Can Birds Eat Chicken? When and How To Feed Them

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The key to feeding birds in your garden is understanding that different birds have different diets. Some eat seeds, nuts, and grains as the primary component of their diet, some eat fruits, some sup nectar, and some are more omnivorous. There are also carnivorous, or meat-eating, birds.

If you are thinking about feeding chicken to birds, then the birds you might be considering feeding will be broadly carnivorous, avivorous (bird-eating), or omnivorous.

Do Birds Eat Chicken?

Birds that include the flesh of other bird species in their diets may eat a piece of chicken when it is offered.

Those who keep chickens may already know that some birds prey on chickens and may swoop down, kill, and eat them if given the opportunity. In some areas, it is necessary to cover an area where chickens are kept to protect them from aerial predators. (Though it is important not to use bird netting that could injure birds.)

Of course, roasted chicken is not a natural part of any bird’s diet. However, many birds will eat chicken when it is offered as a supplement or an occasional treat.

Which Birds Eat Chicken?

Birds that sometimes eat chicken include wild birds that you might be lucky enough to see in your garden and pet birds like parrots. Some wild birds may also take chicken meat to their chicks as a food source – although their natural diet (primarily insects) will be preferable.

Wild birds that predate chickens include eagles, red-tailed hawks, and great-horned owls. Crows, ravens, and some other birds can sometimes eat chicks or opportunistically eat a hen if the bird has been killed by some other means.

How To Keep Chickens Safe From Predation by Hawks and Other Birds

If you keep chickens, a bird may be responsible for the mysterious disappearance of one or more of your flock. Tell-tale signs to look out for to identify the culprit include white waste nearby and a patch with a lot of feathers.

Some things that you can do to keep chickens safe from aerial predation include:

  • Creating covered runs or covered shelters for free-ranging hens.
  • Increasing tree and shrub cover over areas where chickens roam.
  • Covering places where chickens eat (since they can be particularly vulnerable when they have their heads down while eating or drinking).
  • Add a rooster to your flock.
  • Keep guard geese in addition to chickens to alert the flock to danger.

Should You Feed Raw Chicken to Hawks and Other Birds of Prey?

While hawks and other birds of prey might be a problem for those trying to rear chickens, others may long for the sight of majestic raptors over their property and want to do all they can to aid these remarkable birds.

If you have seen hunting birds over your property and would like to draw them in to observe them closely, you might wonder whether you can feed raw chicken at a feeding station.

Unfortunately, this is not a good idea. Birds like hawks need to hunt. Prepared food ready to eat is not natural, and they may develop an affinity for chicken and become too dependent on human food sources.

You should never feed raw chicken to birds of prey to entice them into your garden. Instead, do all you can for these types of birds, attract their prey to your garden, and draw them in more naturally.

Raw chicken could also become a source of pathogens and spread disease. So it really is not something to start messing around with in your garden.

Can Birds Eat Chicken

Is Cooked Chicken Good for Birds?

If you have some leftover cooked chicken, you might wonder if you can leave this out in your garden for wild birds to eat or if you can feed it to pet birds.

The answer is a qualified yes. While it should not be given too frequently, some cooked chicken can be good for birds – primarily because birds get a lot of protein from chicken. Birds need plenty of proteins and fats for a healthy diet, as well as vitamins and minerals.

However, just like most things that you might feed to birds, chicken is best offered only in moderation since too much protein can do as much harm as too little, and birds may gorge on chicken and fail to eat foods that give them more of the other things they need as part of their regular diet.

Should You Feed Cooked Chicken to Birds?

Of course, the wild birds living in your garden should always be able to source the majority of the food that they eat from the environment – not from bird feeders.

Remember that to provide protein for as many different birds in your garden as possible, the best thing to do is to plant a wide variety of native plants.

You should plant seeds that birds can eat and not cut back or prune too zealously so that plants can go to seed and provide a natural food source. You should also plant to encourage a wide range of insect species in your garden that many birds like to eat.

Providing food for birds by growing it rather than buying it is always the best policy. And if you want to do the right things for wildlife in general, people, and our planet, as well as just the birds in your garden, then you should always buy free-range organic chicken, which has been treated humanely throughout its life.

How To Feed Chicken to Birds

I would not recommend rushing out to buy chicken for birds. But if you have some leftover chicken, it should be perfectly safe to leave this out for the birds or feed it to a pet bird. Just bear the following in mind:

Feed Fresh Leftovers Only

Never be tempted to give any chicken that is suspect for human consumption to wild or pet birds. You should never feed a bird meat that has spoiled or rotten.

Feed Only Grilled, Roasted, or Boiled Chicken Without Seasonings

Make sure that you feed only grilled, roasted, or boiled plain chicken to birds. And try to avoid giving birds chicken if it has been salted or otherwise heavily seasoned, as this could pose a health risk to birds. Fried chicken can be very fatty and is best not given to birds. It’s also best to remove the chicken skin.

Chicken is not really ideal as the primary food for birds, and cooked chicken is, of course, no substitute for the natural protein sources that birds eat in the wild. But occasionally, leaving out a bit of chicken for the birds or feeding a pet bird with chicken won’t do any harm. It can prevent household leftovers from ending up in a landfill site.

However, if there’s any doubt about the ingredients in the recipe, it would be best not to feed the chicken to birds and to instead add any leftovers to a bokashi bucket before composting.

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Elizabeth Waddington

Elizabeth Waddington is a conservation, rewilding, organic gardening and sustainability specialist who loves everything nature-related. She loves helping others around the world connect with the wildlife and wonders around them. When not creating wildlife-wise, eco-friendly designs, or writing about the topics that inspire her, she loves spending time watching the birds on and around her own rural property, or heading out on camping or hiking adventures to spot birds and other wildlife in a range of habitats.