Are Chickens Omnivores or Herbivores?

Chickens are omnivores, whether in the wild or in captivity. Wild chickens, for instance, usually forage for insects, seeds, and even small animals such as mice. Some wild chickens have been hunting for larger animals, including snakes and lizards.

Domestic chickens are also omnivores since their diet consists of various food items. Some of the favorite foods for domestic chickens include plant material, commercial feeds, and bugs. Wild and domestic chickens can eat various foods because of their omnivores’ nature, and they don’t have a specific diet.

What Do Chickens Typically Eat?

Chickens can eat virtually everything, whether these birds are living in captivity or in the wild. Therefore, chickens can feed on seeds, insects, snails, small reptiles, and earthworms. Some wild chickens have been foraging for larger reptiles, such as small snakes and lizards.

Chickens are opportunists, and they will happily forage grass seeds or peck at carcasses. Most chicken breeds thrive well when they are free-range. Free-ranging allows chickens to forage for a variety of food items that domestic chickens rarely find on their menu.

Free-ranging chickens can be advantageous for chicken keepers because they allow chicken owners to cut high feed costs. Furthermore, a free-range diet helps chickens supplement their diet with various food items that are great for their overall health. Below are some of the best food choices for chickens.

– Quality Feed

This is the best food for chicken keepers who keep their chicken indoors. A quality chicken feed should contain essential components to support your chickens’ overall health. The quality feed should have carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. It should also have substantial amounts of healthy fats and fiber.

Baby chicks should feed on a quality starter that contains more proteins because protein is vital in a chick’s initial growing stages. Both indoor and free-range hens, Hens need a layer feed with plenty of calcium and protein. The two are vital for boosting egg production in egg-laying hens.

– Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are some great vitamin sources for chickens. Chickens enjoy fruits because of their pleasant taste. Fruits such as apples, berries, bananas, and peels have a high vitamin C content. This vitamin will help boost your chickens’ immune system, protecting your birds from common diseases that wreck a chicken’s immune system.

Vitamin C also combats the adverse effect of stress in chickens, thus boosting their tolerance to stressful factors such as heat. Vegetables such as dandelions contain various vitamins, including vitamins A, C, K, and E. They also have mineral traces, including manganese and calcium, which aid digestion and promote bone health.

– Kitchen Scraps

Chickens can eat everything, including kitchen scraps. There are types of kitchen scraps that are suitable for chickens, both meat-producing and egg-laying chickens. For instance, your chickens will enjoy eating eggshells from your kitchen since they are edible and rich in calcium, which is specifically beneficial for laying hens.

Some types of good kitchen scraps to feed your chickens include cooked pasta, cooked rice, cooked vegetables, and meat scraps because meat scraps contain loads of protein. However, not all kitchen scraps are suitable for your chickens. Some food scraps containing processed foods, coffee grinds, and chocolate can harm your chickens over time.

– Scratch Feed

Scratch is another favorite food for chickens, especially egg-laying hens. It is a combination of a variety of seeds and grains. Scratch feed contains barley, sunflower seeds, wheat, and corn. Chickens, particularly free-range chickens, enjoy scratching and pecking at scratch feed because it satisfies their foraging nature.

Indoor chickens also enjoy scratching and pecking at scratch feed because it provides a suitable way of helping the chickens avoid boredom, contributing to negative behaviors such as fighting and egg eating. Scratch feed contains various minerals and nutrients that help boost chickens’ health and wellbeing.

– Mealworms

Mealworms are a fantastic food choice for chickens. First off, mealworms are an excellent source of protein for chickens. Chickens need protein, particularly during the annual molting process. Protein is essential for chickens during this period because it helps them regrow their feathers pretty fast.

Egg-laying hens also require substantial amounts of protein to boost their egg production. Without enough protein, your hens won’t lay eggs, especially in cold months when egg production is at its lowest due to cold. Meals are also rich in fat, which is essential for chickens in the winter because they can’t forage enough during these months due to freezing temperatures outdoors.

– Oatmeal

Oatmeal is one of the chickens’ favorite food items. Whether indoors or on free-range, chickens will enjoy pecking at oatmeal. Oatmeal isn’t only a delicious snack for chickens, but it also contains essential nutrients such as protein, which chickens desperately need for growth and egg production. Moreover, oatmeal has plenty of micronutrients that help keep chickens healthy.

Are Chickens Able to Digest Both Plant and Animal Matter?

Yes, chickens can digest both plant and animal matter because they are omnivores. Chickens won’t have problems digesting bugs, grass, and animals since their stomachs can digest both animal and plant matter.

Do Chickens Prefer One Type of Food Over the Other?

No, chickens have different types of favorite foods. Although chickens prefer bugs over plant material, they won’t mind eating plant material if there are no bugs around. Chickens will happily eat whatever you give them.

Can Chickens Survive on a Purely Plant-Based Diet?

Chickens will enjoy eating a plant-based diet. However, they won’t survive entirely on this diet because they need other types of foods with various minerals and nutrients. Your chickens can suffer from malnutrition if you feed them strictly on a plant-based diet.

Can Chickens Eat Other Animals?

Yes, chickens can eat other animals thanks to their omnivorous nature. They will happily eat smaller mammals such as rats and mice. They will also devour smaller reptiles, including lizards and smaller snakes.


Chickens are strictly omnivores creatures that will eat virtually everything. These birds can thrive on any food items, provided the food items aren’t toxic. While keeping chickens, you don’t have to mind what you give to your birds because they will feed on whatever comes their way. Nevertheless, ensure your chickens have a complete diet to boost their health.

avatar James
Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too. Learn more

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