Feeding chickens your holiday leftovers

As the holidays pass any of us that  have hosted a party or gathering will soon find ourselves staring into the refrigerator wondering "what am I going to do with all these leftovers?" As chicken keepers, most of us like to give leftover food to the chickens. They love the treat and it's a frugal way to lighten up the feed bill a little. 

Can my chickens eat that?

In the winter I even warm the leftovers up for them since it's so cold outside. (I know I'm not the only one!) Holiday dishes though, can contain ingredients we don't use the rest of the year. This can bring up the question of whether it's safe to let the chickens eat it, or not? 

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 and guinea fowl.

free feed for chickens, holiday leftovers

Can chickens eat leftovers?

Let's 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. This includes matcha which is a powdered form of green tea.
  • 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 a chickens kidneys. If you can, rinse the item off. If not, it's best to just skip it. 

I talk about chocolate and chickens more in Can chickens eat grapes & chocolate?

feeding guinea fowl leftovers

Table scraps chickens can eat

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.

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!

Yes, they can eat chicken. 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. 

If you're giving it to chicks you need to be a little more careful. Here's a good list of which foods are ok to give to chicks.

There are many other items all poultry 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. If you have ducks, you can feed these foods to them too! 

Here's a list of my ducks favorite treats.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season, and don't forget to share with the flock. They love treats! 


Related reading: 20+ ways to save money on chickens.
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chicken treats | leftovers


  1. Good reminders and a great way to get rid of too many leftovers! Thanks for sharing on Homestead Blog Hop :)

  2. We had ham left over. My husband cut it up into bite size pieces and plans on giving sm amounts to them every day. I guess since it’s pretty salty we should not feed that to them in small portions?

    1. That's what I usually do when we have salty foods leftover. Give them a bit each day rather than all at once. I'm sure they'll love it!