Can Chickens Eat Chocolate?
Here’s a question for all of the chicken owners of the world: can chickens eat chocolate?
It’s a serious inquiry!
After all, if it’s potentially poisonous, illness-inducing, and even lethal for other pets, is it going to hurt your chickens?
Here’s what I discovered after researching the question.
- Can Chickens Have Chocolate?
- Why Can’t Chickens Eat Chocolate?
- Are All Kinds Of Chocolates Bad For Chickens?
- What Can Chickens Not Eat?
- How Much Chocolate Can Chickens Eat?
- Final Thoughts
Can Chickens Have Chocolate?
Fact: Chickens will eat just about anything.
This means you have to be careful what you feed them because you can usually count on them eating it, no matter what!
So can chickens have chocolate? In short: no. Absolutely not.
Chocolate falls firmly in the “do not feed this to your chickens” category.
Why Can’t Chickens Eat Chocolate?
Now, when it comes to things you shouldn’t feed your chickens, some things are discouraged for behavioral reasons, such as raw eggs.
Chocolate, whether it be dark chocolate, chocolate chips, or chocolate chip cookies, on the other hand, is bad for your chickens for a whole different reason. It contains theobromine, which is toxic to birds (and dogs and other pets, too!) (1)
If you feed hens chocolate, you won’t just be feeding a bad habit. It could actually be life-threatening.
Are All Kinds Of Chocolates Bad For Chickens?
With so many chocolates available, you’re probably wondering if there’s a safer choice for your chicken.
A bar of dark chocolate has a higher theobromine concentration because it uses more cocoa to achieve its dark brown color and bitter-sweet taste. Given even in small amounts, your hen can die right in front of your eyes.
It doesn’t matter if you give them dark chocolate or milk chocolate – any type of chocolate is bad for your chickens.
So, can chickens eat white chocolate?
The answer is still no. Little or too much chocolate is always bad.
Although white chocolate and milk chocolate uses less cocoa, it still contains theobromine. Plus, these types of chocolates have a higher amount of fat, calories, and sugar, which can fatten up your chickens in a bad way.
What Happens When Chickens Eat Chocolate?
When you’ve accidentally fed chocolate, your birds can be in danger.
Apart from being bad for their digestive tracts, chocolate can also affect their hearts and quickly lead to heart issues and even cardiac arrest. These consequences usually occur within a day.
Besides, chances are they won’t taste the sweetness of the sugar anyway (2).
Compared to mammals, chickens have fewer genes for taste receptors, e.g., lacking the taste receptor T1R2 for sweet…and the bitter taste receptor repertoire is small, consisting of only 3 members…
Simply put, your chickens don’t have the taste buds for sweets. So, if you have leftover chocolate cake, chocolate chips, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or any chocolate treats in your fridge, don’t give it to your flock, and just keep it for yourself.
You’ll be just wasting one of the tastiest treats in your pantry and killing your flock at the same time.
What Can Chickens Not Eat?
Aside from chocolate, caffeine is also bad for chickens. Both theobromine and caffeine are a part of methylated xanthines (3).
When consumed by your birds, caffeine, just like chocolate, can cause an irregular heartbeat. If it becomes too overwhelming for your hens, they may go into a seizure and suffer a heart attack.
Methylated xanthines can also affect the kidney.
The kidney will work harder to get rid of the substance. Your birds will pee more and experience dehydration.
If you’re wondering what else chickens can’t eat, you’re not alone. I found an excellent “what can’t chickens eat” list that names the top ten things to avoid.
Some of the classic ones include:
Here’s a great video that also breaks down some of the foods to avoid, as well as things that aren’t as big of a deal.
On the other hand, if you’re wondering “what do chickens eat naturally?” or “what makes good chicken food?”, check out our article on What to Feed Your Chickens, or our Ultimate Guide to Chicken Feed to help ensure your flock is well-fed and functioning optimally!
How Much Chocolate Can Chickens Eat?
If you’re wondering how much chocolate chickens can eat – as in, you accidentally gave them some and you want to know what to do about it – it comes down to quantity, although specific amounts are hard to nail down.
In general, you should be able to use your judgement. For example, if you need to know if chickens can eat chocolate cake, or scraps of anything else containing chocolate, a few pecks shouldn’t do them much harm.
On the other hand, if they downed several chocolate chips or half of a chocolate bar, you’re going to want to keep a sharp eye on them.
Unfortunately, there’s not too much you can do after they’ve eaten the chocolate other than removing the source and calling your local veterinarian.
So, can chickens eat chocolate? The short answer is no. You should never feed your chickens white chocolate, dark chocolate, or any chocolate.
It may sound like a great idea based on human experience, but chickens are not humans! They can die by ingesting chocolate.
Remember, chickens can eat almost anything, but they should never eat chocolate (and even some table scraps). Hens and roosters that eat chocolate can prove fatal.
However, if your chickens get a little bit of chocolate in their table scraps or by coming across some cake crumbs while they’re free-ranging, they will likely be okay. They’re resilient creatures!
Don’t give caffeine treats because your chickens can have a heart attack and kidney failure too. You should only feed chickens with safe and healthy treats.
Also, please consider sharing the post so we can help keep as much chocolate away from chickens (and in our own hands) as possible!
Yes, you can give your chicken treats but stay away from any kind of chocolate! As tempting as it is to give your birds a taste of your favorite sweet, don’t risk it! Besides, chickens lack the receptor to recognize anything sweet.
There are other healthier and safer food items in your pantry that you can give. Chickens will eat cooked and uncooked oats, melon, lettuce, peas, and more. Alternatively, you can pick up chicken treats from your local poultry supply.
Other foods that are toxic to chickens are uncooked or dried beans. It contains hemagglutinin, which can inhibit proper digestion in birds.
Don’t give them avocado pits and skin because persin is harmful too. Avocado flesh is, fortunately, safe for chickens.
You should also avoid giving your chickens garlic and onion because it has a negative impact on the flavor of eggs.
No, cocoa beans are not safe for chickens. Chocolates are made from cocoa. Feeding your hens with it is worse because theobromine and caffeine concentration is significantly higher than most store-bought chocolates. In short, don’t let your chickens eat that has too little or too much chocolate. Switch to a safer treat instead.
Chickens eat chocolate because they will eat anything. Since they have no clue that chocolate is harmful and toxic, they’ll just be happy to have something to peck, nibble, and eat. So, it’s your responsibility to avoid giving any kind of chocolate to them.
However, if there’s a chance that they stumble across a chocolate bar or chocolate crumbs while they’re foraging in your backyard, you should immediately consult with a poultry veterinarian.
- Theobromine as undesirable substances in animal feed. Retrieved from: https://efsa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.2903/j.efsa.2008.725
- An Update on the Sense of Taste in Chickens: A Better Developed System than Previously Appreciated. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5951165/
- Why Caffeine is Bad for Your Bird. Retrieved from: https://www.multiscope.com/hotspot/articles/caffeine.htm
Alex lives in the sustainability capital of Australia (Byron Bay) where the local community thrives and strongly supports self-sufficient living and green tech entrepreneurship. He began Eco Peanut in 2014 with the mission to spread bite sized sustainability advice to the masses.