Chickens can and will eat crackers, however, it’s important you check they’re not too high in salt and only share crackers as an occasional treat. While not a bad treat, there are plenty of other foods that are far better for your hens.
What’s in Crackers?
Crackers come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and with various flavorings. The basic ingredients and process involved in making crackers are pretty simple, they include:
- Wheat flour
- Raising agents and other flours
- Oil for baking
It’s usually what we add to crackers that make the difference to what we’re eating. What’s your favorite topping?
Are Crackers Bad for Chickens?
The main issue with crackers and this applies to most human foods, is the salt or sodium content.
Chickens – and most animals – do not require much salt in their diet. They typically get all the salt they need from their commercial feed, and any extra can be hard for them to digest and potentially cause some health issues.
So, while crackers are exactly bad for chickens, they’re not good either.
Laying hens require about 16% protein in their diet, along with some important vitamins and minerals. None of which are found in crackers.
I’m not suggesting you’d try and raise your chickens on crackers alone! Just pointing out that a chicken’s dietary needs are very different from what crackers offer, so they’re a treat to be given in moderation.
A little tip – I’ve read from a lot of backyard chicken owners that their chicks prefer crackers moist. If yours turned their beaks up at dry crackers, try dampening them.
If you enjoy spoiling your flock, there are plenty of better options. They’ll be just as happy whatever you give them too, I’m sure you’re aware that chickens aren’t too fussy.
I cover some of the best (and worst) foods to give to chickens below:
Related – Love graham crackers as much as I do? Check out if chickens can eat graham crackers here.
Some Foods That You Should Never Give to Chickens
As I’ve explained, crackers are fine snack foods for your chickens in moderation, as are most foods.
There are some foods that are not OK for chickens though. This isn’t an incomplete list, so it’s always worth double-checking, but here are some of the common foods that you should never give to chickens:
Nightshade Vegetables – This is sometimes a contentious area. Because most vegetables and plants belonging to the nightshade family produce a toxin that is toxic to chickens called solanine.
It’s not always the case though. For example, green, unripe tomatoes contain the toxin, as do potatoes – but only when they’ve turned green due to exposure to sunlight. It’s worth researching the Nightshades before giving them to your flock.
Raw Beans – Most raw or undercooked beans contain a harmful compound called lectin. It’s said that lectins are so toxic, even ingesting a small amount can be fatal, so always be extremely cautious regarding beans.
Chocolate, Teas, and Coffee – There are a couple of compounds all of these have in common; theobromine and caffeine. Both of these are harmful to chickens, so avoid allowing your flock near any products with these in.
Salty Foods – Like us and most animals, too much salt is bad for chickens. They find it hard to process salt and do not need additional salt from foods, so don’t give them foods high in salt.
Moldy Foods – No one should be eating mold foods, but as mold spores are very toxic you need to keep this in mind. If you’re giving leftover scraps or leaving food outside, always make sure they gobble it up before mold appears.
Some Foods That Chickens Can Eat
Looking for some foods that are safe for chickens? The good news is that most foods are fine, and most chickens don’t need to be asked twice to eat them!
Here are some of the most common foods that are given to chickens, most of which provide some decent nutritional benefits too:
Fruit – Fruit is also packed with good nutrition, and chickens typically love it – so it’s usually a win-win. Try giving them some banana, strawberries, apples, melon….just about any fruits should get eaten up as fast as you provide it.
Grains – Commercial feeds contain a lot of grains, so chickens are very familiar with grain as a food source.
You can also give your hens most leftovers from cooked foods. As long it doesn’t contain any harmful stuff I covered above or a lot of salt, sugars, etc.
A few crackers now and again aren’t going to cause your chickens any harm, so don’t feel bad if you’ve been sharing this baked snack already.
They’re not ideal though, and there are plenty of other foods that are a lot better – so for this reason I recommend fruits and veggies over crackers.
But we all spoil our hens, and it’s so much fun seeing them gobbling up treats, isn’t it!
Image credits – Photo by Jason Leung and Mustapha Muhammed on Unsplash