One of the best parts about keeping a backyard flock of chickens is that you never have to worry about them being picky. Chickens will eat just about whatever you throw at them, whether the food is healthy or not. That is why knowing which table scraps and meats to toss their way is important to raising a healthy group of chickens. With that comes the questions, “Can chickens eat raw meat?” and “Is it safe for them?”
Grab your notepad, because here’s the beef on chickens and raw meat.
Can Chickens Eat Raw Meat?
Yes, chickens can eat raw meat. Chickens are omnivores, like dogs and humans. This means that they benefit from a diverse diet rather than a restricted one. While plant-based diets are healthy for chickens, throwing in some meat does them a world of good, too. Most free roaming chickens delight in snagging a wandering insect, rat, frog, mouse, or even bird eggs — and all of these are great sources of protein.
In fact, if you gave your chickens a choice between raw meat and carrots or apples, they would most definitely choose the meat first. Some people believe that this preference for meat came about during evolution, when carnivorous dinosaurs became birds. Plus, meat is high in calories, making it ideal for survival when plant-based options are scarce.
That said, while chickens love meat, raw meat has some risks involved. Yes, chickens eat raw meat all the time when roaming about the countryside. However, there is a difference between the mouse a chicken catches in the garden and the store-bought beef you brought home two days ago.
So be cautious when choosing the raw meat your chickens get. When in doubt, cooking up meat prior to feeding is best.
Types of Meat Chickens Will Eat
Do chickens need meat to survive? No, they don’t. That is why you should only give your flock meat as a treat. Do not give your chickens too much meat, be it cooked or raw, as they need a diet that is balanced. Make sure meat does not exceed 10% of their caloric intake throughout the week. The remaining 90% should be chicken feed.
To give you some insight on which types of meat are safe for chickens, here is a list:
Pork & Ham
Both pork and ham are safe for chickens to eat — but not raw. The pork must be cooked all the way through for safety. Chickens will happily peck at spare pork ribs, pork chops, and ham steaks. However, the latter should be consumed only in moderation, due to the high amount of sodium.
You should never give your chickens bacon or pork-based deli meats. Pepperoni and salami, for example, are both high in fat, salt, and ultra-processed.
While you might think it is odd for chickens to eat their own meat or maybe even cruel, it’s natural in the wild for chickens to peck at the carcasses of fallen comrades. There are many benefits to this practice, and the chickens don’t seem to mind.
Chicken meat is low in fat and high in protein, making it a good choice of raw meat for the wintertime. However, raw chicken meat comes with a number of risks, including food poisoning. It’s not recommended to give your flock raw chicken meat, unless it is fresh and organic.
Another lean meat that chickens love is turkey. Again, giving your chickens meat from other feathered friends may be strange to you, but it makes sense to them. Turkey meat is also high in protein and has minimal amounts of fat. However, turkey meat should never be given raw — only cooked without salt or other flavorings.
Also, never give your chicken turkey deli meats, as those are loaded with sodium and preservatives.
Yes, you can give raw beef to chickens, but it’s not recommended. Raw beef is loaded with microorganisms that can make your chickens incredibly ill. This is all the more likely if the raw beef isn’t fresh.
Cooked beef, including steak, is easier for chickens to digest and peck than uncooked beef.
If you raise animals for food, it may be a challenge using up all of the animal, including their organs. The good news is that the leftover hearts, livers, and other organs will be devoured by chickens in no time. Not only does this free you from having to compost meat byproducts, but you are also giving them nutritionally rich treats. For those who don’t raise animals for food, you can always pick up some cheap liver or other organs from the grocery store.
Oh, and the best part? Many of the organ meats, such as beef liver, can be served up with zero preparation! So yes, raw organ meats are more or less safe. Just make sure that they are eaten before the meat goes rotten and to clean up any leftovers.
Other Sources of Raw Meat
When it comes to raw meat, the sources are almost endless. As mentioned earlier, when chickens roam the yard freely, they will consume all kinds of raw meats. Snakes, spiders, small fish, frogs, bugs, and mice are commonly on the raw meat menu. You can rest assured that your chickens will keep all small pests away from the yard while they are on patrol.
Is Raw Meat Safe For Chickens to Eat?
Can chickens eat raw meat? You know the answer is yes. Now, let’s talk about some of the risks that may make you rethink offering the flock raw beef, turkey, chicken, or pork. Raw meat has the same risks for chickens as it does for humans. Eat something contaminated with microorganisms or bacteria, and you can get food poisoning.
Fresh meat that you know is uncontaminated may have a lower risk. Uncooked meat that sits at room temperature for longer periods, however, will see prolific bacteria growth. If your chickens eat raw meat with even a little rot, they may get diarrhea and other issues.
Raw meat also presents another challenge: toughness. Cooking meat essentially makes it easier to digest. Since chickens don’t have teeth, they have to swallow their meat sources whole. Raw meat is going to require a lot of effort to grind down and digest. Therefore, it is best to stay away from raw meat for chickens and cook it instead.
Benefits of Meat For Chickens
Depending on the kind of meat you are giving your chickens, the benefits will differ. The nutritional profile of chicken meat is different from beef, for example. That said, raw and cooked meat are both high in protein and nutrients. Growing chickens, in particular, need a lot of protein to develop fully. Protein is required in the formation and laying of eggs. Moreover, when a chicken molts, it needs even more protein to help grow its feathers back.
Many chicken owners also give their chickens some meaty treats during the winter. The high levels of protein and fat in meat energize the metabolism, keeping your chickens warmer on the coldest of days.
How Much Meat Should a Chicken Eat?
Being omnivores, chickens need a varied diet full of fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, and other foods. Meat alone will not provide your chicken with the vitamins and nutrients they need to stay healthy. In the event your chickens are unable to forage beyond the chicken run, adding a tiny bit of meat to their diet is a good idea. Otherwise, you can let your chickens free roam, and they will get enough raw meat to supplement their diet.
As stated previously, treats should be no more than 10% of a chicken’s diet. Let’s say you have about 12 chickens. Each chicken should receive about 4 tablespoons of meat 2-3 days a week. It doesn’t matter if the meat is ground up, minced, or served raw. Each chicken gets a maximum of 4 tablespoons.
How to Feed Meat to Your Flock
So now that you know that raw meat is not the best way to give meat to your chickens, let’s discuss some serving options. Whichever type of meat you have for your chickens, make sure it has been cut into small pieces. Any meat that shows signs of spoiling — discoloration, bad smell, slimy feeling — should be thrown away immediately.
Never give chickens spoiled or moldy food.
With that in mind, here are some serving ideas:
- Cook your meat thoroughly. Meat can be grilled, baked, boiled — which method is best for you. Avoid cooking the meat with oils, butter, salt, and other seasonings. Once the meat is cooked through has cooled down, you can slice it up and feed it to your chickens on a plate.
- Mix the meat in with their chicken feed.
- Toss scraps of meat together with fruits and vegetables.
- Hang meat skewers for your chickens to peck.
- Make meatballs — without any seasonings or oils.
Final Thoughts on Raw Meat
Can chickens eat raw meat? Yes, then can, and there are many healthy benefits to doing so. It doesn’t mean they should always have raw meat, though. There are some sources of raw meat, including frogs, insects, and mice, that are safe. However, you may want to avoid giving your chickens too much raw beef, pork, chicken, or turkey. Cooked meat is always safer, because it reduces the risk of food poisoning.
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.