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Can chickens eat bread or should it be avoided?

When it comes to giving ‘human food’ to chickens (and in fact any kind of bird), bread always seems to be the one that comes up the most, this is probably because it’s a food we all tend to have hanging about.

There is mixed opinion about feeding bread to chickens, from those who’ve always done it to those who are totally against feeding bread to chickens. I the past we have fed bread to our chickens, so I wanted to find out the true answer to the bread debate and the science behind how bread eating can impact their health.

In short, a chicken’s digestive system is not designed to eat processed foods such as bread, however, chickens can eat bread as a treat if it’s given in small amounts, although it does not provide much nutritional value.

This might sound a little contradictory and this is because ideally there are better things a chicken can eat as a treat than bread, such as corn and fresh vegetables. Read on to find out more about how to safely feed bread to chickens and the possible impacts it can have on the chicken if it’s eaten in large volume.

How a chicken digests food

To understand the possible impacts bread can have on a chicken it helps to know how chickens process their food after it’s eaten.

Because chickens don’t have teeth their food is ground up in a muscular organ called the gizzard and this is done with the help of small pieces of grit which chickens will swallow as they graze.

When the chickens swallow their food it’s stored in their crop where it softens before moving to the gizzard. This process takes some hours to complete and when a chicken has had a large meal you may notice their crops are full.

The image below shows the location of the crop on a chickens body:

IMage of the location of a chickens crop

Chickens can be very greedy and will eat everything in sight, this is fine when it’s a natural food which can easily pass through the crop, but problems can arise where they eat bulky food such as bread which can swell become compacted in the crop.

For this reason and to avoid any problems arising, we choose not to feed our chickens with leftover bread anymore.

Feeding chickens bread as a treat

As with most foods, chickens do love to eat bread and they don’t really care if it’s good for them or not!

If you choose to give your chickens bread as a treat then the best way to do this is by breaking it up into small pieces and feed sparingly so as not to overload the crop.

As with humans, wholemeal bread is a better option for chickens over white bread because it has more nutritional benefits.

Chickens should never be fed moldy bread because it can make them ill.

More about what chickens eat

I hope this post has helped you to find out more about feeding chickens bread if you want to find out more about what chickens can and can’t eat, you might find the following post helpful:

What should chickens eat – a complete guide

Pentagon Pet is the owner of this article that was first published on October 20, 2020.

Complete guide to keeping and caring for ex-battery hens

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Our recommended coop

Chicken coop for different flock sizes and different weather.

This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on October 20, 2020.

Click here to find out more about our recommended coop.