Yes, chickens can eat cottage cheese safely. Dairy products are not typically recommended for chickens as they can have issues digesting milk sugars, but a small bit of cottage cheese shouldn't cause them any issues.
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Is Cottage Cheese Good for Chickens?
Generally speaking, cottage cheese is a healthy food when eating in moderation. Especially when you compare it to some other cheeses that are much higher in fats.
It's actually fairly nutritionally dense with a wide range of nutrients, and most importantly a good helping of protein which is great for chickens.
For those that aren’t aware (and I had to look this up) cottage cheese is made by heating up whole milk, and then coagulating the milk into a solid form before adding some ingredients to give it a little more flavor.
The issue with cottage cheese and other dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and other cheeses, is that it can give chickens diarrhea if they have too much.
Chickens’ digestive systems find it hard to digest milk sugars, as do a lot of animals. I wouldn't go as far as to say that it's toxic or harmful though, at least not in a moderate amount.
Therefore, if you're giving your backyard chicken scraps and leftovers, I wouldn't worry about giving them a little bit of cottage cheese.
But do keep in mind that it’s a far cry from the kinds of foods and nutritional content chickens get from their feed, or what they would eat when allowed to roam around freely!
Can Chickens Eat Expired Cottage Cheese?
Somebody actually asked me this recently. I'm not sure how expired or spoiled it was, but I think the answer is pretty simple; if it looks like it's gone off don't give it to your chickens.
Chickens are great for helping you ‘recycle’ leftover bits of food, but they're not dumpsters. With foods that are prone to going moldy quickly and growing bacteria, you need to be very careful giving them to your chickens.
The “90/10 Rule” When Feeding Chickens
If you're new to raising backyard chickens, you might not be aware of the “90/10 Rule”.
This is the general rule that most chicken owners I know adhere to when feeding their chickens.
All it means is that 90% of their chickens' diets come from a quality commercial feed. That way, you can be sure that your chickens are getting all of the key nutritional content they need to maintain optimal health.
That leaves you with 10% where you can experiment with table scraps and leftover foods that you know did not pose any threat to chickens. But at the same time do not exactly provide the kind of quality nutrition they need.
Other Foods That Chickens Can Eat; Table Scraps, Treats, Etc
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:
Fruits – Most fruits are also fine as they are typically nutrient-dense and packed with loads of vitamins and minerals. Try giving them some berries, melons, apples, dragon fruit, etc.
Grains – Chickens love grains, and I love feeding my chickens grains. It gives them something to scratch around and forage for, too. You can feed your flock wheat, quinoa, cracked corn, oatmeal, even some cornbread, etc.
Some Foods That You Should NOT Feed Chickens
It’s more important you know which foods are potentially harmful to your chickens and should be avoided.
There aren’t many, but the foods you should absolutely avoid letting your chickens consume as confirmed by the RSPCA are:
Avocado skins and pits – These parts of the avocado contain a fungicidal toxin called persin that is known to be toxic to most pets.
Green potatoes and some nightshade foods – This family of vegetables also contain toxins (more about eggplant here)
Foods high in fat or salt, greasy fast foods, etc – Chickens require good-quality nutrition to lay eggs at their best and maintain optimal health. Fatty or ‘junk’ foods do not provide good nutrition.
Tea and coffee – Not like you’d offer your chickens a brew, but some people compost tea bags and coffee grounds in their yard.
Any moldy or spoiled foods – You wouldn’t eat moldy foods, would you? Mold spores are toxic and potentially harmful.
Raw Beans – The potential risks with beans are surprising to most people. Unless they are properly cooked, beans contain a toxin called lectin. Lectins are very toxic to chickens – and us – so never feed chicks beans that have not been cooked properly.
Chocolate and foods with cocoa or chocolate in – Chocolate contains compounds that are toxic to most pets, the darker the chocolate the worse it is, too!
Cottage cheese is not toxic or harmful to chickens. So, yes, you can feed it to your chickens in small amounts without any concerns.
Just be aware that some dairy products, in general, can cause stomach upset. A little plain yogurt with probiotics can actually help a chicken suffering from some digestive issues, but that's kind of the exception to the rule.
Generally speaking, I wouldn't think twice about giving chickens scraps and leftover cottage cheese, but I also wouldn't go out of my way to give it to them.
Hope that helps, have fun!
Image credits - Photo by Vito Natale on Unsplash