Can Chickens Eat Bread?

Can Chickens Eat Bread? Chickens are remarkable creatures that frequently serve as the garbage disposal for a small homestead or farm. The chicken digestive system is designed in such a way that it can accommodate a wide variety of foods. While they are frequently found stirring up dirt searching for bugs and worms, they also consume other meats and vegetables. However, what about bread? Is this something your chickens should eat? Can Chickens Eat Bread? Bread is safe to feed chickens. They may eat fresh or stale bread of any variety; however, moldy bread should not be provided.

Bread is a Favorite Treat for Chickens

The majority of chickens adore bread. They are typically not picky either. They will consume white or wheat bread, stale or fresh. Indeed, if you have whole grain bread, the kind with all the yummy tiny seeds, your chickens will be eternally grateful. The thing about bread is that it does not provide much nutrition for a chicken. This means that, while it is an excellent treat, it should probably not be used as the sole source of food.

Restrict the Amount of Bread Fed to Baby Chicks

Due to bread’s low nutritional value, it should not be fed to baby chicks. To grow properly, young chicks require a high protein diet. While bread is an excellent treat for adult hens and roosters, it is deficient in protein. Indeed, most white pieces of bread contain only 2-3 grams of protein per slice. (source)

While chicks are typically fed free choice (as much as they want) high protein chick starters, the protein variations between the two feeds are apparent. As illustrated in the table below, while some bread varieties contain more protein than others, they do not include nearly as much as chick starters.

FeedProtein Percentage
Chick Starter18 – 20%
White Bread7.3%
Multi-Grain Bread7.7 – 8.8%
Wheat Bread9.1%
Wheat / Oat Bread9.6%
Italian Bread9.6%
Can Chickens Eat Bread?

Mycotoxins in Moldy Chicken Food

As a general rule, avoid feeding moldy or spoiled bread. While many chicken owners report doing so without incident, the risk is unquestionably not worth it. Moldy food contains mycotoxins, which can be harmful to your chicken’s health. Indeed, Mississippi State University reports that this toxin can cause a condition known as mycosis or thrush in crops. (source) While the situation is treatable, it is preferable to avoid the problem in the first place. Additionally, you want to prevent chickens from inhaling mold. Molds can cause severe infections in both chicks and humans, depending on the type.

Decreased Egg Production

Marisabel Caballero, Global Technical Manager Poultry at EW Nutrition, demonstrated in a 2018 study that mycotoxicosis can reduce egg production in hens after three weeks of continued exposure, even if the exposure is mild. 

According to the researcher, the most likely cause of decreased egg production is a decrease in the chicken’s ability to utilize protein due to liver tissue degeneration.

Poor Eggshell Quality

Bread is also low in protein and calcium. This can affect the quality of eggshells produced by your hens. To produce healthy, strong eggshells, hens must have access to an adequate supply of calcium. Feeding them an excessive amount of bread may cause them to become satiated on bread and reduce their consumption of layer mash. While a few days of bread should not cause any adverse health effects, using bread as the sole source of chicken feed for an extended period may result in brittle and easily broken eggs than usual.

Adding Bread into Chicken Treats

It is acceptable to give bread to adult chickens as a treat; it helps to think creatively about ways to spice things up for your hens. Here are some creative ways to incorporate bread into your chicken’s diet as a treat.

Warm Bread Mash

On icy mornings, try making a warm bread mash for your chickens. To accomplish this, incorporate bread into your regular feed and combine it with hot water. Add other chicken-safe foods such as zucchini, cucumber, and pumpkin to spice things up. You can even add crushed eggshells for added calcium if desired.

DIY Chicken Bread

Are you accustomed to making your bread at home? If you enjoy channeling your inner baker, consider creating a special loaf for your chickens. Incorporate chicken-safe vegetables, crushed eggshells for calcium, seeds, and grains into your diet. When you make your own “chicken bread,” it’s a treat you can feel good about feeding, and your entire flock will enjoy it.

Make At Home Flock Block

Bread is an excellent addition to a homemade flock block. These hardened chicken treats are ideal for providing chickens with something to peck at and browse all day. Consider incorporating chicken-safe fruits and vegetables. Flock blocks are tricky chicken treats that are excellent for reducing chicken boredom. Whether your chickens are confined to a small area or are allowed to roam freely, they generally appreciate access to this delectable treat.

Why Should You Feed Your Chickens Bread?

Your chickens will consume either white or brown bread. When it comes to eating bread, they are typically less picky than other domestic animals. They will almost certainly scramble for both fresh and stale bread, oblivious to the minor distinctions between the two. Most importantly, their digestive systems are well-equipped to deal with this type of treatment. This raises the question of the digestive anatomy of a chicken. Can Chickens Eat Bread?

In comparison to other farm animals, chickens have a unique digestive system. To begin, they tear pieces of bread or other food into small pieces and swallow them. The food is then gathered in a crop located just below their necks. The crop serves as a food reservoir before being transported to the other parts of the body for digestion. When it is fully developed, this organ is visible from the outside. Additionally, it creates a bulge below the neck and on the bird’s front side.

The food travels down from the crop to the intestines. It is then combined with digestive juices produced by the various glands that comprise their digestive system. A portion of the food is digested further in the gizzard. This illustrates the contents of your chicken’s digestive system.

In response to why your chickens require bread, you should be aware that this treatment is primarily an energy source. Your birds need this energy to maintain their activity and vitality throughout the day. And the simplest way to keep them energized is to provide them with enough bread.

Why should you not feed your chickens bread?

Bread can quickly form balls inside the crop of your chicken. When this occurs, your birds will suffer catastrophic blockages, which will be detrimental to their health. To avoid such dangerous situations, you must always provide water in strategic locations easily accessible to your birds. Another reason not to feed bread to chickens is the spread of chronic cases within their crops. How did this issue arise?

Bread is typically made with yeast and sugar, among other ingredients. These two components can ferment within the crop of your chicken. Fermentation produces necessary substances, increasing the crop’s pH level. Increased pH will almost certainly affect the growth of bacteria and other microbiomes within the crop. What happens next may endanger your chicken. Thus, changes in pH can result in various chronic conditions, such as sour crop, which is notoriously difficult to treat. Can Chickens Eat Bread?

Although such a scenario may sound frightening, the likelihood of your chickens becoming infected is highly isolated. In other words, you are free to continue feeding them loaves of bread. All that is required is that you break bread loaves into smaller pieces before passing them to your flock.

Alternatively, you can soak bread in apple cider vinegar for a few minutes before feeding it to your birds. When apple cider vinegar is used to soak the bread, it serves two essential functions. First, it increases the acidity of this treat, which aids in maintaining the crop’s pH. Second, it softens the bread for easier digestion while also breaking up the fibers to prevent balling in the crop.

Once you’ve implemented this simple trick, there should be no reason why you can’t make your birds happy when you feed them bread. However, it would help if you did not consider it the only food source for your chicken. Rather than that, keep it as a treat that you can incorporate into their primary diet.

Can You Feed Your Baby Chicks Bread?

Without a doubt! Baby chicks, like mature chickens, can eat bread. On the contrary, you should limit your chicks’ bread consumption. This should come as no surprise if you truly understand what your small birds require.

They deserve protein-rich foods because they are growing and developing. Unfortunately, bread, mainly white bread, does not contain an adequate amount of protein for your baby chicks. Each slice of basic white bread contains only about 3 grams of protein. This amount is insufficient to assist your chicks in growing and developing as you wish. Due to the minimal nutritional value of bread, only adult chickens should be fed, not baby chicks. You should provide your chicks with foods that are high in protein. Following is a complete list of proteins found in different types of bread compared to the chick starter feed:

  • 18-20 percent of Chick Starter
  • 7.3 percent of White Bread
  • 9.1 percent of Wheat Bread
  • 7.7-8.8 percent of Multi-Grain Bread
  • 9.6 percent of Italian Bread
  • 9.6 percent of Wheat or Oat Bread

As you may have noticed, bread contains a negligible amount of protein compared to chick starter feed.  

Why Should You Not Feed Your Chickens Moldy Bread?

  • Always keep in mind that moldy bread is not a good choice for your chickens. Unfortunately, most chicken owners feed moldy or spoiled bread to their flock, claiming that there are no negative consequences. This is not worth it, as they are endangering them.
  • Moldy foods, especially bread, contain mycotoxins, which are highly toxic to chickens. If you allow your chickens to eat moldy bread, mycotoxins can cause serious health problems. This toxin has the potential to cause severe conditions such as mycosis or thrush. While treatable, this condition harms the crop, which impairs food digestion.
  • Another reason to stop feeding moldy bread to your birds is to keep them from inhaling mold. Whatever type of mold is present, this type of fungi can cause severe problems in humans and chickens. 

Some problems with feeding your chickens moldy or spoiled bread.

Low Egg Production

Numerous studies have demonstrated that after three weeks of exposure, mycotoxicosis is likely to reduce egg production. The effect is similar irrespective of the level of exposure. The decreased egg production is most likely due to the hen’s inability to utilize the protein. This inability to use protein is caused by the degeneration of the liver tissue in the affected layer.

Poor Quality of Eggshells

Feeding your layers of bread will have little effect on the quality of their eggs. Bread is deficient in protein and calcium. These two nutrients contribute significantly to the quality of an egg, particularly the eggshell. Thus, the protein and calcium deficiency in bread affects the formation of eggshells.

Good quality eggshells 

Eggshells require that layers have consistent access to sufficient calcium. Providing your layers with an excessive amount of bread is not a good idea. This may cause them to feel fuller after eating bread and consequently consume less layer mash. This doesn’t mean, however, that you should stop feeding your hens bread. This means that you should feed them bread sparingly so they can consume more layer mash. You are consuming more layer mash than bread results in eggs of superior quality with strong eggshells.

Chicken Digestive Anatomy

For those unfamiliar with chicken anatomy and digestion, chickens have a crop at the base of their necks that collects food after they eat it. It acts as a holding area for food before it is digested. When a chicken’s crop is full of food, you can see a visible bulge on its front.

Food then travels to their stomach, combined with digestive juices before being chewed up in their gizzard. The gizzard of a chicken is where food is broken down using the grit they also consume. It’s as if their internal muscles are grinding the food, a fascinating and little-known fact about how chickens break down and digest food. They are intelligent birds; they will acquire grit when they require it, depending on the amount of “chewing” needed for the food in their stomachs.

This explains why baby chick food is finer than adult food and why they do not require grit. When you transition them to adult feed and begin feeding them table scraps, such as bread, chickens need the grit to break up the food.

How often can you feed your chickens’ bread? 

You can occasionally give your chickens bread as a treat. Bread is deficient in the majority of the nutrients that your chickens require. As a result, it is pointless to use it as the primary diet for your chicken. 

Which nutrients are found in bread? 

Bread contains a high concentration of nutrients that aid in the growth and health of your chickens. Vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and carbohydrates are among these nutrients. Additionally, bread is low in cholesterol and fat. Bear in mind that all breads are highly nutritious, not just for humans but also for your birds. 

Conclusion

Chickens are bread lovers. It makes no difference whether it is stale or fresh. Ensure that it is not moldy. Your chickens will enjoy this treat, even though it lacks the majority of essential nutrients. This means you should avoid using it as their primary source of nutrition. Rather than that, your flock should consume it sparingly.  See also What is a group of turkeys called?