You’ve been thinking of treating your chickens to some cat food lately, haven’t you? It’s ultra-rich in protein. And you probably think your birds will benefit greatly from its high protein content. So can chickens eat cat food? No doubt they can!
Apart from the usual chicken feed, supplementing the main diet of your birds with a cat food can do them a great deal of good! Especially when they’re molting, laying eggs, or grappling with the winter.
Still, the last thing you want to do is to make it a staple diet for your chickens. Thus, it’s appropriate – even beneficial – to occasionally treat your birds to cat food.
Do it consistently, and you birds might end up having issues.
What nutrients do chickens require for healthy growth?
Like every other animal, chickens require portions of certain vital nutrients to turn out the way you want them to.
These include carbohydrates, amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals such as calcium, cobalt, sodium, zinc, and potassium,
Of course, the specific requirements of these nutrients might differ from bird to bird. So, rations for layers may not necessarily be the same for grower birds or broilers.
can chickens benefit nutritionally from cat food?
Cat food – no matter the form it comes in – has been made specifically to meet the nutritional needs of your cat(s) – not your chickens.
So, it may contain nutrients in amounts that might not be wholesome for your chickens when eaten regularly and in large portions.
Still, these essential nutrients when eaten in moderation by your birds can perform amazing results.
Chickens cannot do without protein in their diet. For proper growth and development of muscles and tissues, they need this nutrient.
Generally, the chicken feed will contain about 16-20% of protein. It may be slightly low or high depending on the specific type of bird they were made for.
So, a broiler finisher might be fed on a diet containing just 15% of protein, a layer, 16% of protein, and a pullet starter may require up to 22% of protein.
It may not always be necessary to supplement your birds’ diet with extra protein. But, during molts, it’s likely to be beneficial.
Feathers, after all, are made up mainly of protein. Treating your birds to cat food when they’re molting will help make the process of regrowing new feathers smoother.
calcium and phosphorus
For grower birds, calcium and phosphorus are minerals that are crucial in the development of a robust skeletal structure.
More importantly, for layers, these minerals are important if you want eggs with hard shells.
The absence of other minerals like cobalt may slow growth. A lack of zinc may cause the development of short bones. Goiter could also result if your chickens don’t feed on a diet containing iodine.
Cat food contains these necessary minerals and will benefit your chickens if eaten.
Omega-3and Omega-6 fatty acids are present in cat food.
For chickens, these fatty acids play an important role in the birds’ general metabolism – improving growth performance, boosting immune response as well as bolstering fertility rates.
These fatty acids also play an overall role in improving the egg and meat quality of your birds.
Fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E, and K in cat food can benefit your chickens.
For instance, vitamin A improves egg production and its lack may cause your birds to grow weak. A lack of vitamin D will stall the growth of your birds.
The absence of vitamin E may cause the enlargement of hocks.
Water-soluble vitamins like Niacin are important for correct leg formation. Folic acid is necessary for good feathering and a lack of biotin may cause dermatitis around the eyes and beak.
can chickens eat cat food? When does it become harmful?
It’s apparent that cat food, when fed to chickens, can be highly beneficial. And since chickens are omnivores and can eat about anything, they may take a great liking to cat food.
But, when does feeding chickens with cat food become unhealthy? Like all things, when it’s done in excess.
Cat food contains a lot of protein as cats have a much higher protein requirement than do dogs.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommends that cat food should contain a minimum of 26% crude protein – on a dry matter basis – for the proper maintenance of adult cats. At the same time, fats should also not make up less than 9% of the cat’s diet.
The import of the above is that while cat food may be beneficial to your birds, feeding too much of it too often may not bode well for them.
Your birds already derive all their nourishment from their regular diet. And if they forage, they can supplement that with scratch seeds, worms, bugs, lizards, etc. So, it may be overkill if you’re thinking of making cat food a staple for them.
While additional protein is welcome during molts, the protein in cat food may become too much for them especially when they’re already getting it from their main diet. Consuming more protein than necessary can lead to devastating results for your birds. And that’s not something you want happening.
what kind of cat food should i feed my chicken?
Being omnivores, chickens are versatile with their choice of food – regardless of the form. They can eat slugs, insects, fish, fruits, and even raw meat.
Cat food comes typically dry, in the form of kibble or wet, in the form of chunks with sauce.
Aside from the differences in texture, taste, flavor, etc, the nutrient composition of these two major forms of cat food may vary greatly.
While wet cat food will contain about 10-15% of protein, dry cat fat is likely to contain up to 28% of protein.
The truth is that you can feed your birds whatever form of cat food you want. Some owners lean more towards dry cat food because it’s cheaper, lasts longer, and contains more protein.
Others think the moisture in wet cat food will provide better hydration than dry cat food possibly can. Again, it’s a matter of choice.
Your chickens may end up falling in love with either, both, or none of them. What’s more important is how much serving of cat food you feed them.
Considering the protein content for dry cat food, for instance, it’ll be ideal to serve your chickens with smaller portions when contrasted with wet cat food.
through what means should i feed my chickens cat food?
You can feed your chickens directly with cat food.
With dry cat food especially, you can mix that up with the main diet of the birds. These pellets should be small enough for your birds to pick up. But, where they’re unusually larger, you might want to break them into smaller pieces when mixing with chicken feed.
Additionally, you may blend it into powdered form for your chickens.
how much cat food should i feed my chickens?
Chicken feed, not cat food, should remain the staple in your chickens’ diet. As such, cat food should just operate as a treat.
In chickendom, it is generally believed that 90% of a chicken’s diet should be met by well-balanced chicken feed. The other 10% can be supplemented with scratch grains, table scraps, and treats.
Cat food falls under this category. Practically, you don’t want to give your chickens more than 2 tablespoons of cat food every day.
how often should i give my chickens cat food?
Like all other treats, cat food should be fed in moderation or occasionally. Of course, if you’re applying the 90/10 rule above, it may make sense to feed your chickens with cat food every day.
As long as you’re not exceeding 10%, there’s little chance that your chickens will be overfed with excess protein.
However, the best time to feed your chickens with cat food is when they’re molting. Feathers contain about 80 to 85% of protein.
So, during this period, they’ll need extra amounts of protein to help in regrowing new feathers. And you can make the process more seamless for your birds by incorporating protein-rich cat food into their diet.
Since it’d just be to supplement their main diet, you shouldn’t feed them with more than four tablespoons of cat food in a day.
One reason we love chickens so much is that they’re easy to feed and take care of. If something is edible and they like it, then it’s game! That’s chicken for you.
But, it doesn’t mean it’s safe for them simply because they can eat it. So, can chickens eat cat food? Absolutely! But, it’s not something you want replacing their main diet.
They’ll likely fall in love with it and beg you for it once they do. However, you don’t want to give them too much too soon. The high protein levels in cat food might be detrimental for them.
Follow the 90/10 rule. And you may take it up a notch when they’re molting. If you’re wondering what healthy alternative treats to feed your chickens, find out here.