Chickens, My Dear, Are Omnivores

I remember when I used to purposefully select eggs that were labeled “vegetarian fed” or “fed a vegetarian diet”.

I mean, chickens are vegetarians, right? WRONG!

Chickens, in their natural state, are omnivorous. In fact, I’m learning very quickly that chickens will eat pretty much anything you put in front of them. Veggies? Check! Fruit? Check! Grubs from the garden? Double Check! Scraps from a ham hock – OMG Check!!!

Now, I shake my head whenever I see “vegetarian fed” on the carton of store eggs.

Just let your chickens loose in the yard (or observe your free ranging neighbors chickens if you don’t have any) and you’ll quickly notice something…..they love to scratch and dig. No, it’s not just for the fun of it. They are literally hunting. Seeking out grubs, worms, crickets and any other juicy morsels they can unearth. In fact, chickens are serious hunting machines. When you realize that chickens are the closest living relative to the tyrannosaurus rex, you start to get a clue. Our gals, if left to their own devices, can go and completely demolish the bank next to our garden if we leave them alone for only 30 minutes. We’ve had to stop free ranging them in the yard after a particularly destructive day when they completely re-landscaped the bank (but that’s another story).

The point is, don’t be afraid to incorporate tasty treats from your yard. While their feed should make up the majority of their diet, we toss in weeds, sheared wheatgrass sprouts leftover from juicing (they LOVE this), slugs and bugs found in the yard, and as mentioned above, even the occasionally meat scraps (you would not believe the feeding frenzy that took place on the ham hock).

Now, I have two rules when feeding my chickens treats and scraps. First, it must be organic (otherwise why am I laying down the $$$ to feed them organic layer crumble). Two, no chicken. It’s just wrong. Other than that we let them try pretty much anything. Besides adding to a nutritious diet, treats can also serve as boredom busters. “Chicken tetherball” with apples and other fruit is a particular favorite.

So go ahead, expand your gals taste and treat them to that grub you just plucked out of your carrots. Yum!


  1. tannachtonfarm August 22, 2015 at 10:58 am

    Yup, same here, but we feed no pork either.

    1. humblebeefarms August 22, 2015 at 12:50 pm

      We probably wouldn’t have either – but I terribly overcooked a ham and felt terrible tossing it away (it was pasture raised, organic). So after some reading and asking around we decided it was safe to feed it to the gals. They liked it a little too much!

  2. junglechickens September 29, 2015 at 1:14 am

    Ours love their treats! We buy minced kangaroo for our cats, and now it gets divided into 3 portions, one for each of the cats and one for the chickens to share – they LOVE it! It always creates a frenzy and makes me laugh at the thought of a chicken (or one of our softy cats for that matter) hunting down a kangaroo for dinner! 🙂

    A great point in your post though, many people don’t realise that chickens are omnivores and are shocked to find out that they eat meaty things too. We’re vegetarians ourselves but try not to restrict the diets of our pets to fit our beliefs or eating habits.

    1. humblebeefarms September 29, 2015 at 6:48 am

      Kangaroo is not readily available here, but I can only imagine! I left it out in the post, but our chickens have in fact successfully “hunted” rats and mice – three to date! It’s a good reminder NOT to use rat or mice poison if you – or even your neighbors – have cats and apparently even chickens.