There are so many things that chickens can’t eat, so it’s wise to wonder if fish is on that list. This is especially helpful for people who have ponds of fish in their yard and are curious if their chickens will hunt them.
Yes, chickens can eat fish. In fact, fish is very good for them and can help out a ton. They seem to really enjoy eating fish, and there are a lot of reasons why you should feed fish to your chickens.
They can eat a lot of different fish, and each has its own nutritional value. Let’s take a closer look.
Aren’t Chickens Vegetarians?
There’s a big misconception about chickens. People think they are vegetarians because they primarily eat chicken feed. The truth is that a chicken in the wild isn’t too picky about what they eat. Even when they appear to be grazing on the grass, they are also pecking at bugs and worms nearby.
If a flock of chickens encounters a dead animal in nature, they will eat the animal. It’s all about survival for the chicken. Their bodies have the ability to eat meat just as well as vegetables.
As you raise chickens, you’ll soon realize that they’ll eat anything. They don’t have many restraints when it comes to their dining. This is good news for people looking to feed scraps to chickens. Just be cautious and make sure you understand how the chicken reacts to different foods.
Meat provides a lot of added bonuses for chickens, and they love it.
Benefits of Eating Fish
Chickens love eating fish, and owners should love it too. There are a lot of great reasons why you should consider feeding your chicken fish.
Lots of Protein
A lot of people know it, but fish has tons of protein in it. Protein is used in chickens for growth, egg production, and other biological reasons.
Chickens use up protein on a daily basis. This means that they need to have constant sources of protein, and that’s why feeding meat to your chicken is always a good idea.
The quality of the protein in the food also changes how the chicken reacts to the food. Lower-quality protein doesn’t seem to have the same great effects that high-quality protein has. In fish, you have plenty of high-quality protein.
Most feeds should have protein in it, but it’s always a good idea to supplement fish to get extra.
Fish is Rich in Nutrients
A lot of fish are rich in nutrients. Depending on the type of fish, you’ll find different nutrients that help chickens. You’ll find vitamins and minerals that help the overall health of a chicken in every bite of fish.
Boosts the Immune System
When a chicken enjoys fish, it will have a stronger immune system. This is because the probiotics in fish mesh well with the biome in the chicken’s gut. By adding fish, it makes the gut stronger.
The gut is the central point of a chicken’s immune system. It will be able to process food better and result in fewer sicknesses over time.
What About Raw Fish?
Yes, chickens can eat raw fish. Just as humans can eat sushi, there are no downsides for chickens. This might save you some time on prep work, but just make sure the fish is fresh.
Most chickens don’t seem to have a preference for raw vs. fresh fish, so it’s really up to you. In cases where you just want to feed scraps to your chicken, then raw isn’t going to be the best option.
Another idea to consider is to start up a small pond on your property. Fill it with the types of fish that your chicken will like (preferably small ones). When the fish is large enough, take it from the pond and give it right to your chickens.
Downside of Eating Fish
Owners of hens who eat too much fish report that the eggs have a fishy taste. This is an unexpected downside of feeding fish to your chickens. For most flocks, you won’t notice the discrepancy in taste.
Bad Fish for Your Chicken
It also depends on what type of fish you feed to your chickens. Certain kinds don’t have as many nutrients, and they’ll wind up being too fatty for the given protein. Salmon, mackerel, and herring are high-fat options. Limit how much of these types you give them.
Fat should never make up more than 5% of your chicken’s total intake. Opting for a fatty fish means that you can only give them a little bit at a time. Too much fat will lead to a whole host of problems down the road, most notably organ failure and death.
Another type of fish to avoid is any type that is high in mercury. An unofficial list of fish to avoid feeding your chicken is King Mackerel, Marlin, Orange Roughy, Shark, Swordfish, Tilefish, And to not eat tuna too regularly.
Good Fish for Your Chicken
With the bad fish out of the way, what are some good fish? A good fish has a high nutritional value, low fat, high protein, and a lot of minerals. Some of the best fish you can feed your chicken are Cod, Haddock, Pollock, Tuna, Halibut, Tilapia, Shellfish (Shrimps/Prawns), Minnows, Feeder Gold Fish, Catfish, Bluegill, Carp, and Bass.
You’ll find a lot of these fish at the grocery store, and you might even have some in your fridge. The same reasons that humans love it are the reasons why it’s great to give to your chickens.
You don’t even need to buy fish, especially for your chickens. You can just give them the scraps from your kitchen (granted, the type of fish is safe to eat).
Can Chickens Eat Fish Bones?
How careful should you be when you feed fish to your chickens? You’ll be pleased to hear that chickens can eat fish bones.
As long as the bones aren’t too large or sharp, that is. If they are, then they can cause damage to the throat and internal organs of the chicken. The bones can splinter on their way down and get lodged in the chicken’s throat.
If you want to avoid damage, you can either break up the bones or just throw away the large bones. For smaller bones, like sardines, you don’t have to worry. You can feed a whole fish to a chicken in this case.
Chickens have a pretty strong digestive system. Of course, there are foods that are highly toxic to them and need to be avoided, but fish bones are not one of them. Their digestive tract is strong enough to handle breaking down small and soft bones without any real problems.
What About Shellfish Shells?
The same is true for shellfish shells. Your crayfish and shrimp shells are in good hands around a chicken. They can eat them without a problem. You can serve cooked shrimp with the shell still on, and your chickens will enjoy it.
Chickens might also peck through the shell to get to the meat inside the fish. They are smarter animals than you might realize, and they understand how to get to the layer of food they’re interested in.
How to Serve Fish to Chicken
Chickens aren’t going to hunt fish that are on your property. That being said, you need to understand how to properly serve fish to chicken.
The main thing to remember is that a chicken’s diet needs to be balanced. Fish has a lot of helpful nutrients and proteins, but it also has fats that can be dangerous. The best practice is to only feed a little bit of fish to your chicken.
Fish should be considered a treat. You don’t want treats to make up more than 15% of your chicken’s daily intake. Fish can be added to your flock’s typical feed, or it can be given as an occasional treat.
Due to the helpful properties of fish, it might be a good idea to feed your chickens a little bit of fish (or other meat) on a daily basis. It has the protein and nutrients that lead to a healthier overall life.
Can Chickens Eat Fish Whole?
You might be surprised by this answer, but yes – chickens can absolutely eat whole fish. They can consume and digest the scales, tail, head, bones, and meat. Nothing is off-limits for the chicken.
This makes serving fish a little easier. You can throw a whole fish to the flock without worrying about them getting poisoned or dying by it.
A whole fish can be served raw or cooked, and the chickens will love it either way. If there’s a bone that’s too big for a chicken to eat, they will typically just peck the bone clean of meat.
Chickens are pretty intuitive, for the most part. They aren’t usually going to tackle a bone that’s too large for them to handle. Even with that in mind, there are still occurrences where fishbones will splinter or get stuck in the digestive tract. The risk isn’t super big for issues like this, but it’s still worth understanding.
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