While chickens primarily have to subsist on commercial poultry feed, many chicken keepers like to vary their chicken diet by offering snacks and snacks in the form of human diets. Chickens will try to eat almost anything, so it’s important to ensure that the food offered is safe and healthy. Chocolate is a delicious and popular food, but can chickens enjoy this delicious sweet? No, chickens should not be fed chocolate or food containing chocolate. Eating chocolate is not only unhealthy for chickens but is toxic and potentially fatal.
Why is Chocolate Dangerous for Chickens?
Chocolate contains two specific compounds that are toxic to chickens: theobromine and caffeine. Each of these compounds individually causes dangerous health conditions that can be fatal to chickens. The combination of the two in chocolate form is potentially devastating.
Theobromine is an alkaloid that occurs naturally in cocoa beans. It is a stimulant, known to benefit human health. However, theobromine affects animals in very different ways compared to humans. Chickens are smaller than humans, so they can’t handle the same amount of theobromine we can. In addition, it is suspected that the chicken body does not process theobromine in the same way as the human body, thus potentially causing fatal health problems.
Caffeine is a substance that is familiar to most of us. Many humans consider it essential for daily functioning. However, even small amounts of caffeine are harmful to chickens. Caffeine is a natural stimulant as well as a diuretic, a compound that increases the amount of water expelled from the body. Both of these functions can cause dangerous or fatal health problems in chickens.
How Eating Chocolate Can Harm Chickens (and What To Do About It)
Eating chocolate can cause various medical problems for chickens. It’s hard to predict how much chocolate your chickens will need to eat before serious health problems start to occur. Cocoa concentrations vary depending on the type of chocolate or products containing chocolate that are eaten. Also, some chickens may be more sensitive than others to the toxic elements of chocolate.
If your chicken eats chocolate, you’ll probably start to see the signs fairly quickly, usually within 6-12 hours. Early signs of chocolate poisoning include diarrhea, increased thirst, and restlessness. These early signs can progress to more serious problems such as kidney failure, seizures, and heart rate or rhythm disturbances. This more serious problem can eventually be fatal for your chickens.
Even if your chickens avoid more serious health problems from consuming chocolate, the high fat and sugar content of this food is still unhealthy for them. For example, white chocolate isn’t actually made with cocoa, so caffeine and theobromine aren’t a problem, but white chocolate is high in fat and sugar. Eating white chocolate may not be immediately toxic to chickens but can lead to long-term problems such as obesity.
If you are concerned that your chickens may have eaten chocolate, it is important to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Try to have a list of the packaging or ingredients of chocolate products when you talk to your vet. Your vet can provide the best information on what to do to help your chickens if they eat chocolate.
Other Foods to Avoid Feeding Chickens (and Some You Can)
Apart from chocolate, there are several other foods that should not be given to chickens. These foods are unhealthy or, like chocolate, potentially toxic. Some of the foods to avoid are listed here:
Foods That Chicken Can’t Eat
Dried or raw nuts
Avocado skin or seeds
All food is stale or moldy
Fortunately, there are many human foods that chickens can and enjoy safely. Many of these foods are not only delicious but also provide healthful benefits for chickens. Some suggestions for safe treatment options are listed here:
Foods That Chickens Can Eat
Vegetables like cucumber, cabbage and broccoli
Fruits like melons, berries and watermelon
Grains such as wheat, oats, or corn
If you are looking for more options, here is a more complete list of foods that chickens can enjoy.
For humans, chocolate is a delicious sweet food and is widely consumed. For chickens, chocolate is the most unhealthy and potentially fatal. Take no chances and keep all products containing chocolate away from your chickens. And if your chicken happens to eat chocolate, be sure to consult a veterinarian immediately.
Featured Image Credit: jackmac34, Pixabay