Can Chicken Eat Bread? [Dangers, Types, & How to Feed Them]

Sharing leftovers with your flock has become a common practice in backyard chicken rearing, placing emphasis on being knowledgeable about what should or should not be shared with chickens. If bread happens to play a significant role in your diet, you may want to hold off on sharing any leftovers with them. Eating bread can potentially lead to crop impaction as well as slow digestion when given excessively.

Can Chickens Eat Bread?

Bread is not toxic for chickens if fed in moderation, and they will likely enjoy eating it. Chickens can eat stale, fresh, wheat, white, and homemade bread. That said, feeding chickens too much bread can cause crop impaction. 

If you’re confused about whether to feed your chickens bread, you’re in the right place. We’re going to look at the benefits, dangers, and how to feed them bread safely. 

Can You Feed Baby Chicks Bread?

Baby chicks can eat bread the same way that the adults do. However, it’s essential to limit the quantity you feed them. Tear the bread in small pieces and scatter it around the coop. You can also consider soaking it in water before feeding them.

Are There Any Benefits of Feeding Chickens Bread?

Unfortunately, bread is high in carbs and does not contain many healthy nutrients essential for your flock. However, this doesn’t stop chicken keepers from feeding their chickens gingerbread, and other types of bread.

Whole wheat bread will have higher amounts of fiber, while the Power Seed Organic Bread will contain more protein than white bread. 

That said, all types of bread should only be given as an occasional treat and shouldn’t be fed to your chickens daily.  

Nutritional Information of Wheat Bread

Below is a table of the nutritional information of one slice (25 grams) of wheat bread. 

NutrientQuantity
Protein2.7 grams
Folate21.3 mcg
Choline4.7 mg
Sugars1.4 grams
Dietary Fiber0.9 grams
Total Omega-3 Fatty Acids33.8 mg
Total Omega-6 Fatty Acids325 mg
Iron0.9 mg
Zinc0.3 mg
Sodium130 mg
Magnesium12.0 mg
Potassium46.0 mg
Vitamin K1.2 mcg

(Source)

The Dangers of Feeding Chickens Bread

But it is a highly absorbent food. When your chicken eats bread and follows it up with water before the bread has moved into the proventriculus, it will absorb the water and expand inside the crop. 

When this happens, the crop expands with it and presses on the esophagus. Eating bread can hinder your chicken’s digestive system from moving the food from the crop into the proventriculus.

How Does Bread Cause Crop Impaction in Chicken?

Crop impaction occurs when your chickens eat something that they cannot easily pass through their digestive tract. When your chicken consumes food, the first stop it makes is into the crop, which temporarily stores food before moving into the chicken equivalent of a stomach, the proventriculus.

Typically, crop impaction is more likely to be caused by your chicken eating a lot of fibrous foods like tall grass. However, foods that expand in size when your chickens drink water could also lead to crop impaction.

How Does an Impacted Crop Harm Chicken?

For one, your chicken won’t pass food into their stomach and properly digest the food. 

Since they can’t pass the food into their stomachs, where they would begin digesting it and get much-needed nutrients, the impacted crop will cause your chicken to lose weight from a decrease or absence of appetite.

They will often seem depressed to their owners and will physically present with an enlarged, hardened crop that can be both felt and seen protruding at the front of your chicken’s chest.

If impaction of the crop is left untreated, the food in the crop will eventually go bad, causing bacteria to build up and create a sour smell. When this happens, and your chicken’s condition is neglected for too long, it can eventually lead to their death.

How Does Bread Slow Down a Chicken’s Digestion?

Aside from causing issues early on in the digestive tract by potentially causing an impacted crop, it can also cause further digestive issues.

As you know, bread is made from wheat. Exactly how problematic wheat will be for your chicken’s digestive tract depends on the type of wheat and the consistency in which it is fed to your flock.

Certain varieties of wheat contain starches that are difficult for your chicken’s foregut to digest. Since these starches are harder to digest, it slows down their digestion.

It’s no secret that bread is high in starch, either. The starch can present a problem for your chicken and become a food source for gut bacteria to grow out of balance in the digestive tract. 

When the bacteria builds up, it will end up presenting as a sticky stool. So, depending on the type of wheat and how much you give them, your chicken can end up having digestive problems.

Can Chickens Eat Wheat Bread?

As mentioned above, not all wheat is difficult for your chicken to break down. You may find that fellow chicken owners will feed their chicken bread now and then.

There has also been some recent debate about the benefits to the digestive tract that adding certain wheat products can have for your chicken. 

Can Chickens Eat Homemade Bread?

Homemade bread packed with ingredients you know are good for your chickens can even be nutritious. For this reason, it is not uncommon to hear that some people feed their chickens bread and how much the chickens love to eat it.

However, if you are not very experienced in chicken care, it’s better to err on the safe side. Experienced chicken owners know not to just feed their chicken a slice of bread if they do choose to feed it to them. 

They can also assist their chicken with emptying an impacted crop if they do happen to serve it so.

Can Chickens Eat Moldy Bread?

No, feeding chickens moldy or spoiled bread exposes them to toxins. Mold is a fungus that can make your chickens sick. The types of bread that grow on bread are Mucor, Rhizopus, Penicillium, etc. 

While some mold is safe to eat and won’t hurt your chickens, some molds produce poisonous mycotoxins. Mycotoxins can affect a chicken’s health causing thrush or mycosis. 

While most fungal infections in chickens can be treatable if caught early. It’s best to keep moldy food out of their diet to prevent any health issues that can affect the crop, which affects the digestion of food.

How do You Feed Your Chicken Bread Safely?

Giving your flock of chicken an occasional treat of bread isn’t unheard of amongst chicken owners. However, it is generally agreed upon that if you choose to throw in some sandwich scraps with the day’s goodies that it should be given in small amounts and served in a way that prevents crop impaction.

When giving your chicken bread, you will want to keep in mind that they already get plenty of grains from their poultry feed. With what should already be a balanced diet, giving your chicken any table scraps should only be given as the occasional treat rather than a staple food.

One of the best ways to prevent your chickens from getting crop impaction is to soak the bread in water and allow it to expand and somewhat disintegrate prior to your chicken eating it. 

It will prevent your chicken from filling up their crop with dry bread and expanding in the tight space.

What to do if Your Chicken’s Crop Becomes Impacted?

If you believe your chicken is experiencing an impacted crop as a result of consuming too much bread, you will want to offer your chicken more water. 

This might sound counterproductive, especially since the combination of water and bread is what got your chicken into this mess in the first place. Still, adding more water to the crop will allow the bread to soften further and disintegrate.

If that doesn’t work and your chicken still has an impacted crop after several hours, it is essential to try to assist the passage of the food by massaging the crop. 

If you are unsure how to do so or fails to assist your chicken, a visit to your chicken’s veterinarian will be in order. 

Final Word

Bread is not toxic to chickens as long as it is fed in moderation. Feeding chickens too much bread can cause crop impaction, which can cause health problems.

Feeding your chickens a slice of bread once a week should be fine. 

However, giving them a whole loaf of bread every day is just asking for trouble. 

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