Lesson 677 – Meat for chickens

Meat for the chickens

meatFor some reason, when I first got chickens I had assumed they were vegetarian. After all, they ate the grass and leaves from their coop yard which was augmented by grain feed.  An occasional bug? Well that hardly counted as meat, right?

I have since come to learn that chickens love meat. In fact, I’ve seen them go crazy for it.

I first started looking into this when a woman in one of my chicken workshops once told me the story of how her chickens seemed to adore ham. When she would put her scraps in the coop, the chickens would pounce on them. Of course, this discussion gave rise to the question that perhaps the story of Green Eggs and Ham wasn’t so farfetched after all?

I’m not saying that you should feed each of your flock members the 2 palm-size servings suggested by the United States Government for daily consumption, but I am saying to feed them your scraps of meat. We used to throw all the meat bits and pieces away, but not anymore all leftover meat (along with the rest of the kitchen scraps) goes to the birds.

And it doesn’t stop there. We live in an old house where the local mice had set up shop long before we moved in. If you are unlucky enough to be caught in a mouse trap at our house, your carcass is then unlucky enough to be tossed to the chickens. If your stomach is strong enough, when you watch, you’ll see the chickens tear apart that tiny carcass in a matter of minutes. The chickens are in meat heaven. At times it can even look very Jurassic Park-ish.

DSCN0080Because we have very cold winters in New Hampshire, during the cold months, I also augment our chickens’ diet with those suet (beef fat) bird blocks. As a tradition on Christmas Eve, we not only set out cookies for Santa but we set out decorated beef suet cookies for the flock. At other times, they simply get unadorned blocks. Not only are the birds getting protein from the seeds in the suet but they are also getting a bump of dietary fat, something that will serve them well on the below zero nights.

Bottom line? Chickens like meat and when they are creating a high-protein bundle in the form of an egg almost every day, I might even go as far as to say that chickens need meat.  If you aren’t already, consider tossing your meat scraps along with your other kitchen waste into the coop.

Your chickens will love you for it.


Filed under All things chickens, Backyard Chickens, chicken care

17 responses to “Lesson 677 – Meat for chickens

  1. Great post and agree! I have watched them go crazy over the marrow in beef bones. I have 30#’s of fat from a pig last fall guess I’ll make a few suet cakes for the girls. I fish occasionally and tacked up a carp on a pole in the coop last summer, gone by dinner! Just bones left, picked clean!

    • Wendy Thomas


      I’m going to try that fish idea this summer. And 30 pounds of pig fat, wow, you are going to have some very happy birds in your flock. 🙂


  2. the only reason I havent done this is I always understood that giving chickens meat has been linked to samonela? but maybe thats just what they say in the UK?

    • Wendy Thomas

      Little poppits (and by the way, I greet my kids each day as they come home from school by yelling out – Helloooo my poppits)

      Salmonella is typically an intestinal/fecal borne infection. Having said that, yes it is found on raw meat (which should give you great pause) that’s one of the reasons you should never use utensils on raw meat and then switch to cooked food without washing them first. It’s also why you should wash your hands often when handling raw meat.

      That Salmonella egg outbreak in the US? Well think about it, if a chicken is infected with the bacteria and the egg passes through the intestinal tract it’s bound to pick up some of the bacteria – which is why you should always use common sense precaution when handling eggs (clean them before using them, washing hands, etc)

      I would not give raw meat other than a creature (mouse, fish, mole, whatever) to the chickens, but if the meat has been properly cooked then any Salamonella on it would have been destroyed and it would be safe for the chickens to consume.


  3. Speckamooch

    You make me want to go out and start a chicken coop. Thanks for the great stories and tips, maybe I will venture into this someday soon!

    • Wendy Thomas

      Oh go for it. Don’t know where you are located but if you have any questions on how to get started just send them this way.

      If I can encourage people to start flocks then I’ll have considered it a very good day’s work.


  4. I support starting a flcok, its great, extremely relaxing (a hobby, like gardening) and the rewards is fresh eggs that many of the readers who have hens will swear they will never buy eggs in a store again (unless Wendy is trying to make a point ;-)).
    As for serving meat to the hens, I think like everything, is done of course in moderation. I don’t think anyone should feed large chuncks of meat every day to your chickens but when serving them with dinner scraps and has the occasional meat in it I think it’s ok. I am no expert but if I were to give meat to my hens, i’d be this way.
    I also think I can discard the notion of giving too much meat will make the hens aggressive … they will peck my hand when I extend it regardless of type of food I give them 🙂

    • Wendy Thomas

      I’m not advocating sides of beef, just scraps here and there.

      With regard to the store bought eggs, our hens’ production has been very low this winter (time of year as well as age) we didn’t have enough eggs to make our holiday pound cake. Our house decision was to not have the cake over buying store eggs to make up the difference. Luckily the girls pulled through at the last minute and we got our cake.


  5. Melanie Dunn

    Another reason for moderation is that high levels of protein can cause gout in chickens and other birds. I’m not sure how much is too much so I just try to go easy on the meat scraps.

  6. Wonderful post! Yes indeed chickens love occasional meat and are certainly not vegetarians 😉 Remember free-ranging chickens will gobble up any insects they find, plus many have been known to hunt down and catch their own mice. So giving meat scraps to your hens is a great idea. (and one they will definitely thank you for!)

  7. I may have mentioned this already. Our chickens do not wait for meat scraps. As descendants of dinosaurs, they catch mice on the hoof, so to speak. I have seen a hen (one in particular) snatch a mouse, with a strike almost too rapid to see.. They then all get their cardiovascular exercise, as the other hens pursue Lucy (the killer hen) around the coop. As soon as she gets into a corner of the chicken run, she rips the mouce to shreds, screaming (well, clucking), “MINE! MINE1 Catch your own mouse!”

    Sweet little creatures.

    • Wendy Thomas

      Hey modesty! Happy New Year.

      Actually you have mentioned this and it is this story that impressed upon me that chickens are hunters. I have yet to see any of our chickens catch a mouse although I have seen a few of them deliver a nasty peck to the dog.

      Sweet little creatures indeed.

  8. Fran N

    My chickens certainly like worms which I believe qualify as meat so why not other kinds of meat as well!

  9. My chickens love ham but I haven’t tried them with mice. But if I ever catch one, I will give it to the chickens. 🙂

  10. Rich Kolb

    Nice Wendy, when I wake up with nightmares about giant chickens chasing me around like Jurassic Park dinosaurs I’ll be cursing you.

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