If you own a flock of chickens, then naturally you are going to want to feed them treats and scraps from time to time. But what about chocolate? Can this be offered and are chickens able to safely consume it? What about if it is included in another food like a trail mix? These are just some of the questions in which we will answer today.
So, can chickens eat chocolate? No chickens should not eat chocolate. Chocolate can be particularly harmful and dangerous to chickens if they were to consume it – even fatal if eaten in excess. Chocolate contains an alkaloid called theobromine and is high in caffeine. Both of which chickens will struggle to process, digest and excrete. As chickens will eat almost anything offered, it is important to ensure that this food is not fed.
Chickens have little control over what they eat – outside of what they can acquire naturally foraging. Additionally, to a chicken, almost anything that comes below their beaks is potential food.
Chickens are therefore very vulnerable to feeding on things they shouldn’t. As a chicken owner, you need to find out what is best for your birds – they rely heavily on you to do so.
Some foods can be very safe and even sweet for human beings but the direct opposite for chickens. Chocolate is one perfect example. Let us now take a closer look at why chocolate should not be given, even in limited quantities.
Is Chocolate Safe for Chickens?
Chocolate is not safe for chickens. Even in limited quantities, chocolate is not an appropriate nor beneficial food to provide them.
If you were to offer chocolate, you could soon find your birds in complete distress, or worse – lying flat on the ground, dead or unconscious!
Theobromine is the biggest culprit here. But chocolate also has caffeine. Both of which can totally mess up your chickens, and you don’t want that.
The darker the chocolate, the more theobromine that will be present and ultimately, the more dangerous it is.
For this reason, if your chickens were to eat a very small amount of milk chocolate, or some leftover chocolate cake, they may be okay. But of course, it depends entirely on how much chocolate is consumed and how much chocolate was present in the cake.
Remember, chickens are small, meaning that toxicity levels are going to be at much lower doses. Equally, their bodies are going to have to work much harder to excrete any toxic compounds they may ingest.
The best option is to keep chocolate as far away from your chickens as possible.
Due to their nature, chickens will likely eat chocolate if they have the opportunity to. So as an owner, you must remain vigilant – being sure not to offer any foods that may include chocolate or where it could be an ingredient in the food itself.
Risks of Feeding Chocolate to Chickens
Feeding chocolate to chickens comes with a range of risks and potential adverse health complications in your birds.
I have included below the main ones so that you are aware of what may happen if you your birds were to get access to this food.
#1. Kidney Failure
Chocolate contains caffeine and other compounds that must be digested, processed and excreted. However, chickens are relatively small, and at the quantities in which these compounds are found in chocolate, chickens simply cannot handle them.
These compounds will therefore interfere with and overload the systems of your birds. While concentrations are high, your chickens will be in a state of stress as their bodies attempt to bring things back to normal.
Chicken’s kidneys are one such organ that are not adapted to excreting high concentrations of substances.
Therefore, in a state of overdrive may cause them to fail. With only two little kidneys that will struggle to remove these toxic substances, your birds are likely to die.
#2. Increased Heartbeat
Hemoglobin is the protein that carries oxygen in the blood. When your hemoglobin levels are low, your body cannot access enough oxygen. This is the same in chickens.
Theobromine in chocolate lowers the number of red blood cells, and hence, hemoglobin levels in the blood go down.
With low hemoglobin, oxygen cannot reach all of a chickens body parts.
This will send your chicken into a state of hyperactivity, where they will gasp for air to acquire the oxygen they need.
Their hearts will pump faster as an attempt to supply oxygen to all body parts.
Like us, chickens can survive without oxygen for long. So, if they do not obtain the levels they need – they can die from lack of sufficient oxygen.
Sometimes, the increased heartbeat may progress to an irregular heartbeat and, finally, to cardiac arrest.
Diarrhea is one of the main ways that chickens can rid of toxins and expel substances fast from the body. It is also often the result of upsetting the digestive system.
Chickens are prone to diarrhea, as any owner will know. When diarrhea sets in, it doesn’t take long before the bird becomes dehydrated.
It is then that diarrhea can prove fatal as your bird loses electrolytes and nutrients from the body fast. The result can be death – and it can happen quickly in your birds.
Theobromine and Caffeine interfere with the Central Nervous System – the same is true in chickens. Too much theobromine and caffeine can cause seizures, which may progress to fatality.
The amount of chocolate your chicken ingests will determine the outcome. It is always impossible to know how much of this compound is present – but darker chocolates are naturally higher.
Ultimately, the complications referenced above mostly arise from the theobromine and caffeine.
When you consider that chocolate contains many other compounds, there could be other risks in which we have not included and referenced here.
What to Do If Your Chicken Has Eaten Chocolate
A small amount of chocolate should be okay. It is unlikely to lead to any significant adverse reactions or long-term damage. However, even in amounts you may consider relatively moderate can be dangerous.
It is difficult to truly know how much caffeine and theobromine is present in the chocolate you have at hand. A couple of squares of one chocolate could prove more fatal than an entire bar of another. Its almost impossible to know how much is a dangerous dose.
Therefore, with little benefits in consumption and many other treat alternatives out there, it is always best to play it safe and avoid this food altogether.
But, it is also possible to feed chocolate accidentally. It is of course, present in other foods and sometimes it is even an added ingredient. Sometimes it can be inadvertently fed.
In such examples, what should you do in case your chicken eats chocolate?
First and foremost, you need to closely observe your birds – looking out for any changes to behavior, movement patterns and signs for distress.
If your chickens should ingest chocolate you shouldn’t hesitate to call your local vet. You should treat it is an emergency and matter of urgency.
Your vet is best placed to offer advice on the steps you should take to ensure your chickens remains healthy and well.
They may provide reassurance that the amount of chocolate eaten by your bird needs no further intervention or they may well need to visit to inspect your birds.
Your vet will likely ask several different questions to ascertain the risk to your birds: how much chocolate did your chicken(s) ingest? How long ago? What type of chocolate was it? They may even weigh your chicken(s) to ascertain if they have consumed a lethal dose in respect to the size of the bird.
These questions are will allow your vet to ascertain an appropriate course of action. They’ll be able to offer suggestions on what to do and how to approach it.
At the end of the day, it’s important to do what is best for your flock. Call your vet to seek advice.
From research, darker chocolate contains higher levels of theobromine and caffeine than milk and white chocolate (which is typically milk based). So, depending on what your birds have consumed will largely dictate the level of risk.
If only a small amount of chocolate has been consumed, or it contains low doses of these toxic substances; then it will likely pass through your birds without any adverse affects. In this case, there is nothing you need to do.
All in all, if you are concerned, or seeing symptoms in your bird, make that call fast and follow all directions given.
Either way, never give force your chicken to consume a lot of water or do anything to attempt to help them illuminate the chocolate, unless your vet says so.
Taking matters into your own hands may make the situation even worse.
Chickens should not eat chocolate. It is typically not safe for them (even in small doses) and there is no real benefit in them doing so.
While a small amount may be okay; the high levels of compounds including caffeine and theobromine make it not worth the risk and there are far better treats out there.
Chicken Fun Doo from Amazon is one of the best, healthiest treats that you can offer. Alongside some safe scraps, this is what you should be looking to feed to your chickens as a treat from time to time.
As a chicken owner, it is your responsibility to keep your flock healthy at all times. These birds will eat anything provided, even if it would kill them, so you need to ensure that you do your due diligence ahead of time.
Thankfully you asked the question today and now you know the scoop on chocolate and chocolate-derived treats.
Can chickens eat chocolate muffins? Chickens should not eat chocolate muffins or any chocolate based foods. This is because compounds found in chocolate can prove toxic to chickens. Chocolate muffins are typically quite high in chocolate content, which make them not appropriate and there are other more suitable treats available.
Can chickens eat chocolate biscuits? Chickens should not eat chocolate biscuits. This is because compounds found in chocolate can prove toxic to chickens. While chocolate biscuits are typically low in chocolate content, it is generally not worth the risk and there are other more suitable treats available.
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.