If you own a flock of chickens, then naturally you are going to have some questions on what they can and cannot eat. But what about cheese? Is this safe or even preferable to feed? I decided to do some research on the topic. I would like to share with you all that I have managed to find here today.
So, can chickens eat cheese? Chickens can eat cheese. Chickens generally enjoy consuming cheese, along with other dairy products. Goats Cheese, Cottage Cheese, Cheddar and Mozzarella are some of the best options; and if you can offer them shredded it will be easier for your birds to consume. This is a great way to get some extra calcium, vitamins and minerals into their diets. However, cheese should only be offered in limited quantities and in moderation. The higher the fat content, the less you should offer. Otherwise they can suffer from diarrhea and gain weight. Equally, you should never offer heavily processed cheese.
If you talk to anyone who has raised chickens, they would be quick to mention that their birds are not very fussy when it comes to the food that they will ear. However, they are birds rather than mammals, and differences between what they are able of digesting should be expected.
One of the biggest concerns you may have is whether or not they can eat the same things as you. Vegetables and corn aside – it gets a little more complicated when it comes to foods like cheese.
While they can eat cheese, the real question is, should you be feeding your chicken cheese? Let us now take a closer look at the topic below, answering some of the main questions owners have around this food and providing some best practices if you did decide to offer some to your flock.
Do Chickens Like Cheese?
The first thing you need to ask yourself is whether or not you are completely wasting your time. If you drop some food in the cage, will your chickens even eat it?
As many chicken owners will tell you – these birds are not exactly picky eaters. It is a bigger concern that they’ll eat literally anything you drop in the coop; even if it is not ideal or could even cause them harm.
This doesn’t mean that every chicken will love cheese. They are individual animals that have their own tastes and preferences. For the most part, though, chickens aren’t one to pass on food when it is presented to them.
So, most chickens will eat the cheese you provide. In fact, the majority of them will like and enjoy it!
Many animals have evolved around having a preference for eating fatty foods – and this includes chickens.
Is It Safe For Chickens To Eat Cheese?
This is a little more complicated. Sure, if your chicken eats a couple of pieces of cheese you drop for them, you shouldn’t need to panic or even consider contacting an avian vet.
Then again, if you only feed your chicken pieces of cheese as their sole source of sustenance, it is not great.
Why do they seem to enjoy something that’s unhealthy for them? Take a look at some of your preferences in your diet. While there are many questionable parts of the average human diet – things such as fast food are objectively bad for us. Still, we continue to eat and enjoy it!
In order to better understand this, we are going to have to come right back around to the whole idea of how many animals (and birds) evolved in order to have a preference for fatty foods. Fat does provide some things for us, and it is not something we should consider evil or totally eliminate it from our diet. In fact, ancestrally, it was a pretty hard thing to come by at times. So, when we managed to find it, we loved to really chow down!
The thing is, in modern times, fat is plentiful! There is no longer a natural limitation on the food, and it instead comes down to some good old-fashioned self-control practices in order to learn how to limit it to healthy amounts.
Milk products specifically are a little weird because many animals do not naturally eat these products as adults.
Birds, in general, lack the proper enzymes to help them healthily break it down. This doesn’t mean they can digest it completely, but too much can be hard on them.
Moderation is the key to overcome any issues that arise from availability.
Your chicken is just like you here.
Just as you shouldn’t try to live solely off of cheese, your chicken should live off of more nutritious food.
Sure, a small amount will not poison your chicken, but having too much cheese can lead to some completely avoidable health problems.
Limit cheese to only an occasional snack, and be careful with the quantities that you offer at any one time.
Is Cheese In Moderation Good?
While too much cheese is bad, cheese in itself is not dangerous. There are actually many healthy and practical applications for adding cheese occasionally to diets.
For one thing, there are some nutrients in cheese your chickens can benefit from receiving.
These can be things such as calcium, and vitamin D. Cheese has a lot of helpful things in it– and it is pretty high in calorie count to boot.
This means it can make an excellent addition to your chicken’s diet, especially in the winter months when they need a little bit of extra energy to keep them warm.
Cheese is ultimately made up of fat and protein. The quantities of such do differ between the types and styles of chesses.
For example, let us take a look at two different types of cheeses and how they differ in terms of nutrition:
Cheddar Cheese Nutrition (per 100 grams)
So, when you consider cheddar, it is quite high in fat. For this reason you would need to be careful with the amount you offer to your birds.
Cottage Cheese Nutrition (per 100 grams)
On the opposing end of the spectrum, Cottage Cheese is considerably lower in calorie content and has a fraction of the amount of fat. Therefore, Cottage Cheese is something that you could look to offer your chickens more liberally and regularly.
As you can see; how much you feed depends on what you plan to offer.
Either way, both cheeses have a lot of protein.
Better yet, the protein found in cheese is called Casein – and it comes witha a range of beneficial effects on the health of your birds.
For example, Casein has been found to lower blood pressure and improve the absorption of minerals.
On the plus side, cheese has a lot of protein. This protein comes as casein. Casein can lower blood pressure and increase absorption of minerals. This is ideal for supporting your chickens with egg laying and production.
We’ve already briefly touched upon the nutrition, but cheese is pretty high in vitamins and minerals too. These include: calcium, vitamin B12, sodium, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, riboflavin, vitamin A, and vitamin K2.
Here’s how they all support the health of your birds:
- Calcium is widely required by chickens for optimal bone health and equally to produce the shells for their eggs.
- Vitamin B12 plays a big role in supporting a healthy nervous system.
- Sodium supports proper functioning in cellular processes
- Phosphorus supports strong shell production.
- Selenium is is equally required for optimal egg formation.
- Zinc, riboflavin, vitamin A, and vitamin K2 are all essential in maintaining bone and heart health.
So, as you can see there is a lot of benefits to offering cheese to your chickens. There is a lot of nutrition they can acquire from small feedings.
But more is not necessarily better. Here is why.
What Happens If Chickens Eat Too Much Cheese?
Due to their struggles with digesting enzymes found in milk products, eating too much cheese can cause problems within their digestive tract.
This normally means that you will end up with your birds suffering from diarrhea.
Excessive diarrhea can cause some secondary problems, such as dehydration. Additionally, having too much cheese may cause your chickens to feel full and forgo eating other foods that they need to consume.
Deciding against proper nutrition can lead to some secondary issues in their health down the line.
Plus, while having some extra weight can be good,especially in the winter, you don’t want to have overweight or obese chickens. Again, health issues can arise if this occurs.
Can Chickens Eat Other Dairy Products?
All of these restrictions referenced above apply to all dairy products – such as milk or yogurt. You want to seek out higher quality, lower fat varieties. You also want to limit how much you offer your chickens.
For the most part, though, it is a better idea to stray away from any non-cheese dairy products.
Because of the way cheese is processed, it is actually better for your chickens than other dairy products.
Cheese is also just easier and cleaner.
It doesn’t make much sense to go through all the trouble and mess to feed chickens, something that they shouldn’t really have too much anyways.
What Are The Best Cheeses To Feed Your Flock?
Not all cheeses are created equal, and as such, there are some that make better snacks compared to others.
This doesn’t mean that others are necessarily bad, but keeping these helpful tips in mind can make it easier for you to sneak some cheese safely into your chicken’s diet.
For starters in terms of health, anything made from goat cheese is a great option. Goat cheese is generally more nutritious than cows milk and does not have as much fat! Your chickens won’t mind the taste in the slightest!
In terms of convenience, it’s a smart idea to look into shredded cheeses.
Shredded cheese is easy to distribute evenly among large crowds of chicken. It is soft and fun for them to peck at – plus, it is easier than you have to cut up the cheese yourself.
These are normally made from cheeses like cheddar and mozzarella that are safe for your bird. Just be careful on the quantity you offer as these are normally higher in fat and being shredded, are easier to over-provide.
As referenced, Cottage Cheese is also ideal as it is naturally lower in fat. You can also mix this in with their regular feed as it has a runnier consistency. This ensures they get the added nutrition without forgoing their regular nutritious feed.
Stay away from any flavored or heavily processed cheese products. It is important that you do not feed your chickens anything infused with herbs or seasonings.
Heavily processed cheeses to avoid are: “American cheese” or the liquid versions you buy to put on your Nachos. These do not have much nutrition and usually contain components that are really hard on your birds’ digestive tract and system.
When you think about it, these cheeses are not even considered healthy for you. So, you shouldn’t feed it to your chickens.
Chickens can, and generally do, enjoy consuming cheese. There are in fact a number of benefits in offering it to them.
However, like many foods – there are always things to consider.
Firstly – you need to consider the fat content of the cheese you are looking to offer. Generally, the higher the fat content of the the less you should be looking to provide your chickens in terms of frequency and in any one sitting.
This means that cheeses like Cheddar should be given more sparingly than a cheese like Cottage.
Secondly, cheese (while abundant in calcium and other vitamins and minerals) should be added to your flocks diet as a ‘supplement’. It should never become the sole food of the diet.
If you begin to notice your birds leaving their regular feed, you may need to look at the amount of cheese/and other foods you are offering.
Lastly, avoid all heavily processed cheeses! These do not contain any nutrition and will be hard on your birds.
Ultimately, with any safe cheese, feeding it to your chickens in moderation is best.
Wondering what else chickens can eat? Check out my other chicken feeding guides below!
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.