I think if we’re being honest, pretty much every person who owns animals would admit to the urge of sharing some of our favorite foods with them.
If our favorite treats make us feel good, that naturally follows that maybe they’ll make our animals feel good too…
Every once in a while, this is true, but most of the time it’s not and in fact it’s just the opposite. Let’s look at ice cream, for instance. Can chickens eat ice cream safely?
No, ice cream is not safe for chickens. Ice cream is full of milk and sugar, two things that chickens should never have in abundance. Ice cream can easily make chickens sick or even kill them.
No matter how much you want to share your ice cream, and no matter how long you think your chickens are looking at that delicious sundae, you should never give in to the urge to feed them any.
If you do, you’re certainly going to make your chickens feel bad, and it might even make them really sick. It’s always a bad idea, and I’ll tell you why below.
What Benefits Does Ice Cream Have for Chickens?
None. Absolutely none. Ice cream is junk food for people, pure and simple, and its borderline poison for birds, including chickens.
Any macro or micronutrients that ice cream might contain that are beneficial for chickens are completely overshadowed by its indigestibility and tons of harmful ingredients.
If you give your chickens ice cream, it is only going to hurt them.
Ice Cream Will Only Ever be Bad for Your Chickens
There are no circumstances where ice cream is a good idea or even remotely beneficial for chickens.
You shouldn’t give it to them on a hot day, you can’t give it to them rarely as a treat, and even giving them a little taste as a funny joke could have potentially deadly consequences.
I’m not kidding. Ice cream is that bad for your chickens, and you should never, ever give it to them.
Dairy Foods are Not Good for Chickens
Before we get to anything else, you should know that dairy foods are just not good for chickens, and their biology is not capable of properly digesting most of them.
And what’s the primary ingredient in ice cream? Oh, that’s right, it’s milk. We can eat and digest dairy products, including milk, because we are mammals, but chickens aren’t.
While it is true that a tiny bit of most dairy foods won’t genuinely harm chickens, it doesn’t take much for serious digestive issues to develop.
Ice cream is basically nothing but milk, or rather milk and sugar aside from whatever else is in there. They just can’t handle this much milk!
Lots of Sugar is Seriously Harmful to Chickens
Potentially worse than the milk is the massive amount of sugar that’s present in all ice cream. Full stop, chickens can’t handle that much sugar and it can cause serious digestive problems including diarrhea. It will also run a serious risk of giving them sour crop.
Sour crop is basically a yeast infection that occurs in the chicken’s crop, and it can quickly become painful, impair eating and subsequently prevent proper digestion of food. Untreated, it can be fatal.
Also potentially fatal is the severe diarrhea that all this sugar is going to give a chicken. Diarrhea will invariably lead to dehydration in short order, and that is going to put a lot of stress on a chicken.
Now keep in mind that this sugar is in addition to the load of milk they’re going to be getting out of the ice cream.
That’s two ingredients that are seriously bad for chickens by themselves, but now you’ve combined them and are feeding them to your birds. Not good…
Many Other Ingredients in Ice Cream are Harmful or Fatal
Keep in mind that all of the delicious ice cream treats we have to choose from today are not just milk and sugar.
There’s every kind of flavoring, every kind of mix-in, every kind of topping, and almost all of them are bad news for your birds.
Let’s look at one of the most common, chocolate. Chocolate contains cocoa, and cocoa contains theobromine, a compound that is seriously dangerous to chickens all by itself.
Dark chocolate in particular contains tons of theobromine, enough that it could kill your birds on the spot.
That’s bad enough, but we must also contend with things like caramel, which often contains salt. As you might have guessed, chickens don’t need much salt in their diet at all.
Some ice cream flavors, like sea-salted caramel (or chocolate) will have enough salt to potentially cause sodium poisoning in chickens.
Sodium poisoning is horrendous, usually killing a bird via violent seizures which will eventually result in coma and then heart failure.
Pretty gruesome stuff and a bad way for a chicken to die. There are many other ingredients besides these few that I mentioned that are just as bad and potentially worse.
So for those of you keeping track at home, ice cream always contains milk and sugar, and probably also salt and chocolate. All told, this is basically the apocalypse for your birds, biologically speaking.
Is Ice Cream Safe for Baby Chicks?
I hope no one would ask this question after reading all of the above, but just in case you jumped down here from the beginning: no, ice cream is not safe for chicks.
Every way that ice cream is dangerous for adult chickens it is 10 times worse for chicks since they are so sensitive and delicate. Feeding a chick ice cream can easily send them into shock and kill them outright on the spot.
As far as I’m concerned, deliberately giving ice cream to any chick is abuse, and you’re probably condemning them to a terrible death. Don’t do it.
How Frequently Can Ice Cream be Fed to Chickens?
Never. Chickens should never be given ice cream, as I hope would be apparent after reading all of the above.
However, it must be allowed that domestic chickens are pretty tough birds, and they can survive eating some things that they really shouldn’t eat.
Your average chicken that has just a tiny nibble of ice cream, or laps up a drop that falls out of your bowl or off of your ice cream cone, is probably going to be no worse for the wear.
But let me be crystal clear: you should never, ever feed ice cream to chickens routinely. Don’t give it to them once in a while. Don’t give it to them once in a blue moon. Just don’t give it to them!
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.