Quick question on feeding hens and keeping them well — what do you feed them. Table scraps (meat free) seem to be an idea and local to my home. Potatoes boiled seem very popular.

There’s a lot to be discussed regarding poultry and table scraps, but I’ll try to keep this simple. Table scraps are possibly a chicken’s most favorite meal. The general rule is, almost anything humans can eat, poultry can eat also. However, most chicken raisers agree that uncooked potato skins, avocados (skins), large amounts of salty foods, raw eggs or chocolate should be avoided.

Also, remember that table scraps are like treats to chickens and treats are not a meal. Use them just as you would use treats with children. Treats add joy to a chicken’s day and makes them very, very happy. As Minnie Rose Lovgreen famously said, “The main thing is to keep them happy.”

But don’t make table scraps the sole source of food for your poultry. Free ranging chickens can usually find a lot of what they need to complete their diet because it allows them access to bugs, stones, dirt, leaf mold, and other stuff that they crave.  But penned-in chickens rely on their caretakers to take care of them and need a balanced diet that most pre-packaged foods provide suitably.  If you prefer, you can make your own mix with any number of recipes that can found on the internet. Adding Kelp and Probiotics is always beneficial to mix into a laying hen’s feed.

At the Urban Homestead any food left on the table, in the kitchen, or after a party or event gets gathered up and sent out to the chickens (no chocolate or raw avocado).

Several rules to keep in mind when feeding scraps.

  • Make sure the scraps aren’t moldy or spoiled.
  • Make sure any eggs are cooked and not raw.
  • Feed the scraps in an easy to clean tray.  Chickens won’t eat all the scraps and you don’t want any food lying around collecting flies and attracting rats.   Old, moldy food is also a risk for Botulism.  Dump any scraps leftover at the end of the day in your compost bin.
  • Onions and garlic can change the flavor of the eggs, and so offer it sparingly.
  • Surprisingly, small amounts of meat is okay for chickens.  They really do love meat…. but it’s your choice on whether or not you are willing  to feed it to them.   The thought of chickens eating chicken meat just seems so….wrong and creepy to most chicken raisers.

Readers, share your chickens’ favorite foods in the comments box!

As always… have questions? Send them to me


  1. When we had goats and often got excess milk, the hens would love it poured into a pan. They would gather around the pan and deeply drink of the fresh, warm milk, especially on cold mornings. I never had a soft shell problem and the hens were always sleek and fat. They also enjoyed it when I used fresh tomatoes and gave them the cores and skins. I’m sure they were attracted to the red color at first, then discovered how good the tomato flesh tasted.

    • Milk and milk products are some of the best things to feed chickens. I once asked an old gentlemen who raised chickens a long, long time ago. “How did you all do without oyster shell? Did you get it back then?” and he told me all about how they fed chickens milk by curdling it in buckets and skimming off the curds.

  2. Thanks for answering this question. I’ve been a bit reluctant to feed my chickens table scraps. I wasn’t really sure what they could not eat and I just didn’t want to take a chance. I did hear about the raw potato peelings being bad for them.

    My chickens will be getting their first treat of table scraps this evening after dinner 🙂

  3. Chickens definitely enjoy meat!When I worked at a local farm they would give mice caught in a live trap to the chickens.I never saw them catch one (I was rooting for the poor mouse).We are vegetarians and so never have any meat scraps to give them but I remembered this when our cats brought us dead mousie “presents”. I wondered if our chicken ladies would eat it. They gobbled it up! (After tenderizing it a bit.)The buff orpington was most keen.I have heard they are good foragers.

  4. I, finally after 20 years of wanting them, got my hens last spring. My father and son built me a chicken tractor. It is wonderful!.

    I feed my chicken some table straps treats such as apple cores, lettuce core, and bacon fat. On the rare occasion that I buy bacon I pull the white fat off the red meat and cook it up. The I chop of the fat (about a teaspoon full) and put it in the chicken feed. My “girlfirends” coo, cackle, and sing with joy as they fish out the bacon fat.


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