Chickens can eat split peas, yes. Sometimes you’ll see split peas in general bird mixes. They’re not toxic or harmful in any way, but split peas do not contain much in the way of good nutrition. Stick to an occasional treat when you have leftovers.
Understanding the Difference Between Split Peas and Garden Peas
First, I wanted to clear up the difference between green or garden peas and split peas. They are, in fact, from an identical plant. The difference between the two lies in how they’re processed.
Both are seeds from the Pisum Sativum, which we better know as just garden peas. To make split peas, however, peas are peeled and dried instead of simply being harvested.
When the skin is removed a split occurs, which is how they get the name ‘split’ peas.
Should I Give My Chickens Split Peas?
As I mentioned above, split peas are often included in general bird mixes as they’re fairly inexpensive and provide some decent nutrition.
If you’re not sure if you’ve seen split peas, they are typically either yellow or green, and just look like peas without their skin chopped in half.
Which is essentially what they are - they’re split peas!
Split peas are pretty beneficial for our health, and much of this good nutrition does apply to chickens, too.
They’re high in fiber, containing a good range of vitamins and minerals like Vitamin K, iron, magnesium, and potassium.
An all-around decent treat food and a good addition to your flock’s diet in moderation. Let’s be honest here, it’s also a lot of fun watching chickens scratch around and peck at peas, too.
Feeding Chickens and the "90/10 Rule"
I think almost everyone raising backyard chickens will agree, it’s fun treating chickens with different foods.
And they certainly seem to appreciate almost any food donations!
However, we do have to keep in mind that chickens require dozens of unique nutrients to maintain optimal health and lay their best eggs.
Chicken feeds are designed to meet all of their nutritional needs, so you should always feed them their feed first.
The ‘90/10 rule’ that backyard chicken owners generally stick to means; 90% of a chicken’s diet should come from a commercial feed, and the other 10% can be made of treats, table scraps, etc.
It’s also important that you provide feed earlier in the day. Otherwise, your greedy chickens will fill up on the good stuff. They should be eating around ¼ lb or half a cup of quality feed per day.
Related - Here's a closer look at how much chickens typically eat.
Other Table Scraps and Treats Chickens Love
If you’re wondering what else you can feed your chickens, the good news is that most foods are fine.
Chickens can be a bit picky at times, I recommend trying some of the following and seeing how quickly it gets gobbled up:
Vegetables – Most vegetables are fine chickens. Things like sweet potatoes, carrots, cabbage, jicama, etc provide a nice range of nutrition.
Fruits – Most fruits are also fine as they are typically nutrient-dense and packed with the good stuff. Try giving them some berries, melons, apples, bananas, etc.
Grains – I love feeding my chickens grains as it gives them something to scratch and forage for. You can feed your flock wheat, quinoa, corn, oatmeal, etc.
Foods That Are Toxic/Poisonous and Should Be Avoided
It’s more important you know which foods are potentially harmful to your chickens and should be avoided.
The good news is, there are a lot fewer harmful foods. This isn’t a complete list, but according to the RSPCA, there are the most common foods that are potentially harmful:
- Tea and coffee
- Candy and other sugary treats, this includes soda
- Avocado skins and pits
- Any moldy or spoiled foods
- Foods high in fat or salt, greasy fast foods, etc
- Chocolate and foods with cocoa or chocolate in
If in doubt, always check first!
Can Chickens Eat Dried Peas and Lentils?
You may have heard it said that chickens shouldn’t eat dried peas, lentils, chickpeas, and other beans.
There is some truth to this. This is because a lot of legumes contain toxins that, if not prepared properly, can cause some health issues.
Legumes, for those who are not aware, is the name for a set of plants that bear fruit which grows in pods. This includes most beans, chickpeas, soybeans, peanuts, and so on.
Most legumes contain a high lectin content when eaten raw. This is a compound that can cause us a serious stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, and other food poisoning-related health issues.
Red kidney beans are one of the best examples. These are on the toxic list for chickens and should never be given to chooks (or any other birds) raw.
Red kidney beans contain a toxin called phytohemagglutinin. This can be fatal to small animals even in small amounts, as well as pretty toxic to us.
Don’t panic though, whenever you eat kidney beans from the supermarket they’ve been boiled and the toxin has been destroyed.
Related - Here is a closer look at feeding chickens lentils with a video how to sprout them.
Now you know, chickens can eat split peas, peas, and most other beans, vegetables that come from pods, etc., you just really need to be aware of the risks of legumes in general.
The main thing to also keep in mind is that chickens have some complex dietary needs, especially laying hens.
It’s not hard to provide them all the nutrition they need, however. A quality layer feed that is appropriate to their age and whether or not they’re laying eggs will deliver all the important nutrition your chickens need.
Split peas, other vegetables, and fruits, table scraps, are all treats for chickens. Make sure your flock always has a commercial feed available, and simply use treats to add a little variation to their diet.
Image credits - Photo by Thomas Park on Unsplash