As anyone who keeps chickens will know, they are unfussy eaters that will devour just about anything that comes their way, and that means feeding them scraps can be a great way to use up leftovers that would otherwise end up in the garbage.
However, there are some foods that are best avoided since they can make chickens sick, and you may be wondering if pasta is one of them. So to help you understand the pros and cons of feeding it to your birds, in this post, we answer the question, can chickens eat pasta?
Can Chickens Eat Pasta? The short answer
Before we get into the details of whether chickens can eat pasta, let’s start with the short answer.
Can chickens eat pasta? Yes, they can. However, it isn’t particularly beneficial for them, so while you can give them a few leftover scraps or even feed them uncooked pasta from time to time, there’s no real reason to do it other than to give them a treat they enjoy.
But of course, there’s far more to it than just this, so now let’s delve a bit deeper into feeding pasta to chickens.
Is pasta good for chickens?
When we choose food to feed to our birds, we normally want to select healthy foods that will benefit them in some way.
We might see chickens as walking garbage disposal units that can turn kitchen and garden waste into delicious eggs (and meat if you eat them), and it’s true that as unfussy omnivores, they will eat just about anything they can get their beaks on.
However, just because they will eat something, it doesn’t necessarily mean they should. By feeding chickens nutritious scraps and waste, you can help them stay healthy while increasing their egg output and even improving the quality of the eggs.
But this is only true of foods that are beneficial to chickens, and pasta doesn’t come under this category.
Pasta is mostly carbohydrate and is low in protein. Pasta usually only contains around 5% protein, but chickens need a diet that contains at least 16% protein.
This means if chickens are filling up on pasta, they won’t be receiving enough protein in their diet, and if you feed pasta to them often, they will eventually become malnourished.
But is pasta bad for chickens?
Having said this, pasta isn’t bad for chickens per se – it’s only bad for them if they eat too much of it.
Chickens enjoy eating pasta, and when you feed it to them, they will quickly gobble up as much as they can get to make sure they don’t miss out.
They seem to get a lot of pleasure out of eating pasta, so it’s ok to give it to them as a kind of fun snack – but don’t go over the top with it or make it a major part of their regular diet, or their health will suffer.
What kind of pasta or noodles can chickens eat?
So what kind of pasta can you give your chickens?
Generally speaking, chickens can eat any type of pasta.
This includes fresh or dried pasta, colored pasta like red or green – and it also includes Asian-style noodles like Japanese ramen.
You can feed raw dried pasta to chickens, or you can cook it in water and serve it to them that way. You can also feed them the leftovers from your plate (although you need to check your local laws about this – but we’ll come back to that in a moment).
In theory, there’s nothing in pasta itself that can’t be fed to chickens, and they can eat it in any form.
However, that’s not quite the whole story…
Is there anything to watch out for?
While pasta itself is fine for chickens to eat – even if it’s not particularly beneficial to them – there’s something else you need to bear in mind, and that’s how the pasta is cooked and what it’s served with.
When we cook dried pasta, the normal way to do it is to boil it in salted water – and since chickens shouldn’t be fed salt, pasta cooked this way is bad for them.
As a result, if you regularly feed pasta cooked in salted water to your chickens, their health will quickly begin to suffer, and excessive salt in their diet could eventually kill them. So this should be avoided.
What’s more, we don’t usually eat pasta by itself – we usually eat it with some kind of sauce, and pasta sauces often contain lots of salt, as well as sugar, which is also not good for chickens’ health.
This means if you are planning on scraping the leftovers from your plate into a bowl to hand over to your flock, you need to think about the salt and sugar content of the sauce or whatever else you were eating with the pasta.
If the pasta you were eating was boiled in non-salted water, and you were just eating it with some unsalted vegetables, then it’s fine to hand over the leftovers to your birds.
However, pasta cooked in salted water and served with a salty sauce or salty vegetables is not recommended for chickens, so in this case, you should think very carefully before letting them have it.
There’s also one other thing to remember when feeding chickens kitchen scraps, and that’s what your local laws and regulations have to say on this.
In the UK, for example, it’s illegal to feed chickens kitchen scraps – so any food prepared in a kitchen can’t be given to chickens to eat, and doing so is punishable by a two-year prison sentence. (This is done to prevent the spread of certain livestock diseases.)
Similar rules apply in some parts of the US too, so you need to make sure you understand your local laws regarding what you can and can’t feed to poultry before you start handing over your leftover meals to your backyard chickens.
Can chicks eat pasta?
When it comes to baby chicks, we recommend avoiding feeding them pasta at all, even in small amounts.
While it’s ok for adult chickens in small quantities because it won’t harm them and they seem to enjoy it, feeding pasta to chicks can be more detrimental since they need lots of protein to grow and develop properly.
Feeding them pasta will mean they are getting less of the protein and other nutrients they need, which could lead to them not developing as they should.
So no, if you have chicks, it’s probably best if they don’t eat pasta at all.
How to feed pasta to chickens
If you want to give pasta to your chickens, there’s no particular way to do it because chickens can – and will – eat pasta in any form they find it.
If you want to give your chickens a little dried, uncooked pasta as a treat, just make sure you break it up into small pieces to make it easier for them to peck up and swallow. You can then spread it over the floor in their run to encourage foraging behavior.
Something like spaghetti broken into small pieces would be ideal for this.
You can also cook pasta for your chickens, but if you do this, don’t add salt to the water – and make sure you let the pasta cool down before you feed it to them!
However, there are far better treats to give your chickens than pasta, so there’s no real reason to feed them raw pasta or to cook pasta especially for them when you can give them something that’s far healthier and more nutritious.
On the other hand, if you want to feed them leftovers, you can simply scrape everything into a bowl and leave it out for your birds to enjoy – although once again, only do this if you’re sure the food only has minimal salt content.
Once feeding time is done, you also need to make sure you collect up the leftovers because leaving food scraps in the run may attract pests.
When feeding treats to chickens, the key moderation – as a general rule, treats should only make up 10% at most of their overall diet, with the other 90% coming from their regular balanced feed.
However, with pasta, giving it to them even as 10% of their diet would be too much since it doesn’t have much nutritional value for them.
So in short, feel free to feed them a little pasta from time to time – but if you want healthy, happy and productive chickens, it’s much better to feed them more nutritional snacks to supplement their regular feed.
Not harmful – but not particularly beneficial either
As we have seen, feeding a bit of pasta to chickens occasionally won’t harm them – although it won’t do them much good either.
However, they seem to enjoy eating it, so as long as it doesn’t have too much salt in it – and as long as local laws permit – there’s nothing wrong with feeding your chickens some leftover pasta scraps from time to time.