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Can Chickens Eat Dog Food?

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People like you who raise chickens are always looking for cheap feed and treat alternatives for their birds. One common treat for chickens is feeding them with leftover foods such as kitchen scraps and animal feed. What kind of animal feed can chickens eat?

For example, can chickens eat dog food?

Chickens can eat small quantities of dog food as a treat. It is, however, not recommended to feed your chickens with dog food as it is usually more expensive and is not formulated for chickens.

a pile of dog food in different colors and shapes

How much dog food can chickens eat? What recommended feed should you give to your chickens? Continue reading.

Can Chickens Eat Dog Food?

If you have dogs, it means that you also have dog food. What happens if your chickens find a way to your warehouse, garage, or wherever you keep your dog food? Some people also give leftover dog food to their chickens. Can they eat it safely?

Eating little quantities of dog food is not bad for chickens. You, however, should not give too much dog food to your chickens.

Is Dog Food Harmful to Chickens?

Even though chickens can eat a little quantity of dog food without getting hurt, you should be careful not to allow your chickens to eat too much as dog food may be dangerous for chickens.

Here are some ways dog food may be harmful to chickens:

  • Medicated Dog Food: Some dog foods are specifically made for dogs with some health challenges such as nutrient deficiency and arthritis. The medications added to the feed may be harmful to chickens, so you should prevent your chickens from eating medicated dog food.
  • Excess of Some Nutrients: Some dog foods have a protein content as high as 35%. On average, chickens need between 18% to 23% crude protein (according to their age). This means that you are wasting feed when you give your dog food to chickens. Also, too much protein can cause various health challenges in chickens.
  • Lack of Some Nutrients: Some nutrients such as fiber are lower in dog food. For example, dog food can contain 2-4% fiber while chicken feed usually has around 7% fiber. As you can, see, your chickens will not get enough fiber (to aid their digestion) if you feed them with dog food.
  • Cost of Feed: Dog food is more expensive than chicken feed. Considering the ingredients used in dog food, it is always more expensive, so you should think twice before giving your chickens what they do not need (at a higher cost).
  • Feed Formulation: Dog food is made for dogs while chickens need feed made for chickens. You should not regularly feed an animal with food formulated for another animal.

As you can see, even though chickens can eat dog food, they should not eat too much of it as it is a waste and also poses some health challenges.

What Should Chickens Eat?

Instead of giving dog food to your chickens, here are some recommended food ideas for the birds:

1. Processed Feed

Feeding your chickens with starter and finisher feeds gives them enough nutrients and helps them to grow quickly. Processed chicken feeds are the best as they are carefully formulated for chickens. You can buy starter and finisher feed from feed mills, pet shops, and other stores.

2. Maggot Meal

Maggots are young and developing insects. Maggots are very rich in proteins and other nutrients that your chickens need. Examples of maggots to feed your chickens are:

  • Mealworms
  • Black soldier fly larvae
  • Grub worms

There are different types of maggots for chickens. You can get maggots from pet shops.

3. Seeds and Grains

Chickens love their seeds and grains. Seeds and grains are rich in proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Examples of seeds and grains that you can feed your chickens with are:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Millet
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Peas
  • Watermelon seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds

Give seeds and grains to your chickens as treats. You can use seeds and grains to train your chickens to return to their coop in the evening.

hen eating wheat in a yard

4. Fruits and Vegetables

Chickens love fruits and vegetables a lot. Fruits are rich in sugars, so you should only give fruits to chickens as treats instead of regular meals.

You can use fruits and vegetables to keep your chickens busy when they are bored. By hanging fruits or vegetables above your chickens, you can form a natural piñata for your birds. They can peck and eat their piñata for entertainment and exercise.

Examples of fruits and vegetables that you can feed your chickens with are:

  • Apples
  • Watermelons
  • Bananas
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach

Remember to give fruits to chickens only as treats.

5. Whatever They Can Find

If you allow your chickens to search for their feed by themselves, they will eat whatever they can find. Examples of items that chickens can eat during free-range are:

  • Earthworms
  • Seeds
  • Young plants
  • Insects
  • Spiders

Even though your chickens are searching for their food, make sure that you give them extra feed in case they cannot find enough food for themselves. You should place feed and water troughs around the farm so that they can eat and drink while foraging.

There are a lot of food ideas for chickens. What will you feed your chickens with?

chickens eating in the field

Related Questions and Answers

Here are answers to some related questions that you might ask:

1. Can Chickens Eat Cat Feed?

Just like dog food, chickens can eat cat feed, but just a little. Cat food is made for cats, so eating too much cat food can make your chickens obese, lack some nutrients, become sick, or just waste the feed. You should feed your chickens with feed made for chickens, not food made for cats.

2. Can Dogs and Cats Eat Chicken Feed?

First of all, dogs and cats will not eat chicken feed as it is not palatable for them.

The chicken feed contains more fibers than what your pets need. Chicken feed might also be medicated and becomes very unsuitable for your pets. You should keep your chicken feed far from the reach of your pet dogs and cats.

3. Can Chickens Eat Pellets for Goats, Cows, and Other Ruminants?

Goat and cow pellets are usually made of grains, seeds, grass, and other plant products. As omnivores, chickens can eat products from both plants and animals. This means that chickens can eat livestock pellets.

You, however, should consider the nutrient composition of these pellets and check if they can satisfy the nutritional requirements of your chickens. If the pellets do not have enough proteins for your chickens, you should only give them to your chickens as treats.

Can cows and goats eat chicken feed? The short answer is no. Cows and goats are herbivores and chicken feed contains ingredients from plant and animal sources. This means that if you feed your cows or goats with chicken feed, you may be giving them animal products such as bones, fish, blood, etc. and it is unethical. Do not feed your livestock with chicken feed.

pine, beech and sunflower pellets

4. What Should Chickens Not Eat?

Examples of foods that chickens should not eat are:

  • Apple Seeds: Apple seeds contain amygdalin. Amygdalin is a phytotoxin that can harm your chickens if they eat too much of it. Chickens can eat apples, but not apple seeds.
  • Raw Potatoes: Raw potatoes contain traces of cyanide and are very hard to digest. Chickens should not eat potatoes especially when raw. Potatoes have a lot of carbohydrates.
  • Fatty Foods: Chickens should not eat any food scrap or leftover that contains a lot of fat.
  • Uncooked Beans: Uncooked beans are very hard for your chickens to digest and they contain anti-nutrients. You can feed your chickens with cooked beans instead.
  • Onions and Garlic: The sulfur in onions and garlic are too much for chickens. Also, onions and garlic make feed unpalatable for chickens.

Make sure that you only feed your chickens with safe and healthy foods.

5. Will Your Dog Harm Your Chickens?

Dogs love playing with chickens. They love to chase chickens, but they can harm your chickens. You should prevent your dogs from hurting your chickens. Instead, train your dogs to leave your chickens alone or even herd them (for herding breeds).

pine, beech and sunflower pellets

Final Thoughts

Chickens can eat dog food, but just a little. Do not allow your chickens to have access to a lot of dog food as dog food is not suitable for chickens. There are a lot of better treat ideas for your chickens, so you should not give them dog food regularly.

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