As chicken keepers, we are always looking for ways to keep our flocks happy and well-fed to ensure they remain in good health and to keep their egg-laying productivity high – and to do this, we may seek to supplement their regular diets with a range of tasty, nutritious treats.
However, most chicken keepers know that there are some foods that shouldn’t be given to chickens, even if we love them ourselves – so what about shrimp. To give you all the info you need about this topic, in this post, we look at the question, can chickens eat shrimp?
Can Chickens Eat Shrimp? The short answer
Before we get into the details of feeding shrimp to chickens, let’s start with the short answer.
Can chickens eat shrimp? Yes, they can!
Most chickens seem to love shrimp when it’s fed to them, and shrimp is also high in several essential nutrients that chickens need to stay healthy and productive.
All this means that if you want to feed shrimp to your chickens, you can go right ahead.
However, there’s a bit more to the question than just this, so now let’s jump in and talk about feeding shrimp to chickens in more depth.
Is shrimp good for chickens?
As chicken keepers, we don’t want to just throw any scraps and waste to our chickens for them to clear up, we want to give them healthy foods that have some kind of nutritional benefit for them – so what about shrimp?
Shrimp is a rich source of protein, an especially important component in chickens’ diets.
The protein in chicken feed often comes largely from soy, but not all proteins are not the same.
Shrimp protein is higher than soy in glutamic acid, something that’s used for building strong muscles and that also helps with the neurological messages that are passed along a chicken’s spine.
However, like soy protein, shrimp protein also contains aspartic acid – and indeed contains the complete suite of all amino acids that a chicken requires to thrive.
Whether shrimp protein is more beneficial to chickens than soy protein has not been conclusively proven, but it’s thought that shrimp protein has some advantages over plant-based protein – so feeding your chickens a mix of both certainly won’t harm them.
Furthermore, shrimp also contains several important minerals, notably phosphorous, sodium and zinc.
Shrimp has a low calorific value but is high in cholesterol. However, shrimp isn’t considered unhealthy for this reason due to its low levels of saturated fat.
They are also high in omega-3 fatty acids – while having a low mercury content, unlike some other types of wild seafood.
Finally, shrimp contains high levels of astaxanthin, the compound derived from the seaweed shrimps eat that gives them their pink color.
This means when chickens consume shrimp, they also receive a dose of astaxanthin, which helps give their egg yolks a rich and delicious dark yellow color.
Can chickens eat shrimp shells?
Not only can chickens eat the parts of shrimp that we enjoy, but they can also happily much down the shells – and this has additional nutritional benefits for them.
Notably, shrimp shell contains calcium, which is important for maintaining a strong bone structure as well as making hens’ eggs stronger.
This means you don’t need to peel the shells before giving shrimp to your chickens – and you can even save the shells from shrimp that you prepare for yourself and hand those over to your birds as a tasty and nutritious snack.
Is there anything to watch out for?
Although shrimp are full of nutritious goodness that makes them suitable for chickens, there are also a few things you need to be aware of.
Perhaps the most important is that since shrimp contains a high level of protein, you need to be careful not to feed too much to your birds.
While protein is one of the most important elements in a chicken’s diet, if they eat too much of it, they may end up suffering from issues such as obesity or kidney problems.
Also, shrimp has a high sodium content – or in other words, salt. For this reason, you should avoid feeding too much shrimp to your flock.
Finally, raw wild shrimp can contain parasites, and if they are fed to chickens without being cooked, the parasites may be passed onto your birds.
How should you feed shrimp to chickens?
Chickens can eat all parts of a shrimp, but there are still a few things to remember when preparing shrimp for your birds.
The first issue is whether to feed your chickens shrimp raw or cooked.
As we’ve just mentioned, raw shrimp may contain parasites, and feeding raw shrimp to chickens may also put them at risk of picking up bacterial infections such as salmonella.
As a result, many people prefer to feed only cooked shrimp to their chickens – although the chickens themselves are likely to have no preference and will devour raw shrimp with as much enthusiasm as they would cooked shrimp.
Whether you cook your shrimp or not, you don’t need to remove the shells since your chickens won’t turn their beaks up at them, and they also contain nutrients that will be beneficial to your birds.
Many chicken keepers find it useful to cut the shrimp up into small pieces to make it easier for them to eat and also to digest.
However, if you just hand over whole shrimp as they are, chickens usually won’t have too much difficulty dealing with it that way either.
You can also feed chickens scraps from your plate – local laws permitting – but if you do that, you need to make sure the shrimp doesn’t contain any other ingredients that are not chicken-friendly.
For example, plain grilled or barbecued shrimp are fine for chickens to eat – but if you add salt, butter, onion or any other ingredients that are unsuitable for chickens before or after cooking, you shouldn’t give them to your birds to eat.
Can chicks eat shrimp?
This is not so easy to answer, and chicken keepers disagree over the wisdom of feeding shrimp or other seafood to chicks.
Since shrimp contains such high levels of protein as well as high levels of cholesterol and salt, there is an argument that you shouldn’t feed any shrimp to chicks.
Even more than adults, chicks have very specific nutritional requirements, and feeding them something like shrimp can easily upset the balance.
As a result, many people prefer not to take the risk and instead feed them only regular food specifically intended for chicks.
However, in small amounts, shrimp can provide an extra protein boost for growing chicks, and some chicken keepers like to introduce foods like this to their young birds from about the third week.
If you decide to experiment with feeding shrimp to chicks, start off with very small amounts and build up slowly – and even when you increase the dose, make sure the shrimp is only ever an occasional treat that is given in small quantities.
Keep an eye on the chicks too, and if you notice an adverse reaction, it’s best to take shrimp back off the menu and stick with other safer foods.
As you may have already worked out, when feeding shrimp to chickens, the key is moderation – while shrimp can be beneficial in small quantities, if you give your birds larger amounts, it may make them sick.
When feeding chickens any kind of treat, the usual rule is that treats shouldn’t exceed over 10% of their overall diet.
This is because chickens have very specific dietary requirements, and commercial chicken feed is formulated to meet these requirements.
However, if you give chickens too many treats, they may begin to neglect their regular feed, which will lead to them missing out on the nutrients it contains that are vital for their health.
When it comes to shrimp, though, even giving your chickens 10% would be too much due to the high amount of protein it contains as well as some other things like sodium that are harmful in larger quantities.
One study showed that chickens that were fed even 8% shrimp began to lose weight – while those receiving only 4% of their diet in the form of shrimp were free of any adverse effects.
In practice, this means that if you give your birds a little shrimp perhaps once a week, they should reap the benefits while avoiding the negative effects of eating too much.
However, any more than this could easily make them ill or could cause their health to suffer and so should be avoided.
A healthy and beneficial treat – in moderation
As we’ve seen, shrimp can be a healthy and beneficial treat for your birds that will provide plenty of protein along with several important minerals – and it’s a food they’re sure to love.
However, the key is always to feed shrimp to your chickens in moderation, but as long as they’re not eating shrimp more than once a week, your birds should enjoy all the important benefits without their health being put at any risk.