Can Chickens Eat Oats? Is it Safe?

If you have chickens, and especially if you let them free range for food, you have no doubt already noticed them scurrying around grabbing food from wherever they can get it on your property.

a chicken contemplating some oatmeal cookie balls
a chicken contemplating some oatmeal cookie balls

They will take food from other animals, eat some choice bits of plants, a few bugs, a few worms and even grains that are spilled when the harvest is hauled in or if they’re still growing!

Chickens like just about everything as it turns out, well they don’t always avoid eating things that they shouldn’t. How about oats? Can chickens eat oats safely?

Yes, oats are safe for chickens and quite nutritious, having many vitamins and minerals that they need for good health. However, chickens shouldn’t be allowed to overindulge on oats and should only be fed them sparingly.

Oats being good for chickens is not much of a surprise since oats are one of the most popular and well-rounded livestock feeds around, and enjoyed by many species.

Chickens also like oats quite a lot, and they will rarely fail to come running if you make it a point to treat them with oats periodically.

There’s more you’ll need to know, though, you’re going to give oats to your chickens without messing up their diet, and I will tell you more below.

Chickens try old fashioned rolled oats. Will chickens eat old fashioned rolled oats?

What Benefits Do Oats Have for Chickens?

Oats have a lot of good health benefits for chickens, primarily as a source of quick carbohydrate energy. This can help birds that cope with cold and stress alike, and oats are fairly popular as a warming feed for chickens when required.

More than this, the vitamins and minerals that oats have will greatly improve circulatory health by promoting the production of red blood cells and the oxygenation of blood, increasing and stabilizing metabolism, improving overall bone growth and healing, enhancing feathering and more.

Oats also improve cellular health and organ function, and can help a chicken’s digestive tract also. They can also help to alleviate and prevent pasty butt! See below for more info.

Oats Nutritional Info

Oats are very nutrient-dense, though the precise nutritional content varies depending on whether or not they have been precooked or processed in other ways.

Quick and instant oats are pre-cooked, and that makes them much easier to prepare a second time. Know that cooking naturally reduces the nutrient content of the grain.

Nonetheless, all oats still show a great assortment of vitamins and minerals across the board, and they are rich in the B-complex vitamins, particularly thiamine and pantothenic acid but also riboflavin, folate and B6, backed up by a little bit of niacin.

The mineral content is even more impressive than the vitamins, with tons of manganese, phosphorus and magnesium, a great amount of zinc and iron and a little bit of calcium and potassium.

Altogether, oats can give chickens a tremendous boost of nutrition, but they are still a little tough for chickens to digest so you don’t want to overfeed them.

Are Raw Oats and Groats Safe for Chickens?

Yes, they are. Both are just fine for chickens, and highly nutrient-dense. Both are slightly tough for chickens to digest, though, so watch the quantity you give them.

Are Rolled Oats Safe for Chickens?

Yes, rolled oats are totally safe for chickens. Rolled oats are gently processed to make them more digestible and easier to cook, and they still have most of their nutrients. A great choice for chickens.

Are Steel-cut Oats Safe for Chickens?

They sure are. Though somewhat tougher than rolled oats since part of the hull is still present, chickens won’t have any issues with these.

Are Instant Oats Safe for Chickens?

Yes, but with a caveat: instant oatmeal must not contain any other ingredients, flavorings or preservatives. Instant oatmeal packets usually have lots of each, so don’t feed these to your chickens.

Are Quick Oats Safe for Chickens?

Yes, quick oats are just fine for your chickens. Quick oats have been pre-cooked to make subsequent preparation faster and easier, and this will reduce their nutritional content somewhat, but they are still A-OK for chickens.

Are Quick Oats Safe for Chickens Raw?

Yes, quick oats are safe for chickens “raw.” Quick oats are actually not raw at all, being pre-cooked, but you can pull them right out of the can and feed them to chickens as-is with no trouble.

They have a soft, slightly chewy but dry texture that chickens can handle and they are ready to eat, making this a convenient option. You don’t need to cook quick oats before feeding them to your flock.

a chicken contemplating some oatmeal cookie balls
a chicken contemplating some oatmeal cookie balls

Raw Oats Can Prevent Pasty Butt

Raw oats also have a special use for helping to alleviate pasty butt and prevent future occurrences.

Pasty butt is silly name for a nasty and life threatening condition where a chicken’s vent gets clogged with liquid or semi-liquid feces, blocking it.

When this happens, feces will start to back up and eventually poison the poor bird, killing it. It is especially deadly for chicks! If you take action quick, you can clear the blockage and clean up the affected bird, saving them.

Where the oats come in is in preventing the pasty butt from reoccurring. By bulking up and drying out the feces, the oats will prevent it from sticking to the chicken’s feathers around the vent.

Remember this if your flock is suffering from loose stools or diarrhea for any reason!

Backyard Chickens Eat Oatmeal on Cold Day

Can You Cook Oats to Give Them To Chickens?

Yes, you can, and cooking oats can make them more appealing to some chickens.

But do take care since cooked oats are somewhat sticky and moist and that can cause issues if you allow chickens to eat too much, and they might be a choking hazard for some birds.

Are Oats Still Safe for Chicks?

Yes, oats are safe for chicks. However, chicks will be better able to eat and digest cooked oats, as the husk is harder for them to handle.

But, cooking oats reintroduces the potential problem of sticky, moist food. Chicks are prone to choking, so if this sounds like a balancing act that is because it is.

For this reason, you won’t go wrong if you wait for your chicks to grow up a bit before feeding them oats for the first time. 6 weeks or older is about right.

But if you are set on feeding oats to chicks, pulse them in a food processor to reduce them to a rice size or smaller. This will make them easier and safer for chicks to swallow, no cooking needed.

How Frequently Can Oats be Fed to Chickens?

Oats are a great, nutritious food for chickens, but should only be fed as a supplement.

No more than a small handful of oats per chicken, once or twice a week is sufficient to give them all of the benefits without any worries of digestive issues.

However, you can safely feed them a little more and a little more often if you are trying to cope with pasty butt. Just avoid any situation where oats are always available to chickens and they can eat as much as they want.

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

If your chickens like them, raw is best. If they happen to be picky eaters, consider chopping them up in a food processor first or try rolled oats.

Cooking oats is also an option as described, though you should cook them only occasionally since they will be moist and sticky, and that can cause trouble for your birds.

You can scatter oats on the ground, put them in a feeder or even mix them with other foods. You choose, just make sure your chickens are getting enough of their regular feed, too.

Never Give Your Chickens Oats With Sweeteners or Other Ingredients!

Oats are a ubiquitous staple used in all sorts of desserts, breads and other foods. From flavored instant oatmeal to the ever-delicious oatmeal raisin cookies.

Whatever you like on or in your oats, don’t give any of it to chickens. Things we like such as sugar syrup, sweeteners and all that jazz is very bad for chickens and can seriously impact their health.

Too much sugar will cause digestive problems, sour crop, fatty liver syndrome and even death. You might think it is fine or even funny to share some human food with your flock, but you won’t be chuckling when your birds are suffering.

So don’t forget to check the ingredients list of any oats you give your chickens before you serve it for their safety, and never give the desserts or sweets with oats in them!

Don’t Leave Oat Lying Around the Run or Coop

You should also know that oats have a tendency to attract insects and rodents. Accordingly, you’ll want to keep the oats lying around the coop and run to a minimum.

Not always possible to clean up every last one, chickens do make a mess after all, and a few errant flakes aren’t a big deal. But if you are consistently putting out so much oats that there are leftovers from one meal to the next, you have a problem.

When mice and bugs show up your birds will start having more problems, guaranteed, so remember that when portioning out the next meal.

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