Chickens are common backyard birds people keep for eggs, meat, or even pets. If you are a chicken owner, you may have noticed other birds joining your chickens for a meal when you put food out for them.
Can birds safely eat chicken feed, or is this something you should try to avoid when feeding birds in your backyard?
Can birds eat Chicken Feed?
Yes, birds can eat chicken feed, but this does not mean chicken feed is a suitable alternative for regular bird seed. Many backyard birds see chicken feed as a free meal they don’t have to work hard to find. Backyard birds usually pick and choose which pieces of chicken feed they eat and leave the bits they don’t like.
As part of our research, we found answers to common questions on this topic.
We will answer questions regarding the type of chicken feed that might be good for chickens and birds (potentially) and whether some chicken food can harm birds.
We will also discuss whether chicken food is a good substitute for feeding birds.
Should Birds Each Chicken Feed?
Many people believe that food for backyard chickens is suitable for any bird and there is no harm in feeding chicken feed to birds or allowing your backyard birds to eat the chicken feed left out for your chickens.
While some birds can eat chicken feed, there are questions about whether they should eat chicken feed. Is the food itself good for small birds, for larger birds, is the behavior suitable for them, and how can it affect your chickens?
Why Do Backyard Birds Eat Chicken Feed?
Many backyard birds eat chicken feed because it is an easy food source they only have to expend a little energy to find. Wild birds often gobble up the leftover chicken feed.
These opportunistic birds will welcome the chance of a free meal, especially when natural food is scarce, such as during the winter.
If you are feeding birds in your backyard during the winter, you must ensure that you give them quality food that is not filled with empty calories.
Wild birds may eat inappropriate food because they are hungry, but it may not provide the nutrients they need. In this case, they would do better foraging for natural food than poor quality food put out by people.
Is Chicken Feed Good For Birds?
The type of chicken feed you use will determine whether the food is suitable for birds. If you are using a single grain chicken feed, such as crushed maize, this food type will only attract birds that can eat this type of feed.
A mixed-seed chicken feed will attract a greater variety of birds, especially seed-eaters, such as house sparrows. Still, the feed’s quality must be good enough to be nutritionally beneficial for birds.
Poor-quality feed is often packed with a filler material that may not harm chickens but is unsuitable for many birds.
Chicken feed is formulated with chickens’ dietary requirements in mind. Chickens have a higher protein and vitamin requirement to produce the food that people need.
These high levels of nutrients can be detrimental to other birds when eaten in excess.
This means birds can eat chicken feed in moderation, but it should not be provided as a substitute to replace regular bird food or their natural diet.
Can Birds Become Dependent On Chicken Feed?
When birds eat chicken feed daily, it can modify their behavior and make them dependent on humans.
The birds may sit and wait for the daily feeding because it is a more accessible source of food, rather than foraging for their natural food sources, which offer a more balanced diet.
This habit can result in nutrient deficiencies in wild birds.
Birds don’t typically need you to feed them in the summer months, so you should limit access to chicken feed during this season.
Can Birds Feeding With Chickens Be Dangerous?
Wild birds feeding alongside your chickens can be dangerous for your chickens and you because wild birds are exposed to a broader range of pathogens and diseases.
When they feed close to chickens, they can transmit these pathogens and diseases to your chickens.
Salmonella and avian influenza are two examples of dangers that can be transmitted from wild birds to your chickens and indirectly to you when you handle your chickens.
If you keep chickens and put food out for them rather than intentionally for wild birds, you should feed them in an enclosed space that wild birds cannot access.
This strategy will protect your chickens from exposure to disease and save you money on chicken feed!
What is an Alternative To chicken Feed For Birds?
If you keep chickens but also want to feed wild birds, it is best to feed the chickens and wild birds separately.
Feed your chickens where the wild birds cannot access the chicken food, and feed wild birds where the chickens cannot access the bird food.
The best food to offer wild birds is those designed to give a variety of natural seeds and nuts that are not enhanced with vitamins, proteins, and minerals.
Wild birds get what they need from the variety of food in their diet rather than the artificial enhancements you might find in chicken feed.
Wild bird food is available from pet stores with the most suitable bird food to offer the birds in your area. This food can sometimes be more expensive than chicken feed, but you typically only feed wild birds every couple of days.
Feeding wild birds every second or third day is enough to get them through periods when food resources are low.
A better option for feeding wild birds is cultivating a garden that attracts them to your home and provides them with natural food year-round.
Planting trees and plants that provide seeds, nuts, and insects in the winter and summer will naturally attract birds to your garden. This method doesn’t modify their behavior or pose a health risk to the birds or chickens.
So, can birds eat chicken feed?
While birds can eat chicken feed, it should not replace regular bird seed or their natural diet. Chicken feed is made specifically for chickens, so it can pose health risks for wild birds if they eat it too regularly.
The transmission of pathogens and diseases from wild birds to chickens can be a concern if the birds are allowed to feed together.
The best option is to feed wild birds and chickens separately and feed wild birds food designed for their dietary requirements.
If you keep chickens and enjoy attracting wild birds to your garden, and you have any experience feeding chicken feed to wild birds, let us know! We would love to hear about your story and share knowledge with our readers.
Remember to check our other blog posts for more information about birds and nature. Also, remember to share this article with your friends, family, and fellow bird lovers!