If you’ve never stopped to consider just what is in chicken feed, you might not know that these birds need lots of protein.
It’s true, and chickens especially need protein during growth phases, and to expedite healing if they are sick or injured.
Naturally, one of the very best sources of protein is meat. Chickens are omnivores, sure, but can they eat meat, and is it safe?
Yes, chickens can eat meat safely. Chickens can eat all kinds of meat, including beef, pork, fish, insects, and even other poultry.
Chickens will get plenty of protein from a well-rounded diet of pellets, but there’s nothing wrong with supplementing their diet with more natural sources of animal protein, whatever kind it might be.
But, as you probably expect, there’s a lot to know about giving meat to chickens and making a mistake might hurt their health. I’ll tell you what you need to know just below…
What Benefits Does Meat Have for Chickens?
Meat has tons of health benefits for chickens, namely that it is one of the very best sources of protein out there.
No matter what kind, it also has a great assortment of vitamins and minerals that are a mandatory part of a healthy diet.
The abundant protein found in meat is going to be especially useful for any chicken during a phase of growth or healing, as a protein will be used at a rapid rate to repair damage or grow new tissues.
This protein is also vital during molting when chickens get rid of old or damaged feathers and grow new ones, or just when they are forced to grow new feathers due to injury.
During any of the above instances, any chicken that is forced to make do with inadequate protein in their diet is going to experience slower rates of growth or healing, or potentially worse consequences if they’re really lacking protein in their diet.
Meat Nutritional Info
The nutritional profile of meat varies significantly depending upon the type of meat and the cut, along with other relevant factors concerning the health of the animal that it was taken from.
Regardless, all meat contains a variety of vitamins and minerals that chickens need in addition to a ton of protein and fat that is likewise needed.
So long as you do not feed it to excess, you can rest assured that meat will be a great supplement to the diet of your chickens.
Is Meat Safe for Chickens Raw?
Yes, raw meat is safe for chickens as long as it is fresh. Even then, raw meat carries enhanced risks of foodborne pathogens for chickens although these are not quite as severe as you might be thinking.
You should never feed your chickens any raw meat that is spoiled or rotting.
Can You Cook Meat to Give it To Chickens?
Yes, you can. Cooked meat is also totally safe for chickens so long as it is not prepared with any additions or ingredients that are bad for them.
Although cooking meat nominally lowers the nutritional value somewhat, it might make many of the vitamins and minerals more bioavailable which could result in cooked meat being a net benefit nutritionally.
Is Beef Safe for Chickens?
Yes, it is! Beef is a safe bet for chickens and most chickens seem to enjoy it. Beef has other advantages for chickens considering its overall nutritional profile and affordable price.
Is Pork Safe for Chickens?
Yes, pork is safe for chickens. Chickens are, for once, not picky when it comes to meat, and are known to eat just about any kind of meat there is.
If you have pork on hand or if it is just more affordable don’t hesitate to feed it to your flock.
Is Fish Safe for Chickens?
Yes. Fish is also safe for chickens, and like all the other meats you should only feed it to chickens if it is very fresh and raw, or else cooked, and never if it is spoiled or rotten.
Compared to other kinds of meat, fish is particularly high in important vitamins and minerals among other nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids.
Is Other Seafood Safe for Chickens?
Yes, surprisingly enough! Shellfish, crustaceans and the like are all completely safe for chickens so long as they are prepared properly and there is no risk of chickens choking on hard bits of shell or carapace.
However, think twice before feeding chickens any calamari since the dense, rubbery texture makes choking a legitimate hazard for them.
Can Chickens Eat Chicken?!
Don’t get freaked out, but yes, they can. Chickens will happily eat chicken meat and the meat of other birds besides.
As grim as it is to consider, most chickens are known cannibals that will prey on their own, even members of their own flock that have passed on.
Plenty of chicken owners also know that chickens will happily eat their own eggs, too.
Considering that chickens are highly adaptive when it comes to foods and it will show preferences, I strenuously recommend against feeding chicken meat to your chickens unless they develop a taste for it, if you know what I mean.
Is Meat Still Safe for Baby Chicks?
Yes, chicks can have meat just like adults can but only after they get older. Once chicks hit about 6 weeks of age you can let them try a tiny morsel of meat.
Remember that chicks have highly delicate digestive systems, and anything like major indigestion or diarrhea can spell serious trouble for them.
Accordingly, only give them meat very sparingly and then keep an eye on them. Any sign of watery feces or full-blown diarrhea means that you should discontinue at once.
Don’t feel bad if chicks aren’t getting a varied diet like the rest of the flock while they’re young…
They’ll do just fine on a continual diet of a starter feed until they have reached adolescence (at around 10 to 15 weeks of age).
Don’t let misguided sentiment cause you to do something that could harm your chicks!
How Frequently Can Meat Be Fed to Chickens?
As fundamental as meat is to a chicken’s diet and overall well-being, it shouldn’t be the primary source of protein in their diet.
I know it sounds strange, but it should still only be a supplement with a nutritionally rounded chicken feed as their staple.
But, chickens really like eating meat, and if you don’t pay strict attention to controlling the portions they can and will overindulge every time you give it to them.
There is no such thing as too much meat as far as your chickens are concerned.
Accordingly, only about 10% of any given chicken’s calorie intake should be supplemental foods, and meat is only a part of this 10%.
You can give small portions of meat to your chickens once or twice a week, and they’ll get plenty of benefits out of it without overdoing it.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Meat to Your Flock?
Whether it is cooked or raw, the best way to serve meat to your flock is to cut it up into small pieces that chickens can easily swallow without a risk of choking.
Also, pay close attention to the cut of the meat, as long, stringy, and tough parts can increase choking risk.
If you’re going to serve raw meat to your chickens make sure it is extremely fresh, not spoiled! Chickens shouldn’t be eating roadkill or carrion.
Meat Is Safe, But Only By Itself: No People Food!
A quick word on cooked meat: no matter what kind of meat dish you like, chances are it has ingredients in it that are not okay for chickens.
On the scale of bad ideas, we have things like butter and extra salt on the low side and a good slather of barbecue sauce complete with sugar and tons of salt on the high side.
None of these ingredients are okay for chickens, and can cause serious health issues like sodium poisoning and fatty liver syndrome, or more mundane but still serious issues like sour crop.
You don’t want to inflict any on your birds, so if you’re going to give them meat it should only be plain, whether it is raw or cooked. No butter, no seasonings, no nothing!
Don’t Leave Meat Scraps Around the Run or Coop
Keep in mind, that pretty much every living thing desires meat, or rather lots of living things that you don’t want around your chickens!
If you leave a meet scraps in and around the run or coop, it will attract insects and pests, potentially even a few predators. None of this is good news for your flock.
Worse, meat begins to spoil and rot quickly even if it is cooked, and if your chickens were to come back around later and eat these now rotting bits, it could make them sick. You can prevent all of this from happening by simply cleaning up the leftover scraps from their meal.
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.