If you own a flock of chickens, then you may be wondering if they can drink milk and consume other dairy products? While these can be enjoyed by some humans, its always important to ask whether foods are safe or even beneficial to another animal, particularly a bird like a chicken. Intrigued, I decided to do some research. I would like to share with you my findings here today.
So, can chickens drink milk? Yes, chickens can drink milk and other dairy products. Chickens generally really enjoy consuming milk along with a variety of cheeses. Dairy products are a good source of protein and other vitamins and minerals such as Calcium; all of which a chicken needs in their diet for optimal health and good egg-production. However, milk should be fed in limited quantities and in moderation to prevent digestive issues and distress. Skimmed/low-fat milk is preferable as a chickens should not consume more than 4-6% total fat in their diet.
It may come as a surprise to learn that chickens can drink milk. To begin with, its not the type of nutrition source that you would naturally think of giving to your birds.
That being said, it can be a nutritious treat to offer with a lot of benefits in doing so.
Let us now take a closer look at some of the most commonly answered questions surrounding this topic. This way, you’ll know exactly how much to offer, how to do so and some other tips and recommendations!
Do Chickens Drink Milk?
Milk, and other milk-based products, is a tasty treat for poultry and they will typically really enjoy consuming it. So much so that they will do so liberally.
Chickens are not known to be fussy eaters, eating most if not everything that is put in front of them. Therefore, chickens can easily over consume milk (and other milk based products) and get more than they need. This is especially true if you mix milk into their regular feed.
For this reason, as an owner you do need to consider how much dairy your birds are eating – both from milk and cheeses.
Too much dairy can cause digestive distress in your birds – whom do not possess or naturally produce lactase. This is an enzyme required to break down the lactose component of milk.
For this reason, some owners resort to purchasing lactose-free options of milk, or are more careful with how much they provide at any one sitting. Additionally, owners have reported that Goats milk is a suitable alternative – and some chickens can digest this better.
Another option, if you can acquire some, is to provide some raw milk. You can usually get this from farmers – stores do not typically sell it. Raw milk has not been pasteurized and therefore many of the enzymes required to digest the lactose are still present.
Equally, it must be stressed that there are reports of liver damage and issues in chickens whom have consumed too much milk fat or whereby an owner has relied to heavily upon whole, semi-skimmed and even raw varieties.
This is because a chickens liver can only process so much fat that comes in the diet. Generally, a chickens diet should consist of a maximum of 6% fat in the diet.
If you choose to feed milk to your birds, the amount you offer must be closely related to the fat content of the milk. Depending on what you offer will depend on how controlled and measured you are.
For skimmed milk varieties, there are not any known issues or reports of liver damage.
But what about other milks, including nut milks like Almond, Coconut and Oat Milk?
Again, these are all perfectly safe to feed. Sometimes they are a suitable alternative if only whole milk options are available.
Chickens will also likely enjoy consuming ‘nut milks’ like these.
Nutrition In Milk
The table below outlines the nutritional content of milk, per 100ml, along with some of the most common milk alternatives:
|Milk Type||Calories||Protein (g)||Fat (g)||Carbohydrates (g)||Calcium (mg)||Iodine (mg)||Riboflavin (B2)||Pantothenic Acid (B5)||Vitamin B12|
|Almond Milk (Unsweetened)||12||0.4||1.1||0.1||119**||0||0.2**||0||**0.4|
|Coconut Milk (Unsweetened)||20||0.1||0.9||1.9||124**||0||0||0||**0.4|
|Oat Milk (Unsweetened)||45||1||0.7||3.8||119**||0.01||0.01||0.1||0|
** Indicates Fortified Nutrients**
There are a couple of interesting obersations that we can see from the table above.
Firstly, there is almost the same amount of nutrition in these nutrients found in cows milk across the various fat varities. The same can be said for protein.
Laying hens require 17-18% of their diet coming in the form of protein. Milk can be an easy way to add to this and meet such a requirement.
Equally, the nut milks, such as Almond, Coconut and Oat milks are all low in nutrients. Where they do have some – they have been fortified and are therefore not naturally occurring.
Another important consideration is the calcium content. We all know that cows milk is abundant in calcium. Well, calcium is an essential nutrient in the diet of poultry birds. They require it to build and support healthy bones, but they also need a sufficient amount to produce eggs. Did you know that eggshell is comprised primarily if not entirely of calcium?
Iodine, Vitamin B2, Vitmain B5 and Vitamin B12 are also important for chickens to obtain in the diet, and as you will observe, milk is an excellent source of them.
Therefore, we can safely assume that 1%/skimmed milk is from cows is most advantageous and preferable to offer to your birds.
How To Feed Milk To Chickens
Thankfully, it is easy to feed milk to your chickens. Naturally you may have thought of leaving some out in a dish, however, your birds are unlikely to consume it this way.
Instead, many chicken owners report that mixing it in with other foods, such their regular feed and pellets or adding it to potato mash or bread works very well.
Another excellent option is to add it to, or make a yogurt out of your milk. Chickens typically love the consistency and it is easy to consume without the risk of choking.
As chickens do not possess the enzyme to digest the lactose in milk; it can lead to runny poop. This is why it is recommended to feed it in moderation.
For this reason, when introducing milk to the diet of your flock, it is best to start with small amounts. From there, you can work your way up and increase the amount offered each time.
Alternatively, goats milk tends to be less of an issue for those with lactose intolerance. This is due to the protein molecules being more simple. If you notice your birds struggling with cows milk, you can always try goats milk and see how they respond.
Chickens also do not have a preference whether the milk is ‘fresh’ or beginning to sour. For this reason, some owners like to offer surplus milk to their birds when they have milk that has started to turn. Thankfully, there are no known issues with doing this.
Other Dairy Products To Feed
Chickens enjoy a wide variety of milk based products. As we have discussed in previous sections, chickens should not consume too much fat in the diet.
Therefore, when selecting dairy products, it is best to opt for those lower in fat or lower-fat varieties.
While soft and hard cheeses can still be fed, the quantity and frequency must be more finely controlled. Examples of these cheeses include: Cheddar, Brie, Camembert, Feta and Parmesan.
So, what are some good examples of other dairy products to feed?
These are routinely reported to be good options by other chicken keepers:
- Cottage Cheese
- Light Dutch Cheese
Chickens can drink milk and they love to do so! You can offer milk in a variety of different ways but mixing it in with other feed is one of the best ways to get it into the diet of your birds.
Offering milk, especially cows milk, is a great way to boost the protein, calcium and vitamin content of the diet. All of which chickens need to live a long and healthy life.
However, you need to be especially careful with the quantity of milk you offer and the frequency. It can cause digestive distress in some birds which will result in diarrhea, a lot of mess in the coop for you to clean up and the risk of your birds becoming dehrdated which can prove fatal.
Equally, higher-fat milk and other dairy products must be limited as the fat content can be problematic to your birds. Chickens only need 4-6% fat in the diet and any more can lead to health issues (most specifically with the liver).
Ultimately, like a lot of foods in life, moderation is key. Milk should never become the main source of food in the diet and you should still look to provide a variety of feed as well as generous amounts of scratch, bird seeds, and of course, some kitchen scraps. (never spoiled food however).
With this in mind, you can look to offer your birds milk and milk based products. They will likely benefit from you doing so, and will enjoy it, with the considerations documented here today.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.