Feeding our backyard chickens a few treats brings joy to everyone. Your chickens are happy to get a little extra on top of their complete feed. And if you plan it right, a treat can make up for areas of the diet that’s lacking. But one area that always seems to get a little confused is proteins. What meat can I feed my chickens to eat, and what are the benefits?
Can Chickens Eat Meat?
Protein is an essential part of your laying chicken’s diet. Since the egg yolk contains so much protein, it only makes sense that chickens need to eat more of it. That is why chickens need access to bugs and other creepy crawlies to satisfy this need. Your chickens also get a lot of protein from their layer feed. It’s also not uncommon to see your chickens feasting on a frog, snail, slug, or mouse when they free range.
Since chickens are omnivorous, they need both meat and vegetation to survive. Without it, your chicken’s egg production will drop, and their feathers will look dull and brittle. So giving a few meat scraps is a great way to provide your chickens a few added nutrients. However, there are right and wrong times to give your hens an extra protein snack.
When Is It Ok To Give Meat Scraps?
Your backyard chickens will get most of their protein from things they find in the yard and feed. But there are times when your chickens might need the extra boost to keep them healthy. For instance, if your pullets are due to lay at any time, the extra boost of protein and calcium can give you larger eggs. And broiler chickens need more protein to bulk up faster.
Another great time to give your flock a few table scraps is in the winter. In the cold winter months, finding foraging materials isn’t easy. So if you give them a few kitchen scraps, it can support their egg production and keep them healthy.
Can Baby Chicks Eat Meat?
When your chicks are growing, it’s best to limit the number of tasty treats they have. Otherwise, their tiny stomachs will fill up on these snacks, and they won’t eat enough feed. When this happens, you risk your chicks becoming malnourished. So it’s always a good idea to leave treats alone until after two weeks of age.
What Meat Can I Feed My Chickens To Eat?
Now to answer the question you’re dying to hear. Let’s look at the best meats to feed your chickens and their benefits.
Yes, you read that right. Eggs are a fantastic thing to feed chickens of any age. Now we know what you might be thinking, it’s that cannibalism? But it might surprise you to know that hens will eat raw eggs if given a chance. And there are a ton of benefits to feeding chickens eggs too.
Your chickens can eat every part of the egg. The yolks and whites are excellent sources of protein, and the shells have the calcium they need. And don’t let the internet scare you into thinking your hens will then start to crave their own eggs. Most chickens will leave their eggs alone even if they love eating eggs.
So how do you feed eggs to your backyard chickens? The best way is to scramble or hard boil the eggs before feeding to reduce the risk of salmonella. And you can give these eggs to chickens of any age. Baby chicks that are weak or sick can use the pick-me-up, and older hens love the treat.
That’s right. If you own a cat, your chickens can share a meal with them. Since cats are obligate carnivores, most of the high-quality commercial feed is mainly protein. However, canned cat food is even better since it isn’t processed and easy to digest. In fact, in many places worldwide, it’s common to see chicken owners leave cans of cat food out for the chickens. So if your chickens need a little bit of extra protein, then give them a can of cat food to share.
Chickens love beef in every form. Cooked steaks, ground beef, roasted, they think it’s all delicious. However, beef is higher in fats than most protein sources, so it should be an occasional treat only. And you will have to cut off any extra fat pieces to make it safer for your chickens to eat.
But if you cook up a beef dinner, you can feed your chickens the lean food scraps as long as they aren’t salted. And this red meat will give your chickens some fantastic health benefits as well. For example, if your chickens are anemic, it can help raise the iron levels in their blood. It can also add extra calories to chickens that might be a little too thin. And don’t worry, you don’t have to worry about mad cow disease in your flock.
Fish And Shellfish
Next on what meat can I feed my chickens to eat is fish. No matter what kind of fish and seafood you eat, your chickens can eat it too. The best reason to feed your chickens seafood is that it’s high in omega-3 amino acids. These omegas will help your hens from head to food. They will produce better eggs and vibrant, healthy feathers.
Just remember that whatever you feed your chickens, the taste can taint the eggs as well. So while fish is excellent for your hens, you only feed in small amounts. Otherwise, you will start to get fishy-tasting egg yolks.
If you raise animals for food, you might find it challenging to use up all of your animal byproducts. The good news is that you can give liver, heart, and other organs to your chickens. This saves the hassle of a compost bin for meat products, and your chickens get a healthy treat. You can even go to the grocery store and pick up livers for a cheap snack.
One lean meat that chickens love is turkey. Poultry like this is high in protein and has virtually no fat on them. So you don’t have to worry about your chickens gaining weight. As long as the meat is cooked and not salted, your chickens will adore it.
Plus, all of the protein is great for your chickens. You can enjoy rich eggs, and it doesn’t cost you much at all. Just remember to stay away from lunch meats as these are highly processed and full of salt.
And the final meat on our list is chicken. It might seem a little cruel according to human standards. But it’s natural for chickens to eat another dead chicken, so why not feed them the leftover carcass. And it has the most amazing benefits.
Chicken is a lot like a turkey because it has high protein and virtually no fat. So you can feed it to your hens without the repercussions that most of the other meats do. Chicken meat is also a great option in the winter when other protein sources are scarce.
Cautions With Feeding Food Scraps
As you can see, there aren’t many types of meat that your chickens can’t eat. But that doesn’t mean you can throw caution to the wind. You still need to have good handling techniques to keep your chickens healthy.
For example, you should never feed your hens raw meat of any kind. You also can’t feed them anything processed, salty meats like pork, or moldy foods, as all of these things can make your flock extremely sick. You also don’t want to cross-contaminate your cooked foods with raw meats to prevent food poisoning.
Can Chickens Eat Meat Fat
Most of us trim the fat off of our meat before cooking it. And it might have you wondering if you can feed this to your backyard flock. But you should never feed these pieces to your chickens for several reasons. For one, the fat is hard for chickens to digest, and they don’t provide any nutrition.
Fat also isn’t good for your chickens for the same reason it’s not healthy for you. It can cause obesity, heart failure, and malnourishment if feed in large quantities. All of these side effects are worse in meat birds since they tend to have these issues anyway. So it’s best to stick with the lean cuts when it comes to your birds.
Are There More Protein Sources?
When we think of protein, we think of thick cuts of meat. But there are many other foods high in protein that you can grow right in your backyard. Here is a quick list of great plant-based protein sources.
What meats can I feed my chickens to eat? Of course, it’s a good idea always to limit the number of treats you give your flock. So it might not lower your chicken feed bill. But meat options are some of the best treats you can give them.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!