There’s hardly anything that chickens won’t eat. Chickens will eat bugs out of the ground, nibble on every plant growing on your property, go back for their feed and then steal a little bit of food from any of the other animals that happen to be hanging around.
It is this adaptability to new foods that have made chickens so successful as a species. They can even eat some things that you wouldn’t expect! How about spicy food, for instance? Can chickens eat spicy food, and is it safe for them?
Yes, spicy food is safe for chickens as long as it is natural and something they could ordinarily eat. Chickens can eat all kinds of hot chili peppers without issue, but they should never eat artificially flavored spicy foods made for people.
It seems a little odd when you think about it, considering that some plants have evolved their signature spicy flavor as a defense mechanism against being eaten, but perhaps humans aren’t the only creatures that enjoy a little bit of heat in their diet.
I’ll tell you everything you need to know about chickens and spicy foods that they can eat down below…
What Benefits Do Spicy Food Have for Chickens?
The health benefits of spicy foods are largely dependent upon what the food is. Vegetables like hot peppers are natural and healthy for chickens, with a good assortment of vitamins and minerals that can help them thrive.
But what about the spice itself? Is there any special health-boosting power inherent to it? The argument has raged for a while but there is some evidence that spicy foods do have genuine benefits for chickens.
Some studies show that capsaicin, the active organic compound present in spicy peppers that makes them spicy, can improve egg-laying in hens, increasing overall production.
Why this is true is still unclear, but it is thought that is linked to a boost in overall metabolism or to circulatory health.
Capsaicin is also known to be a fairly potent antimicrobial, capable of killing bacteria and certain viruses, making it of genuine benefit to boosting immune system function in chickens.
In any case, so long as you are feeding your chickens spicy foods that are wholesome, healthy, natural and ones that they could ordinarily eat otherwise they are bound to get some good nutrition from them, whether or not the heat actually has any special benefits.
Are Spicy Foods Safe for Chickens Raw?
Yes, generally. Chickens can eat typically spicy vegetables like chili peppers raw with absolutely no issues.
This is because birds are effectively immune to the compounds present in spicy foods that make them feel hot to mammals. To a chicken, a scorching hot jalapeno pepper might as well be a sweet, crisp bell pepper.
Note that chickens should not eat any other part of a pepper plant, though, because every part except the pepper itself contains dangerous toxins.
But as long as they are eating the healthy, good parts this is the preferred way to serve spicy foods to chickens because raw vegetables will always have higher nutritional content than veggies that have been dried or cooked.
Are Cooked Spicy Foods Safe for Chickens?
Yes, again typically. As long as the food is an item they could normally eat, they can eat it after it has been cooked also.
However, cooking will usually deplete levels of both vitamins and minerals in any given food, reducing its overall nutrition content for chickens.
Is Spicy Food Still Safe for Chicks?
Yes, spicy food is safe for chicks, Believe it or not, and just like adult chickens chicks will not be affected by capsaicin.
However, there are some reservations about feeding chicks any new food, including spicy food, before they grow up a bit.
This is because they are more vulnerable to choking, and their super-sensitive digestive tracts are easily upset. Diarrhea in itself could be fatal to a chick.
Once your chicks have reached about 6 weeks of age, you can let them try a spicy pepper or something like that as a treat.
Make sure you chop it up into tiny bits that they can handle and only give them a very small amount to see how they do. If you have any reservations or worries about doing so, just hold off until they are adults.
How Frequently Can Spicy Food be Fed to Chickens?
Spicy foods, assuming they are wholesome, have a part to play in a chicken’s diet but they should never be the majority part of their calorie intake.
Domestic chickens should subsist almost entirely on their chicken feed which has nearly everything that they need to thrive.
But, around 10% of their calorie intake can be in the form of healthy, whole foods, including various spicy peppers. Usually, this will break down to one or two small servings every week, but no more than that.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Spicy Food to Your Flock?
If you are serving your chickens spicy peppers, make sure you only give them the flesh of the pepper itself- no other part of the plant!
Consider chopping up the peppers into slices or small cubes that are easier for chickens to tear the flesh off of or swallow whole, respectively. This will make them much easier to eat.
If you have fussy eaters or smaller birds that struggle with eating peppers, you might consider cooking them but do keep in mind that this will reduce the nutrition as described above. If you do cook them, remember to let them cool before serving them to the flock.
Be Careful of Spicy Produce that Might Have Been Treated with Pesticides
One thing to be cautious of if you’re going to feed your chickens spicy peppers that you purchased from the grocery store is that they have likely been treated with pesticide sprays.
These sprays will typically leave residues in the flesh of the pepper itself, so washing and peeling are not 100% effective at eliminating them.
Many of these pesticides have been linked with health problems and people and animals once they accumulate in the body, so that’s bad news.
The best option you have is to grow your own peppers so you know exactly what is, and isn’t, going on them, but if that isn’t an option for you, try to buy organic peppers that haven’t been treated with pesticides, or at least treated with synthetic pesticides.
Natural Spicy Foods are Safe, But No People Food!
Since we’re on the subject of spicy foods in general, it is worth mentioning that you should never, ever feed your chickens any spicy people foods.
I’m talking about things like spicy chips, sauces, seasoning mixes and all that other stuff. Definitely don’t give your chickens any Flamin’ Hot Cheetos either!
All these foods are pretty tasty for us, sure, but they invariably contain tons of salt, sugar, oils, artificial ingredients, and a lot of other things that chickens just can’t have.
Any of them can make your chickens seriously sick, or lead to terrible health problems like salt poisoning, fatty liver syndrome, and more.
Stick with all-natural, plain spicy peppers and other vegetables for your birds…
Don’t Leave Spicy Food Scraps Around the Run or Coop
One last thing to do if you’re going to give your chickens spicy peppers or any other produce: make sure you clean up after them when they are done.
Spicy peppers and other veggies will begin to rot and mold just like anything else when they are left out, and if your chickens come back around to nibble on them after this happens it could make them sick.
Potentially worse, rotting vegetables left lying around have a nasty tendency to attract rodents, which can be vectors of disease in and of themselves, or even directly harm your chickens or eggs.
Pick up all the scraps of leftover peppers and throw them away once your chickens are done with 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.