One of the many perks of having chickens in your yard is discovering they’re little garbage disposals in a feathery disguise. As omnivores, chickens will eat nearly anything ranging from vegetation to meat. Giving your chicken table scraps can help reduce feed costs while giving them a yummy treat, which makes knowing what foods can be shared with your chicken important in providing them with a balanced diet.
Can Chickens Eat Tofu?
If tofu happens to be on tonight’s menu, you can feel at ease knowing that feeding your chicken tofu as an occasional snack won’t do them any harm. However, because chicken feed contains other soybean products, treats of this kind should be limited to avoid adverse health effects.
What is Tofu?
Tofu is made from soybeans that are soaked in water. After soaking, this water is cooked and condensed down before being pressed into the white blocks of tofu that you find at supermarkets.
As a soybean product, adding it into a chicken’s diet can offset an otherwise balanced diet. This is because many commercial feeds include soybean meal as one of the main ingredients.
Are Soybeans Safe for Chicken to Eat?
Soybeans and other types of beans are high in enzyme inhibitors that can be problematic to your chicken’s health in large quantities and when eaten raw.
In general, however, soybean products are likely already a part of your chicken’s diet. Soybean meal happens to be the most widely used protein in commercial chicken feeds, essentially providing your chicken with everything they need.
Soybeans growing popularity as an ingredient in chicken feed has increased in recent years as a result of companies shifting towards antibiotic-free feed.
Not only that, but soybeans also compliment the taste of corn, making the pairing of these two flavors more pleasing to your chicken.
Are there Health Benefits from Feeding Chicken Tofu?
Tofu is an excellent source of protein, offering your chicken with both vitamins and minerals. When given as an occasional treat, your chicken will benefit from it by getting the following nutrients: fiber, fat, calcium, manganese, selenium, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, iron, and zinc.
Nutritional Information for Tofu
Half a cup (126 grams) of firm tofu prepared with magnesium chloride and calcium sulfate consists of the following:
|Vitamin C||0.3 mg|
|Vitamin K||3.0 mcg|
|Total Omega-3 Fatty Acids||228 mg|
|Total Omega-6 Fatty Acids||2019 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.1 mg|
Does Chicken Feed or Tofu Have More Protein?
3 ounces of tofu (depending on the brand) consists of 8-10 grams of protein. Chicken Feed varies from 16-24% protein, depending on the type of feed. Below are the types of chicken feed and the amounts of protein they consist of:
- Starter Feed: Consists of 20-24% protein and is meant for chickens that are aged 0-8 weeks old.
- Grower Feed: Consists of 16-18% protein and is meant for chickens that are aged 6-20 weeks old.
- Developer Feed: Consists of 14-16% protein and is great for pullets and cockerels.
- Layer Feed: Consists of 16% protein and helps encourage egg laying.
- Finisher Feed: Consists of of 15 – 18% protein. This feed is meant for chickens that are getting ready to be slaughtered.
As you can see, chicken feed consists of more protein than tofu. However, adding tofu as an occasional snack will not hurt your chicken and can actually provide them with some additional nutrients.
However, feeding them tofu regularly can cause them to have too much protein in their diets.
Will Chickens Eat Tofu?
There are several types of tofu, from soft, medium, silken, firm, extra firm, and super firm. Chickens, like people, have preferences for the kinds of foods they like to eat.
Some chickens in your flock may gobble up anything you feed them. At the same time, others may take a peck or two and walk away because they are not interested in eating it.
If your chickens have never seen or tasted tofu, they may not enjoy the texture. It doesn’t mean they don’t like it. They just need some time to get used to it.
How Much Tofu Can Chicken Eat and How Often?
Soybeans play an essential role in both you and your flocks’ diet. However, is such a thing as too much of a good thing. For that reason, tofu as a staple everyday food for your chicken is not recommended.
How much your chicken can eat will also vary in their breed, size, age, feed supplies, and nutritional differences between tofu products.
As a result, there is no one set amount as to what is a safe serving size to feed your chicken, generally leaving chicken owners with a less is more approach when offering it as a snack.
To aid you in providing your chicken with a balanced diet, you can always reach out to your chicken’s veterinarian for more specific serving portions and serving frequency for any questionable table scrap foods.
If you find your flock loves the taste of tofu, it is even more important to not let them overindulge in it, as this can lead to health concerns.
What Are the Health Concerns of Feeding Chicken Tofu?
Despite tofu being high in nutrients, you may want to hold off on serving large portions. As your chicken already gets their protein in the form of soybean meal in their feed, the addition of tofu on a regular basis can result in digestive issues by compromising gut health.
It has also been linked to decreased growth and performance in chickens.
The reason for this is because it has a couple of antinutrients in it that can affect your chicken’s ability to take in important minerals and break down food.
The antinutrients that adversely affect your chicken’s health are trypsin inhibitors and phytates.
How Do Trypsin Inhibitors Affect a Chicken’s Health?
Trypsin inhibitors are found in both tofu and soybean meal, meaning a steady supply of both can cause a buildup of this antinutrient.
When chickens are provided with excessive amounts of trypsin inhibitors in their diet, it prevents them from being able to digest proteins by blocking trypsin enzymes.
If your chicken has high levels of trypsin inhibitors reducing the chicken’s ability to efficiently break down proteins and get much-needed nutrients from their food through the digestive process, they will eventually become malnourished.
Excessive amounts of trypsin inhibitors in your chicken’s diet have also been found to cause pancreatic hypertrophy and negatively impact overall growth and performance.
How Do Phytates Affect Your Chicken’s Health?
Phytates are also another antinutrient that prevents your chicken from properly absorbing necessary minerals, further leading them to a malnourished state.
With tofu made from soybeans, it should be no surprise that both products contain phytates. A diet high in phytates will prevent your chicken from properly absorbing minerals such as calcium, zinc, and iron.
Will the Occasional Tofu Treat Harm Your Chicken?
Most of the concern with feeding chicken tofu and other soybean products comes from giving them a diet rich with these antinutrients. If you are giving them the occasional snack and happen to throw a little tofu into the mix, it is unlikely that it will cause them any of the health concerns mentioned above.
This is especially true if your chicken is provided with a well-balanced diet that includes fresh fruits. The vitamin C in fruits has been found to reduce the effects of phytates so that occasional treats will likely be of little harm.
As long as you don’t let them overindulge, your chicken can eat a little tofu now and then as a tasty treat.
Can Chickens Eat Raw Tofu?
Yes, chickens can eat both raw and cooked tofu as an occasional treat. It’s a great source of protein, and as long as you don’t overdo it, there is little concern for adverse health effects. Tofu has high protein, and feeding your chickens too much protein can decrease egg production and cause other health problems.
Their main source of nutrition and nutrients should come from a well-balanced diet of chicken feed and not from table scraps or occasional treats.
Other Foods Chickens Can Eat
If you don’t want to risk feeding your chickens tofu because of the side effects it can cause. Consider some of these other human food treats that are not only tasty, but good for them to consume.
If fed in moderation, tofu can make a healthy snack for chickens. Tofu is nutritious for both chickens and humans, but their chicken feed already contains soybean products.
Feeding them too much tofu or other soybean products can cause health issues. If you feed your chickens chicken scraps, consider feeding them some of the other safe options I’ve listed above.