Anyone who has owned chickens for any length of time, especially on a busy farm or homestead with lots of other animals, knows that these feathered fiends are notorious for swiping food from other animals.
A little hay from the horses, some pellets from the goats, and even food from your very own pets.
Speaking of pets, one of the most popular foods you probably prohibit from your chickens is dog food, assuming you have a dog.
Chickens do seem to love the stuff, but is it safe for them to eat it?
Yes, dog food is generally safe for chickens and doesn’t contain any ingredients overtly harmful to them. However, it’s nowhere near nutritionally complete for chickens, and you don’t want to feed it to them deliberately.
I’ll tell you right up front that you really don’t have to worry about your chickens getting a little dog food here and there if they manage to steal it, or if you happen to drop some when feeding your dog or dogs.
However, just because they can eat it safely does not mean they should, and dog food can cause problems for chickens over time if they’re allowed to eat too much of it.
Keep reading and I’ll tell you what you need to know concerning dog food and your flock…
What Benefits Does Dog Food Have for Chickens?
It sounds peculiar considering that dog food is for dogs and not chickens, but dog food can still benefit chickens by providing some micro and macronutrients that they need.
The vitamins and minerals present in dog food can help everything from skeletal and connective tissue health, to the healing of wounds and even the promotion of feathering in the aftermath of an injury or during a yearly molt.
Dog food can also help circulatory health and chickens by helping to create new red blood cells.
Dog food also typically contains a lot of calcium which can help laying hens produce more eggs, and eggs with stronger shells for better viability.
Dog Food Nutritional Info
The actual nutritional profile of dog food depends on the type and the brand, but broadly speaking it will have many of the same things that chicken feed has in it, just in significantly varying amounts.
Compared to chicken feed, dog food has more filler cereals and higher overall protein and fat content, and usually higher sodium as well.
Dog food will also contain a good variety of vitamins and minerals many of which chickens need.
The problems with dog food usually revolve around it having too much of certain nutrients and not enough of others, meaning that chickens should not be allowed to eat it as a mainstay of their diet or have it too often.
Is Wet Dog Food Safe for Chickens?
Yes, wet dog food is nominally safe for chickens and does not contain any ingredients that are specifically bad for them.
However, very moist foods can be troublesome for chickens because they can promote indigestion, loose stools, sour crop, and other problems.
Also, wet dog food tends to harbor bacteria that can be harmful to chickens and will spoil very quickly, so make it a point to never let your chickens near this stuff if it has been sitting out for a long time.
Is Dry Dog Food Safe for Chickens?
Yes. Dry dog food, or kibble, is safe for chickens, and has a lot in common with chicken pellets when it comes to consistency.
However, depending on their sizes and shapes, chickens might struggle to break it down into small bits that are easily swallowed.
As such, so keep an eye out for choking, and if you are going to give them a little bit of dry dog food as an incidental treat consider crushing it a little bit.
Are Dog Treats Also Safe for Chickens?
Yes, dog treats are safe for chickens. From the classic dog biscuit to those Slim Jim-like meat sticks your chickens can have most kinds.
But just like other types of dog food, they aren’t nutritionally complete or well-rounded for chickens and there are typically very high in fat.
Is Dog Food Still Safe for Chicks?
Dog food is safe for chicks in the same way that it is safe for adults. It’s unlikely to kill them, but it’s not something they should really be eating.
As a once in a while, rare treat or an accidental snack that they stumble upon, it’s fine, but you should never feed dog food purposely to chicks until they’ve reached adolescence.
Chicks have extremely sensitive digestive systems, and they’re also highly vulnerable to diarrhea which can dehydrate them quickly and even kill them.
Also, consider wet food to be totally off the table for them.
If you let your chicks reach about 6 weeks of age they can probably have some dry kibble as a rare treat or incidental food without too much trouble.
How Frequently Can Dog Food be Fed to Chickens?
Dog food isn’t something that you should deliberately be putting on the menu for your chickens, and you should never consider replacing their usual feed with it.
If your chickens manage to swipe a few bites of dog food, wet or dry periodically, it’s nothing to worry about.
But if you want to give them dog food for some reason, it should be a really tiny amount no more than once a week.
You can consider it a treat, but it is so nutritionally unbalanced, and feeding it to them any more than that is bound to start causing some issues.
Don’t Let Your Chickens Eat After the Dog
Something else to consider: if your chickens have an ongoing campaign of stealing food directly from the dog’s bowl they could contract communicable diseases.
Diseases that go from canine to fowl are rare, but not unheard of, and the chances of transmission are higher if they are eating directly after the dog (and particularly eating wet dog food).
For this reason, you should never toss the scraps of your dog’s leftovers out to your chickens, and don’t let them share bowls.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Dog Food to Your Flock?
If you’re going to give dog food to your chickens on purpose, the best way to give it to them is either by scattering a little bit of dry kibble for them to peck at, or you can put a small quantity of wet food in a few different containers or trays so they can each get a few bites.
Remember; don’t make a habit of it…
Don’t Leave Dog Food Scraps Around the Run or Coop
One last tip concerning dog food: make it a point to clean up any leftover scraps in and around the chicken run or coop.
In the case of wet dog food, it will spoil and rot quickly, potentially spreading disease.
Whether it is wet or dry, it can likely attract pests and predators of chickens. Rodents, raccoons, possums, and potentially even foxes can be attracted by dog food, and you can bet they will try to pick off chicks and chickens and steal eggs.
Keep this from happening by cleaning up any leftover scraps of dog food once your chickens are done with it.
Tim is a farm boy with vast experience on homesteads, and with survival and prepping. He lives a self-reliant lifestyle along with his aging mother in a quiet and very conservative little town in Ohio. He teaches folks about security, prepping and self-sufficiency not just through his witty writing, but also in person.
Find out more about Tim and the rest of the crew here.