Can Chickens Eat Turkey? Debunking Myths and Offering Guidelines

Written By Jill Taylor

Have you ever found yourself staring at the Thanksgiving leftovers in your fridge and wondered, can chickens eat turkey? As a fellow chicken owner, I’ve asked myself the same question. The answer is yes; chickens can eat turkey. However, like everything else in their diet, it should be fed to them in moderation.

When I first got my chickens, I imagined they were simple vegetarians, happily pecking away at grains and vegetables. However, I quickly learned that chickens are omnivores and can benefit from various foods, including meat. It’s interesting to note that they would naturally consume small insects and even rodents in the wild.

Although chickens can consume meat, it’s important to understand that it should only form a small part of their diet. It should never replace their main food source, a balanced chicken feed designed to meet their nutritional needs. So, while your chickens can enjoy your leftover turkey, there’s much more to consider regarding how often and in what quantity.

can chickens eat turkey

Understanding the Dietary Requirements of Chickens

Every chicken owner wants the best for their feathered friends. Understanding their dietary needs is the first step towards ensuring they lead healthy and happy lives.

Basic Nutritional Needs of Chickens

Like any other living creature, chickens have specific nutritional needs that need to be met. This includes proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. A well-balanced diet ensures your chickens grow healthily and produce quality eggs. The chicken feed you find at your local farm store is often designed to provide all these essential nutrients.

The Impact of Diet on Chicken Health and Egg Production

An improper diet can lead to many health problems for chickens, including weakened immune systems and decreased egg production. Ensuring your chickens have a balanced diet will keep them happy and healthy and maximize their egg-laying potential.


Can Chickens Eat Meat?

Let’s delve deeper into the carnivorous side of the chicken’s diet. Yes, you heard it right, carnivorous! Chickens can eat meat.

Chickens as Omnivores: Can They Eat Meat?

Contrary to what some may think, chickens are not strictly vegetarians. They’re omnivores, just like humans! In the wild, chickens will eat a variety of foods, including insects, worms, and even small rodents or lizards.

The Natural Diet of Wild Chickens

The diet of wild chickens is diverse, consisting of seeds, grains, green plants, insects, and small animals. This proves that meat is a natural part of a chicken’s diet, though it should still make up only a small percentage of its food intake.

The Specific Case of Turkey

grilled turkey meat

Now, let’s narrow it down to the topic: Can chickens eat turkey? The short answer is yes, but there are some things you need to know.

Nutritional Profile of Turkey Meat

Turkey is a lean meat that’s rich in protein, making it potentially beneficial for your chickens. It also contains vitamins like B6 and B12, essential for your chickens’ overall health.

How Turkey Compares to the Natural Diet of Chickens

While turkey isn’t part of a chicken’s natural diet, its nutritional profile aligns with what chickens require. The key is to remember that it should be given in moderation and as a part of a varied diet.

Potential Risks and Precautions

flock of chickens

Before you start feeding your chickens turkey, it’s essential to consider the potential risks and precautions involved.

Possible Health Risks Associated with Feeding Turkey to Chickens

While turkey itself isn’t harmful to chickens, there are some associated risks. For instance, feeding them spoiled or rotten turkey could cause food poisoning. Furthermore, a diet too high in meat could cause obesity and other health issues in your flock.

Precautions When Introducing Turkey into a Chicken’s Diet

When introducing new food into your chickens’ diet, it’s important to do so gradually. Start with small portions and observe their reaction. If you see any negative reactions or changes in behavior, it might be best to remove turkey from their diet.

The Importance of Moderation and Balanced Nutrition

Moderation is key in maintaining a balanced diet for your chickens. While they may enjoy the occasional treat of turkey, it should not replace their regular feed, which is specifically designed to meet their nutritional needs.

Practical Guidelines for Feeding Turkey to Chickens

Now, if you’ve decided to go ahead and feed turkey to your chickens, here are some practical guidelines to follow.

Preparing Turkey for Your Chickens: Cooked vs. Raw

Chickens can handle both cooked and raw meat. However, cooked turkey is generally safer as it eliminates any risk of bacteria that could harm your chickens. If you’re feeding them leftovers, ensure there’s no seasoning or spices, as some can harm poultry.

Portion Size and Frequency Recommendations

Treat turkey as an occasional supplement to their regular diet rather than a staple. A small chunk or two per chicken every few days is more than enough. It’s essential to avoid overfeeding them, as an excess of protein can cause health issues.

Signs Your Chickens are Enjoying or Rejecting Turkey

Chickens are quite expressive. If they like the turkey, they’ll peck at it enthusiastically and call others to join the feast. If they don’t, they’ll ignore it or peck at it without eating. Always remove uneaten turkey to prevent it from spoiling.

Alternatives to Turkey for Protein Sources

fresh minnows fish

If turkey doesn’t work out, or you simply want to mix things up, there are many other sources of protein you can consider.

Other Safe Meat Options for Chickens

Other poultry like chicken (yes, chickens can safely eat chicken), duck, or quail can be given to chickens. Even fish can be a great source of protein. Always ensure it’s fresh and properly prepared.

Plant-Based Protein Sources

There are plenty of plant-based options too. Legumes like peas and lentils, seeds, and grains are all rich in protein. Some vegetables, like broccoli and spinach, contain significant protein.

Incorporating a Variety of Protein Sources for a Balanced Diet

Various protein sources will ensure your chickens get a balanced diet. Mix it up between different meats and plant-based sources. But remember, these should supplement their main diet of specially formulated chicken feed.

What Other Meat Can Chickens Eat?

dry cured ham

We’ve established that turkey can be a good source of protein for your chickens when given in moderation. But what about other meats? You might be surprised to learn that chickens can consume a variety of meats. Let’s explore this further:


Chickens eating chicken? As bizarre as it may sound, chickens can eat chicken. However, the chicken must be cooked thoroughly to kill any potential bacteria. Moreover, it’s best not to make a habit of this, as it can potentially promote cannibalistic behavior if done regularly.

Read More: Can Chickens Eat Chicken? Unraveling The Mystery And Controversy


Ham is safe for chickens in small amounts. The high salt content can be harmful if consumed in large quantities, so it should be an occasional treat. It’s also important to ensure the ham is unseasoned, as some seasonings can harm chickens.

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


Pork is another meat option for chickens, but it should always be cooked thoroughly to prevent disease transmission. Just like ham, remember to keep the portions small and infrequent.

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


Chickens can eat beef as well. It’s a great source of protein, but it can be tough for chickens to peck at. Therefore, it’s best served when cooked and cut into small, manageable pieces. Avoid seasoned or salted beef, as it could harm your feathered friends.

Read More: Can Chickens Eat Beef? Surprising Benefits Revealed


Suet is a fantastic treat for chickens, especially during the colder months, as it’s high in fat. This can provide an excellent energy source for them. You can buy suet cakes designed for birds, or if you have some leftover from your own cooking, you can also offer that.

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

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

In this section, we’ll cover some frequently asked questions about feeding chickens turkey and other types of meat.

Can chickens eat turkey bones?

While it’s true that chickens enjoy pecking at things, turkey bones can be dangerous. Sharp pieces can harm their digestive system. It’s best to remove any bones before feeding your chickens turkey.

Can chickens eat cooked turkey skin?

Yes, chickens can eat cooked turkey skin. It’s high in fat, so it should be given in moderation.

Can chickens eat turkey stuffing?

It’s not recommended to feed chickens turkey stuffing. It often contains ingredients like onions, garlic, and certain herbs, which can be toxic to chickens.

Can chickens eat processed turkey meat, like deli slices?

Processed meats, including turkey deli slices, are often high in salt and preservatives, which are not good for chickens. It’s always best to feed them fresh, unseasoned turkey.

Do I need to cut the turkey into small pieces for my chickens?

While chickens can tear at meat, cutting the turkey into small, manageable pieces is easier for them. This also allows for easier portion control.

Can I replace a portion of my chickens’ regular feed with turkey?

Turkey should be seen as a supplement to your chickens’ diet, not a replacement for their regular feed. Their diet should consist of balanced chicken feed formulated to meet their nutritional needs.

Can chickens eat turkey – final thoughts

Your chickens can indeed partake in the turkey leftovers from your family feast. Just remember, moderation is our magic word here. While your feathered friends can enjoy a little carnivorous treat now and then, it’s essential that this doesn’t take over their diet. A piece or two every couple of days should hit the spot just right.

And who knows? Maybe this new addition to their diet might just make your backyard coop the most popular spot in town – the talk of the henhouse, if you will. Just watch their reactions to ensure they’re gobbling up the turkey happily.

Related Articles: