Chickens are amazing animals and often the garbage disposals of the small homestead or farm. Their unique digestive system is built to accommodate most types of foods. While they can usually be found stirring up the dirt in search of bugs and worms, their diet often includes other meats and vegetables as well. But what about bread? Is this something you should be feeding your chickens?
Can Chickens Eat Bread? Bread is safe for chickens to eat. They can eat fresh bread or stale bread of any common variety, however, they should not be fed moldy bread.
When I first started researching this topic, I found that there wasn’t very much information about it in one place. Luckily, I was able to gather information from a variety of different sources and compile it here for you.
Bread is a Favorite Treat of Many Chickens
Most chickens absolutely love bread. They usually aren’t picky either. They will eat white bread or wheat bread, stale bread or fresh bread.
In fact, if you have whole grain bread, you know the kind that has all the yummy little seeds in it, your chickens will love you forever.
The thing about bread is it doesn’t have much in the way of nutrition for a chicken. That means that, while a great treat, it probably should not be fed as a sole source of food.
Limit the Amount of Bread Fed to Baby Chicks
Because of the low nutritional value in bread, you should avoid feeding it to baby chicks. Young chicks need a high protein diet in order to grow properly.
While bread is a great treat for adult hens and roosters, it lacks the protein they need. In fact, basic white breads typically only contain 2-3 grams of protein per slice. (source)
While chicks are typically fed high protein chick starter free choice (as much as they want) the protein differences between the two feeds are clear.
Using the table below, it’s easy to see that even though some bread varieties have more protein than others, they aren’t nearly as much as what is contained in chick starter.
|Chick Starter||18 – 20%|
|Multi-Grain Bread||7.7 – 8.8%|
|Wheat / Oat Bread||9.6%|
Source: Bake Info – https://www.bakeinfo.co.nz/Facts/Nutrition/Nutritional-Properties-of-Bread
Mycotoxins in Moldy Chicken Food
As a general rule, don’t feed spoiled or moldy bread. While many chicken owners report that they regularly do so without adverse effects, the risk certainly isn’t worth it.
Moldy food has mycotoxins that can cause issues with your chicken’s health. In fact, according to Mississippi State University, this toxin can cause a condition called mycosis or thrush in the crop. (source) While treatable, it is best not to cause the issue in the first place.
You also want to avoid chickens breathing in mold. Depending on the type of mold, it can create a serious infection in both chicks and humans. (source)
Decreased Egg Production
A 2018 study by Marisabel Caballero, the Global Technical Manager Poultry at EW Nutrition showed that mycotoxicosis could reduce egg production in hens after 3 weeks of continued exposure, even if that exposure was small. (source)
The researcher believes that the likely cause of the decreased egg production is a decrease in the ability of the chicken to utilize protein due to the degeneration of liver tissue.
Poor Eggshell Quality
In addition to being low in protein, bread is low in calcium as well. This can have an impact on the quality of the eggshell your hens are able to produce.
Good, strong eggshells require that hens have access to adequate calcium. Feeding too much bread can cause them to get full on bread and decrease their consumption of layer mash.
While a few days of bread shouldn’t pose any adverse health issues, long-term use of bread as the sole chicken feed source could result in eggs that are more brittle and easily broken than usual.
Incorporating Bread into Chicken Treats
Since bread is OK as a treat for adult chickens, it helps to think outside the box for ways that you can mix things up for your hens. Here are some cool ways you can incorporate bread, as a treat, for your chickens.
Warm Bread Mash
On really cold mornings, try making your chickens a warm bread mash. To do this, add bread into your normal feed and mix it with hot water.
Mix things up by adding other chickens safe foods like zucchini, cucumber, and pumpkin. If you want you can even add crushed eggshells for added calcium.
DIY Chicken Bread
Do you normally bake your own bread at home? If you love channeling your inner baker, consider making your chickens their own special loaf.
Try incorporating chicken safe veggies, crushed up eggshells for calcium, seeds, and grains. When your “chicken bread” is homemade, it is a treat you can feel good feeding and your whole flock will enjoy it!
Make At Home Flock Block
Bread can be a great addition to a make at home flock block. These hardened chicken treats are great for giving chickens something to peck at and browse on throughout the day.
Try mixing in chicken safe fruits and veggies. Flock blocks super hard chicken treats and are great for reducing boredom in chickens. Whether your chickens are penned in a small area or free-range, they usually all appreciate access to this tasty treat!
Fresh or stale bread, without mold, is a perfectly safe treat for adult chickens. It should be avoided as the main source of nutrition for your flock but, the occasional addition shouldn’t cause any harm.
For baby chicks, it’s best to just stick to starter feed. The little ones shouldn’t fill up on this low protein treat. Once they are adults, they are sure to love it!
When you do feed it to your flock, keep in mind that it can be combined with other chicken safe fruits and vegetables to make the ultimate chicken treat. Mix things up for your girls (and guys) and experiment with your own concoctions. They are sure to enjoy it!