Can Chickens Chow Down on Kitty Kibble? The Answer May Surprise You!


Chickens are omnivores and can consume a variety of food sources. Their natural diet consists of seeds, insects, plants, and small animals. However, when raised on farms or in backyards, chickens are typically fed a commercial feed that is nutritionally balanced for their health and egg/meat production needs. The question of whether chickens can eat cat or dog food is an interesting one. While chickens may enjoy the taste of cat or dog food and eat it readily, there are important considerations about the nutritional suitability and potential health risks involved.

This article will provide an overview of chickens’ nutritional requirements, the typical ingredients in commercial chicken, cat and dog foods, and the pros and cons of feeding cat or dog food to chickens.

Natural Chicken Diet

In their natural environment, chickens are omnivores and will forage on a wide variety of foods. According to What Do Chickens Eat In The Wild? by, chickens will eat seeds, plants, insects, worms, snails and small animals in the wild.

Chickens enjoy eating grass, leaves, seeds, berries, bugs and worms when roaming freely outdoors. As described on, some of the insects chickens love to forage for include crickets, flies, spiders, ticks, caterpillars, grasshoppers, grubs and beetles.

As explains, chickens are natural foragers that will eat a diverse diet when allowed to free range. This includes grazing on grass and pecking for seeds, fruits, vegetables, and protein sources like worms, insects and small rodents.

Key Nutritional Needs of Chickens

Chickens require balanced nutrition to stay healthy and productive. Their key nutritional needs include:


Protein is essential for growth, egg production, and feather development. Laying hens require 15-20% crude protein in their diet. Meat birds require 18-22% at starting and 16-20% in the finishing phase. Good protein sources include soybean meal, canola meal, corn, and fish meal (Nutrition for the Backyard Flock).


Carbs provide chickens with energy. Good carb sources are grains like corn, wheat, barley, and oats. Fiber from veggies also provides carbs. Laying hens need about 55-60% of diet from carbs (Nutritional Requirements of Poultry).

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins (A, D, E, and B complex) and minerals (calcium, phosphorus, sodium) are required for bone health, metabolism, and egg production. Common supplements in feed are limestone, oyster shell, and vitamin premixes (Nutrition for Backyard Chicken Flocks).

Chicken Feed Ingredients

Commercial chicken feeds typically contain a variety of ingredients to meet the nutritional needs of chickens. According to Organic Feeds, the top three ingredients in most bagged chicken feeds are corn, soybean meal, and wheat or wheat middlings. Other common ingredients include:

  • Grains: Corn, wheat, sorghum, oats, barley
  • Protein meals: Soybean meal, canola meal, cottonseed meal, sunflower meal
  • Fats and oils: Vegetable oil, animal fat
  • Vitamins and minerals
  • Amino acids
  • Enzymes
  • Prebiotics and probiotics
  • Medications and antibiotics (non-organic feed)

The specific ingredients and nutrient composition varies between feeds formulated for chickens at different life stages such as chicks, pullets, layers, and broilers. However, the basic nutritional needs of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals are met through some combination of the above ingredients.

Cat and Dog Food Ingredients

The main ingredients in most cat and dog foods include:

  • Protein sources: Meat, poultry, fish, eggs. Beef, chicken, salmon, turkey, and tuna are common proteins used. According to, high-quality cat and dog foods will have an identified meat, poultry or fish as the first ingredient, rather than a generic term like “meat” or “poultry meal”.
  • Carbohydrates: Grains like corn, wheat, rice, oats. Potatoes and sweet potatoes are also used.
  • Fats and oils: Chicken fat and fish oils are common sources.
  • Fiber: Beet pulp is a frequent fiber source.
  • Vitamins and minerals.
  • Preservatives.

Some lower quality foods may use meat by-products, artificial colors and flavors. recommends avoiding artificial preservatives like BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin as much as possible.

Nutritional Comparison

Chickens have unique nutritional requirements that are different from cats and dogs. According to research, chickens need a balanced diet that consists of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals to support egg production and growth [1]. Chicken feed is specially formulated to provide the right nutrition for chickens.

In comparison, cat and dog foods are designed to meet the nutritional needs of felines and canines, which differ from chickens. Cats are obligate carnivores and require high levels of animal-based proteins and fat, while dogs are omnivores with a more balanced requirement of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates [2]. Both cat and dog foods have very different nutritional profiles from chicken feed.

While chicken feed contains around 16% protein, cat foods can contain up to 40% protein from animal sources. Dog foods contain around 22-27% protein. The fat content in chicken feed is around 3-5%, while cat and dog foods can range from 10-22% fat. Fiber levels are also much higher in chicken feed. In terms of carbohydrates, chicken feed contains around 50-70% from grains, whereas cat foods have very minimal carbs, and dog foods around 20-50% carbs.

Overall, the nutritional makeup of chicken feed, cat food, and dog food can vary significantly. Feeding cat or dog food to chickens would not provide the right balance of nutrients needed for their health and productivity.

Risks of Feeding Cat or Dog Food

There are some potential risks to feeding chicken cat or dog food regularly and in large quantities:

Nutritional imbalance – Cat and dog foods are formulated to meet the specific nutritional needs of cats and dogs, which differ from chickens. Key nutrients like calcium, protein, and others may be present in improper ratios for chickens if fed cat or dog food exclusively. This can lead to health issues over time [1].

Weight gain – Many cat and dog foods have higher fat contents compared to standard chicken feed. This can lead to excessive weight gain in chickens if feeding cat or dog food in large amounts [2].

Poor egg shell quality – The calcium to phosphorus ratio is carefully balanced in chicken feed. Dog and cat foods often have excessive phosphorus which can interfere with calcium absorption, leading to thin or weak eggshells.

Organ damage – Dog and cat food contains nutrients like vitamin D, copper, and selenium in higher concentrations suited for dogs and cats. Excess amounts can be toxic and cause organ damage in chickens over time.

Overall, it’s best to limit cat or dog food to occasional “treats” and rely primarily on a balanced chicken feed to meet nutritional needs.

Benefits of Feeding Cat or Dog Food

There are some potential benefits to feeding chickens cat or dog food in moderation. One main benefit is cost savings. Cat and dog food can often be purchased at a lower cost per pound than specialized chicken feed. This is especially true if you have cats or dogs and already have extra food on hand. According to Secret Life of Homesteaders, dog food can provide a cheap source of protein for chickens.

Another potential benefit is convenience. If you run out of chicken feed, having cat or dog food available can be an easy alternative to provide your chickens with some nutrients. Cat and dog food is readily available at many grocery stores and pet supply stores, making it easy to pick up in a pinch.

Some sources note that chickens seem to enjoy cat and dog food as a treat. The variety and different textures may be appealing to them. Feeding a small amount of cat or dog kibble from time to time can add some diversity to their diet. Just be sure not to let it become a staple.

Best Practices

If you do choose to feed your chickens some cat or dog food, here are some best practices to follow:

  • Only feed high-quality, natural cat or dog food. Avoid anything with artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives (Source)
  • Avoid dog foods with onion or garlic, which can be toxic to chickens (Source)
  • Only offer small amounts as a treat or supplement, not as a full meal replacement
  • Make sure chickens still have access to their regular feed and fresh water
  • Monitor chickens closely when introducing new foods to watch for any adverse reactions
  • Consider creating a mix of chicken feed and cat/dog food for balanced nutrition
  • Never leave cat or dog food unattended, as chickens may overeat
  • Remove any uneaten wet food within an hour to avoid spoilage

While cat and dog food can occasionally be fed to chickens, their regular diet should consist primarily of high-quality layer feed and fresh foods designed for chicken nutritional needs.


In summary, chickens can technically eat cat and dog food, but it should not become a regular part of their diet. Cat and dog foods contain higher levels of protein and fat than what chickens naturally need. While chickens may enjoy the taste of these foods, overconsumption can lead to obesity and other health issues. The best diet for a backyard chicken flock is a high-quality complete feed designed specifically for chickens, along with treats of garden produce, kitchen scraps, and insects. Backyard chickens should have continuous access to their proper feed at all times. Cat or dog food can occasionally be fed to chickens as a supplement or treat, but it should not exceed 10% of their total food intake. The primary nutrition for chickens should always come from an appropriate chicken feed.

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