If you live on a busy farm or homestead with lots of different livestock, I’ll bet you probably noticed that your animals are more than happy to swipe a little bit of extra food from one another given half a chance.
Goats, especially, love to break out of their pen or enclosure to go looking for something tasty to eat, often finding it around the property.
Chicken feed in particular seems attractive to many goats, and though it seems like something they could safely eat, is it really? Is it chicken feed safe for goats or not?
No, chicken feed isn’t safe for goats to eat. Although a few mouthfuls are unlikely to hurt goats, it’s not nutritionally complete for them and it will cause illness if they eat it for any length of time.
It’s as simple as the label on the package: chicken feed is for chickens, goat feed is for goats.
Although goats and chickens can actually eat many of the same things, chicken feed isn’t something that goats should be eating regularly because it is highly likely to cause indigestion and, eventually, serious nutritional imbalance.
You don’t have to freak out if your goats get into a little bit of chicken feed, but you shouldn’t feed it to them and you shouldn’t let them continue eating it. I’ll tell you more below.
Chicken Feed is Not Nutritionally Complete for Goats
Goats and chickens are completely different biologically, and accordingly they have entirely different nutritional requirements.
For starters, goats are strictly herbivores, and although they might nibble on the occasional insect here or there, they don’t need animal protein in their diet- the same kind of animal protein that is regularly found in chicken feed.
And if you compare your goats with chickens, you’ll see that chickens are obviously omnivores, eating a wide variety of animal protein and various types of plant matter.
Whereas a chicken’s digestive system is designed to effectively process animal proteins, a goat’s is not.
Also, don’t make the mistake of thinking that, because chickens can safely eat goat feed that goats can safely eat chicken feed: that just isn’t the case, sadly.
Chicken Feed Has Nutrients that Goats Need, but it’s Not Very Digestible
The matter might be made even more aggravating if you stop to compare the ingredients and nutrients on a bag of chicken feed with a bag of goat feed.
You’ll recognize the protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamin and mineral levels and might even find they’re pretty close. Certainly you’ll notice that the vitamins and minerals, if nothing else, are things that goats need.
That seems logical, but problems arise when you consider the source of all these nutrients. Some of it comes from animal protein! Goats simply cannot properly digest animal protein.
While they might be able to eat just a tiny bit with very little harm of the risk of digestive upset, their digestive system is in no way equipped to handle a significant quantity.
For this reason, don’t be deluded that just because the nutritional info on the bag is seemingly close enough that it is something your goats can safely eat- they cannot!
A Few Nibbles of Chicken Feed Probably Won’t Hurt Your Goats
Now, I think you probably get that chicken feed is not good for goats. But is it toxic? No, not overtly: you don’t need to panic if one of your goats is being a little sneaky and manages to get a few mouthfuls of chicken feed.
Whether you drop a little bit when you were going to feed your chickens, or one of your escape artist goats tries to get at the “good stuff,” this is probably no cause for alarm.
Goats Will Get Sick Eating Chicken Feed Long-Term
That being said, your goats shouldn’t be allowed to eat or deliberately fed chicken feed long term. This is definitely going to result in illness and potentially death.
For starters, the animal proteins in chicken feed are going to cause serious rumen upset, potentially resulting in goats being able to uptake any other nutrients.
Other bad outcomes will include bloat, which I remind readers can be fatal even in goats, diarrhea, lethargy and more.
Serious instances resulting from a steady diet of a chicken feed or other nutritionally bankrupt foods could even result in fatal inflammation of the digestive tract, specifically the intestines.
And don’t be deluded and think your goats are “tough” enough or “adaptive” enough to eat chicken feed with no problems: you wouldn’t be the first to think that.
Just because your goats got a little bit and seemed absolutely right as rain afterward, that does not mean they can go ahead eating it with no issues.
That isn’t the case, and a bad outcome is certain if you allow them to eat it continually.
Should You Take Action if Your Goats Get Into Chicken Feed?
Not necessarily, but you should keep a close eye on them. Like I said above, if it is just a mouthful or two make sure you remove the feed from the goats or get the goat away from the feed, but I wouldn’t expect any problems.
However, if, for whatever reason, your goats were allowed to pig out on chicken feed I would be ready to act. Accordingly, go ahead and contact your vet for advice.
They might advise that you administer something to the goats or even bring them in depending on how much of the chicken feed they were able to eat.
Is Chicken Feed Safe for Baby Goats?
No, chicken feed is not safe for baby goats. Although a baby goat that is eating solid food full-time is unlikely to be seriously harmed by just a bite of chicken feed, these little critters are so sensitive and so delicate that it won’t take too much for problems to arise.
Plus, they have strict nutritional requirements if they’re going to develop properly and grow strong, so you should never deliberately give them any chicken feed.
If they do get into it, make sure you watch them closely for any signs of bloat or diarrhea which can be especially devastating for kids.
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.