Chickens can eat butter, yes. It’s not toxic or harmful, but it’s high in fats and often has salt and other preservatives and additives. So, it’s not ideal for chickens and should only be given to them in small amounts.
Feeding chickens table scraps, leftovers, and other foods is always fun. It’s a great way to bond and spend time with backyard chickens, but we do have to be responsible owners and make sure they’re getting a lot of great nutrition.
Is Butter Ok for Chickens? What’s Butter Made Of?
Butter is an interesting food, it’s long been a subject of controversy in regards to whether or not it’s good or bad for us.
Butter comes in many forms, tastes, and can be made up of various ingredients. In essence, however, it is a dairy product made by churning milk.
It gets its distinctive rich and creamy texture due to being so high in fat. Which itself is an obvious concern when feeding butter to chickens.
There are some great nutritional benefits to eating butter for both us and chickens, but the bottom line is that it’s too high in calories and bad fats.
So, if you were thinking about throwing a block of butter into your run for your hens to peck at, that’s an absolute no.
However, if we’re talking about giving them pieces of bread with a little bit of butter on, or using butter to mix up some corn and other foods that are good for them, that’s absolutely fine in moderation.
I know some chicken owners stress a little bit much about what their chickens are eating. That’s normal, we want the best for our chooks, but don’t stress if they’ve been eating a little bit of butter here and there.
Can Chickens Eat Dairy?
Dairy products are known to cause gastrointestinal issues for a number of different animals. And chickens are no exception.
Again, a tiny bit here and there shouldn’t cause any problems. But dairy products, in general, are known to cause diarrhea as chickens’ digestive systems aren’t designed to digest milk sugars.
It’s also made worse by the fact that most dairy products we eat are packed with extra sugars, additives, and all sorts of other stuff that chickens shouldn’t be eating.
The “90/10 Rule” When Feeding Chickens
Most backyard chicken owners operate to something we call the “90/10 rule” when it comes to feeding.
This essentially means that 90% of their diet should come from a quality commercial feed. The other 10% can come from table scraps, leftovers, etc
This way you know your chickens are getting the best of both worlds. They’re getting all of the essential nutrients they need, and they get some treat foods which always excites them.
Table Scraps, Leftovers, and Treat Foods Safe for Chickens
The good news is that most leftover food scraps that we don’t eat are fine for chickens. Or, maybe you just want to treat them to something different.
Either way, here are some of the most popular foods people give to their backyard chooks that are perfectly safe:
Vegetables – Most vegetables are fine chickens, and it’s a great way to use the scraps that you won’t eat. Veggies like sweet potatoes, carrots, cabbage, jicama, etc provide some great nutrition.
Fruits – Most fruits are also fine and they’re typically nutrient-dense and packed with loads of good vitamins and minerals. Try giving your chickens some berries, melons, apples, bananas, etc. and you’ll see how quickly they disappear.
Grains – Grains are a staple of most chicken feeds and foods that chickens would naturally find and eat in the wild. It also gives them something to scratch around for, which chickens love doing. Wheat, quinoa, corn, oatmeal, etc., are all super good for chickens.
Related – Have some spare cornflakes? I know who’d love them!
Toxic Foods You Should Avoid Giving to Chickens
The bad news is, there are some foods that are toxic, poisonous, and potentially very dangerous for chickens.
According to the RSPCA and some other chicken welfare sites, the main foods you should avoid giving to your flock includes:
- Avocado skins and pits – there is a toxin present in these parts of this fruit
- Green potatoes and some nightshade foods – this family of vegetables also contain toxins
- Tea and coffee – not like you’d offer your chickens a brew, but some people compost tea bags and coffee grounds in their yard
- Candy and other sugary treats, soda, etc. – keep the sugary treats for yourself!
- Foods high in fat or salt, greasy fast foods, etc. – similar to sugary treats, fatty foods are bad for chickens’ digestive systems
- Chocolate and foods with cocoa or chocolate in – chocolate contains compounds that are toxic to most pets
- Any moldy or spoiled foods – it’s tempting to use chickens as recycling machines for foods you don’t want, just make sure you only give them food you’d be willing to eat yourself!
This is not a complete list, so always err on the side of caution when feeding your chicken something new for the first time.
This does cover all the main foods that you absolutely should not give to your chickens though.
Most of it makes sense, chickens don’t have a lot of taste buds so don’t feel bad about giving them bland foods that are good for them.
The important thing is that you’re providing a balanced diet of good nutrition to help them maintain optimal health. You don’t need to spoil them!
Hopefully, this helped put your mind at ease if your chickens have been eating buttered corn, pieces of buttered bread, and so on.
A little bit of butter here and there isn’t going to do any harm, much like for us really.
The golden rule when feeding chickens, however, is to give them as much of the foods that provide good nutrition as possible if you want them to lay delicious eggs and maintain optimal health.
Image credits – Photo by Ben Mansfield on Unsplash