Chickens can eat fish bones. In fact, fish bones contain some decent nutritional value. Obviously, you need to be careful with large bones or sharp edges due to breaks. But the bones are good for hens.
The bottom line is that chickens will eat plenty of things much harder to digest than small fish bones given the chance.
With fish providing such a good range of nutrition and so many health benefits, if you’re not already feeding your chooks fish now is a great time to start.
Is Fish Healthy for Chickens?
Fish is among the healthiest foods on the planet. This includes both us, and our chickens.
This doesn’t mean you can raise chickens only on fish, of course. They have some key nutritional requirements - which are easily met with a good commercial feed - but fish provides an awesome compliment to their diet.
The nutritional content will vary depending on the fish. Generally speaking, however, fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and a wide range of vitamins and minerals.
Something else to be aware of is mercury. Some fish are higher in mercury than others, and it’s something that has raised concern over recent years.
In fact, eating contaminated fish is the number one cause of mercury exposure in the U.S. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) goes as far as to recommend avoiding the following species:
- King Mackerel
- Orange Roughy
- And to not eat tuna too regularly.
This applies to both us and chickens. With chickens being so much smaller than us, they would suffer ill-effects from a much smaller amount of mercury.
Just something to keep in mind. I take mercury poisoning very seriously and recommend looking into it in more detail if it’s not a topic you’re familiar with.
Can Chickens Eat Whole Fish?
Chickens can eat whole fish, yes. They can eat the scales or skin, tails, heads, and bones.
You can give them fish either cooked or raw too. When chickens want to eat something, they don’t hold back. I’d be surprised if they left anything behind at all.
I’ve often heard from people who fish that they’ll throw some of their catches they don’t want to their flock when they return home. Hmm, fresh fish.
You don’t have to remove any of the bones. Some people I know do remove some of the larger bones, and the head, but as I’ll explain below, you really don’t need to.
I’m not saying there isn’t a chance a piece of fishbone could get stuck somewhere in a chicken’s digestive system or cause a problem. There is always a small risk.
But in all the years I’ve raised chickens and been active in the community, I’ve never heard of a fishbone causing any kinds of issues.
Why It's a Good Idea to Give Chickens Fish Heads, Bones, and Other Parts
One of the best things about having backyard chickens is that they can eat a lot of scraps and parts of foods we don’t.
I’m huge into wasting or throwing away as little as possible. If I can combine this with giving my chickens a healthy treat - even better!
I’ve read a couple of sources - this one at npr.org included - that state parts of fishes we typically don’t are packed with good nutrition.
Namely, the heads (I get it, no one wants their food looking at them), bones, brains, and cartilage of chickens contain “extra-high levels of vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, and calcium”.
So, whether you’re giving your chickens a whole fish, sharing yours, or just giving them the parts you’re not going to eat - it’s all a win-win.
General Rules for Feeding Chickens
If you’re new to raising chickens, the best thing about them is that it’s really easy to provide a balanced and healthy diet.
The staple of a chickens’ diet is a good commercial feed. Even chickens with the luxury of having a large area to roam free-range will need some feed.
Mature hens will typically need a layer feed. This usually comprises mostly grains like sunflower seeds, oats, wheat, maize, and some other ingredients.
In addition to their feed, you can add some table scraps and other foods like fish. There are some foods that should be avoided, but generally speaking, most fruits and vegetables are great, as are additional grains.
As long as you’re giving your flock healthy foods that are safe for them to eat and low in salt and sugars, you’ll have some happy hens on your hands.
Related - You can find out more about what you can and can't feed chickens by browsing the blog.
In Summary - Can Chickens Eat Fish Bones?
When feeding your backyard chickens fish you can also feed fish bones to your hens without any issues.
Chickens have a strong and robust digestive system, it’s going to take more than small fish bones to cause them any problems.
While on the topic, as I explained above, it’s also a great opportunity to save wastage and give your chickens all the parts of a fish you normally wouldn’t eat.
Image credits - Photos by Andriyko Podilnyk and John Cameron on Unsplash