by Kathy Shea Mormino
When I was preparing to welcome my first dozen baby chicks home, I spent nearly a year reading books and researching online to absorb all I could about caring for chickens. The internet is a powerful tool, but it is also the birthplace of many a cyber-legend and I came across much conflicting information about treats for chickens. I wanted the facts in order to make the best decisions possible for my pet chickens, not stories, experiences or opinions about what my neighbor’s great-great grandmother may have fed the chickens she considered livestock.
In my effort to get to the bottom of some of the most common chicken treat misconceptions, I researched extensively before making my treat choices. My chickens are only fed treats, snacks and table scraps in moderation because excessive treats and the wrong treats can be harmful to their health, stunt growth, shorten their lives and interfere with egg production. In making decisions about treats for your chickens, you may wish to consider the following five most common myths and facts.
MYTH 1: Scratch is a type of chicken feed.
MYTH 2: Chickens should not eat avocados.
MYTH 3: Chickens should not eat raw potatoes or potato skins.
FACT: Chickens should not eat GREEN potato skins. The green color indicates the presence of solanine, a toxin that affects the nervous system when consumed in large quantities. However, the average, healthy human would have to eat 4.5 pounds at one sitting to experience any neurological effects. Similarly, a chicken would need to consume large quantities of green potato skins to experience any ill effects. The leaves and stems of the potato plant DO contain high levels of solanine and are toxic to chickens. Bottom line: if I shouldn’t eat it, I don’t feed it to my chickens.
MYTH 4: Chickens should never eat onions.
MYTH 5: Yogurt is good for chickens.