Can Chickens Eat Popcorn? Is it Safe?

Chickens, as you probably know, will eat just about anything they can reach. Rather, they will try anything they can reach, and it turns out that they like quite a few things that they shouldn’t normally eat!

chicken flock eating enjoying popcorn
chicken flock eating enjoying popcorn

Whether this is other animal’s food or a few choice snacks that we drop, chickens are notorious food thieves. You never want to feed chickens anything that is bad for them, but it turns out that a few human foods are okay.

How about popcorn? Is it safe for chickens to eat popcorn?

Yes, popcorn can be safe for chickens if it’s made without butter or other seasonings. Plain popcorn is actually a decent snack for chickens that can provide them with some vitamins and minerals.

Considering that I usually issue a blanket ban on the feeding of any processed human snack foods to chickens, popcorn is doubtless going to be something of a surprise to some of our readers. But, it’s true!

If you want to give your chickens a little treat you can do a lot worse than plain popped popcorn. But, as you might expect, there are a few caveats that you’ll need to know about, so keep reading and I’ll tell you about them below.

What Benefits Does Popcorn Have for Chickens?

Generally, popcorn isn’t a health food but, as it turns out, it’s surprisingly healthy for your chickens! That being said, it is far from true junk food so long as it isn’t loaded down with cheese, butter, salt, sugar and other flavorings that we all love.

So long as it is plain popcorn, it’s really not bad for chickens, and is a pretty good source of quick energy for them.

It also has lots of vitamins and minerals which can improve their overall health, although you’ll never see popcorn recommended for its great nutritional profile!

The nutrients in popcorn have been linked to improved skeletal health and the production of red blood cells and it can also serve as a warming feed in cold weather.

If you want to give your birds an interesting, novel snack and one that does not require much in the way of messy clean up, popcorn is a great choice and really easy to prepare.

Popcorn Nutritional Info

Popcorn is surprisingly nutritious, and is very dense with both B vitamins and a wide variety of minerals.

Looking at the vitamins first, you’ll find it abundant with thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and Vitamin B6, although these B complex vitamins are the only ones present.

But it is the mineral content of popcorn that is really quite spectacular. Popcorn contains tons of phosphorus, manganese and magnesium, along with a lot of zinc.

Copper, iron and selenium are also present in abundance with a little bit of potassium and calcium besides.

Notably, assuming you don’t add any flavorings or seasoning to it, popcorn is a very low sodium food so you won’t have to worry about that with your chickens as long as you are only giving it to them periodically as a treat.

Chickens eating a bucket of popcorn

Is Popped Popcorn Safe for Chickens?

Yes, and this is how it is best served to them. Chickens love the fluffy, dry puffs of popcorn, and they are easy for them to eat.

Just make sure that you don’t add any flavorings, butter or salt, or give them any flavored popcorn of any kind, as these can be harmful for chickens. We’ll talk more about that later.

Are Popcorn Kernels Safe for Chickens?

Maybe. This question is a little harder to answer, and begs some explanation. Popcorn kernels are hard.

Really hard, and even for chickens which have a gizzard to help them grind up food there is some evidence to suggest that kernels can cause trouble sometimes.

Whether they are too hard to digest or actually stop up a chicken’s digestive tract, some bad outcomes have been reported.

Some chicken keepers still choose to feed popcorn kernels to their chickens with no apparent issues, and others give their chickens extra grit to help them digest the hard stuff, but I am of the opinion that if extra grit is called for then it’s best avoided.

I myself won’t deliberately feed unpopped kernels to any chicken. If they get one or two that snuck in with the popped batch, it will probably cause no harm, but don’t let them eat the stuff as-is. Stick to plain popped popcorn and they’ll be just fine.

Is Flavored or Buttered Popcorn Safe for Chickens?

No! Absolutely not! Popcorn with preservatives, butter, cheese, sugar, salt, and other trickery added to it should be avoided at all costs.

All of these can lead to serious, even deadly health issues for chickens ranging from digestive upset and diarrhea to more serious conditions that you don’t want to inflict on your poor birds.

Heart disease, liver problems, sour crop, high blood pressure (hypertension) and sodium poisoning are all potential outcomes.

Especially in the case of flavored, packaged popcorn, sodium poisoning is highly likely. Sodium poisoning in chickens, also known as hypernatremia, is a potentially deadly condition caused by ingesting, duh, too much salt.

Symptoms of hypernatremia include increased thirst, lethargy and weakness, and, if left untreated, can lead to fatal heart failure. Keep the popcorn plain and popped and your chickens will thank you for it!

Is Popcorn Still Safe for Baby Chicks?

Yes, but only once they grow up a bit and only plain as with adults. Chicks have very sensitive digestive systems while they’re young, so any kind of food aside from their starter feed is to be avoided until they are at least 4 weeks old.

Furthermore, popcorn can still pose a choking hazard for young birds. As they get bigger and stronger they’ll be able to handle the occasional treat of plain popcorn, but until then stick with their usual feed, and break up popcorn into small tidbits when they’re old enough to try it.

How Frequently Can Popcorn be Fed to Chickens?

Like we talked about above, popcorn is surprisingly healthy and nutritious for chickens. Even so, it isn’t a mainstay of their diet and is to be fed on a “treat” or “occasional” basis.

Once or twice, at most, per week is plenty for your chickens to enjoy themselves, and still get the benefits of popcorn. It’s also a decent option for supplemental warming feed when the weather is really frigid.

Also, mind the quantity: chickens cannot be allowed to gorge themselves when they are given popcorn. Offer them a little bit, and when it is gone it is gone.

Chickens can get too excited about treats and will eat themselves sick if you let them!

What’s the Best Way to Serve Popcorn to Your Flock?

One way: popped. No salt, no butter, no seasoning. Plain. Scatter the popcorn for them to peck at, or else you can set out a few bowls of it if you know that all of your chickens will be able to get some.

Cleanup Popcorn or Expect Pests

If your chickens are anything like mine, they will obliterate the popcorn you give them. Literally, not one scrap of one puff remains!

But just in case they get their fill and have some left over or if you have messy eaters, make it a point to clean up the leftover corn. Popcorn left sitting around can lead to pests in your coop, especially rodents, and nobody wants that!

If that happens, you’ll wind up with missing eggs, fleas and mites, and maybe even a dead chicken if the perpetrator is a big rat.

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