We all know that chocolate is harmful to dogs, but a lot of people don’t know if it’s harmful to chickens. We will review the full answer and find out what to do if your chicken ingested chocolate.
No, chickens cannot eat chocolate. It can be lethal to them, so you should avoid intentionally feeding chocolate to your chickens. There are chemicals in chocolate that are toxic to chickens and can lead to cardiac arrest quickly.
The chicken’s body’s reaction to chocolate is all due to the chemistry of the chocolate. Let’s take a closer look at the fatality of chocolate.
What Causes the Damage?
There are two main ingredients that are toxic to chickens theobromine and caffeine. These two chemicals exist in chocolate, and a higher amount is present in darker chocolates.
Besides the toxicity of the chocolate, it also can’t be digested by the chicken. On top of that, the chocolate negatively affects the heart of your chicken. That means that if your chicken eats a small amount that doesn’t have enough toxins to kill them, they can still experience bowel blockages and cardiac arrest.
These lethal effects typically happen within a day, which means that you have to act fast.
Risks of Feeding Chocolate to Chickens
There are a lot of major risks associated with a chicken ingesting chocolate. The most notable effects are lethal (which will be discussed later), but what specific risks might you expect?
Chocolate does not play nicely with a chicken’s heart. Their heart rate will immediately spike because a chemical in chocolate reduces the number of red blood cells in a chicken’s body. This means that oxygen can’t get to their body, so their heart starts pumping blood faster.
Vets also believe that the increased heartbeat could have to do with their biological response to their body ingesting a toxin. It goes into a state of shock and panic.
Depending on the amount eaten, this increased heartbeat can lead to cardiac arrest and failure.
Another scary side effect of chocolate ingestion is seizures. This time, it’s due to another property in the caffeine and theobromine in the chocolate. These chemicals disturb the central nervous system and suppress synapses in the chicken’s spine.
What does that mean? It means that the chicken’s brain will start sending emergency signals that result in the sporadic firing of their nerves. Hence, the chicken will start experiencing seizures.
These can also be fatal, but if they occur early enough in the process, it might be a good warning to rush your chicken to the vet.
Since the chocolate can’t be digested by your chicken, it can lead to kidney failure. The same is true for any food that can’t be digested by the body.
Since their body can’t excrete the food, their body doesn’t know what to do with the chocolate. Their body will become overloaded, and the brunt of the work will be forced on the kidneys.
With animals of this size, their bodies aren’t used to processing so many toxins so quickly. The toxins will win the battle, and their kidneys will fail.
When all else fails, their body will attempt to rid itself of the chocolate. This comes in the form of diarrhea.
The same is true in humans – diarrhea is the body’s last-ditch effort at relieving itself of a dangerous food or beverage. When the body doesn’t like what it came in contact with, it will use diarrhea to expel everything out of the stomach.
This, of course, leads to dehydration. If your chicken goes through a bout of diarrhea, make sure they have extra water to supplement their dehydration.
Panic alone is typically not enough to kill your chicken. There are other symptoms that can be triggered by panic that wind up being fatal, though.
However, panic is the one symptom that gives you an indicator that something is wrong before it gets too bad. There are a number of reasons why the chicken will panic after eating chocolate. The toxins, chemical responses, and their body’s reaction to the other symptoms listed above can all cause them to panic.
If your bird is acting stressed, fidgety, or flighty – this might be an indication that something is wrong. If there is any hint that they ingested chocolate, it’s time to act fast.
How Much Chocolate is Safe to Eat?
If you realize that your chicken accidentally ate some chocolate, you’re probably wondering if they’re going to be okay. You now know that it’s toxic and lethal, but at what quantity?
The scary answer is there’s no finite amount that’s lethal. The smallest amount of very dark chocolate can be as lethal as a large amount of lighter chocolate.
The general consensus is that a few pecks typically don’t prove to be immediately fatal. Anything more than that, and you could be in trouble.
What to Do If Your Chicken Ate Chocolate
Your chicken had more than a few bites of chocolate. Before you panic, it’s important to stay calm – this isn’t your fault.
The first thing you can do is keep a close eye on your chicken. Are they acting strangely? Did you physically see them eat a lot of chocolate? If that’s the case, then there sadly isn’t a lot that you can do on your own.
The best bet here would be to take your chicken to your local vet. Remember that chocolate can prove to be quickly fatal, so you shouldn’t waste too much time. That being said, it’s never wise to take medical decisions into your own hands and try to fix the situation on your own. You might wind up making things worse and decreasing the chicken’s chance of survival.
Questions from the Vet
If you fear that your chicken ate too much chocolate and you call the vet, what kind of questions might they ask?
Firstly, they will ask what symptoms your chicken is showing. Be as succinct and extensive as you can be. They can be displaying symptoms that weren’t listed above, and this can be a clue to your vet.
They will wonder how recently the chocolate was ingested. In this question, they’re looking to see how quickly the chicken’s condition progressed. A very aggressive timeline might mean that there’s nothing that can be done in time.
Another question they might ask is revolving around the quantity that the chicken ate. Of course, you might not know the answer to this question. If the chicken ate the chocolate unsupervised, all you can give is your best guess – and this can be insightful enough to the vet.
What type of chocolate? Was it a bar, little pieces, or just a dusting of chocolate? Additionally, they’ll want to know how dark the chocolate was so they know how many toxins are currently in your chicken.
To find the ratio of toxins in your chicken’s body, the vet might ask the weight of the chicken. Equally, they may weigh the chicken when they examine it. As you can expect, a lighter chicken is more susceptible a certain amount of chocolate than a heaver one is.
It’s worth understanding that the vet isn’t judging you, nor are they going to attack you. It’s important that you’re honest in this situation. Either you didn’t know any better or the chicken ate it unsupervised. At any rate, it was an accident and it wasn’t your fault.
What About Chocolate as a Treat?
Owning a flock of chickens usually means that they get an occasional treat. Alternatively, maybe they get the scraps from your dinner table just so you don’t waste them.
In humans, chocolatey treats are always a delicious reward and something to look forward to. However, it’s no worth the risk in your chickens. You learned earlier that chocolate can be very dangerous, and even the smallest amount can prove fatal.
That means that even chocolate used in baked goods or other treats can be dangerous. It’s imperative that you avoid chocolate going anywhere near your chicken. The less they are exposed to chocolate, the higher their chance of survival is. There are definitely better treats that you can be feeding them!
Why Did my Chicken Eat Chocolate if they Know It’s Dangerous?
If you’ve owned chickens long enough, you probably already know the answer to this question. Chickens are always looking foraging and looking for food. They’re also very curious little animals.
When something comes under their beak, they assume it’s food. They try to peck and eat everything they come in contact with. Chocolate is no exception.
That’s where the scary part comes in. Even foods that are highly toxic and lethal to chickens, they will happily eat. Oftentimes, their body doesn’t register the toxicity until it’s too late, and they don’t have the developed ability to understand what foods are harmful.
Just because your chicken ate something, it doesn’t mean that it understands the impact. In other words, your chicken can routinely eat toxic and dangerous food and will never react differently to the food. They are an animal that is looking to survive, and that means constantly eating food.
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