I've talked about feeding chickens for free many times in the past as saving money on my feed bill is something I'm always thinking about. (Have you seen my feed expenses? Take a look, you'll understand) I hate to waste anything that I can give to the chickens and today I wanted to talk about what kinds of holiday leftovers you can and cannot feed your chickens.
Lets start with the basics:
- If you won't eat it then don't give it to them. If it's starting to smell funny or grow mold just chuck it in the trash.
- Chocolate is bad for most animals. Period.
- Caffeine is another no-no. Anything containing coffee, tea or chocolate should not be given to the flock.
- Alcohol. Desserts soaked in liqueurs are probably the biggest hazard, but anything containing alcohol that has not been burned off in the cooking process should be avoided.
- Salt. Anything excessively salty can be bad for their kidneys. If you can, rinse the item off. If not, best to just skip it.
As far as the leftovers that are ok to give to the chickens, I'm sure you know all the usual things you can give your flock like leftover salads, pastas, bread, vegetable dishes, rice mixes etc. Here I'd like to address ingredients you may have a question about.
Potato skins: If there is a dish of skin on potatoes left these are perfectly fine. Chickens cannot tolerate a chemical in green uncooked potato skins called Solanine. Ripe potato skins no longer have this ingredient. Cooked skins are fine.
Onions as an ingredient: A little bit of onion won't hurt, occasionally. Chickens cannot have onions in a large quantity, but the amount in a potato salad or in the baked beans should be fine. Just don't overdo it.
Citrus fruits: This is usually on the 'to be avoided' list because eating the peels can interfere with calcium absorption in chickens. However, we're discussing leftovers only so I'm going to assume it's a fruit salad or jello salad with a little bit of citrus in it which should be just fine.
Other Oxalic acid containing foods: This includes beets and beet greens, peanuts, pecans, rhubarb, spinach & wheat bran. Like citrus, these can be hard on the kidneys but small amounts in moderation should be fine.
Avocado: Chicken can have the same parts of the avocado that you would eat. They cannot tolerate the skin, leaves or pits...but I'm pretty sure those weren't in your holiday dinner anyway!
Chicken: Yes, I know it's weird. No, it won't turn them into a mini pack of cannibals.
As a general rule of thumb if it's bad for you, then it's bad for them. Anything deep fried, coated in sugar or dripping in oil is probably best avoided. Since we are just talking about leftovers, the items I've mentioned are all things that would be in food that's ready for human consumption. There are many other items chickens should not eat like apple seeds, uncooked beans, certain fruit peels etc but I've left those out because it's pretty safe to assume those would not be in your holiday dinner spread.
I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season, and don't forget to share with the flock. They love treats!