Will Chickens Eat Until They Die? A Look At The Eating Habits

Some animals can eat themselves sick or to death. Dogs, cats, horses, and goats are all said to eat themselves to death if provided the opportunity. Will chickens eat until they die? 

Will Chickens Eat Until They Die?

No, chickens will not eat until they die. They can have food always available to them, and you do not have to be concerned if they will eat until they die. However, the type of food that you are providing for your chickens is essential.

We’ll look at the eating habits of layer chickens and meat chickens, and their eating habits. After you’re done reading this, you’ll have a better understanding of why chickens always eat and why it’s no big deal.

The Dangers of Overeating 

Animals do run the risk of overeating and packing on unnecessary pounds. Being a bit more round is not a good thing in the animal world.

Just like with humans, too much weight brings on many potential issues for your pets. Some risks include diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and too much stress on joints. 

For chickens, however, overeating is not the problem. The risk lies more in the content and quality of what they are consuming.

Will Chickens Eat Themselves to Death?

will chickens eat themselves to death
Meat chickens have a tendency to overeat, while laying hens will eat throughout the day, but there’s not chance of dying from eating too much.

It may appear that your chickens are continually eating. You may walk out into the chicken yard and watch your chickens scratch at the ground for hours looking for food. 

A regular-sized, full-grown chicken will usually consume around 120 grams of their food per day. This equates to about half of a cup. 

The amount that chickens eat varies throughout the time of year. In the summer and spring, chickens’ food consumption is significantly less than in the winter and fall months. 

When temperatures drop in the chilly winter months, chickens will depend on calories to keep them warm. 

Chickens typically go through a hard molt in the fall months and rely upon protein to build new feathers. 

When the weather warms up in the spring and summer months, chickens begin laying eggs more often. 

When chickens lay eggs, they also rely on the extra calories to healthily produce the eggs. 

Meat Chicken Vs. Layer Chicken 

When it comes to broiler chickens, the type that some raise for meat, things change a little bit. 

Broiler chickens grow at a rate that is much faster than other chickens. They are specifically bred for rapid growth. 

They grow so quickly that they triple their hatch weight within the first week after hatching. 

They are fed a diet that is extremely high in protein to ensure that they support this rapid growth. 

While layer chickens are not at risk for overeating, because broiler chickens are growing at such extreme rates, they can potentially eat until they die. 

The Best Chicken Diet

For chickens to be healthy and to be able to carry out laying eggs, molting, breeding, and going about their happy little chicken lives, a balanced diet that consists of the following is absolutely essential:

  • Protein
  • Calcium
  • Vitamins and minerals

What To Provide All Day For Your Chickens 

Chicken layer feed has all of the nutrients necessary for healthy chickens. It should be their primary and main source of food. 

Chicken layer feed comes in both pellets and crumbles, whichever you and your chickens prefer. 

Layer feed contains all of the necessary components for a healthy chicken diet and should be offered all day, every day. 

Chickens could live very healthy lives off of just layer feed if it came down to it. However, if your chickens’ free-range or forage occasionally, they likely also get most of their extra nutrients from the chicken yard.

Healthy Chicken Snacks

Chickens are omnivores and tend to eat pretty much anything and everything that is given to them. 

Free Range Snacks

Chickens find more than you would think while they free range in the yard, including: 

  • Worms
  • Grubs
  • Insects

They also love eating foliage and seeds in the grass and dirt. All of these food sources provide your chickens with tons of nutrition. 

Free-ranging aside, there are many options that you can feed your chickens in addition to their usual layer feed to supplement their diets and benefit their nutrition. 

Fruits, Veggies & Grains

Many fruits, vegetables, and grains provide fantastic sources of nutrients for your chickens. Things like:

  • Corn
  • Cooked beans
  • Leafy greens
  • Apples
  • Berries 

All of the above are all very healthy for your chickens. 

Human Food

Most foods that humans eat are safe for chickens, which is why many chickens often wind up getting fed table scraps instead of allowing them to go to waste after the family has already eaten. 

One incredibly excellent food for chickens is pumpkins. All you have to do is cut up a pumpkin and feed it to your chickens, seeds, and all. 

The seeds are a natural dewormer for your chickens. They act as more of a preventative than a cure, however. 

The pumpkin seeds are coated with a substance known as cucurbitacin. It is said to have the ability to paralyze worms in the system of your chicken. 

For the most part, you will be safe giving wheat, rice, watermelon, bananas, oatmeal, peas, cabbage, kale, spinach, lettuce, squash, potatoes, and tomatoes to your chickens.

Some foods that chickens surprisingly like and are okay for them to eat are sardines, cheese, and sauerkraut. So do not be afraid to feed them these items as a snack occasionally.

Foods To Limit For Your Chickens 

Chicken scratch and cracked corn should be limited in your chicken’s diets. 

While they certainly serve as excellent snacks or treats for your chickens, the nutrients they provide are not balanced enough to provide a substantial diet to support your chickens’ health. 

Scratch is like ice cream to humans- it’s nice to indulge sometimes but it is not healthy to eat all day, every day.  

Foods to Completely Avoid 

Anything that contains tons of salt, sugar, or fat should be avoided when it comes to giving treats to your chickens. Especially avoid giving rotten or spoiled food to chickens. 

Processed foods are a BIG no-no for chickens. It is much healthier for them to eat table scraps than to feed them anything processed. 

A surprising one to avoid is avocados and raw potato peels. The raw potato peels have a toxin in them that can be very toxic to chickens. 

Like dogs, chickens also cannot eat chocolate. Chocolate has an ingredient called theobromine, which is very toxic. 

Some other bad foods for your chickens include candy, citrus foods, dried beans and lentils, uncooked rice, and onions. 

All of these could potentially be very dangerous for your chickens. 

Underfeeding Your Chickens 

It is unnecessary to limit the number of layer pellets that your chickens have available to them. 

You do not need to fear that your chickens will overeat, and you do not need to attempt to control their proper food sources. 

A big mistake that you, as a chicken owner, can make is to limit the food or provide way too much or only cracked corn or scratch. 

Underfed and malnourished chickens are not healthy and will not lay eggs to their full potential. They also run the risk of being significantly stressed out. 

Final Word 

All in all, unless your chickens are broiler chickens, they should not be consuming so much food that they die. 

However, it is paramount to avoid overfeeding them treats in addition to their layer feed, which should be provided for your chickens all day long until they go to bed. 

It is essential that chickens peck and scratch throughout the day and tuck themselves away at night in their coops with a full crop. 

While chickens will not eat until they die, overdoing it on the supplemental foods could undoubtedly do some damage, especially if they are not the best choices for chickens or are toxic to them.

Stay informed and make the best choices for your chickens!