Are you a chicken lover with lots of questions about what your feathery friends can eat? One food item, in particular, seems to come up frequently when owners discuss what is safe for their birds: sugar.
It’s natural to wonder whether or not something as devoid of nutritional value as this should be on the menu for chickens. Let’s explore if it’s okay for our chicks and chickens to indulge in a little sweetness!
Can Chickens Eat Sugar?
Chickens are relatively easy to take care of and make excellent pets or egg producers.
However, chickens should not be given too much sugar in their diet. Sugar can lead to health issues for chickens if given in excess, just as it can with humans. Molasses is a somewhat safer alternative as it has more vitamins and minerals.
A small treat once in a while is acceptable, but the majority of a chicken’s diet should come from its feed.
Other portions of its diet can come from foraging around the yard for insects, scraps from humans’ meals (like beet peels), and so on. Being mindful of what chickens eat will ensure they remain healthy and happy. Overall, when it comes to chickens eating sugar, less is better.
Sometimes, though, sugar can help sick chickens — see the video below.
Why Is Sugar Bad For Chickens?
Sugary foods can be bad for chickens, as consuming too much sugar can lead to health problems like obesity, gut disorders, and even diabetes.
It’s been observed that chickens who eat large quantities of sugar are more likely to suffer from behavioral issues, including anxiety and aggressive activity.
In extreme cases, they can stop laying eggs. See “What To Feed Chickens So They Lay More Eggs.”
For chickens to stay healthy, their diet should be high in protein and contain all the important vitamins and minerals they need.
Allowing chickens access to sugary treats should be limited so as to avoid health risks.
What Sugary Foods Can Chickens Be Fed?
There are lots of foods that have sweetness and sugar that chickens can have. These foods should be whole foods if possible.
Sweet foods that chickens can eat are:
- Sugar water which can aid them in recovering from illness
- Whole sugars like cane sugar – but not too much!
- Molasses – it can even be used for a “flush” as too much of it will cause diarrhea.
What Sweet Foods Should Be Avoided?
There is a whole range of sugary treats that are good for neither humans nor chickens except in small amounts. Some examples include:
- chocolate – this one is especially harmful to chickens because of theobromine
- white sugar
- brown sugar – just because it is brown doesn’t mean it’s healthy! Brown sugar is just white sugar with a little molasses added. Don’t be fooled!
- hard candy
- …and the list goes on!
See also: Can Chickens Drink Milk?
Do Chickens Like The Taste Of Sugar?
Chickens have taste buds just like you and me. They aren’t as sensitive, though.
Chickens may seem like simple creatures, but they can actually be quite picky when it comes to what they eat.
It turns out that chickens do, in fact, have a taste for sweetness, as experiments have shown chickens to be attracted to sugar.
However, chickens’ taste buds are not sophisticated enough to really know if sugar is sweet or not; they simply know that it tastes good.
That being said, chickens won’t necessarily put in the extra effort to seek out sugar and will mostly just eat whatever food is available or given to them. They aren’t too fussy generally, and will even eat unusual things like shrimp.
However, since they know that sugar is tasty, this can be used to advantage. For instance, a little sugar can be added to water in order to encourage chicks to drink more on hot days.
Keeping your chickens healthy and disease-free is important for any chicken owner.
One way to help keep them healthy is by limiting their sugar intake. Too much sugar can lead to too much fat and other health problems in chickens.
There are some sugary foods that chickens can eat, but you should avoid feeding them too many sweet treats. In general, chickens seem to enjoy the taste of sugar, but it’s best to limit their consumption for their own health.
Just as we humans should not eat too much refined sugar, so also chickens are better off if they don’t have too much.
Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash