You probably know chickens eat bread. But the real question here is whether bread is safe for chickens.
Chickens have distinctive digestive systems that accommodate a variety of food types. That explains why some people refer to them as “two-legged pigs”.
From bugs and warms to cooked meats and table scraps chickens can eat almost anything. But what about bread?
Well, that’s why we are here. Today, we will answer the question “Can chickens eat bread” and look at other food options that can help your flock stay healthy.
So, join us as we explore the world of chickens and bread!
Can You Feed Bread to Chickens?
Did you ever see cartoon scenes where people fed bread crumbs to chicken?
If so, you’ve lived your life knowing that chickens eat bread. And if you own a flock of these birds, there’s a chance you’ve given them bread before.
As said in the introduction the chicken’s digestive system can handle a wide range of foods. On top of that, these birds are omnivores, meaning they can consume different foods.
Bread is one such food that chickens enjoy eating. However, it’s not the healthiest. You may be wondering why. The answer lies in the ingredients that make up bread.
We all know chickens require a balanced diet to stay healthy and happy and produce high-quality eggs. That means they need a sufficient supply of carbs, proteins, vitamins, water, and macro and micro minerals.
Despite being one of the favorite treats for chickens, bread barely has any nutritional value. It’s a high-starch food with low protein, vitamin, and mineral content. A 100g white bread has a protein percentage of 7.3%, which is quite low compared to layers mash with a protein percentage ranging from 15 to 20%.
As you can see a single slice of white bread will not meet your hen’s daily nutrient requirement. Sure, the high levels of carbohydrates in bread can provide chickens with energy. But they might become overweight and even develop fatty liver diseases.
That said, bread does have that could prove beneficial as long as they are balanced with healthy meals.
Can Baby Chickens Eat Bread?
Bread is also safe for chicks but in moderation. This should not come as a surprise because baby chickens require proteins to grow up healthy and bread has negligible protein content.
A slice of white bread has around 2 to 3 grams of protein, which is too little to help your chicks to grow and maintain good health. Although some loaves of bread like wheat or Italian bread have slightly higher protein percentages, it’s not nearly enough to meet your chicks’ needs.
If you want the best for your baby chickens, consider providing them with Chick Starter which comes with 18 to 20% of protein content. It is better to give the slices of bread to roosters and hens, but not chicks.
Why You Should Avoid Feeding Chickens Bread?
Now, let’s look at some reasons you should not feed bread to chickens.
1. Can Choke Your Birds
Chickens enjoy bread, especially seeded bread. But since they have no teeth, they can’t break down large chunks into small easy-to-swallow pieces. As such, the bread pieces might get stuck in the throat, choking the chickens. This rings true, especially for dry bread chunks which can expand in the mouth.
Even worse, the bread can form a sticky ball in the bird’s crop, blocking other food from passing through. This can lead to a condition called a sour crop, which can be fatal if left untreated.
If you must feed your birds with bread, soak the slices in a mixture of water and apple cider vinegar overnight. The vinegar will break down the fibers and stop the bread from balling up, while the water will make the bread more digestible. Use the same methods when feeding your ducks.
You can safely feed your brood fresh and stale bread. However, you should draw the line on mold-ridden or moldy bread.
While some chicken keepers say they often feed their fowl with expired bread without noticing any side effects, we recommend against this move. Expired bread has molds, fungal growth that produces toxic substances called mycotoxins.
- Stunted growth
- Liver tissue degradation
- Gut irritation
- Reduced egg production
- Weight loss
- Abnormal shell appearance
While treatable with Epsom salt or copper sulfate solution, you can prevent the disease. Simply, avoid giving your chickens moldy bread.
Besides mycosis, chickens exposed to mold can also develop respiratory issues, digestive system problems, and impaired immunity.
3. Reduced egg production
Bread is also low in essential nutrients such essential nutrients that help in egg production, like calcium. If you offer your chicken too much bread, they might feel full for longer, which prevents them from eating healthier foods, like layers mash.
This in turn affects egg quality because the chickens don’t receive enough calcium to form strong egg shells. The resulting egg wills have a thin, weak eggshell that can break with ease. Egg production will also reduce.
Low calcium levels also affect the chickens’ bones. Their bones might grow weak, which increases the risk of fractures and conditions like osteoporosis.
4. Not Ideal for the Chicken’s Digestive System
The first-place food stops in the chicken digestive system is the crop, located at the base of the neck. It’s more of a waiting station for the food before digestion begins. However, when a bird consumes too much bread, it might swell and fill up the crop, creating a blockage.
If the bread passes the crop, the gizzard might not manage to break down bulk or large chunks of this kind of food. This holds particularly if it lacks enough grit (small stones chickens swallow as they graze) to break down the food into a digestible mash. As a result, the hens might develop digestive problems.
5. Deadly Bread Fermentation Might Occur
Because breads contain sugar and yeast, these ingredients can ferment. Coupled by increased retention time, especially when the bird eats too much bread, the PH levels in the crop could increase significantly.
Remember the crop is home to many beneficial bacteria that help the chicken break down fibrous food like grass and grains. If the pH in this environment increases past the normal levels, good bacteria will die and bad bacteria and fungus will thrive.
When this happens, the chicken could develop a sour crop, a condition accompanies by sour-smelling breath. Below are other symptoms of the sour crop:
- The crop stays full for a longer and feels squishy even after a night of water and food withdrawal
- Reduced appetite and food consumption
- Reduced egg production
- Reduced weight
- Gurgling noises
6. Slows Down the Birds’ Digestion
Bread contains starches that chicken’s digestive tract cannot handle, as they are hard to break down and digest. As a result, they can stay in the tract for longer, slowing down digestion.
The longer the food stays in the digestive tract, the more it creates an ideal environment for gut bacteria to grow out of balance. As the bacteria build-up, they end up causing digestive system issues and affect the way chickens poop by making the stool sticky.
What Should You Consider When Feeding Chickens Bread?
1. Molting Season
Generally, chickens require a diet packed with over 20% protein, prebiotics, key vitamins (A, D, K, and B6), and minerals like calcium and potassium. The high protein content promotes the growth of new feathers and the calcium improves eggshell quality.
With every chicken treat, moderation is the key to better results. Based on the information in the Why You Should Avoid Feeding Chickens Bread section, it’s clear your flock is safe with small amounts of bread.
In excess, bread can give rise to problems like choking, food blockage, and sour crop. Also, your chickens will miss out on essential nutrients offered by healthier foods.
Whether you occasionally give your chickens bread or it’s the first time, you must observe them after consuming the slices or pieces. Do they show any sign of uncomfortably? Did some flock members become sick? Or did they show no signs of side effects?
If your fowl become sick, chances are, you gave them too much bread or it had some molds. In case of any sign of illness or infection, withdraw the treatment.
4. Type of Bread
You should also consider the type of bread if you want to maintain the health of your cooks. Avoid white bread, because it contains low levels of proteins. The same goes for salty bread because it can harm your hens health.
Seeded bread is perhaps the best choice. Although it’s not healthy enough, the bread can offer the birds more nutritional value compared to the other bread types.
How Can You Make Bread Safe for Chickens?
1. Bread Mash
To make bread mash, mix pieces of bread with your flock’s regular meal together with warm water. It also helps to add other beneficial foods like pumpkins, zucchini, cucumber, and even crushed eggs shells for the best nutrient blend.
2. DIY Chicken Bread
Some chicken owners feed their brood with homemade bread with safe and nutritious ingredients for chickens. So, it’s not uncommon to hear some owners saying their birds love their bread.
If you’re good at baking, you can try your hand at making your feathered friend their own special loaf. But watch out for the yeasts, sugar, and salt. Some types of wheat might also cause digestive problems, so take caution.
Also, don’t forget to incorporate beneficial foods into the bread like vegetables for vitamins, seeds for proteins, crushed eggshells for calcium and other minerals and grains. If you nail the blend, you will not only provide your chickens a safe food but also nutritious. And rest assured they will love it.
Which Food Should You Not Feed Chickens?
Off course there are certain food that can harm your chickens’ health or impair their growth and development. Such foods include:
1. Raw Eggs
Never feed your chickens raw eggs. Some chickens carry salmonella, and if you give a healthy chicken a raw egg from an infected chicken, it might contract the bacteria. If your chicken gets infected it might transmit the Salmonella bacteria to other flock members. Now, you have to deal with an outbreak.
You can offer your chicken the eggshell, but only after roasting them in a grill or hot oven (for about 20 minutes) and crushing them. Make the eggshells unrecognizable to the chicken to prevent them from developing a taste for their own eggs.
Alternatively, you can use oyster shells as a source of calcium and grit for the birds.
In moderation, you can give your birds cooked oats. But like bread, oats are low in protein, fat, vitamins, and other nutrients required by chickens.
They can also fill the chicken’s stomach, taking up room that could be accommodated by healthier feeds. In addition, oats come packed with high levels of beta-glucans.
Although these components enhance the immune function of poultry, they are detrimental to the performance and overall performance of these animals. For example, they can create a sludge in the digestive system, blocking food movement and digestion.
Nevertheless, some chicken feed feature oats as a bulking agent, but they are whole and crushed not cooked.
3. Dairy Products
Did you know chickens are lactose intolerant?
Yes, they can’t digest products with high lactose content and if you provide them with such foods, they can develop stomach upsets.
While it’s tempting to give baby chickens milk because of its high protein content, you are better off getting chick starter feed.
If you offer them dairy-based foods, opt for cottage cheese and yogurt, as they have low levels of lactose.
Additional Foods to Watch Out For
- Onions, Garlic, and peppers– May cause hemolytic anemia in high amounts and influence the egg’s taste
- Moldy Food – Cause mycosis
- Avocado Skins – Contain persin, a fatal toxin
- Junk food/Processed food – Chips, bagels, and other processed foods can prove difficult to digest
- Citrus – Reduced egg production
- Green potatoes – contain solanine, a toxin that harmful to chicken
- Chocolate – Has caffeine and theobromine, which are toxic to birds
- Raw meat – Your chicken might become cannibal if they develop a taste for meat
Alternatives Foods for Your Flock
Other foods that offer chickens tons of nutrients include:
- Sunflower seeds
- Cooked meats
- Lettuce or Kale leaves
- Beans and Green beans
- Blue Berries
- Mealworms and crickets
- Cooked chicken
- Brussels sprouts and broccoli
- Carrots and top
- Cat food
You can give your chicken bread as an occasional treat but in moderation. The bread offers you a great way to introduce variety to your flock’s regular diet and keep them happy. But remember, too much bread can lead to sour crops, slow digestion, choking, and reduce egg production.
If you must give your brood bread, break it into small pieces and soak them overnight in water and apple cider vinegar. This way you can moisten them and make them easy to swallow and digest. Another thing, don’t feed your hens or roosters moldy bread or risk making your birds sick.
Overall, it helps to prioritize nutritious food for your fowl over bread to ensure they grow healthy and strong.
Do you have questions? Tell us in the comment section below.