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Can Chickens Eat Popcorn? Safe Feeding Tips?

Popcorn is touted as a wonderfully crunchy snack that can be served up a dozen ways. From popcorn slathered in movie theater butter to healthy, air-popped options at home, there seems to be a kind of popcorn for every occasion. You may think that your flock would love to sample some of your buttered or cheesy popcorn, because what bird doesn’t love corn? However, you have to ask, “Can chickens eat popcorn?”

Let’s take a look.

Can Chickens Eat Popcorn?

chickens flock on backyard

When you are thinking about giving your chickens a treat, one thing you should ask yourself is if that food is accessible to them in the wild. That is why certain fruits and vegetables are an excellent choice. Popcorn, on the other hand, is not a naturally occurring part of a chicken’s diet and is often categorized under “snacks” or “junk food.”

Chickens can certainly eat popcorn, but it’s not the best snack for them to have. Plain popcorn without any seasonings, butter, or flavorings is the best option for chickens. Regular popcorn is light yet has a decent amount of fiber, carbohydrates, and a little bit of protein.

However, chickens should never depend on popcorn as a main source of nutrition in their diet. Popcorn is not nutritionally dense enough for them, and any kind of flavored, salted, or buttered popcorn is too unhealthy for chickens to eat.

Can Baby Chicks Eat Plain Popcorn?

No, you should never baby chicks popcorn, even the plain kind older chickens can have. Baby chicks have weak digestive systems that would be unable to safely process popcorn. Plus, newborn chicks have specific nutritional needs. If you want your baby chicks to grow up strong and healthy, then you must feed them the right kind of food.

Additionally, popcorn tends to be too big for smaller chickens to handle. They may choke if they tried to eat it. In short, keep popcorn away from baby chicks and even bantam birds.

Does Popcorn Have Any Nutritional Benefit for Chickens?

Although chickens can eat popcorn, is it a healthy option for them? Popcorn on its own does not have a lot of off-putting ingredients. Air-popped varieties barely have any salt or sugar, if any. Making popcorn at home ensures that there is nothing but corn, but even raw corn can pose problems for chickens.

Popcorn does have some health benefits, including high amounts of fiber. Chickens do not require a lot of fiber to stay regular, but they do need fiber for digestion. Popcorn also contains minerals like iron, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, folate, and magnesium. While all these minerals play a role in keeping chickens healthy, magnesium is very important, because it is necessary for metabolizing carbohydrate and keeping bones strong.

hen and cock eat popcorn

The vitamins A, K, and E are also present in popcorn. Chickens need vitamins A, E, and K to keep their bodies functioning properly. When chickens don’t have enough vitamins A or E, they may experience lethargy and muscle weakness. Too little vitamin K results in poor blood clotting, which can lead to excessive blood loss from even a minor bump or cut.

Other Reasons To Give Chickens Popcorn

Sure, popcorn may not be the all-star treat for chickens. It doesn’t have a lot of nutritional value in small quantities. Therefore, you might not think popcorn is the best choice. That said, popcorn does have something other snacks do not: entertainment value.

Chickens need to be stimulated and entertained, just like people and other animals. Popcorn is not only a tasty treat, it’s also fun. You can treat new chickens to the yard with popcorn as a way to bond with them. Toss a kernel or two and watch the flock race back and forth. Hang strings of popcorn for your chickens to peck at throughout the day.

Keeping chickens busy minimizes poor behavior.

Why Entertaining Chickens Is Important

What does it mean to minimize poor behavior? Chickens who are bored or stressed tend to act out in ways you wouldn’t believe. If your flock is making more noise but laying less eggs, it could mean they are stressed out. Short term stress is not always a bad thing, but it can impact your business, if you have one, long term. Plus, as your chickens get more stressed and have no release, they could resort to feather-picking, fighting, untimely death, and even cannibalism.

Yes, you read that right.

So how do you keep your chickens entertained and happy? With treats like popcorn. Again, despite popcorn not being a superfood, it is crunchy, tasty, and fun to eat. Not even chickens can resist popcorn, especially when you are tossing it to them or scattering it around the yard for them to find.

Can Chickens Have Popcorn Kernels?

Whether chickens can have kernels is not as easy to answer as whether they can eat popcorn. Some chicken owners will tell you that the kernels are safe while others will say never to give a chicken popcorn kernels. But it’s just corn, isn’t it?

Turns out that popcorn kernels are not entirely safe. The kernels are incredibly hard and difficult for chickens to swallow, which can lead to digestive issues and choking. Furthermore, the nutrition in popcorn kernels is less bioavailable.

If you want to give your chickens popcorn kernels, it is recommended that you break down the kernels a little bit to make a grit.

Is Salted Popcorn Safe for Chickens?

No, you should not give your chickens salted popcorn. It may seem like a good idea, because chickens need salt, but it isn’t. Salt is essential to your flock’s diet. Sodium keeps the thyroid functioning properly and also helps with nutrition, but too much of it causes a lot of problems. Chicken feed comes with an adequate amount of salt for your chickens, so you don’t have to worry about supplementing it.

Giving your chickens more salt than what is above the recommended amount could impact their kidneys. Since the kidneys won’t be able to filter out the excess salt, some chickens may develop kidney disease. Therefore, it is best practice to give your chickens salt-free snacks.

Can Chickens Eat Buttered Popcorn?

Highly fattening foods, like salt, are not recommended for chickens. Buttered popcorn may not be as fattening as ice cream or cake, but it will still affect your chickens’ stomachs. The high amount of calories will also negatively impact your flock.

The other reason butter is bad for chickens is because birds lack the enzyme necessary for breaking down dairy, including milk and cheese. Should your chickens eat butter or other dairy products, they will soon struggle with diarrhea, bloating, dehydration, and lethargy.

What About Flavored Popcorn?

white popcocrn

There are so many different kinds of popcorn available these days. Sweet popcorn, caramel popcorn, cheesy popcorn, and other dessert-flavored variations. These popcorn products are pumped up on chemical and natural flavorings, as well as artificial sweeteners, dyes, and sugar. All of these things are highly unhealthy for poultry.

Too much sugar will cause weight gain in your flock. Obese chickens tend to produce less eggs.

Sugary items, including caramel corn and other flavored popcorn variations, are on the Do Not Feed list for chickens. Other items on the list include chocolate, avocado, uncooked rice and beans, salty processed snacks (pretzels, potato chips), green or sprouted potatoes, and green tomatoes.

Also, do not assume that treating your chickens once in a while to a piece of caramel corn is a good idea. Sugar is addictive, as many people know, and will make your chickens picky. In short, avoid popcorn that contains any artificial sweeteners, sugar, or crazy flavorings.

How to Make Healthy Popcorn For Chickens?

Making popcorn and giving it to your chickens is easy. You can purchase microwave popcorn or even bags of popcorn from the grocery store. Again, it is important that you use unsalted and unflavored popcorn. The snack should also be made with a minimum amount of preservatives and additives.

If you want healthier popcorn, purchase the kernels and make the popcorn at home. You can either air-pop the corn with a pan or use a popcorn machine. Either way, the process does not take too long. Again, avoid air-popping the corn with any amount of oils or seasonings. Make sure the popcorn has cooled completely before giving it to your chickens.

Prepare popcorn for your chickens once or twice a week. Some fun ways to treat your chickens with popcorn include:

  • Scattering the popcorn around the yard
  • Stringing up the popcorn like garland
  • Mixing popcorn together with chicken feed
  • Creating a popcorn trail mix with dried fruits, veggies, and mealworms

Lastly, make sure you are picking up any uneaten portion of popcorn before turning in for the evening. Popcorn is not only popular with chickens but with predators, like raccoons. Leaving out any food or treats overnight runs the risk of inviting unwanted visitors into the yard or, worse, the chicken coop.

Final Thoughts on Popcorn For Chickens

Can chickens eat popcorn? They can but only if the popcorn is unsalted and not buttered. You do not want any flavorings on the popcorn either, because those can adversely affect your chickens. That said, popcorn doesn’t have much nutritional value for chickens, only entertainment value, so be sure to use popcorn sparingly and mix it with other high quality food.