Generally speaking, chickens can eat some potato chips without any issues. It’s not an ideal food though, so you should only give them a few crisps now and then. Honestly, there are so many other foods that are better, I’d stick to those.
Are Potato Chips Bad for Chickens?
Potato chips are not bad for chickens, as such. The real issue is that they’re not good for chickens either.
Chickens, especially laying or molting hens, have some specific dietary needs. They need a lot of protein, as well as some minerals like calcium, and a range of vitamins.
None of which are present in potato chips in any notable amount.
I’m not suggesting you would attempt to raise your chickens on potato chips! I’m just driving home the message that your chickens should be getting all of their nutritional needs met by their feed, and a few chips can be a treat.
What's in Potato Chips? Which Chips Are the Worst for Chickens?
Typically, potato chips or crisps as they’re called in the UK contain potatoes (this is the obvious ingredient). Potatoes are fine for chickens - as long as they’re not green as I explain later.
It’s the oil they’re fried in, then all kinds of seasonings and flavorings that are added that are bad for chickens.
As to how “bad” depends on the brand of chips you’re giving them. There really aren’t any “good” chips though, so keep that in mind.
Salt or sodium, in particular, is bad for chickens. They only require around between 0.12% to 0.2% sodium in their diet, which they get from their feed.
Chips don’t have to be of the salted flavor to contain a lot more salt than chickens need. This could cause some digestive issues in the short-term, and more complicated issues in the long-term.
If you’re looking for healthier alternative foods to share with your flock, I cover some of these below, as well as some of the foods to avoid first.
Some Foods That Are Bad for Chickens
While the occasional potato chip is fine here and there, some foods are potentially toxic to chickens - even in small amounts.
This isn’t a complete list, but here are some of the common household foods that you should never give to your chickens as they’re known to be harmful:
Nightshade Vegetables - You need to be careful when giving your chickens vegetables and plants that belong to the nightshade family.
When these vegetables contain a toxin called solanine, they’re toxic to chickens. This includes potatoes - but only when they’ve turned green - unripe green tomatoes, parts of jicama, and pepper plants… it’s always best to check before giving any to your flock.
Teas and Coffee - I’m not expecting anyone to give their chickens a morning brew, but I know a lot of people recycle coffee grounds and tea bags in their compost heap. I know I do.
It’s important to note that theobromine and caffeine are toxic to chickens, both of which are found in these. Keep this in mind with other foods too.
Chocolate - Seeing as chocolate contains the same two harmful compounds as I mentioned in tea and coffee it’ll come as no surprise that it’s also toxic to chickens.
Raw Beans - A lot of beans contain lectins, a compound that is toxic - even deadly to chickens and other small animals. This compound is destroyed when the beans are properly cooked.
Salty Foods - Chickens do not get or need a lot of salt in their diet. You should avoid giving them junk foods and foods high in salt as it can cause complications.
Moldy Foods - Most backyard chicken owners use their flock to help reduce wastage and take foods they don’t want off their hands. Just be careful not to give them any moldy food or allow food to sit out for too long.
Some Foods That Are Fine for Chickens
The good news is, there are a lot more foods chickens can eat than they can’t.
Here are some of the common foods backyard chicken owners share with their flock:
Vegetables – Vegetables typically contain loads of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and other good nutrition your chickens will benefit from.
Try giving your flock leftover broccoli, cabbage, sweet potatoes, yams, etc and I’m sure you’ll see how quickly they gobble it up.
Fruits – Another awesome source of nutrition are fruits. Most fruits are fine for chickens too, mine absolutely love bananas, pineapple, berries, and even some exotic fruits like dragon fruit.
Note - The skin and pit of avocados contain a harmful toxin called persin, avoid avocados!
Grains – Grains make up the staple of commercial feeds and scratch mixes. They also tend to be affordable and easy to feed, your chickens will welcome seeing some brown rice, wheat, cornmeal, corn, quinoa, and so on.
You can also share most of your leftovers from cooked meals. As long as you’re aware of what’s harmful, avoid foods high in sugars and salts, and do so in moderation.
Next time you’re in the yard and you’re eating a pack of Lays, Ruffles, Pringles, Doritos, or Cheez its and your hens are pestering you, you don’t need to feel guilty about giving them one or two.
Potato chips are not toxic or harmful, in moderation. Just keep in mind that there are loads of other foods that are much better for chickens.
Image credits - Photos by Logan Weaver and Emiliano Vittoriosi on Unsplash
Potato Chips Are the Healthiest 'Unhealthy' Snack - Thrillist.com