One of those interesting and strange questions that you may have if you own a flock of chickens is whether they can in fact eat chicken. It is well known that a chicken will feed on a variety of scraps but do they draw the line when it comes to meat, more specifically one of their own? Does it matter how it is offered, prepared or up for grabs? Intrigued, I decided to conduct some research on and around the topic. I would like to present my findings here to you today.
So, can chickens eat chicken? Chickens can eat chicken. If you have leftover cooked chicken meat that you do not want to eat, you can give it to your birds; they will love it. Just make sure that it is cut into manageable pieces, fresh, and has not begun rotting. Chicken can provide much-needed protein in the diets of laying hens.
You may be surprised to discover this answer, but chickens are perhaps one of the least fussy eaters of all.
Many chicken keepers are fully aware of their bird’s ferocious appetite, and it doesn’t stop when it comes to eating one of their own.
Of course, whether or not your chickens know that they are eating another chicken is another question entirely.
It naturally follows for us to ask whether they are cannibals instinctively.
Do they possess these kinds of traits and behaviors and whether they will eat a fallen chicken from the flock if they were to become “available”.
With all this in mind let us explore the topic further. This way, you can get a better understanding, set your expectations, and know what your chickens are actually capable of!
Are Chickens Cannibals?
Chickens can indeed become cannibals. Chickens live in a society that has a hierarchy established. They actually live using a pecking order (no pun intended!)
The way in which they instinctively create an authority can be a violent process, whereby feather pecking takes place.
Mild pecking of plumage and skin can quickly develop into cannibalism. Especially if a dominant chicken identifies another as a threat.
Surface wounds are common in feather pecking, but missing body parts and deep cavity wounds are a disturbing aspect of this process.
Especially if it is to go on long enough and no effort is made to break this up.
Feather pecking and cannibalism are more common in floor-raised chickens in commercial, large-scale barns and among larger groups of free-range chickens.
It is less likely to happen than from birds in small groups as the pecking order is more organized and will have likely been established.
The more chickens there are to challenge authority- the more likely it is to occur.
Similarly, if new chickens are introduced to your current flock; it is likely to occur as the flock adjusts to the new hierarchy.
That being said, cannibalism can happen in all types of chicken housing, such as floor pans, cages, free-range areas, and aviaries, and it is a learned behavior that spreads throughout the flock.
Poultry birds tend to imitate one another, so if cannibalism isn’t noticed in time, the results are loss of flock due to death and injuries.
Cannibalism is near impossible to treat as there is a genetic element to this behavior. Prevention is the key to stamping out this disorder among your birds.
You must take the necessary steps in preventing cannibalism before things get out of hand. Consider providing escape areas for floor-housed chickens.
Never put too many chickens together.
If you can identify the aggressive bird, you must remove it from the rest of the flock – this is the best way to control the spread of this problem.
There is some evidence that cannibalism can be reduced by feeding chickens a high-fiber diet.
High fiber diets improve gut development and the function of the gizzard, thus helping alleviate aggressive behavior in hens.
Additionally, you must ensure you are feeding your flock enough food. Excess hunger can cause if not exacerbate the problem as chickens seek to obtain the nutrition they need from what is available to them.
If this has to be another chicken from the flock, so be it. Usually, the weaker, less dominant chicken is targeted.
Can Chickens Eat Meat?
Chickens can eat meat; they are omnivores with the ability to consume and digest protein. Most types of meats can be safely consumed.
Make sure that the meat you feed your chickens is not raw, undercooked, or rotting. You don’t want to infect your flock with salmonella poisoning.
Also, try to avoid feeding your birds processed and salty meats like ham and bacon too often and in too high a quantity at any one time.
Saline poisoning (too much salt) is prevalent with chickens, and it can even kill them. Processed meats typically have a lot of added salt- so you need to be careful.
Chickens eat insects; they like to go out foraging in grassy areas and will often munch on worms and other bugs.
Sometimes chickens will hunt mice, frogs, and baby rats and devour with no qualms dead or alive.
Chickens require protein in their diet, especially egg layers, as egg production needs protein.
Insects and meat products provide chickens with protein – and they are naturally abundant in it.
Poultry feed is a great staple as it is nutritionally complete, but it is normal for chickens to crave meat as it boosts protein levels, and it improves egg production.
Some people are naturally apprehensive about feeding meat to their flock out of fear; thinking it might encourage cannibalism.
Be aware that cannibalism is a learned behavior and a response to numerous different factors, like sudden changes to their environment, overcrowding, inadequate nutrition and an aggressive chicken promoting such behaviour.
If you look after your chickens well, monitor them and routinely give them meat, they are not likely to eat their flock mates.
Make sure that you never feed raw or undercooked chicken to your birds. Never feed them chicken that is out of date and rotting.
The general rule of feeding poultry birds is if you can’t eat certain foods, neither can your birds.
Beyond this, you will want to avoid all meats that have been fried in oil/butter or are high in fat. Sausages are a prime example, along with fried chicken or nuggets.
Chickens are not able to digest these foods easily, nor do they provide any real nutritional value anyway.
A high fat diet, which can easily be done with the provision of certain meats, can cause health complications in your flock.
Therefore it is best to serve lean meats; such as chicken, turkey and other types of fowl.
Will Chickens Eat A Dead Chicken?
It may shock you to learn that yes, chickens will eat dead chickens.
Poultry birds have a great sense of community life among themselves, they often flock together for warmth and protection from predators, but there is no honoring the dead in their social system.
It is usual for chickens to scavenge on a dead animal, including other chickens. When doing so they will consume the lot – leaving only the beak and the feet.
Chickens live for food and self-pleasure, they don’t mourn their dead. It may come as a shock for chicken keepers to witness their birds eating their dead counterparts, but you can do little to stop them.
Of course, getting a dead chicken out ahead of time is the only thing you can really do.
Chickens don’t tend to kill their flock mates and won’t scavenge a chicken until it is completely dead.
Sometimes a wounded bird that has been driven away from the flock will huddle down to keep its strength and avoid attracting hostile attention.
If that bird is forced to move, you will see it stagger as if drunk – that bird is days away from death and will become lunch for the flock if they do not make it through and you don’t get them out in time.
Cannibalism does happen, it is rare, but you must exercise caution.
Look after your flock well, avoid overcrowding and your birds will be loyal friends, while they are alive at least.
How To Feed Chicken To Your Chickens
So we know that chickens require protein, they can eat meat, and they should stick to consuming the leaner cuts like Turkey and Chicken. But how would you go about feeding chicken to your birds?
As you have already mentioned above, chicken should never be fed raw, or when spoilt.
If chicken goes off, starts to smell or become discolour, this means bacteria is starting to take hold. Feeding this to your birds is likely to result in illness.
So first and foremost, you should feed fresh, high quality lean chicken.
You’ll want to ensure that it has been cooked, and sufficiently cut up into small manageable chunks. Chickens do not have teeth so will swallow the chicken hole. For this reason, you need to ensure that they do not nor cannot suffocate on it.
Let is know take a look at some simple recipes that you can offer to your birds.
Chicken Trail Mix
This is great for providing variety and getting your chickens a host of vitamins, minerals and protein in the diet.
Creating a trail mix is all about throwing different items together. You can add small chunks of chicken to some fruits, vegetables and mealworms (these are great from Amazon) and mix them altogether.
Be sure to boil or bake the chicken ahead of time and that you cut all fruits and vegetables down into smaller chunks.
Then just put these out for your birds. You’ll notice they go through this very quickly!
Chicken on a String
Another great option is to provide chicken on a string. Again you will need to cook and cut up chicken into small chunks.
From there attach each piece onto a string (like a kebab). You can also add other fruits and vegetables if you wanted to.
From there, youn hust need to hang the string on the side of their pen/run. Your chickens will start to pack at the string and you’ll notice that they love the challenge of getting pieces off!
Chickens can indeed eat meat; protein is good for them, especially for egg layers.
Poultry birds thrive on a nutritionally complete diet consisting of mostly pellets and scraps that include meat along with fruit and vegetables.
Chickens are excellent pets to keep because they are strong, relatively inexpensive to maintain, and you can feed them your table scraps. Let’s not forget the fact that you will have delicious, fresh eggs all year round.
Unfortunately, cannibalism is a terrible behavioral problem among poultry birds and it can and does occur.
For the most part, it is better to prevent this issue than treat it.
Feather pulling frequently occurs with chickens and is usually investigative among young birds. The real problem is when it escalates as it can lead to severe wounds and even cannibalism.
If you are worried that feeding meat to your chickens causes cannibalism, you must know that it is not a trigger.
In fact, it’s likely the opposite. The more regular you feed your chickens meat – the less likely they will be to attempt to eat each other!
If you know what the triggers are that cause this problem, only then can you nip cannibalism in the bud.
Eliminate stressors like overcrowding and bright lights, make sure that you are feeding your birds a healthy diet, and monitor their behavior regularly.
Chickens are omnivores; this is one of the many reasons people love to keep chickens as pets – you can feed them your table scraps, and they will supply you with delicious fresh eggs.
Among their staple of poultry pellets, chickens like to eat fruits, vegetables, grains, insects, grass, and they like to chase after small pests like mice.
Morally, if you do not want to feed chicken to your chickens – that is up to you. It’s a decision you will ultimately have to make.
But there is nothing wrong with doing so – in fact it can make your chickens happier, more content and their diet more nutritionally complete.
While chickens can eat chicken bones, they generally will not attempt to do so. Instead, they will attempt to pick any remaining meat off the bones and some of the marrow inside. If you provide the bones to your flock you need to ensure they are cooked first and that you do not offer any bones that are sharp or splintered. You also need to remove bones from the coop within a day; as they can cause vermin and other animals (like hornets) to visit your flock.
Chickens eat regularly throughout the day and will eat freely and as much as they need without overeating. You need to ensure they have access to food at all times. Be sure to keep their feeders full and routinely provide scraps and treats across the course of the day.
Wondering what else chickens can eat? Check out my other chicken feeding guides below!
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.