Can Chickens Eat Dog Food, When Is It Safe For Them

If you have dogs and chickens you may be wondering “Can chickens eat dog food?” Because if we are honest it is something that is bound to happen.

The short answer is yes chickens can eat dog food but it shouldn’t be something you feed to them all the time. Dog food may contain elements that are not suitable for chickens, like higher levels of fat, which can cause chickens to gain weight, potentially cause health issues, and lay fewer eggs.

Commercial chicken feed contains no major fat content. So it stands to reason that dog food would cause weight gain in your chickens. If your backyard chickens are overweight that can cause hens to slow down or stop laying eggs altogether.

can chickens eat dog food intro image

Honestly, it’s best to stick with a formulated chicken layer feed that offers the right nutrient balance and dangerous ingredients like artificial preservatives and too much protein for chickens. Your flock will produce much more efficiently if they are being fed the essential nutrients they need.

When selecting a feed for your chickens, get one that is specifically made for laying hens if you want to get your chickens up and lying well. This type of feed will have all of the necessary vitamins and minerals their bodies require to lay eggs with strong shells and flavorful yolks.

While dogs benefit from certain types of nutrition, they won’t work the same way on chickens due to their different dietary needs and metabolism.

Can Chickens Eat Dog Food?

The question of whether chickens can eat dog food is an interesting one. The short answer is yes chickens can eat dog food since dog food is not technically poisonous to chickens. I mean let’s be honest chickens eat almost anything anyway. They are natural foragers.

However, this does not necessarily make it a good idea. Dog food was designed specifically with the nutritional needs of dogs in mind and those needs are drastically different from the needs of chickens. For this reason, while chickens will not necessarily be harmed by eating dog food, they are certainly not getting all of the nutrition they need to stay healthy.

dry dog food

I would not recommend a can of dog food under any circumstance. There are far more health issues that I hear come up with canned food than dry.

Baby chicks should not be fed anything but starter crumbles. They have very sensitive digestive systems and by changing the feed you could cause them to get sick and die.

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What Could Go Wrong If Your Chickens Eat Too Much Dog Food

By choosing to feed your chickens dog food instead of chicken feed, you could be putting their health at risk in the long run. Not only could organs like their kidneys be affected due to inadequate nutrition but their egg production as a whole might suffer too.

Egg shells and yolks will likely become thinner from a lack of proper vitamins and minerals that are found in properly formulated poultry feed and for those reasons, feeding your birds dog food should constantly be avoided.

eggs in a carton

There is no good financial reason to feed chickens on dry dog food because it certainly is not cheaper than chicken feed and won’t save you any money. 

But if you have extra scraps left over from your dog’s food there is nothing wrong with dropping the spilled dog food into the chicken run area for them to clean up the mess. 

I have a short tub that I sit my large dog’s food bowls inside of to catch the water and food mess that he makes. Well, there is a good amount of dog food left over that he won’t eat so I take that tub and dump it into the chicken run. The chickens definitely enjoy eating the leftover dog food.

When Can High Protein Food Benefit Your Chickens

There are only a few times when feeding dog or cat food in small amounts to your chickens would be a helpful idea. And that is when your chickens are losing feathers and are starting to come back from a molt. This is also when hens will stop laying eggs in the winter.

When we showed chickens through 4-H one of the tricks we would do to speed up a molt and get chickens back to being fully feathered in time for the show is adding cat food on top of their regular chicken feed to give them extra protein. Personally, I would only add that to your chickens’ diet for two weeks or so and then stop.

I would add about a cup of high-protein food to about one pound of chicken food if you had a reason to get them fully feathered quickly like a show. But otherwise, just let it run its course.

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Pet Food Is More Budget Friendly

If your hens are not laying after the winter adding dog food can be a great way to add more protein to your chicken’s diet to help encourage them to lay alongside adding light to the chicken coop to increase egg production.

You can also use other protein sources for your chickens by giving raw or freezer-burnt meat to your chickens. However, if you are like me you are not interested in giving your chickens overly expensive food.

  • Dog food is about 0.73 sense a pound if the bag is under $35 for 45 pounds.
  • Most meat is several dollars a pound.
  • Dry cat food can be around 0.50 a pound if you find a low-cost food.
chickens in the chicken run

How To Keep The Chickens Out Of The Dog Food?

Maintaining a peaceful backyard for both chickens and dogs can be tricky when there is food competition between them. If chickens find something they like it can be a nightmare to keep them out of it. This will mainly be an issue if you have outside dogs and if your free-range chickens have access to where your dogs are fed.

Keep in mind if you have a bold chicken and a timid dog that likely won’t go after the chicken if provoked the chickens will pick up on that and take advantage. If the chickens want your dog’s food and they can boss them enough to get them to leave the chickens will peck at the dog to get what they want.

dog holding a food bowl

In order to keep chickens out of dog food, there are a few steps to take.

Try to feed your dogs where the free-range chickens don’t have access or when they’re not around. Installing a dog feeder that hangs from the ceiling or at a height out of reach of the birds is one way to do this.

There are also weight-activated lid feeders available on the market which work by opening only once they sense a certain weight, helping you avoid wastage in case your furry friends forget to eat their meals right away.

Keeping extra dog food in trash cans is a great way to keep any critter out of the extra feed.

2 Pack Dog Food Storage Container (25 LB capacity)

These are great storage options for dog food.

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Finally, make sure that any of the feed is always locked up after your animals are done eating – uneaten food can attract more unwanted guests such as raccoons or wild birds if it’s left lying around. Not only are these predators to your chickens they can bring pests to your flock and dogs causing you to have to figure out how to get rid of mites and other external parasites.

Healthy Chicken Treats And Alternatives

If you are wanting to supplement their diet try giving them a healthy treat such as cracked corn or other scratch grains that are suitable for poultry.

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List Of Foods Your Chickens Can Eat

If you’re looking for treats, opt for something safe such as kitchen scraps, fruits, vegetables, or meal worms are a much better choice instead of dog food. Table scraps are also a great option to use up any extra human food.

  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Cottage cheese (not spoiled)
  • Apples (without apple seeds)
  • Bell Peppers
  • Banana peels (sure they like the banana to ut why not give them the scraps you aren’t going to eat.)
Flock of chickens

Keep in mind that feeding them pretty much anything other than protein sources will lower the amount of actual protein they intake simply because of room in their gizzard. It’s important for chicken keepers to make sure their chickens eat the pellets first before feeding extra treats to make sure that your chickens are eating a balanced diet.

Chickens can be determined little buggers so it’s worth taking preventative measures before they find out about something good they may want and you have to break a bad habit.

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