Can chickens eat Zucchini and other leftover scraps? The answer is yes. Zucchinis, or also known as courgettes, contain a lot of water, rich in fibers, various vitamins, and minerals. So, they can provide a healthy amount of nutrients for your chickens.
However, the most important consideration is that zucchinis don’t contain any substances that might be harmful to your chickens. So, yes, chickens can eat zucchinis without any problem.
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Besides zucchinis, however, there are also other leftover scraps you can feed your chicken with to minimize costs. In this guide, we will discuss how to do it properly, the pros and cons, and other factors you might need to know about the subject.
Can We Grow Chickens on Zucchinis and Leftovers Alone?
The most important thing to consider is that chickens need fresh feed (any feed) every day, and also clean water. Always clean moldy or stale feed from the coop to prevent rats from entering the coop, which can be harmful to the chickens.
So, while it’s okay to feed your chickens with leftovers (that are safe for chickens, more on this below), make sure they are still fresh and relatively clean.
In general, if you want your backyard chickens to grow properly, you’d need both commercial pellets and supplemental feed (in this case, Zucchini and other leftovers). High-quality chicken pellets contain a balanced diet required by your chickens to maximize their growth (and stay healthy).
If you only feed your chicken on kitchen scraps or zucchinis alone, then your chickens won’t get these necessary nutrients.
So, our answer here is no. You can’t feed your chickens on leftovers alone if you want optimal growth. However, you can offset this issue by increasing the rato of leftovers and/or zucchinis to the commercial pellet.
Feeding Backyard Chickens Left Over Scraps
Above, we have established that feeding your chickens with leftover scraps are okay. However, some foods and plants can be hazardous for chickens.
In general, here are foods that you should avoid feeding:
- Raw potato peels: Potatoes are a member of the genus Solanaceae. This genus name came from the fact that when the peels are exposed to the sunlight, it will turn green and produce the alkaloid solanine, which is very dangerous for chickens. However, sweet potatoes (and their skins) don’t produce solanine and are safe for your chickens.
- Processed foods: In general, avoid leftover scraps from frozen meals and fast-food leftovers.
- Excessive salt: a little salt is okay for your chicken, but don’t give them any leftovers that are too salty.
- Avocado pits and skins: Avocadoes contain a fungicidal poison called persin, which can be life-threatening to chickens.
- Soft drinks and coffee (including coffee beans) for obvious reasons
- Rotten/spoiled foods: again, for obvious reasons
- Excessively greasy foods: can be difficult to digest
- Raw meat: can lead to cannibalism issues, so it’s better to be safe than sorry later
And here are some leftover foods and table scraps we’d recommend that are safe to consume for your backyard chickens:
- Cooked meat: any kind of cooked meat (including chicken) is okay. Cut them into smaller pieces if necessary before feeding.
- Corn: raw, dried, or cooked corn is okay
- Bread: fresh and dry bread is okay in moderation, don’t give them moldy bread
- Fruits: Most fruits, unless listed above, are okay. Apple, melons and watermelons, and any kinds of berries are okay Zucchini, as we have discussed, is definitely recommended.
- Grains: any types of grains, especially rice and wheat,
- Vegetables: most cooked and raw vegetables are safe. We’d recommend carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, cabbage, kale, lettuce, pumpkins, spinach, squash, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes.
- Others: oatmeal and any peas are safe. Pasta is also recommended due to its fiber-rich qualities.
As a general rule of thumb, give your chickens feeds that are not too rich in sugars and starches, and you’d want to provide them with more protein to encourage growth. This rule applies to any breed of chickens. However, breeds that are bigger in sizes like Cornish Cross or Breese will take longer to reach their optimum size if you feed them with mostly leftovers.
Feeding Leftovers To Your Baby Chicken and Adult Chicken
We strictly don’t recommend feeding your baby chicken with Zucchini and leftovers. This is not because these feeds are dangerous for your chicks, but because they need the most optimal nutrient during this period.
We’d recommend investing in medicated chick feeds, which can protect your chicks from coccidiosis, which is very common and life-threatening for chicks between the ages of 3 to 6 weeks.
In general, you should feed your chicks the following:
- 0-8 weeks: 18-20% protein, starter feed crumbles
- 8-14 weeks: 16-18% protein, starter/grower feed
- 15-18 weeks: 16% protein, finisher feed
- 18 weeks upward: 16% protein
So, you can start supplementing your chicks with leftovers around week 15 to 18, but ideally when they are above 18 weeks old.
However, if you are growing your backyard chickens to lay eggs, there is another concern. Keep in mind that a balanced diet is essential for your layer chickens to remain in good health for them to produce eggs. Even if you feed your hens with leftovers, make sure the diet still contains at least 16% of proteins.
So, a diet consisting of carbohydrates like bread, wheat, and similar scraps simply won’t work. This can be a significant cause if you aren’t getting any eggs, or if your eggs are bad in quality.
Benefits and Non-Benefits of Feeding Your Chicken With Leftovers
The main and probably only benefit of feeding your chicken with Zucchini and leftovers is obviously, cost. Commercial pellets and expensive. The basic idea is to reduce the pellets and supplement them with your home-grown Zucchini or any leftover scraps. Growth won’t be very optimal in this case, and you might need to supplement enough vitamins in their drinking water.
Simply put, the more you feed your chickens with leftover foods, the slower they’ll grow.
We’ve tested feeding different groups of broilers with the following rules:
- Control group, fed with 100% commercial, high-quality pellets
- 2nd group – Fed with 90% pellets, 10% zucchini (2nd group)
- 3rd group – Fed with 80% pellets, 20% zucchini
- 4th group – Fed with 70% pellets, 30% zucchini
- 5th group – Fed with 85% pellets, 10% zucchini, and 5% cooked meat as additional protein
- 6th group – Fed with 70% pellets, 20% zucchini, and 10% cooked meat as additional protein
- 7th group – Fed with 65% pellets, 30% zucchini, and 15% cooked meat as additional protein
We’ve tested this for six weeks and here are our findings:
- The control group intakes 3,295 grams (7.26 lbs) and gained 1,662 grams (3.66 lbs) in weight, achieving a feed efficiency of 0.50
- The 5th group (10% zucchini and 5% cooked meat) is the second-best performer with 3,314 grams (7.3 lbs) in food intake and 1,650 grams (3.63 lbs) in growth, producing feed efficiency of also 0.50
- Both the 2nd and 4th groups have similar feed efficiency of 0.47. The 2nd group consumed 3,482 grams of feed (7.67 lbs) and gained 1,621 grams in weight (3.57 lbs), and the 4th group consumed 3,359 grams (7.4 lbs) of feed and gained 1,580 grams (3.48 lbs) in weight.
- The 3rd and 6th groups have similar feed efficiency of 0.43. The 3rd group consumed 3,494 grams of feed (7.7 lbs) and gained 1,501 grams in weight (3.30 lbs), and the 6th group consumed 3,641 grams (8.02 lbs) of feed and gained 1,572 grams (3.46lbs) in weight.
- The 7th group (15% zucchini and 30% cooked meat) is the worse performer with 3,892 grams (8.6 lbs) in food intake and 1,596 grams (3.51 lbs) in growth, producing feed efficiency of only 0.41
Based on this test, we can see that high-quality pellets are very important if you want to maximize growth. Our recommendation is to provide at least 70% of pellets and 30% leftovers so you can achieve the right balance between cost and growth.
Another concern if you feed your chickens with leftover scraps is potential obesity.
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If you give them too many foods rich in carbs like your leftover pizza, bread, and white rice, they can become overweight. Also, excessive intake of fatty foods like sunflower seeds can cause various issues like FLHS (Fatty Liver Hemorrhagic Syndrome).
Again, moderation is key.
As established above, if you are growing layer chickens for eggs, ensuring a healthy, balanced diet is even more important. If your leftover feeds are low in protein, including Zucchini, then your hens might not lay eggs at all or produce low-quality eggs.
It is perfectly okay to feed your chicken with zucchinis, especially if you already have them grown in your garden. Above, we have also discussed which kinds of leftover foods that are safe to feed your chickens.
As a general rule of thumb, you have to make sure your chicken’s diet contains enough protein, and this is why you’ll still need to invest in high-quality commercial pelts. The idea is to supplement a certain percentage of your pellets with the leftover foods and Zucchini. We’d recommend giving at least 70% of pellets and 30% of leftovers at a bare minimum, but 80-20 is a much more ideal ratio.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Chicken Board!!