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Can Chickens Eat Bread? What You Need to Know!

Nicole Cosgrove

Bread is a typical food that most people innocently feed their chickens without knowing the side effects. While chickens love eating table scraps, and most of the leftovers are usually safe for them, bread isn’t.

Not to say that bread is poisonous and chicken shouldn’t eat it. The problem with this staple breakfast meal is that your chicken’s digestive system isn’t designed for this kind of food. Therefore, if you offer large amounts of bread—both organic and non-organic to chickens, you risk harming them.

So, before you round up crusts from a piece of bread to offer your chickens, here are all the vital things you need to know about chickens and bread.

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Why Chickens Should Not Eat Bread

1. Can Choke Your Chicken

Just like other birds like ducks, chickens crave bread. And if you offer them brown or seeded bread, the more they’ll love it. However, if you feed your poultry bread, you risk getting stuck in its throat and choking it.

Dry bread usually expands when in the mouth, so it can get stuck in the throat if the chicken tries to eat a big piece. Besides the throat, bread can also block the crop, which is the first stage in a chicken’s digestive process. If your brood must have bread as a treat, it would be best if you wet the slice first.

Free-range-chicken-on-an-organic-farm_Samir-Behlic_shutterstock
Credit: Samir Behlic, Shutterstock

2. Not Fit for Chicken Digestive Anatomy

Here’s how a chicken digests its food: chickens have a part known as a crop at the base of their necks, a region where food collects after eating.

The crop is like food’s waiting bay before it proceeds to digestion. But if chicken eats bread, a piece is big enough to fill up the crop, form a ball, and causing a catastrophic blockage.

Similarly, a chicken’s gizzard is not well-suited to work on large amounts of such kind of food. A gizzard is where food is broken up for digestion, but it lacks the grit to break up food like bread.


3. Deadly Fermentation Can Occur in A Chicken’s Body

Bread contains yeast and sugar that can ferment in the crop, elevating the PH levels of the crop’s content. If the bread is too much, it changes the microbiome, such as bacteria that grow in the fowl’s gizzard and crop. Unfortunately, these changes can trigger chronic cases of a sour crop that are difficult to treat.


4. It’s a Low-Protein Food

Bread is a nutritionally void food in chickens, ducks, and other birds, so don’t gamble that your fowls would get any value from it. Chickens, especially chicks, require high protein diets for development.

While bread can be a treat for chickens, it lacks the protein content they need. This is because a typical slice of white bread consists of only 2-3 grams of proteins, not nearly as much as these birds need to develop.

sliced bread
Image Credit: congerdesign, Pixabay

5. Poor Eggshell Quality

Apart from proteins, bread is also low in calcium, a nutrient responsible for egg quality. Feeding your chicken an exclusive bread diet or too much bread can cause it to feel full longer and reduce its layer mash consumption.

Hens need adequate calcium to produce good quality and strong eggshells. While offering bread for a few days may not pose a threat, long-term provision as a sole source of feeds may make the eggs to be brittle and break easily than usual.


6. Mycotoxins in Moldy Bread

So, bread has expired, and you think your fowl can benefit? While most poultry owners suggest that they do so without noticing adverse effects, avoid offering your chicken expired, moldy bread.

Any moldy food has mycotoxins, toxins that cause a condition known as mycosis or thrush in a chicken’s crop. Although it’s treatable, you shouldn’t cause your flock the disease in the first place.

Mycotoxicosis can also lead to liver tissue degeneration, affecting the chicken’s ability to utilize proteins, which leads to low egg production. Similarly, exposing chicken to molds may also cause breathing difficulties.


Other Foods Chickens Should Not Eat

  • Processed Foods – Junk and greasy food are pretty bad for humans, but they are worse for chickens as they are difficult to digest
  • Avocado Skin and Pits – While avocado flesh is okay for chickens, the skin and pit aren’t because they contain persin, a toxin that’s harmful to chickens.
  • Coffee or Coffee Grounds – Chickens shouldn’t eat coffee or the grounds because they contain compounds known as caffeine and methylxanthine that are toxic to chickens.
  • Chocolate – Chocolate is also toxic to chickens as it contains poisonous caffeine and theobromine compounds.
  • Green Potatoes and Tomatoes – Green potatoes and unripe tomatoes contain a poisonous chemical called solanine-like the one found in the nightshade plant family.
  • Moldy or Spoiled Food – Offering chickens expired and moldy food isn’t a nice thing to do to your poultry. Such foods produce harmful toxins.
  • Garlic, Onion, and Spicy Foods – Although such foods may not hurt chickens, they may impact their eggs’ taste.
  • Raw Meat – Raw meat can turn your chickens into cannibals.
Domestic-Chickens-Eating-Grains-and-Grass_Imageman_shutterstock
Credit: Imageman, Shutterstock

What Chickens Can Eat

  • Vegetables – Unless the veggie is part of the nightshade family, it is safe for your chicken, whether raw or cooked. Some safe vegetables include; cooked or shredded carrots, broccoli, spinach, squash, lettuce, kale, cabbage, cucumbers, chard, and pumpkins.
  • Fruits – Apart from a few exceptions, fruits are safe and will provide your fowls with various vitamins and minerals. Some suggestions include melon, apples, berries, and melons.
  • Grains – Rice, oats, wheat, and other similar grains are great for your brood.
  • Corn – Chickens love corn, whether cooked or dried.
  • Herbs – Herbs are great supplements to a chicken’s diet. There are different herbs, all providing their unique health benefits to fowls.
  • Cooked Meats – You can provide meat to your chicken as long as it is well-cooked and chopped into small pieces.

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Summary

Bread scraps are a perfectly safe treat for chickens as long as they are fresh and broken into small bits. Now that you know how a chicken’s digestive system works give the gizzard and crop a little help by not making it the primary nutrition source for your brood.

RELATED READ: 10 Best Chicken Feeders for Your Backyard Flock


Featured Image: Couleur, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.