Chickens can and will eat graham crackers, but crackers and other snack foods aren’t providing the quality nutrition they need. Instead, you should feed hens fruits and vegetables as treats.
What Are Graham Crackers: What’s in Them?
There are few snack foods more iconic in the United States than graham crackers. They’ve been around since the early 1880s, and it feels like they can be served up with just about anything on top of them.
A little bit of trivia for you – the reason they’re called “graham” crackers is that they’re made with graham flour. Pretty simple, eh.
This is a whole grain flour, and it differs from other flours by not being sifted during milling. This is what gives these crackers their coarse feel.
The other ingredients used to make these delicious (I’m a fan) crackers are:
- Baking soda
Then there are some other flavorings depending on the exact recipe and flavor of the crackers.
It’s actually pretty simple to make them. This is a little off-topic for this post, but if you enjoy backing I recommend whipping up a batch.
Are Graham Crackers Bad for Chickens?
Graham crackers aren’t that bad for chickens. The problem is that they aren’t good for chicken, either.
Chickens require some key vitamins and minerals in their diet, as well as a lot of protein. Especially molting or laying hens, if you want them to lay at their best they need a good layer feed.
I’m not suggesting you would try and raise your flock on graham crackers. But even as a treat to supplement their diet, your hens would be much better off having some of the foods I cover below.
So, if you’ve been giving your chickens leftover crackers, don’t worry, they’ll be fine. Personally, however, going forward I would stop giving them graham crackers.
If you want a healthy and happy flock operating at their best, try and stick to all the good stuff. This means a quality commercial feed, and some healthy treats as I cover below.
If you like spoiling your girls and you enjoy seeing how excited they get over treat foods, you’re just as likely to see the same reaction from other foods that are better for them.
Chickens don’t have a sweet tooth and aren’t overly fussy on foods based on taste. In fact, they don’t have teeth, and they have very few taste buds!
Some Foods to Avoid Giving to Chickens
While Graham crackers are fine for chickens in moderation, some foods are not. Here is a list of some of the foods that you should avoid giving to chickens at all:
Raw Beans – A lot of beans, such as broad beans, soybeans, and kidney beans are high in lectins. This is a compound that is toxic – even fatal – to chickens in small amounts.
Only give your chooks beans that have been properly cooked as this destroys the toxin.
Nightshade Vegetables – You need to be careful when giving your chickens plants and vegetables that belong to the nightshade family.
Parts of these vegetables contain a toxin called solanine, which is toxic to chickens (and us). This includes potatoes – but only when they’ve turned green due to exposure to sunlight – parts of jicama, and pepper plants, and green tomatoes.
It’s a complicated area that is often debated online. It’s always best to check before giving any nightshade foods to your flock or avoid them to be careful.
Cocoa and Chocolate – Cocoa contains two compounds that can cause health issues for a lot of small animals, and this includes chickens.
Those two compounds are theobromine and caffeine. Avoid all products with chocolate in, and any other foods with those compounds.
Coffee and Teas – The same two compounds that make chocolate off-limits for chickens are also in coffee and most teas. I know a lot of people recycle these in their yard, as I do, do keep them well out of reach of those nosey beaks.
Salty Foods – Chickens find it hard to process salt. They get all they need from their commercial feed, you shouldn’t give them food high in salt as it can cause health issues.
Moldy Foods – It sounds obvious, no one should be eating mold foods. You need to be aware that mold spores are toxic though, keep this in mind when leaving foods outside too.
Related – Want to know if regular crackers are better for chickens? Read this post.
Some Foods That Chickens Can Eat
Most of a chicken’s diet comes from their commercial feed, but that doesn’t mean they won’t peck your hand off to get at some leftovers.
Here are some of the foods backyard chicken owners commonly feed to their flocks:
Fruit – Chickens love fruit, are fruit is great for chickens – so it’s usually a win-win. Try giving them some berries, banana, melon, apples….I’d be willing to bet they eat it up about as quickly as you provide it.
Grains – Grains provide a good range of nutrition and help encourage natural foraging behavior if you scatter them. Quinoa, oatmeal, various corns, cornmeal, etc are all great.
Most leftovers and table scraps are usually fine too. Just be sure to avoid junk food, all the bad stuff I covered above, and check if in doubt.
A few graham crackers aren’t going to do any harm to your chickens, but it’s not providing them any of the good nutrition they need.
You can spoil your flock with foods that are much better for them. You’ll have a happier and healthier flock of chickens as a result, too.
Keep the graham crackers and cottage cheese or whatever your favorite topping is for yourself!
Image credits – Photo by Ariel Kwon and Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash, and Imagesbykin on Pixabay
The Origin of Graham Crackers – Snopes.com