too surprising to learn that meat offers several health benefits. Here’s a quick look at some to show you what your chickens can gain from eating meat:
#1 Quality Egg Production
Chickens will require some extra protein from time to time. An excellent way to provide is by giving them meat, considering its high protein content.
It’s also worth noting meat has fat content, which isn’t a sought-out benefit. However, it does help improve the quality of a hen’s eggs.
For instance, egg-laying-hens on a meat-rich diet have been shown to produce higher-quality eggs. It reflects itself through “egg size dramatically increasing as daily protein intake increased” (3).
It’s a rather unexpected but delightful result. So it’s worth putting some meat products into your hen’s diet if you want better egg production. It’s certainly worked for me.
#2 Stronger Muscles
Another benefit of meat is high protein content is stronger muscles. As a result, your chicken will produce much bigger and more tender meat.
You can also rely on meat to help build and repair damaged muscle in their flock. It’s a relatively simple way to ensure your chickens remain in shape.
#3 Help Keeps Them Warm During The Winter
The colder months of winter can be difficult for chickens. Due to this, they need a higher fat percentage in their diets to combat those cold winter nights.
So I end up giving my chickens more meat during these months. It’ll help them store larger amounts of fat to thrive in the cold weather.
I recommend starting this process a few months before the cold starts settling. This prep will help them build up their fat reserve, which keeps them warm.
What Kind Of Meat Can Chickens Eat?
Chickens will eat almost any kind of meat. Honestly, I’m not there are fewer picker eaters among domestic animals.
I’ve even seen my chickens consume bugs, frogs, small fish, mice, and spiders. In fact, one of them got a snake once, which was insane.
You can also expect them to eat leftovers from a meal. Some examples include cow meat, pig meat, or even chicken meat.
But of course, this mentality doesn’t mean you should feed them any meat. So it’s a good idea to focus more on the meat they can’t eat rather than what they can.
#1 Meat That Is Bad For Chickens
Processed meat leads the list of harmful items for chickens to eat. For instance, giving them salty meat like ham, bacon, or salami is never a good idea.
These types of meat often have salt added to them. It’s an easy way to ensure the meats don’t spoil quickly.
But this salt isn’t good for chickens to consume. They could suffer from dehydration, digestive problems, and defect in the eggshells.
None of these outcomes are what you want for your flock. So it’s better to stay away from these meats altogether.
Another potential issue is how the meat is cooked. Any meat cooked in butter, oil, and grease can harm your flock. Chickens aren’t capable of digesting greasy food properly.
Can Chickens Eat Raw Meat?
It’s possible to feed chickens raw meat. In most cases, chickens can eat any kind of it without adverse side effects.
But there is a possibility of your chickens getting food poisoning from it. This situation arises when meat is left at room temperature for too long.
In this case, the meat will go bad and have bacterial growth. Once bacteria start growing on the meat, they will expand quickly.
It’ll then cause food poisoning, which isn’t fun for anyone. The usual symptoms will be upset stomach and diarrhea for chickens.
Another issue with raw meat is it tends to be too tough for chickens to eat. Chickens don’t have teeth to chew, so they use their beak to grab the meat and swallow it whole.
It’s not an ideal situation, often leading to digestive issues. Therefore, you’re much better off cooking the meat before serving it to your chickens.
How To Feed Meat To Chickens
Cutting the meat into smaller pieces is the first rule of serving it to chickens. It’s a necessary step to prevent any digestion issues.
You’ll also want to make sure the meat isn’t spoiled. It won’t be hard to tell, as spoiled meat smells awful and rotten.
If you’re looking for a more precise guide, look at these steps. It’ll ensure you provide prepare it in a safe, healthy way:
- Prepare the meat by cleaning it first. A simple wash is enough to remove any debris.
- Cook the meat until it’s cooked. You can grill it, fry it, or even bake it. Whichever method you use, it’s recommended not to use any oil.
- Once the meat is cooked, place it on a cutting board and cut them into small pieces. The pieces should be about the same size as their feeds.
- After the meat is cut, place it into their feeder bowl and give it to the chickens.
How Much Meat To Feed The Chickens
I’ve spent a few sections praising how helpful meat can be for chickens. After all, it’s a fantastic nutrition source, especially protein.
But even with these positive aspects, they can’t survive on an all-meat diet. Instead, it should be a complementary piece to a healthy, balanced diet.
The main issue is meat needs to be limited, as too much protein can cause problems. Experts recommend meat as a secondary treat, much like fruits and veggies.
If you’re looking for a more precise number, meat should be only 10% of their diet. The rest needs to come from an established, commercial chicken feed.
These feeds are formulated with the proper amount of nutrition. But it’s crucial to research the ingredients to see if it’s a complete feed.
In any case, I’d suggest limiting meat consumption to once every couple of days. Anything more will cause nutrient deficiency or weight problems that are common with fatty foods.
Other Foods That Chickens Can Eat
Obviously, meat isn’t the only edible food or a healthy treat for chickens. So I thought it’d be wise to discuss a few others to help diversify your flock’s balanced diet.
Certain insects are excellent additions to a chicken’s diet. These creepy crawlers often are loaded with necessary vitamins and minerals.
Some suitable options include crickets, beetles, and grasshoppers. I favor crickets as they’re much easier to purchase than other insects.
Vegetables are more touch and go than chicken owners assume. In other words, some provide excellent benefits while others can be fatal to chicken health.
But if used correctly, the suitable options are ideal choices to use as treats. I favor leafy veggies like spinach, kale, or even iceberg lettuce.
However, backyard chicken keepers must be careful of overfeeding. It’s tempting because vegetables are seen as helpful in keeping chickens healthy.
The last food group to try is fruits, which are packed with nutrition. Various can be crucial to keeping a flock of chickens in top-tier shape.
As with veggies, some fruits can cause devastating adverse effects on chicken health. The main ones to avoid are avocados and apple seeds.
#1 Can chickens eat meatballs?
Yes, chickens can eat meatballs. But most meatballs have seasoning, and preservatives added to them. If that’s the case, only feed the chickens in moderation.
#2 Can chickens eat ground meat?
Chickens can eat ground meat. However, make sure there are no seasonings added to them. Too much of it can harm them.
So overall, do chickens eat meat? Our feathered friends eat meat, but you must be careful about how it’s served and cooked.
If done correctly, meat can be a solid extra treat in a flock’s diet. Remember to use the comment section if you have any more questions.
1. Nutrition for the Backyard Flock [Internet]. extension.uga.edu. Available from: https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=C954&title=nutrition-for-the-backyard-flock
2. Available from: https://law.uark.edu/service-outreach/food-recovery-project/LeftoversforLivestock_ALegalGuide_August2016.pdf
3. Shim MY, Song E, Billard L, Aggrey SE, Pesti GM, Sodsee P. Effects of balanced dietary protein levels on egg production and egg quality parameters of individual commercial layers. Poultry Science [Internet]. 2013;92:2687–96. Available from: https://academic.oup.com/ps/article/92/10/2687/1550233
Alina Hartley is a small-town girl with a ginormous love of bearded dragons. It all started with Winchester, a baby bearded who was abandoned at the shelter by his former owners because of a birth defect that caused one front leg to be shorter than the other. Alina originally went to the shelter looking for a guinea pig, but one look at Winchester and it was love at first sight. From that day on, Alina has dedicated her life to learning everything she can about bearded dragons. She loves helping new beardie parents start their incredible journey with these magnificent reptiles.
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