Bread may seem like an innocent offering for a bird, especially a chicken. But can chickens eat bread without repercussions? Chickens happen to love bread of all types, though that doesn’t necessarily mean bread is safe. Before you start gathering up bread crusts and slightly stale loaf ends, it’s time to read up on whether bread is safe for chickens, and which kinds you should avoid. Let’s get started.
- Can Chickens Eat Bread?
- Can Chickens Eat Bread Crust?
- Can Baby Chicks Eat Bread?
- Reasons Chickens Should Not Eat Bread
- Does Bread Have Any Health Benefits For Chickens?
- Best Ways To Feed Bread to Chickens
- Final Thoughts on Bread For Chickens
Can Chickens Eat Bread?
Yes, chickens will gobble bread up, similar to ducks and geese. This shouldn’t be too surprising, as bread is delicious and made of things birds already eat, like seeds and grains. However, bread does have some dangers that you need to be aware of, including its utter lack of nutritional value for birds.
While people can get a lot of benefit from eating whole grains, chickens don’t. Plus, as you will learn in this article, their digestive systems are not cut out for processing bread. So as with all treats, bread of all kinds must be considered a treat only. That means you can’t rely on bread to be the focal point of their diet.
Can Chickens Eat Bread Crust?
Yes, chickens can be given bread crusts. Often, the crust of the bread is the healthiest part. The reason for this is the exposure to heat. The crusty exterior has been chemically altered, making some of the nutrients in the bread more available during digestion. Therefore, you may just want to focus on tossing the crusts and bread ends you don’t want to your flock instead of giving them the springy, airy portions.
Additionally, crusts are easier for chickens to peck at and digest than a softer, more absorbent interior.
Can Baby Chicks Eat Bread?
Bread in small quantities is safe for adult chickens, so why not chicks? While it is true that chicks can eat bread, it does not mean they should. Growing baby chicks require a lot of protein — something most bread does not have. They also have sensitive digestive systems. Therefore, you should keep bread away from the little ones until they have entered their sixth week. After that, they get a little stronger and can start trying different treats.
Reasons Chickens Should Not Eat Bread
Bread is not the safest food in the world for chickens. Here is why:
1. Chickens Can Choke on Bread
Feeding your flock any kind of bread could end up with it getting stuck in their throats. Dry bread will expand with moisture. If a chicken tries to swallow a huge chunk of bread, it could swell as it travels down the throat. Sometimes bread expands while in the crop — the first part of the digestive process. If that happens, your chicken could become horribly ill.
In short, if you want to give your chickens any kind of bread, you should either break it up into little pieces or moisten it first.
2. Their Digestive System Isn’t Designed For Bread
As mentioned above, bread expands in the crop, preventing digestion. The crop is located at the base of the neck and collects any food that has been consumed. Any food in the crop has yet to be processed. Should a chicken eat a piece of bread while there is other food in the crop, their bodies will have a hard time breaking down anything in there.
Furthermore, the gizzard was not designed to handle bread. While the grit can break up many kinds of food, it cannot grind up foods that tend to get sticky when wet — like bread.
3. Bread is Low in Protein
Birds love bread, but there is no value in it for them. It’s like junk food for fowl. While bread makes for a tasty treat, there is no protein for development. Feed your chickens bread sparingly, or use it when they need to be given liquid medicine.
4. Yeast Fermentation
Bread often contains sugar and yeast, two things that ferment when combined. If bread causes fermentation while in the crop, your chicken’s pH levels will rise dangerously. This could alter the microbiome of your chicken’s gut, and that could increase the microflora population. Unfortunately, this often leads to a condition called sour crop, which is challenging to get rid of.
5. Crop Impaction
When you chicken eats something they cannot easily digest, it causes crop impaction, which was mentioned above. However, let’s talk about why this is so bad. Crop impaction can happen when a chicken eats too much fiber or consumes something that causes the crop to expand.
Crop impaction causes a decrease in appetite, malnutrition, and also infection. Since the food in the crop cannot be digested until it enters the proventriculus (a chicken’s stomach), it will start to rot while sitting in the crop. Eventually, a chicken with untreated crop impaction will die.
6. Moldy Bread and Mycotoxins
Feeding chickens anything with mold on it is considered a no-no for all chicken keepers. Moldy food means that there is a fungus growing on the surface. This means there is a chance of mycotoxins also existing. When consumed, these toxins cause a reaction called mycosis, also known as thrush.
Thrush is not a death sentence and can be treated easily, but your flock would rather avoid the condition altogether. Mycotoxins can also impact the liver, causing tissue degeneration. This will affect your chickens ability to metabolize proteins. In turn, egg production slows.
7. Reduced Eggshell Quality
Aside from having a low amount of protein, bread also lacks calcium. Chickens need calcium for egg production. If you feed your chicken too much bread, they will feel fuller for longer periods of time, eating less high quality chicken feed in the process. Offering a few pieces of bread is not going to cause too much of an issue, but bread should not be used as the main course. Without enough protein and calcium, eggshells will also become too brittle to handle.
Does Bread Have Any Health Benefits For Chickens?
There is no denying that chickens will chase you around for a nibble of bread. They love the stuff. But is there any reason why you should give your chickens bread, aside from getting them to take liquid medication?
Organic breads, as well as seeded, whole grain, and sprouted varieties, are known for being far more healthy than white and whole wheat bread. There are also some grain-free varieties made from brown rice or chickpea flour that have been fortified to be healthier for humans. Chickens can also benefit from breads that are rich in whole grains, fiber, iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and manganese.
The average sprouted grain bread (such as Food For Life’s Ezekiel 4:9 bread) runs around 80-100 calories per slice and includes about 5 g of protein, 3 g of fiber, and 15 g carbohydrates. Plus, the whole ingredients are an adequate supplement. Flax bread is another great choice, as it contains lignans, which are antioxidants that protect against various diseases, including cancer.
Best Ways To Feed Bread to Chickens
Chickens can eat bread, but that doesn’t mean you should throw them a loaf of cheap white bread. There is no value in it for them. Also remember that bread is a treat. A couple of slices torn up and scattered around the yard is fine. Just make sure that bread does not exceed 10% of your chicken’s diet.
Next, follow these tips to make feeding bread to your chickens easy and beneficial:
Choose the Right Type
Some bread types are better for chickens than others. Here is a table to show you which type of bread has the most protein content for chickens:
|White Bread||2.7 grams|
|Multi-Grain Bread||9-10 grams|
|Whole Wheat Bread||3.6 grams|
|Oat Bread||6 grams|
|Italian Bread||5 grams|
|Sprouted Grain Bread||12-15 grams|
|Rye Bread||2.1 grams|
|Flax Bread||5 grams|
As you can see, some breads are a better choice for your flock. Choose varieties that have whole grains or seeds added, as that increases the protein content.
Incorporate Bread in Other Treats
Giving bread alone to your adult chickens is fine, but you could potentially make the treat safer and healthier by mixing it in with other ingredients. Here are some ideas to feed your chickens bread without any risk:
DIY Chicken Bread
Do you already make your own bread at home? Make a loaf designed specifically for chickens. Choose a nutritionally packed flour, such as whole wheat or multi-grain, some seeds, vegetables or fruit, and bake it up. A “chicken bread” for your flock is going to be much healthier than store-bought varieties. You can also feel good knowing that you make the special treat from scratch, too.
Want to warm your chickens up on a cold day? Make a bread mash. It’s like an oatmeal but better. All you have to do is take some bread and add it to their normal feed. Mix it together with some hot water. You can also incorporate some vegetables and fruits, such as pumpkin, cucumber, and squash. Crushed eggshells can be added to increase the calcium content.
Flock blocks, also called chicken suet, are hardened bricks of feed, fruits, and veggies. They are a great form of entertainment, as chickens will peck at the blocks for hours while trying to get to the sweeter snacks inside. Flock blocks can be shaped in a number of ways. You could even make a disc with a hole in the middle, so you can hang the block somewhere in the enclosure.
Panzanella is a Tuscan-style salad that includes soaked stale bread and a variety of salad vegetables and fruits. Make your chickens one that they can eat. Dice up some leftover tomatoes (ripe only), red bell peppers, dark leafy greens, cucumbers, and basil. Add in the stale (but not moldy) bread and toss everything together. The bread will soak up some of the juices from the vegetables, making it all the more delicious for your feathered friends.
Final Thoughts on Bread For Chickens
Can chickens eat bread? In short, yes, but it’s not the best treat for them. You could choose a number of alternatives, including mealworms and cooked egg. Be cautious about giving your chicken too much bread, because regardless of the type, the lack of protein and risk of crop impaction is too high. Therefore, while bread is okay in tiny portions, it should never become more than just a once-in-a-while treat to round off a nutritionally dense meal.
Valerie has been content writing since 2016 for websites and companies all around the world. A traveler, dancer, martial artist, Valerie loves gathering experiences and wisdom. Her travels have taken her to over 20 countries, and she hopes to see more of the world soon.