It is a natural human inclination to want to make your animals happy, and one thing sure to make your animals happy is food. With holiday cooking upon us, it is likely that we will have atypical food items in our homes as well as leftovers to share with our furry and feathered friends. As much as your chickens will probably appreciate some extra as well as new and exciting snacks, be particular about what you give them as some food items can do more harm than good.
Something to remember, both at the holidays as well as year 'round, is that treats are special and not meant to be a supplement for what your chickens are normally fed. While an excited response from your chickens to special treats probably makes you feel good about sharing, you need to be cautious to keep your treat distribution within reason. Obesity in chickens is a growing problem and the cause can often be traced right back to the person behind the handouts, so keep it to a minimum for the health and well-being of your chickens.
More and more items both safe and unsafe are being discovered all the time, so the suggestions below are by no means meant to be taken as a complete list but rather general ideas.
What NOT to feed your chickens:
Alcohol ('tis the season to be merry but not if you're a chicken!)
Avocado skins & pits
Raw Eggs (this encourages chickens to eat their own eggs or those of their flock mates)
Sugary foods (such as cookies, frosted cereals, etc.)
Salty foods (small quantities of salt can cause poisoning in chickens)
Raw green potato peels (these contain a toxic substance called Solanine)
Beans that are dried or undercooked (contain a poison called Hemaglutin which is toxic to birds)
Moldy foods (veggies, breads, cheese, etc. that are past their consumption prime)
With all this talk of what not to do and what not to feed, we need not lose perspective here; there are plenty of delicious treats you can share with your chickens this holiday season as well as all year long. Some of these are:
Safe fruits (such as apples, bananas without the peel, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, pears, raisins, peaches, seedless grapes, cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, and pomegranates)
Safe vegetables (such as asparagus, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, carrots, eggplant, green beans, lettuce, kale, collards, spinach, corn, cucumbers, bell peppers, peas, potatoes (cooked and without peels), radish tops, sprouts, squash, tomatoes, turnips, and beans (thoroughly cooked, never dry).
Whole grain cereal
Meats, fish, and seafood (not raw)
Eggs (cooked) and egg shells (ground up in feed)
Mealworms (hopefully you won't be preparing these for yourself and will have them on hand specifically for your chickens!)
Oatmeal (be careful to avoid oatmeal with unsafe fruits or sugars)
Sunflower Seeds (salt free)
Yogurt (in moderation)
There are many more options for safe foods to feed your chickens, just as there are unsafe foods. Be vigilant in your choices so you do not make your chickens ill. It is also possible to alter the taste of your eggs by feeding your chickens items like onions or garlic. No matter what you give your animals, give them something extra this holiday season. After all, to a chicken, food is love.