Can Chickens Eat Cheese? What you need to know!

The rooster crowing and the morning doodle-doo of the rooster aren’t the only wake-up calls you get from raising chickens. Caring for live animals also means understanding which foods are safe for them to eat and which are toxic. While it’s safe for chickens to eat cheese, some types of cheese are better for them than others.

Chickens are omnivores and opportunists. Their diet consists mainly of chicken feed which provides them with essential proteins, vitamins and minerals necessary for them to grow and have energy. Aside from their traditional chicken feed, they thoroughly enjoy any snack they can get their hands on. They love to snack especially on whole grains, seeds, fruits and vegetables, so it might be a little odd to give them cheese as a gift. Although a little unusual, cheese is safe for chickens when given in moderation. Keep reading this informative chicken article to find out how much dairy they can handle and which cheeses are safer than others.

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Is Cheese Beneficial to Chickens?

New Hampshire Red Chicken

Milk is not safe for all animals, but it has many vitamins and minerals that benefit some animals and pets better than others. Bone health is very important for chickens and lead a life without severe welfare issues. Cheese contains protein, calcium, zinc, magnesium, and vitamins A, D, and K. These vitamins aid bone development in humans and chickens. They are also known to prevent osteoporosis which is a common condition in caged chickens. Not getting enough of these vitamins and minerals makes bones brittle and porous and makes fractures more likely.

Finding the perfect weight balance between too heavy and too light is essential for a healthy chicken life. Cheese is the perfect supplement for birds with healthy weight gain issues, especially if raised for meat. Cheese is rich in fat and calories, making it an energy-dense food that is easy to serve. Be careful not to spend too much. Serving cheese with low-energy foods like fruits and vegetables is a smart way to keep their diet balanced.

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Calcium is one of the most abundant minerals found in the body of chickens and is essential for regulating transmission between nerves, blood vessel and muscle function, and hormone levels. The high levels of calcium in cheese and dairy products keep this system running smoothly and keep egg shells firm and strong.

If all these benefits weren’t enough, cheese also plays a role in promoting a healthy immune system as it is enriched with probiotic bacteria. When chickens eat cheese, it helps slow down aging, aging immune system. The bacteria in chicken intestines help break down food and keep the digestive system working properly.

How Much Cheese to Feed a Chicken

Feeding chickens properly is a big responsibility that requires a lot of knowledge. Just because it’s safe for chickens to eat cheese doesn’t mean they have to gobble it up themselves. Like all chicken foods, cheese is safe in moderation and should only be given to them once or twice a week at most. Too much cheese can make your flock fat, which welcomes a variety of other health problems such as lower fertility, fatty liver hemorrhagic syndrome, and oversized eggs.

Cheese Safe for Chicken

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It doesn’t take a poultry veterinarian to realize that not all cheeses are equal, and some may be better for your bird than others. Most experts recommend feeding your chickens goat cheese as opposed to traditional cow’s milk cheese. Goat cheese usually has more nutrients without the extra fat like regular milk. It tastes a little different, but we promise your flock won’t mind.

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A large piece of cheese won’t be the easiest choice for your chicken to peck at. If you decide to offer a snack, make sure the cheese is grated. It’s easier to distribute among all the chickens evenly and less work for them to break down and digest. Grated cheddar and mozzarella cheese are excellent choices for birds because they are softer and lower in acidity.

For a lower-fat option, consider giving your bird cottage cheese. This cheese is very good to be mixed into their regular diet to maintain the balance of nutrients and fats.

Try to avoid cheeses that are heavily processed or have a lot of strong flavors from other herbs and spices. A great example of this is American cheese which is highly processed with few nutrients and is harsh on the digestive tract of chickens.

Other Safe Dairy Products for Chicken

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If cheese is safe for chickens, does that mean all other dairy products are safe for them too? Not necessarily. Dairy products should be used sparingly in the diet of chickens because they contain sugar from lactose. Chicken anatomy is not equipped with the breakdown of lactose, and too much of it can cause diarrhea, stomach upset, and other digestive problems.

Milk and yogurt are two other standard dairy products that people try to give their chickens. Lactose-free milk is available for purchase if you wish to give them milk. If you can’t find low-fat skim milk, goat’s milk is usually safe for them. Try giving them raw milk instead of pasteurized milk if you decide to treat them with it.

The main benefit of giving your chickens yogurt is that it is a rich source of healthy bacteria. As long as the yogurt is plain and unsweetened with sugar, it’s safe to surprise them with a few times a week.

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If you’re concerned about the amount of calcium your chickens are consuming, crushed oyster shells are a much healthier alternative to dairy. Keep in mind that cheese should only be given to your birds in moderation as they are not a conventional food source for them.

Related Read: Can Chickens Eat Chocolate? What you need to know!

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Final Thoughts

Cheese may not be the first food that comes to mind when you think of feeding chickens. Although these animals eat a wide variety of foods, most of the human diet should remain a diet and not be included as a regular part of their diet. Your mother will appreciate a variety of snacks, but their health should always come first, and their regular diet should be their main source of energy and nutrition. In the end, most chickens know what’s right for them. If they devoured it, then so be it. But if they leave it, pretend they’re not interested and find something else they might like more.

Featured Image Credit: Waldrebell, Pixabay