When it comes to livestock, chickens are or just about the most adventurous and adaptive eaters out there. Consummate omnivores, chickens can eat plant matter, fruits, vegetables, seeds, grains and of course meat of various kinds. This even includes seafood!
But how about something like shrimp? Can chicken eat shrimp?
Yes, chicken can eat shrimp safely. Shrimp are surprisingly nutritious, packed with protein, vitamins and minerals that chickens need. Chickens can eat all parts of a shrimp, but it is recommended that you cook it reduce the risk of foodborne pathogens.
It is hard to imagine how chicken might first have encountered shrimp to eat them at all, but this is none of our concern.
All we need to know is that our chickens can eat them, and how best we should serve shrimp to our flocks.
Keep reading to get the answers to both of those questions.
Nutritional Profile of Shrimp
Shrimp are remarkably nutritious, containing high levels of protein, vitamins and minerals. A 3-ounce serving of shrimp contains the following nutrients, in milligrams, (RDI % listed is proportional to what humans need daily):
- Protein – 17 g (34%)
- Selenium – 34.8 mcg (49%)
- Vitamin B12 – 2.6 mcg (108%)
- Choline – 251 mg (46%)
- Phosphorus – 187 mg (27%)
- Potassium – 260 mg (7%)
- Zinc – 1.1 mg (10%)
- Magnesium – 24.8 mg (6%)
- Iodine – 18.2 mcg (12%)
As you can see, shrimp are particularly high in selenium, vitamin B12 and choline. Shrimp also contain small but noticeable amounts of calcium, iron, manganese, molybdenum, sodium and vitamin B3 (niacin).
Shrimp are also a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, just 3 ounces of shrimp contains nearly 1 gram of omega-3s.
Health Benefits of Shrimp for Chickens
Shrimp, though a novel animal protein for chickens, are still a tremendously healthy one for them.
The selenium found in shrimp helps to protect cells from damage, while the vitamin B12 aids in the development of red blood cells.
Choline is important for proper liver function, and the omega-3s present in shrimp can help to improve heart health and cognitive function.
Phosphorous is essential for the development and maintenance of bones and teeth, while potassium helps to regulate fluid levels in the body.
The zinc found in shrimp aids in immune function and growth, while the magnesium present helps with energy metabolism.
The iodine found in shrimp is important for healthy egg weight, absorption of nutrients and resistance to disease.
Finally, the iron found in shrimp helps to prevent anemia, while the calcium helps with muscle function and eggshell quality.
The high protein content of shrimp also makes them a valuable addition to a chicken’s diet particularly when molting or recovering from injury. In short, there are many good reasons to feed shrimp to your chickens!
Can Chickens Eat Raw or Live Shrimp?
Yes, but this is generally not recommended. While it is technically safe for chickens to eat raw shrimp, there is a greater risk of foodborne illness, often from parasites, when eating it uncooked.
Can Chickens Eat Shrimp Shells?
Yes, they can. The thin, crunchy shell of shrimp is no problem for chickens to eat and can actually provide some valuable minerals and nutrients.
Can Chickens Eat Shrimp Tails?
Yes. However, some chickens seem turned off by the flaky yet tough texture. But if they want to eat them by all means allow them to.
Can Chickens Eat Shrimp Skin?
Yes, indeed they can. The skin is safe for chickens to eat and actually contains a good amount of collagen, which can be beneficial for their feathers.
Can Chickens Eat Raw Shrimp Heads?
It is a bit gross, but chickens can eat shrimp heads- antenna, eyes and all! Keep in mind that while heads are safe to eat, they contain a lot of cholesterol.
So, if you are concerned about your chicken’s cholesterol levels, you may want to remove the heads before feeding them to your flock.
Can Chickens Have Dried Shrimp?
They sure can. Dried shrimp are a great way to add some variety to your chicken’s diet and they can be a good source of protein and nutrients. They are also highly convenient to serve.
Will Chickens Eat Prawns?
Yes, they will. Prawns are a species of shrimp, so they share many of the same characteristics.
They are high in protein and other nutrients, and chickens enjoy them just as much as any other type of shrimp.
The only real difference is that prawns are usually a bit larger than shrimp, so you might want to chop them up into smaller pieces before feeding them.
Can Chickens Eat Shrimp Cooked?
Yes. Cooking shrimp will reduce their overall level of nutrients, but in exchange it will also greatly reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
If you choose to feed cooked shrimp to your chickens, be sure to cook them thoroughly.
Can Chickens Eat Fried Shrimp?
They can, but they really shouldn’t. Fried shrimp are extremely high in fat and extra calories thanks to that bath of breading and oil, and offer little in the way of nutritional value in return.
Can Chickens Eat Popcorn Shrimp?
Same as any other fried shrimp- No!
Can Chickens Eat Steamed Shrimp?
Yes, they can. Steamed shrimp are a far healthier cooked option than fried shrimp, and your chickens won’t mind if they are a little bland tasting.
Never Feed Shrimp to Chickens that Has Been Prepared with Harmful Ingredients
On the subject of cooking, now is a good time to remind you that you must never feed cooked shrimp to chickens if they have been prepared with harmful ingredients.
Things like garlic, butter, salt, breading, oil and cheese are all be toxic to chickens in large quantities. Any of them might lead to serious health issues.
At best, your chickens could be facing substantial weight gain and digestive problems. At worst, they could suffer from hypertension, sodium poisoning, sour crop or inflammation of the gizzard.
Any of these might cause them to die. So, if you are going to cook shrimp for your chickens, be sure to serve them only plain or with healthy ingredients and avoid anything that might be harmful to them.
How Often Can Chickens Have Shrimp?
Shrimp are undeniably healthy, but they are still not something that your chickens should have all the time.
They are not nutritionally complete, and too much might lead to a toxic excess of otherwise healthful nutrients. In moderation, however, they make a wonderful addition to a chicken’s diet.
How often you feed shrimp to your chickens is really up to you, as you should understand your flock’s nutritional requirements, but once or twice a week as a substitute for another protein option is probably plenty.
How to Feed Shrimp to Your Chickens?
You have all kinds of ways to feed shrimp to your flock. You can give them whole cooked shrimp, steamed shrimp or dried shrimp. Save your Forrest Gump jokes.
You can serve the shrimp whole, or chop them up and mix them with other foods to prepare a nice, complete meal for your birds.
You can even feed your flock raw shrimp, but it is recommended that they are very fresh to minimize the risks of foodborne diseases and parasites.
Can Baby Chicks Have Shrimp, Too?
Yes, but you’ll need to wait until they are a little older. Baby chicks have delicate digestive systems and are not able to eat shrimp until they are at least 6 weeks old.
Also keep in mind that chicks are vulnerable to choking and crop impaction, so you should only let them try a few tiny tidbits of meat you have pulled off to avoid any problems.
Make Sure You Clean Up After Serving Your Flock Shrimp
It is critically important that you take the time to clean up thoroughly after serving your flock shrimp.
Any uneaten shrimp or shrimp shells that are left behind can quickly spoil in the heat and humidity, leading to bacterial growth and the potential for disease if your chickens come back around to nibble on it later.
Not to mention, it will reek so bad you will swear your property is haunted by a hateful poltergeist.
Another hazard is the chance that the odor will attract predators looking for an easy meal, including ones that can hurt your birds, so it is best to avoid the problem altogether by being diligent about clean up.
Take a few minutes to clean up any uneaten bits of shrimp and dispose of them properly. Your chickens will thank you.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.