Can Chickens Eat Chicken? Unraveling the Mystery and Controversy

Written By Jill Taylor

As a chicken owner and enthusiast, I’ve often pondered an admittedly strange question: can chickens eat chicken? It’s one of those questions that has always been met with a furrowed brow and a puzzled look whenever I’ve posed it to my fellow poultry owners. As weird as it might sound, this question raises important issues surrounding animal diet, ethics, and disease prevention.

The short answer to this question is yes, technically, chickens can consume chicken. They are natural omnivores, and their diet, in the wild or on a farm, can consist of various foods, including meats. However, whether they should eat chicken is a far more complex matter that stirs considerable debate among chicken owners, animal welfare advocates, and scientists.

In this article, we delve into the intricacies of this topic, discussing the nutritional needs of chickens, the possibility and implications of chickens eating chicken, and safe, nutritious alternatives to consider. Whether you’re an experienced chicken owner, a newbie, or simply someone intrigued by this odd question, this article comprehensively explores the subject.

can chickens eat chicken

Overview of a Chicken’s Dietary Needs

Like any other creature, chickens have specific dietary needs to ensure healthy and productive lives. Understanding these needs is crucial to anyone who owns or is considering owning these versatile birds.

What Constitutes a Healthy Diet for Chickens?

A well-rounded diet for chickens generally consists of grains, proteins, greens, and calcium sources. This gives the chickens the essential nutrients they need for growth, egg production, and health maintenance.

The Role of Proteins in a Chicken’s Diet

Protein plays a significant part in a chicken’s diet. It’s essential for their growth, feather production, and egg-laying capabilities. While commercial chicken feed often provides a good protein base, some chicken owners supplement with additional protein sources, particularly during molting or egg-laying seasons.

Importance of Dietary Variation for Chickens

Dietary variation isn’t just important for humans; it’s also crucial for chickens. A varied diet can prevent nutritional deficiencies and promote healthier and more active chickens. Treats, scraps, and foraging opportunities can add variety and enrichment to their lives.


Can Chickens Eat Chicken: Exploring the Possibility

The notion of chickens eating chicken is controversial and raises eyebrows for ethical and biological reasons. However, understanding the reality of this possibility requires a clear-headed exploration.

Understanding Cannibalism Among Chickens

In nature, chickens, like many animals, have been known to engage in cannibalism. This behavior can emerge due to stress, overcrowding, or nutrient deficiency. However, feeding chickens their species is an entirely different matter that requires careful consideration.

Historical Precedence: Instances of Chickens Eating Chicken

Historically, there have been instances where chickens ate chicken, often unintentionally. This usually occurs when chickens are provided with a mixed animal meal or when they come across dead or injured flock members.

Current Views and Controversies Around Feeding Chickens Chicken

Today, feeding chickens chicken remains a contentious issue. Many farmers and hobbyists argue against it, citing ethical and health concerns. Yet others believe it’s an acceptable form of recycling, provided it’s done responsibly.

Biological Implications of Chickens Eating Chicken

raw chicken meat

There are various biological factors to consider when considering chickens eating chicken. These relate to their nutritional needs, potential health risks, and the functioning of their digestive system.

Nutritional Impact: Are There Benefits?

Chicken meat is a high protein source, and since chickens need protein, there could be some nutritional value in it for them. However, other protein sources that don’t carry the same ethical and health concerns are available.

Disease Transmission: The Risk of Avian Diseases

One of the most significant risks of feeding chickens chicken is the potential for disease transmission, particularly if the meat is raw or poorly cooked. Certain diseases, such as avian influenza or salmonella, can be passed through consumption, posing a significant risk to the flock’s health.

Impact on Chicken’s Digestive System: Can They Process It?

Chickens can digest meat, but their system is best designed for a mixed diet with a high proportion of plant matter. Overconsumption of meat could potentially lead to digestive issues.

Ethical and Psychological Implications

chicken staring

Feeding chickens chicken carries with it several ethical and psychological considerations. These touch on animal welfare issues, behavior changes, stress, and health.

Ethical Questions Surrounding Feeding Chickens Chicken

There are clear ethical questions here. Many people feel uncomfortable with the idea of feeding an animal to the same species, seeing it as a form of forced cannibalism. This unease highlights the need for an ethical approach to animal farming, focusing on their natural diet and wellbeing.

Possible Changes in Chicken Behavior: Does it Promote Aggression?

Another concern is that feeding chickens chicken could potentially encourage aggressive behaviors, such as pecking and fighting, especially if they develop a taste for chicken meat. This could increase the flock’s stress and ultimately harm their overall health.

Stress and Health: Impact on Chicken’s Wellbeing

Stress in chickens can lead to reduced egg production, feather plucking, and even disease. If consuming chicken meat does indeed increase aggression or other stressors in a flock, this could considerably impact their welfare.

Legal Aspects and Regulations on Feeding Chickens

When considering feeding chickens chicken, it’s also vital to consider the legal implications. There are laws and regulations to protect the welfare of farm animals, including chickens, and these should always be respected.

Overview of Laws and Regulations Regarding Poultry Feed

In many jurisdictions, laws exist regarding what can and cannot be fed to poultry. These laws are often related to preventing disease spread and ensuring the overall safety of the food chain. Familiarizing yourself with local laws before deciding what to feed your chickens is crucial.

Implications of Breaching Regulations: Penalties and Consequences

Breaching animal feed regulations can lead to severe penalties, including fines and potentially the loss of livestock. Moreover, it can lead to health risks for the animals and potentially for those who consume their products.

Safe and Nutritious Alternatives to Feeding Chickens Chicken

black beans

Given the many issues surrounding the idea of feeding chickens chicken, it’s worthwhile to consider safe and nutritious alternatives. These can provide the protein chickens need without the accompanying risks.

Identifying High-Protein Alternatives to Chicken

Plenty of other high-protein feeds can be used instead of chicken. Insects, such as mealworms, are a favorite among chickens. Legumes and dairy products can also be excellent protein sources.

Preparing a Balanced and Safe Feed for Chickens

Preparing chicken feed is crucial to balance nutritional needs, including proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. It’s also important to ensure the feed is safe and free from potential disease sources.

Innovations in Poultry Feed: Future Directions

Innovations in poultry feed are continuously being explored to provide more sustainable, nutritious, and ethical feed options. Insects, algae, and plant-based proteins are some areas currently being researched. As we continue to understand chickens’ dietary needs and ethical feeding practices, we can hope for a future of healthier, happier chickens.

Can chickens eat chicken – additional points

In addition to what has already been discussed, there are a few additional points to consider.

Considerations for Chickens Eating Cooked vs. Raw Chicken

While chickens can technically consume chicken, how it is prepared can have significant health implications. Raw chicken carries the risk of transmitting harmful bacteria like salmonella or diseases such as avian influenza. Cooked chicken, while safer, still raises the ethical issues and potential behavioral changes previously discussed.

Effects on Egg Production

Diet significantly impacts a chicken’s ability to lay eggs, so it could be worth examining whether eating chicken (or any other meat, for that matter) might affect its egg-laying capacity.

Public Perception and Consumer Expectations

Given that many chickens are raised for their eggs or meat, the public’s perception of feeding practices can impact market demand. If consumers are uncomfortable with chickens being fed chicken, this could potentially affect sales, something commercial chicken farmers might want to consider.

Additional Research Needed

Finally, it might be worth noting that more research is needed to understand the implications of chickens eating chicken fully. While the current body of knowledge points to potential risks and downsides, further studies could provide a more nuanced understanding of this complex topic.

What Other Meat Can Chickens Eat?

platter of meat

While the notion of chickens consuming chicken is controversial, it raises a broader question: what other types of meat can chickens eat? Let’s explore a handful of commonly available meats and evaluate their suitability for our feathered friends.


Chickens can safely consume cooked beef. It’s a good source of protein, which is essential for their growth and egg production. However, the beef should be properly cooked to kill potential pathogens and chopped into small, manageable pieces to prevent choking.

Read More: Can Chickens Eat Beef? Surprising Benefits Revealed


While not harmful in small amounts, ham isn’t the best meat choice for chickens due to its high salt content. Too much salt can harm chickens’ health, potentially causing kidney damage or other health issues. Therefore, if you give your chickens ham, ensure it’s only in very small amounts and not a regular part of their diet.

Read More: Can Chickens Eat Ham? Discover The Surprising Answer And More


Much like beef, Turkey is a safe meat for chickens to consume when cooked properly. It’s lean, packed with protein, and usually well-liked by chickens. Remember to cut it into small pieces before offering it to your flock.

Read More: Can Chickens Eat Turkey? Debunking Myths And Offering Guidelines


Pork is another type of meat chickens can eat, but it must be thoroughly cooked to eliminate any risk of disease transmission, such as trichinosis. It should be offered in moderation and small pieces, as with other meats. Raw or undercooked pork or pork products with high salt content (like bacon) should be avoided.

Read More: Can Chickens Eat Pork? A Comprehensive Guide To Poultry Diets


Suet is rendered fat, usually from beef or sheep, and it can be a beneficial supplement for chickens, especially in colder months when they need more calories to stay warm. However, suet should be offered sparingly as too much fat can lead to obesity and associated health issues in chickens. In many pet or farm supply stores, you can find commercially prepared suet cakes, often mixed with grains or seeds.

Read More: Can Chickens Eat Suet? Unraveling The Mystery Of Chicken Diets

Can chickens eat chickens – final thoughts

So, there you have it: our deep dive into the somewhat uncanny question, can chickens eat chicken, has taken us through a journey of nutritional needs, biological implications, ethical considerations, and even legal matters. It’s a meaty topic with multiple layers to unpeel and digest.

While chickens, the clucky omnivores they are, can technically eat chicken, it’s not the best choice. From potential health risks and behavioral changes to ethical qualms and legal complications, there’s enough reason to stick to safer, more nutritious alternatives. Let’s keep our feathered friends happily pecking away at their grains, vegetables, and creepy crawlies!

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